Monday, May 5, 2014

What makes a great book cover?

By Merrie Destefano

As an artist and an avid reader, I’m a pushover for a good book cover. I could spend almost as much time in a book store looking at covers as reading the contents. 

I’ve always loved strong conceptual illustrations, like the Charles Dickens portrait done by Hugo-award winning artist, John Picacio, for DROOD, but I also love covers with exceptional type treatment. 

For instance, I adore the tattoo lettering on Holly Black’s THE COLDEST GIRL IN COLDTOWN and the title on THE SOMNAMBULIST, which hovers ominously in the night sky over the city of London. 

I’ll never forget the first time I saw the cover of THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH by Carrie Ryan. I was at the Borders Bookstore (remember that amazing chain of bookstores?) in Pasadena, hanging out with Rachel Marks. 

As soon as I saw that cover, I had a strong impression of the book: There was something deadly in the surrounding forests, but it was so commonplace that the girl in the illustration accepted it as part of her world, yet even though she knew it was an unchangeable element in her life, it still made her sad. 

I got all this from the cover—I hadn’t read the back of the book jacket or any reviews—and it compelled me to read the book. Once I opened the book and read the first paragraph, I fell in love with what would become one of my most favorite books ever.

And I might have missed it, if it hadn’t been for that amazingly accurate and intriguing cover.

What do you think makes a great book cover?

I’m sharing some more of my favorites below, but I’d love to know which book covers really impressed you and why.

We'll have an interview with Wayne Thomas Batson, where he discusses the idea behind his new series, PLUS he gives tips for writing Middle Grade stories.

Merrie Destefano is represented by Natalie Lakosil of the Bradford Literary Agency. Merrie’s published work includes Afterlife and Feast (both with HarperVoyager), FathomThe Plague Carrier and Waiting For Midnight (with Ruby Slippers Press), and How To Draw Zombies (Walter Foster). She’s also the editor of Victorian Homes magazine and founding editor of Cottages and Bungalows magazine. She is the founder and owner of Ruby Slippers Media and Ruby Slippers Press, and her website is here.


  1. Covers are a book's first impression and if it doesn't impress I normally won't even read the blurb. The cover must represent the genre. If you have a YA type cover on an adult book I will be turned off. I also love what is different. Two of my all time favorites are Dark Taste of Rapture by Gena Showalter and Endgame by Ann Aguirre.

  2. Sharon, Thank you so much for sharing some of your fave covers! I adore Ann Aguirre's work and I'll have to check out Endgame. Also, I'll check out the other book you mentioned. I agree about covers being a book's first impression. I can be completely turned off if I feel the cover isn't right for the book. There are some books that everyone else I know have read and loved, but I just can't get past the covers. I find this especially true in self-publishing.

  3. I'm one who doesn't pay much attention to covers (surprising since I'm such a visual learner.) But bad covers do influence my opinion of a book, especially with self-published works. If the cover looks cheesy or amateurish, I don't want to read it. But I also notice with good covers, there are some that let me know the book is probably not for me. It broadcasts the type of story it is, and like any visual art, some is to our taste and some is not. I can see it's well done, but at the same time, know I won't like the book. :-P