Never judge a book by its cover. The problem with that? Everyone does it.  A book’s cover informs the reader of the book’s genre, tone, content, and even quality. You know that your book is high-quality — but a professional cover is the fastest way to make sure the reader knows it too.

We’ll demonstrate. Below we pulled some of the books on Bargain Booksy from April 2015 that our readers loved. We segmented the featured books by genre in order to find trends and see what types of book covers resonated with our audience.

Jump to your genre:
Romance | Erotica | Mystery / ThrillerFantasy / ParanormalLiterary FictionNonfictionScience FictionYoung AdultHorror

Trends in Romance book covers: kissing, prominent author name, bright colors.

In April, readers loved covers that featured people kissing – or almost kissing. Their faces were visible on the cover, typically the covers were colorful, and the title and/or author name was highly prominent on the cover. There is little to no negative space on these romance covers.

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Featured books: The Kelly Brothers Collection, Broken, No Reverse, and Runaway Cowboy.

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Trends in Erotica book covers: black and white, red text.

One similarity between these erotica books jumps out at you before you even dive deeply: black and white tones dominate the covers. The billionaire trend could be responsible for the plethora of black and white – a black and white cover makes one think of affluence, sophistication, and luxury. Steamy romance is certainly often mixed with grand (expensive) gestures of romance. The black and white trend is obvious when you blur our best selling erotica covers:

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Featured books: Stepbrother Dearest, You and I Alone, Heat Wave, and Luke.


Whatever the culprit, a black and white cover with the image of a person (typically faceless, a departure from less-steamy romance) and red typeface immediately makes a reader think “this book has plenty of spice.”

If you write a steamy novel, putting a predictable cover on the book will tell readers exactly what subgenre it is before they read the blurb. This will attract the clicks of steamy romance readers (as evidenced by the collection above) and discourage others from buying the book without realizing the level of spice. The latter are the readers most likely to get upset when reading and give you a bad review on Amazon. A predicable cover is perhaps most beneficial if you write books for mature readers.

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Trends in Mystery / Thriller book covers: dark background, huge text OR warm colors and flowers.

Readers’ favorite books in Mystery / Thriller are an interesting bunch: three are cozy mysteries and three are faster-paced thrillers. The fast-paced thrillers have covers typical to their genres: high-contrast covers with dark background images and lighter text that dominates the page.

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Featured books: Homeowner With a Gun, Easy as One Two Three, Children of the Fog.

Contrast the in-your-face style of a thriller book cover with the warm colors and soft feel of a cozy mystery. A cozy mystery looks more at home with a contemporary romance. Take away the kissing people, add a serene house and some flowers, keep the warm colors, and you have a cozy mystery book cover:

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Featured books: Murder in the Pearl District, A Spirited Tail, The Red Book of Primrose House.

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Trends in Fantasy / Paranormal book covers: bright and colorful OR dark and brooding.

Our featured books in April skewed more paranormal than fantasy. Half of these paranormal books are peppered with romance and humor, and half were darker themes.

Translating those themes to cover design takes two paths. Humorous paranormal books are bright and colorful, with minimal imagery. The text and colors dominate the covers and tell the reader immediately that they’re about to read a funny paranormal novel:

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Featured books: The Bare Witch Project, The Trouble With Demons, The Last Challenge.

When we switch over to a darker paranormal novel with more adventure and demon-fighting than laughter and romance, the book cover must translate that difference in tone. Swap bright colors for dark, moody backgrounds. Add gold accents and images of people. Humorous paranormal covers are simple and fun; darker paranormal covers are complex and intense.

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Featured Books: The Diabolical Miss Hyde, Dragons, Griffons and Centaurs, Willow Run.

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Trends in Literary Fiction book covers: cool colors, pensive people.

A literary fiction novel with themes of healing, perseverance, and overcoming the pain of the past (which is true of many bestselling literary novels) bring to mind serene colors and pensive people. These covers are dynamic, but still ‘clean’ looking with plenty of negative space:

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Featured books: Awakening, Miller’s Island, Hope for Garbage

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Trends in Nonfiction book covers: serif fonts.

Nonfiction is an incredibly broad genre. We feature everything from memoirs to cookbooks to self-help books in nonfiction, and all have their audience on Bargain Booksy. In April, however, we featured a lot of memoirs, so we’ll focus our attention there.

Memoirs are broad, in terms of tone. Some are inspirational, some upbeat, some heartwrenching, some incredibly dark. Three of our featured memoirs on Bargain Booksy in April demonstrate that variance in tone:

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Featured books: Even Doctors Cry, Grit, The Stolen Dog.

One trend that holds between all subgenres in memoirs: serif fonts. A serif font gives off a feeling of professionalism and intellectualism. Nonfiction readers, by nature, want to be informed of something or learn from someone else’s stories. As a nonfiction writer, you therefore fill the role of something like a teacher. Given that idea, a serif font that exudes intellectualism is rather fitting.

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Trends in Science Fiction book covers: orange, black, and white.

In April, readers loved post-apocalyptic books (or books with a plot that would lead to the apocalypse, if events were to pan out a certain way). Technology, robots, and advanced weaponry fill the pages, along with hero’s journeys. Orange stands out as the color of choice in the covers of our Science Fiction books. SciFi’s color scheme is obvious when you blur some of our readers’ favorite books (yes, you’re wearing your glasses, we blurred it on purpose):

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Featured books: Meteor Storm, Discovery of the Saiph, and The Black Gate.

Takeaway: for a science fiction adventure, readers respond to a sunset orange color with black and white accents.

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Trends in Young Adult book covers: shades of blue, single word titles.

Young Adult, like nonfiction, is a fairly broad genre since it is based on the age of the reader and/or protagonist. Young Adult novels therefore tend to follow the trends of their respective subgenres – a young adult romance will show a couple in an embrace, and a young adult scifi will have plenty of orange.

However, we did find a couple of trends that stuck out: single word titles (or a single word featured more prominently than any other word) and the use of blue tones.

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Featured books: Invisible, Keeper, Everville, Mental

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Trends in Horror book covers: dark colors, spooky faces.

Horror is a visceral genre. The book itself will send chills down the spine of the reader, and the cover must convey that sense of terror to the customer (like with dark backgrounds and spooky faces). For horror books that are a collection of short stories (since sometimes readers can only take the terror in bite-size bits), clearly show that the book has multiple short pieces inside with a list of titles.

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Featured books: Nightmare House, Night Chill, Never Fear, At Hell’s Gates 2

Final thoughts


Embrace the themes of your genre.
A book’s cover has one primary purpose: hook the reader. When designing a book cover, an author must therefore speak the language of the customer. The design of a thriller should look very distinct from the design of a contemporary romance. There are patterns, of course, but patterns happen for a reason. Headless torsos in black and white with red scrolly text might feel overdone to an industry professional who has seen thousands of steamy romance covers, but that collection of design elements says something to the reader.

There is an argument against using a somewhat formulaic cover, but in some cases, it works in your favor to be predictable. We challenge you to first embrace the patterns in your genre’s cover design, and THEN try to differentiate your book so that it stands out in a sea of books. The sweet spot is between fitting in with books in your genre and standing out enough to be distinctive is where sales happen.

Book covers matter. 
Readers make snap decisions about whether to buy your book simply by looking at the cover. Spend time, care, and money on your book cover.

Do what’s right for you.
A cover design is a personal, artistic decision that every author needs to make for themselves. The above is simply the illustration of some trends that we are seeing among top performing books.

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