2. Know Your Competition: Research
Aside from learning how to use the tools of the trade, one of the most important things that you can do prior to creating your cover is to research current trends in your genre, as well as cover trends overall for the current year.
Cover styles go in and out just as fashion does, and while it can be worthwhile to ride the crest of whatever trend is current, it’s usually not a good idea to be behind it. It’s better yet to come up with the next Hot New Trend and have everyone follow you, of course. :D
In the genre that I usually work in (YA fantasy, urban fantasy, fairytale retellings) we’ve all seen the styles of past years: big face covers where a closeup of the face takes up most of the cover, drowning/sleeping/floating girl covers, covers where every single character has mysteriously had their heads cut off, pretty dress covers. In science fiction covers right now the trend seems to be stylised illustrated covers of ships, planets, explosions, very little character representation except in the genre of military sci fi.
I normally keep a Pinterest board of book cover art that I really admire – mood boards are an excellent way of collecting ideas for your cover. I also have a feed reader stuffed full of book bloggers and book review sites which I follow, both from a reader’s perpective and also as a way of seeing new covers.
Always take a look at the top-selling books in your genre to see what sells, but to be honest personally I find this less helpful as you’ll see an awful lot of crap there. It may be selling, but lord are there some damned ugly covers there!
I also look at movie poster art: you’ll see some of the most powerful designs here. Make your cover cinematic!
Another thing you want to watch for are trends in typography. I admit that typography is my weak point, which is why I rarely do covers with an emphasis on title typography rather than character art – it’s not my forte. But keep an eye out for new ideas, and also to see which fonts are becoming overused.
Overused stock is another thing to look for – there are really gorgeous images out there that I would love to use, models that I adore but cannot use because I’ve seen them on so many books. Rule these out completely unless you have the skill to totally change the image (in which case why are you reading this?). Find something new and change it to make it your own. If you use straight stock without creating a unique image you’ll see other books with your cover.
These rules aside, the most important thing is to create a cover that you really love. The adage in writing is “Write the book that you want to read,” and I suppose the same holds true for the covers that you create. You want something that gives you that “grabby hands” feeling, a cover that makes you immediately want to know more about the book. What looking at current trends does is to try to rule out anything that make people give it a pass, or have misconceptions of genre and theme.
The links below probably say it better than I have done here:
- 2017 Best Book Cover Designs: An Inspiration for the New Year
- YA Book Cover Trends from Brilliantly Bookish
- An In-Depth Look At Today’s Trends In Book Cover Design
- Book Cover Design Trends
1. Getting Started: Tools
3. Making a Template