Sources of inspiration for book cover design

The Inspiration of Saint MatthewThat’s it! You’re taking the plunge! You’re going to design your very own book cover! But where in Freddie and Fanny’s fantastic flummox do you start? You start with being inspired.

This part is fun.

Step 1 in getting inspired: 

Lay back and have a bit of a daydream about what you want your book to look like. How you want your audience to feel when they see it on the shelf, or online? It could be a mixture of awe, and curiosity. Or perhaps suspense and a bit of adrenaline? Do you want to stop them in their tracks by something that is confronting and makes them a little uncomfortable? Or is there a caressing quality, a sweet whispering sense that draws them in to buying your book?

You need to know this so you can recognize it when you’re window-shopping for ideas.


Step 2 in getting inspired:

Create a folder on your computer titled ‘book cover inspiration‘. In that folder save all the images of book covers you love. This includes covers you see in RL, and if possible can take a photo of it on your phone. I know this isn’t a possibility for everyone, but if you know the book go online, find the version with the book cover you like, save the image of the cover in the folder, like this:

But WHERE do I find inspiration for design?


Your library

Your personal library at home.

Start with books you love, start with your own book shelves. There’s a good chance you write in the same genre you read so it’s the first logical step.


The books of your favourite authors.

If you have a favourite author, follow through on their other books to see the style that carries through their design. You’ll find a lot of the time, especially with chick-lit and romantic comedy, that an author’s name transforms in to a type of branding or logo with the font face and placement on each book like  Sophie Kinsella, Jeffrey Archer or Terry Goodkind. This might be something you want to consider if you plan to publish a lot of work in the same genre, because it means you’re more easily identifiable when readers are browsing.

Your bookstore/local library.

Design for an eBook vs design of a paperback are two different things. You can include a lot of small, suggestive details in a paperback that you might not want in an eBook. A thumbnail image is what stops the finer details in design when it comes to eBooks. It’s a shame and it’s one of the reasons I love paperbacks so much more than eBooks, but hey that’s what the electronic reader generation has reaped. We shop for things 180px high.

So get your hands on some paperbacks and take note at the details that go in to them.


The Book Cover ArchiveGoodreads

Book websites

Goodreads and The Book Cover Archive are two vital links I always graze. Goodreads gives you the chance to search in genres, and more refined lists, and The Book Cover Archive is a fantastic collection of the best book cover design across the board. This can inspire you if you want to break barriers, and go against your genre standard. Don’t stop there, search other book sites like Barnes & Noble or Amazon. Finding out who designed a book you love (often on the inside of the book) will lead you to the website of the graphic designer who may have other books on display you can get inspiration from.


Alternate sources of inspiration: 

Movie posters, CD covers, photographs, illustrations, deviantart, pinterest, tumblr, and anything that strikes a light in your brain!


Don’t forget the designs you DON’T like.

Know where you want to stay away from, recognize the territory that you plan to stay out of. Know why it doesn’t work for you so you can spot these issues in your own cover.


Open up your mind and have fun with it. You’re limited by nothing. You can design your book cover however you want, no matter what anyone else says. This is YOUR book, have what you want. 



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