5 Features That Make Me Fall in Love With a Book Cover

I’ve always loved beautiful book covers. I enjoy adding them to Pinterest boards and putting them in prominent places on my shelf. A great cover can help convince me to buy a book, and I’ll pay more to get an edition with a cover I prefer. However, a year or so ago I wrote a post highlighting some typical features of fantasy book covers, and since then I’ve paid even closer attention to the content and style of them. I’ve noticed there are certain features I have a distinct preference for – ones that catch my eye and make me want to reach out and grab the books they adorn. So I thought it might be fun to list some not-so-secret ways a book cover can enchant me:

1. Glowing Magic or Fire

There’s nothing quite like glowy magic or curls of flame to draw me to a book. It doesn’t matter if the magic is sparkly like stars or glowing like fire or wispy like smoke, I’m a fan. I’m not entirely sure if it’s because these bright features promise magic within the pages of the book, or simply because I love the look of it, but it will catch my eye like almost nothing else.

2. Texture

I don’t mean actual physical texture (though I do love books with nice texture and raised print), but the visual illusion of texture that jumps out at you – that makes you feel like you’re looking at aged rough parchment, or melting ice, or paint-soaked paper, or rusting metal, or drops of water. These books just make me want to reach out and touch them (I particularly love the Our Lady of the Ice cover below).

3. Patterns & Patterned Borders

I’m a sucker for a good pattern – maybe I’m easily hypnotised by lines and curls and shapes, but I get great satisfaction from looking at anything with an elegant or intriguing pattern, especially if it is a vine or plant. I love vines on real buildings too, and stitched patterns in fabric, so I suppose this might be an extension of that.

4. Silhouettes

Again, I’m not entirely sure why, but shapes are more powerful to me on a book cover than detailed photographs or drawings. I’m more likely to appreciate a character or animal on a book cover if they are shown largely in silhouette, or if the emphasis is on their shape rather than their detailed features. Silhouettes within silhouettes are pretty cool too – they give images a kind of cut-out look that adds extra dimension and texture (and as I already mentioned, I love texture!).

5. Rich Contrasting Colours

I tend to be drawn to covers that have rich, contrasting colours in them, especially darker-toned or black ones. I’m more likely to ignore covers that have a greyish pallet, use pastel colours, or just have a very same-same colour pallet with little contrast. That’s why I sometimes overlook fantasy covers even if they have beautiful drawings on them, simply because they are too grey or don’t have that hook of a dazzling colour.

___________

Of course, there are plenty of other typical features, styles or tropes I enjoy seeing on fantasy book covers when they are done well, for example:

  • Cityscapes (particularly with old buildings)
  • Stars or starry skies
  • Snow
  • Trees or vines
  • Apples
  • Roses
  • Paint splatter
  • Bright drops of ‘blood’
  • Castles
  • Bows and arrows
  • Metal
  • Voluminous period dresses
  • Dragons

All of that said, I have favourite covers that don’t use any of the features above, and I often appreciate a cover that surprises me or does something entirely different with its design  – I just notice that many of the ones I love use the above “ingredients”.

These are just my personal preferences, so I’ll throw the question out there – what are your favourite book cover features? Is there anything you particularly like seeing on a fantasy book, or any other book for that matter? Let me know in the comments!

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22 thoughts on “5 Features That Make Me Fall in Love With a Book Cover

  1. I think a good cover supplements what your first page is supposed to do: tell the reader the setting, time, and tone of what he’s about to experience.

    The aesthetic qualities, which you describe beautifully, are an added bonus.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes very true, all these features are nice but if they didn’t have anything to do with the story of the book, or didn’t reflect it’s tone/setting, then they wouldn’t really be appropriate. A cover should reflect the kind of story behind it, and ideally do it in aesthetically pleasing way.

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  2. Oh gosh I love the glowing covers too- because yes, the promise of magic gets me excited too!! And yes- a textured look can definitely get me interested in a book. Although in terms of physical texture, I remember this series called Talon that had dragon scales on the book- the book turned out to be awful- but man, that cover was a thing of beauty. And I love a beautiful pattern- although I don’t know why either, I think it might have something to do with the fact that it always makes me feel like the book is a collectors edition. And yes I know what you mean- I do like to be surprised by covers as well!! Really awesome post- I love this topic- especially cos it has me lusting after so many beautiful covers 😉 It’s just so pretty to look at!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I try not to judge a book by its cover, but I’ll happily judge the cover by its style! I think colour really draws me, anything rich and lush. Off the top of my head, a lot of Robin Hobb books are just gorgeous (and brilliant stories, too!)

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    • Ah yes there are some really gorgeous Robin Hobb covers that’s true. I have a beautiful gold-coloured edition of Assassin’s Apprentice with a deer on it that I really like. And yes, I also try not to judge books too much by covers (some of my favourite covers, after all, have been on books I did not like, and vice versa!) but sometimes I can’t help but be a little swayed by a great cover (or a terrible one) 🙂

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  4. Agreed! Especially with the “rich contrasting colors” bit. I also like things that look old — like the cover of Naomi Novik’s “Uprooted,” which has a classic storybook appearance. More “primal” images like snow, fire, blood, fruit, and other elements attract my eye, as well.

    On the other hand, a paranormal romance-ish photomanipulation pushes me away, even if it’s well done. It’s like a signal: “Not my genre. Probably has weird sex, unrealistic dialogue, and a love triangle.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes covers with an antique look are great! Actually I suppose often when they have curling or gold patterns they are emulating old embossed hardcover books… funny, I only just realised that now!

      I don’t mind photo manipulation if it’s done well and not tacky (though I admit, it’s often tacky), but then I’m also partial to paranormal romance on occasion… if it’s free of unrealistic dialogue and love triangles!! 😝

      I totally know what you mean with a cover screaming “not my genre” – I sometimes shy away from very stark or geometrical covers (e.g. single match on a white background), not because I don’t like the covers, but because they suggest literary fiction or non-fiction and I’m not generally a huge fan of those genres (there are exceptions of course, but in general I gravitate toward fantasy and sci-fi!).

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  5. Texture is always appealing to me because I love to touch things (which is why I have to hold my own hands together when visiting art museums. So tempting!).
    I also like silhouettes and contrasting colors, though white covers with a minimalist design are very appealing to me these days.
    Typography also appeals to me. I love loopy types as well as very thin lettering.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha yes art museums are very tempting! I actually went to one where they had a statue you could touch (a replica of an ancient Greek statue) and it was so anatomically correct it felt eerily like touching a real person. Ever since I always want to touch those ancient priceless Greek sculptures in museums now!

      And I 100% agree with you on the loopy types and thin lettering – sometimes a cover can woo just with the typography.

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