On Book Covers: Part 2

On to our second lesson on book cover design…

2. Genre

Readers should be able to look at your cover and instantly know kind of story it is.

Every genre has its cover conventions. Script font with two beautiful people in regency dress embracing on the cover? Historical romance. A dragon’s eye and a strong serif typeface? Epic fantasy.


  • In general, fast-paced modern stories like thrillers and urban fantasy often use a sans-serif font (one missing the little “feet” at the bottom of letters like lowercase “a”. The urban fantasy example above is sans-serif).
  • Serif fonts like Times New Roman are commonly used for slower-paced books like epic fantasy or literary fiction with a more serious tone.
  • Scripts are often used for stories with a “soft” feel like contemporary romance or a vintage feel for historical novels. They are often also used for fantasy.
  • And books with a sense of humor, whimsy, or cozy romances can get away with slightly more “fun” fonts

However, you don’t want to get lost in a sea of sameness. This is a trap I often see with some genres such as paranormal romance. The default cover formula is generally a vivid monochrome photo (blue and red are popular) of an attractive shirtless man. If it’s a shifter romance, the animal form is usually ghosted in the background or photoshopped in front of the man in the same monochrome scheme. The single-color effect can make the photoshopping look more uniform, but the end result is a book that looks exactly like every other book.

Colors say a lot about your book, too. Urban fantasy often uses dark color schemes with splashes of deep, saturated color. Contemporary romances are lighter, softer. Take a look through your genre on Amazon or your library ebook app and note what colors the other books are using to convey mood and tone. (I’ll discuss color in greater detail in tomorrow’s lesson.)

So here’s the dilemma: how to stand out while still conveying your genre? That’s Trait #5, so stay tuned!

Bottom line: Make sure your reader can determine your genre at a brief glance.

Check back tomorrow for Trait #3: Visual Impact!

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