Book Covers

Rachel Kent

Blogger: Rachel Kent

I received draft covers for two books this week! I love looking at book covers before they are finalized. This is one of the fun parts of being a literary agent. For one of the books, I thought the draft cover looked great, so no feedback was necessary. For the other cover, both of the options that were sent needed a little work. The cover options looked cluttered. Between the two options there was clearly one that stood out as the best, but my client and I both thought that with some changes the cover could really shine.

For this second cover, I wasn’t copied on the email sent by the publishing house to my client with the cover attachments, but my client knew to forward it to me. As her agent, I was able to write back to the publishing house with our suggestions for the cover and an agent’s requests can often carry more weight because we have a strong relationship built. We also work with the same editors on many projects and they want us to keep bringing our clients to them. Also, agents often have a better idea of what does well on a book cover and what doesn’t, just because we have worked on so many–so be sure to involve your agent in this part of the publishing process.

Generally on covers, I like to see a large-sized author name and title, colors that pop, a picture or image that makes sense with the content of the book and a simple, yet powerful overall design. A reader’s eye doesn’t know where to focus when a cover gets complex and cluttered. It’s also important for the spine of the book to stand out on a shelf. The color and font on the spine makes a big difference.

A-Captain-for-Laura-RoseWe got a copy of Stephanie Grace Whitson’s A Captain for Laura Rose recently and I think this cover is gorgeous. It’s simple and has the appeal it needs. I do think the title could be a little easier to read, but the overall presentation is lovely.

What is one of your favorite book covers? (It can be yours or another author’s.)

Β Is there an element (or elements) that you think is essential for a great cover?


54 Responses

Leave a Reply

  1. There are so many favorites, but I think one that really caught my eye was the cover for Robert Gandt’s “The Twilight Warriors”, the story of the Battle of Okinawa in 1945, and the desperate use of the Kamikaze by Japan.

    The cover has the essential elements of the narrative, starkly presented – the meteoric drop of a burning Japanese airplane through clouds tinged with sunset colors, toward its target, an American aircraft carrier.

    The title’s in the middle of the field, in white, while the author’s name is on the bottom, in a retreating gray. There’s also a short blurb at the top, also in gray.

    The spine carries the title in white, lengthwise, and the author’s name in gray, crosswise. (You can do that with ‘Robert Gandt’; be a bit harder with Andrew Budek-Schmeisser’.)

    The overall color scheme is rather reminiscent of some of Turner’s seascapes, with a combination of reflection and dynamism that creates a visual tension which accurately portrays both the content and writing style of the book.

    Here’s a link to the book on Amazon, if you’d like a look:

  2. Andrew, I think that’s a great cover, too.

    Some of my favorites in women’s fiction are Susie May Warren’s “It Had to Be You” and Rachel Hauck’s The Royal Wedding Series covers. I think they pretty much have most of the qualities you mentioned, Rachel.

  3. There are covers which are truly bizarre, as well. I was trying to recall this one, and finally did.

    It’s for a reprint of “The Heights of Courage: A Tank Leader’s War on the Golan”, by Avigdor Kahalani.

    Here’s the cover, courtesy Alibris. I’m at a dead loss as to what they might have been thinking.

  4. Rachel, I agree with you — I like to see the author’s name stand out. Putting part of the title in cursive wouldn’t be my first choice, but sometimes the publisher wants (and always gets) the last word. Appreciate your post.

    • Rachel Kent says:

      Thanks, Richard! Very true that the publishing house gets the last word. Thank you for adding that here.

  5. That’s a beautiful cover! I like that we’re seeing the character from behind with only a slight view of her face. That lets me imagine the character in my own mind without the distraction of the cover image. It also makes me curious what she’s looking at–where she’s going. And the captain’s wheel? Lovely!

    I have to add, Rachel has a fantastic eye for covers. We’ve been through this process together, and I appreciate having her on my team. My publisher has done a great job on both of my covers, but I still think the first one, Mistaken, was drop-dead gorgeous.

  6. Sarah Sundin says:

    I’m a big fan of simplicity and great color on a book cover too. And getting the details right – nothing more annoying than reading about the heroine’s deep brown eyes in the novel – and seeing bright blue eyes on the cover πŸ™‚

    I’m so thankful for Rachel’s sharp eye for covers too – she always sees something I don’t. And when something doesn’t look quite right to me, I can bounce things off her. Some things aren’t worth fussing over – but some things are. And then it’s nice to have her professional expertise.

    • Christine Dorman says:


      I completely agree that getting the details right is important. You mentioned eye color, which seems like a tiny detail, but if the character’s eye color is important in the book, it’s annoying and disturbing to me as a reader if the color is wrong on the cover.

    • Rachel Kent says:

      I laughed and thought about my sharp eye for large nostrils as I read this comment. I guess I do have an eye for the details. haha.

  7. Angela Mills says:

    One that sticks out in my mind is The Pillars of the Earth (the original cover), I read that years ago, but I remember it jumping out at me on the library shelves, at a time when I didn’t really read books like that. That book turned me into a big Follet fan, too, so I’m glad the cover grabbed me. A couple years after I read it, I was standing in line at the library and the spine of a book on the $1 shelf across the room caught my eye. It was the sequel, which I hadn’t even known existed! Cover wins again πŸ™‚

    I love getting a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the publishing world. Would you say that an author’s ideas are taken into consideration as far as concept, etc? I would totally leave it up to the experts, but I do have an idea in mind and I’m wondering if the author has any creative input – keeping in mind that pretty much anyone will have a better understanding of what will work on shelves than I do.

    (I haven’t actually started pitching my book to anyone yet, I’m just curious)

    • Rachel Kent says:

      Angela, this is one reason why it’s important to have an agent. We are able to negotiate (almost always) that our clients get a say in the covers. Some publishing houses will send Q&A forms out ahead of time for the author to give input on what the characters should look like, etc.

  8. Christine Dorman says:

    Thank you for this post, Rachel. I love book covers too.

    The cover for A Captain for Elizabeth Rose is great for the reasons you mentioned. It also appealed to me because I love the color of her dress and the character’s dreamy, forward-looking expression (I mean face looking into the distance) intrigue me and make me want to take the journey with her.

    My two favorite recent covers are for Heather Day Gilbert’s GOD’S DAUGHTER and Elzabeth Anne Stengl’s new novel SHADOW HAND. The character on Heather’s book is strong, yet feminine. And she’s a Viking, which captures me right there because I love history and books about Vikings tend to be about men. It’s great have a woman as a heroine–and a Christian woman at that.

    The cover for SHADOW HAND makes me want to buy the book. First, it is obviously a fantasy and I am a fantasy nut, but the fantasy is indicated rather than overdone. I agree with you that busy covers aren’t that effective. Covers for fantasy novels often can have too many elements on them. This one just has a young woman (in a flowing dress, not a scanty animal skin thing). She is moving towards a woody area. She’s looking back over her shoulder, which I find intriguing because because it makes me wonder is she escaping, being chased, sneaking off to meet someone? And that makes me want to buy the book so I can find out. The other thing I really, really love is that she is a red-head, and since I’m a red-head, I like her already. πŸ™‚

    Have a great weekend!

    • Aw…thank you, Christine! Working on another hopefully eye-catching cover for my mystery as we speak! And yeah…some of those male Viking covers you’re talking about aren’t quite CBA-approved…hee.

      And I LOVE Anne Elisabeth’s covers, too. Every one is more eye candy than the last…but Dragon Witch was one of my faves. Also I have to say there are some great indie covers out there. Jessica Keller’s SAVING YESTERDAY really drew my eye. I’m also really fond of Amy Sorrells’ HOW SWEET THE SOUND colours–kind of pastel watercolours. I loved BURNING SKY for a historical.

      And I totally agree, Rachel. Too much stuff gives a cluttered look. I’m among the camp that likes to see a character’s face on the cover…it immediately draws me in and gives it a personal element…but I know some love back views or hidden faces so they can imagine the characters. And I’m noticing many ABA mystery covers only have words. I really kicked that around, but since I figure I’m targeting a demographic like myself, I think I’ll go w/a face on my mystery cover.

      • AND I should also shout-out to Jordyn Redwood’s covers. The title series on that is amazing (Proof, Poison, and Peril), but the cover art was so simple yet slightly creepy, as medical suspense should be. My fave of those was probably Poison:

      • Christine Dorman says:

        You’re welcome, Heather. It was a great cover! I know you’ll come up with another hit for the new mystery (and much success for the new book!)

        I really don’t like having words all over the cover. It does nothing for me (strange I guess for a word person). πŸ˜‰

    • Rachel Kent says:

      I love both of those covers, too! When Heather emailed me (Facebook message? Can’t remember.) about the release of her book, I was blown away by the cover. Very well done.

      And I’ve loved all of Anne Elisabeth’s Goldstone Woods covers! My favorite is still the cover for Heartless though.

  9. Lori Benton’s Burning Sky cover was STUNNING! Her second book, The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn, is entirely different, but still totally gorgeous.
    The use of colour and light is critical to draw the viewer’s eye, as seen with the various Laura Frantz covers done by Brandon Hill.
    It is difficult to be original with a cover, but that is why art departments are sorta handy.
    Heather Day Gilbert’s Viking novel, God’s Daughter, has a beautiful cover. And her art department, AKA Jon Day, is rather handy, and has behave.

  10. Rachel Kent says:

    I just heard from someone that she was unable to leave a comment here. If you have any trouble, please email michelle @ .

    I look forward to dipping in to your comments soon! Just have to finish a few emails first. πŸ™‚ Happy Friday to all.

  11. A children’s book cover came to mind right away. It’s called While Mama Had a Quick Little Chat, and the color combination is fantastic.

    Now for a few novel covers I like:
    The clothes of the woman on the cover of Longbourn immediately give us knowledge of her position, and she’s in motion. I like that she’s only halfway in the picture. Haven’t read this book yet though.

    Although some of the content in The Typewriter Girl was PG (it’s not an inspirational story), the cover is really beautiful. The letters in the title are in a circular typewriter key shape, and they are indented into the cover which involves another sense altogether when you hold the book.

    A promise to the reader unfurls across the cover of a book.
    If a cover includes dark colors, a decrepit, mysterious looking house, and a woman running away in terror (reminiscent of gothic romance), then, with a list of expectations I may not even be able to logically explain, I pick it up and entrust my time and my imagination to a story that I hope delivers.

    So glad you brought this up Rachel.

  12. Kira Budge says:

    I actually wrote a blog post on this subject a while ago. Here’s a link, if you want to see some of my picks!

  13. Sherry Kyle says:

    I’m so thankful for agents, especially Rachel! We’ll be going through this process again soon, and I appreciate her suggestions. I like both of my covers from Abingdon Press. ( It’s nice when a publishing house asks for suggestions/ideas.

  14. Michelle LIm says:

    While I know lots of people love the face and historically accurate clothes for historical romance, I have to admit I love the ones without the face, too, Like Deeanne Gist “A Bride In The

    When it comes to romantic suspense, I love covers without faces that make us feel the danger. I love Brandilyn Collins’ cover for “Eyes of Elisha.”

    • Rachel Kent says:

      I’m not a big fan of covers without faces, but lots of people love them!

      Eyes of Elisha is a very good cover.

  15. Since no one’s really talked about abstract covers, I thought I’d toss one in.

    The first edition cover for Tom Clancy’s “Without Remorse” is extremely simple. The Author’s name and the title are in large gold, black-bordered type (looks like a variant of Times new Roman). The background is a blue field with two smoke trails arcing downward from to left to bottom right, converging to a pair of ‘burning debris’ images, very close together.

    The image is reminiscent of the picture of the falling debris from the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger, which occurred a few years before the book was published.

    The story is one of revenge, in which the recurring character John Clark wreaks a terrible vengeance on those responsible for killing the woman he loves. (It’s probably Clancy’s best, and most human work.)

    As such, it’s a very good representation of the saying “when you set out on revenge, be sure to dig two graves first”.

    Subsequent editions chose a more pedestrian design, showing two Apache helicopters in low-level formation. It says ‘military techno-thriller’, but doesn’t address the story at all.

    Here’s a link to Amazon, showing the original cover:

  16. I just read “The Burning Sky” by Sherry Thomas. It’s a marvelous secular YA fantasy if you read in that genre, anyway. The cover is georgous. I always like to note which covers draw my three son’s across the room. When they saw this book on my coffee table they sat and stared at the cover and my kindergartener informed me that I had to read this one next. “The one with the phoenix on the front” he said. Here is the link.

  17. Diane Stortz says:

    No one’s mentioned children’s book covers yet. I spotted Hero Dad recently in an TV ad for the Wounded Warriors Project. Clear, simple title and a compelling cover image work so well together.

    I confess I’m also partial to the cover of The Sweetest Story Bible. Zonderkidz did a wonderful job combining design, art, color, and GLITTER! My first grandson was two when the book came out. He spotted a copy on my desk and actually gasped, picked up the book, and held it to his chest! Alas, the book’s all pink and girly, so now that Sol is six, it’s no longer on his favorites list.

  18. Elissa says:

    I have bought so many books just for their covers I can’t think of a particular one. Then again, “Girl with a Pearl Earring” stands out in my mind. I bought it at an airport just because of the Vermeer painting on the cover.

  19. I love this cover. Two of my favorite covers are Seaside Letters by Denise Hunter, but I love anything coastal. I also like Finding Marie by Susan Page Davis, it has an American flag, a lighthouse, and reflections in the water.

    Thanks for sharing, and have a great weekend Rachel!

  20. I think it’s important that the spine be a solid color with the title and author’s name large and in a contrasting color. When I look at books in a store or library that’s what I see first and I think it’s a greater draw than the front.