Book Cover Monotony and the Rise of the ‘Bouquet Book’, by Shelley Timms

The term ‘judging a book by its cover’ pretty much sums up my shopping technique when looking for new books. Even when I’m at the library, an attractive cover can determine whether or not I bother to learn more about the book. Recently, I have begun to realise that book covers (especially those from the same genre) have become increasingly similar, and noticeable trends have emerged when it comes to book cover designs.

Fellow booklovers have mirrored this sentiment, with literature YouTube channel Memento Mori releasing a video in response to these trends being pointed out in a news article by Vanity Fair. He argues that a majority of literary fiction follows the same book cover template; a busy, often floral design with bold lettering or “bold patterns overlaid with white text”. Another ‘booktuber’, BooksAndLala, also created a TBR based entirely on books that looked just like her favourite novels. Two books even had the EXACT same stock image!

The oversaturation of these book designs has led to what Memento Mori calls the “decline of modern book design”, and I have to say I tend to agree. While these covers are stunning and would look amazing sitting proudly on my shelf, I feel as though there is not much that sets each book apart from one another. From a marketing perspective I can understand why each book follows the same formulaic design; these designs have sold in the past, so why change a winning formula? That being said, having a book cover design that sets it apart from all of the other competing works will grab the consumer’s attention and encourage them to pick it up at the bookstore.  We must also keep in mind that the author often does not have control of what design is chosen for their book, and so it is the design and marketing departments at large publishing houses that decide which cover will be used.

And so, with the so-called laziness of book cover designs in modern literature in mind, I decided to do a little research and see which types of designs are favoured by particular genres. While this list is not exhaustive, it definitely paints a picture of modern book design trends. Can you think of any others?

The ‘Bouquet Book’
Typical of adult literary fiction, the bouquet book design supposedly began with the release of Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff. While not the typical floral design, the cover features a bold, wave design with blocky white lettering which has become one of the defining features of the bouquet book cliché. The busy cover design is also not exclusive to the floral kind, as book designers have found a multitude of ways to oversaturate the cover with images.

The Gritty Silhouette/Something in the Water
Featured mostly on crime/thriller/suspense novels, the gritty silhouette is often paired with an ocean/lake/water motif or tree branches. I have to admit, this genre is one I read quite often and have certainly noticed a recurring theme in most of the covers. So much so that even my partner noticed that almost all of the thriller books I have read look exactly alike. Each cover certainly paints a picture of eeriness and intrigue, but each cover tends to blend into one!

The Soft Focus Woman
Favoured by the historical fiction genre, this type of book cover typically features a woman in period clothing in soft pastels or sepia tones. These types of covers make it easier to determine which time period the book is set in, which is definitely helpful. I tend to gravitate towards WWII-era books when it comes to historical fiction, and a lot of the covers I have come across for these books look similar. From a visual perspective, I love historical fiction covers. I think they are beautiful, and make it easy to determine which genre the book belongs to with so much as a glance.

The Cartoon Couple
This is a design that I only noticed while browsing Goodreads for new YA books to add to my TBR. I’m not sure where this design originated from, however it seems as though authors such as Rainbow Rowell and Becky Albertalli (as well as authors similar to their writing style) use this template often. Illustrated book covers have become increasingly popular amongst YA book covers in recent years, which I’m honestly not mad at. Some of the covers are breathtaking, especially We Are Okay by Nina Lacour (pictured).

If you read a particular genre, what have you noticed about the cover-designs? Show us your reading in the comments!

One Comment Add yours

  1. Jess says:

    Thank you for this intriguing post; it’s a topic I discuss with colleagues a lot. Recently I got three different books mixed up because of the cover similarities (floral). A little frustrating…

    I have been a bookseller for 14+ years – I agree that marketing is at play; many of our customers are attracted to books with modern (trending) covers and designs similar to others from their favourite genres, rather than something that looks ‘unique’. For example, less well-known writers such as Roberta Kray have book covers similar to others in the same genre, such as Martina Cole, who is a bestseller in our store. These covers can differentiate sub-genres quite effectively, as well. This actually makes my job easier when recommending books I’ve not yet read myself, or collected customer reviews for, but it can create difficulty in differentiating what is a good quality, unique read, and what is just the same plot, same storyline, as everything else. I think a degree of uniqueness is useful, but go too far, and the book will not fit the customer’s idea of what they are after.

    In the fantasy genre, trending covers have a certain look of simplicity to them. With regards to modern covers – look at Robert Jordan’s older covers compared to some of the new ones which do not express ‘fantasy’ as much. No overly busy art with a sword-wielding hero, a horse/dragon and creepy evil guy! Colours are also muted. I think this is to attract new fans to the genre. A modernising of fantasy, if you like, into the mainstream, to target a different audience. Fantasy covers have certainly evolved a lot over time.

    Back to uniqueness: I find that ‘unique’-cover books (including self-published), unless we review them and recommend them ourselves, are overlooked by mainstream audiences and preferred by those looking for something different/who seek to read outside their comfort zone. This really is a shame; so many books are amazing yet overlooked; we have to work hard as booksellers to give those books exposure by recommending them, especially when supporting local, new writers. We have to help people see past the cover!

    You’ll also notice on social media that book covers (design, colour etc) are used to create visual posts with a certain feel or emotion, and that trends (books and related props) come and go. It’s so easy to create a post to reflect genre or emotion and use matching themes/colours – the covers provide this and it makes marketing books/genres easier.

    Again, thank you for your insightful post.

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