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Watching Cover Trends

We’re in a period of transition in the book world. Everyone’s wondering what the next great trend is. We’re waiting for someone with writing power to stand up and say something like, “We’re writing about reapers! Reap the writewind, baby!” We’ve discovered as a group that we can create trends as long as we all stay on the same train and ride it in the same direction.

Just look at RH, academies, and…reapers. Yes. Those were all indie-author made trends. As authors who want to be successful, we’re told to look at the trends. As a cover artist and a plotter/outliner as well as an author in my own right, I look at a lot more than just trends in plot devises. I’m studying the whole picture, and because I do this regularly, I can tell you that the trends rise and fall, and there is a pattern.

Like right now, for instance, people aren’t reading nearly as voraciously as they have in the past. We’re in the famine side of things, even though there are still authors out there making mad bank. But with the famine market comes the crazed anxiety of authors, artists, and all indie author service providers. We need to pay the mortgage, or feed the family, or pay for therapists, and medical, and…the list is taller than most of us.

The trends right now are in a palette cleanse. This is the perfect opportunity for all of us to take a breath, plan, hash out, take notes, review old notes, and formulate new plans of attack.

Throughout the year, you’ve probably—hopefully—been studying covers and looking at the ones that sold well. But have you also been looking at the ones that burned hot and then snuffed out? Have you been looking at the ones who are selling in limp markets? If you’re studying covers that are succeeding right now, you can see the covers that have stamina. And that is what you need to be looking for if you want to survive in the feast and the famine markets.

Can you tell your artist eye what you’re seeing? The answer in most cases is no. “I like what I like and I’m very picky.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that. All the while, these very same authors are picking up covers that don’t meet genre, or market, or current trends. Well, let’s see if we can help your author eye see like a cover artist.

Bella Forrest

First of all, Bella Forrest is absolutely killing it! Second of all, she’s been rocking this cover design for well over a year now and I don’t see it failing her yet.

  • Muted colors
  • Small, multiple characters
  • Big, clunky title
  • Large icon that dominates the cover, letting the reader easily see which series you’re in. It’s great branding with that dragon logo because she can use whatever colors she wants. Colors aren’t her series brand. The layout is.
  • Fairly easy to see what genre we’re in
  • It’s a highly marketable cover that hasn’t been duplicated. I don’t know why.

K.F. Breene

She’s figured out what works for her and she isn’t looking to rework it any time soon.

  • UF glowy bits with the sword and the white back glow
  • Two colors: Blue and the pop of magenta at the sword. There is her skin color, but that’s just to let her pop out of the background.
  • Great flowy hair. In UF, the hair is pivotal.
  • Great pop lighting on her face
  • The element at the bottom is a nice touch to give it a bit of a “dressed up” feel
  • The Demon Days, Vampire Knights logo is at the top and a hold-over from the late 2018/early 2019 trends
  • She uses live models for the face with static poses.

This is the “trendy,” two-color, glowy cover that a lot of UF cover artists emulate because this is what authors are buying. But take a look at the bestseller UF list and see how many of these types of covers are on it. You might be surprised.

Annette Marie

Another author absolutely slaying it and I gotta say, I’m loving how she’s changing the cover trends. They’re subtle, but I like them. A lot!

  • She uses color: the dark blue for contrast, cyan for poppy backglow, focus point on her red hair is subtle, the yellow in the window glow, the bright puple (which is a brand color for this series), and then she adds another pop color: orange at the glowy skull. Brilliant.
  • Her characters are always portrayed with a great deal of sass and lots of attitude.
  • I can’t tell if this is a live model or a DAZ model, but the painting is great and makes it so that I don’t even care.
  • She uses particles to add a little depth to the illustration

This is a solid, new trend and I am really loving the covers coming out following these trend markers.

BR Kingsolver

This is one that just keeps deliverying. When this came out in April, she wasn’t on the trend train of overglow and fantasy hair and two-color cover. And it’s worked in her favor. She stood out then, and she’s still doing it.

  • We have muted tones to help the teal tones pop more.
  • She has four different colors that help to draw the eye through the illistration using a good range of saturation and vibrance levels to help them stand out without fighting for dominance.
  • She uses live models
  • And she doesn’t have overdrawn fantasy hair. That’s the model’s literal hair.
  • The pose is moving and has action.
  • She decided to go against the two-color, overglow trends and it’s really worked in her favor.

So, when you’re looking at what covers are trending right now, or will be trending, and when you’re trying to develop your author plans and portfolios, look for how the cover trend is shifting. And don’t jump on board with a cover artist who isn’t moving with the trends. Also, don’t hogtie your cover artist to follow an old trend because that served someone else—or even yourself—last month or the month before that or even last year.

As you’re studying the best sellers lists in your genres, be sure to watch for the “firecracker” covers, that stay hot for a week and then fall off the chart. It might have a clickbait cover—but it might not be a sustainable clickbait cover. Try to see if you can “see” what made it non-sustainable. Was it the cover? Was it an old trend? Or was it simply that the ad moneys dried out?

Look at trends in color, branding, bright vs muted, action poses vs static, level of painting required of the artist, levels of color saturation, and the types of elements used in the cover. You’ll find there’s a wide range of amazing covers you could use, but you might be pencil-holing yourself to a very small niche with what you’ve “trained” yourself to look for.

You should be training every week in order see trends. So, spend less time on FB and more time in the bookstore.



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