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Book Covers Are Making a Comeback — Here's Why Entrepreneurs Should Take Note Driven by visual social media and digital reading innovations, book cover design is reclaiming significance.

By Vikrant Shaurya Edited by Micah Zimmerman

Key Takeaways

  • Cover design personalization may be the next frontier as books evolve across digital, print and audio.
  • If you want to write a book, you must have a catchy cover.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

In the digital age, the prevailing wisdom has long been that book covers matter less. With online buying removing bookstore browseability and thumbnails shrinking designs into insignificance, cover art and typography were deemed less critical. But in 2023, an intriguing reversal is underway – book covers are making an emphatic comeback.

Driven by visual social media and digital reading innovations, book cover design is reclaiming significance. Publishers are investing more in illustrated covers over text-dominant designs. Authors are regaining control over cover direction. Book cover reveals have become standalone social media events driving buzz. In many ways, we are witnessing a renaissance in the aesthetics and art of book covers. Let's examine the forces driving this comeback.

Related: 10 Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make When They Write a Book

The rise of bookstagram

Bookstagram — the community of avid readers sharing bookish content on Instagram — has become a major influence propelling the book cover comeback. Although Bookstagrammers represent a niche of super-fans, their engagement helps books gain mainstream visibility. Their vibrant feeds, packed with artsy cover layouts, help market books organically.

For art-first photographers, book covers are the perfect canvas. Elaborate textures, color schemes, symbolic objects and other cover elements offer endless possibilities for dramatic styling. These Instagram photo shoots encourage publishers to up their cover design game as books compete for influencer attention.

Bookstagram has turned book covers into fashion statements. Book covers attract hashtags when matching broader Instagram trends around hues like Pantone's colors of the year. The interplay between book covers and Instagram aesthetics engages followers beyond the reading community.

Bookstagram also gives authors direct insight into cover reception. Through comments and likes, authors see which cover elements strike a chord. User-generated content like reposting book covers drives word-of-mouth. Authors leverage Bookstagram insights to collaborate with publishers on redesigns or future cover direction. This brings covers full circle to their original purpose - to intrigue and entice.

Related: Consider This Before Self-Publishing Your Book

The e-book enhancement effect

Another paradoxical force spurring the comeback of print-style covers is the rise of e-books. With e-readers like Kindle gaining adoption, publishers feared print covers would lose significance. But an unexpected opposite effect occurred.

E-readers triggered innovations in e-book cover design that looped back to influence print covers. Interactive e-book covers came to life through animation and video. Digital-first elements like neon textures or holographic finishes became popular. E-book-first series that went viral, like ambitious illustrated covers for epic fantasy novels, crossed back over to print.

Reading ecosystem convergence is also elevating covers. Services like Amazon Matchbook give e-book copies of print purchases, keeping hardcover artwork relevant. Companies popularized custom dust jackets as consumable cover accessories. Display-worthy book boxes and monthly subscription book packages rely on striking cover reveals.

E-books also expanded accessible book buying, allowing more readers to discover books online and develop cover affinity. User data helped Amazon surface popular cover styles. The "customers also bought" rabbit hole leads shoppers to books with mood-matching covers. This influencer effect gets amplified by digital word-of-mouth.

Related: Why (and How) Amazon Created the Kindle and Changed the Book Industry Forever

The print comeback

In another serendipitous twist, the print book comeback itself has spotlighted covers. As print books prove their resiliency thanks to bibliophile consumer segments, publishers invest more in premium print editions and special collections.

Debut authors may see print runs for their first book drop, but bestselling authors often release deluxe hardcover editions with bonus art content. Collector's editions sport exclusive cover art, while signed editions feature sprayed edges.

Even audiobooks are elevating associated print covers through inclusion in marketing. Audiobook subscriptions like Scribd display print book covers prominently in apps. Audiobook services simulcast cover art and narrator details as listeners progress, keeping the book's visual identity front and center.

Publishers doubled down on the tangible, visual pleasures of print books — high-concept jacket designs, experimental textures, premium materials and embossed treatments — to stand out and give analog books collectible appeal.

Cover designers back in demand

Cover designers are also returning as covers regain importance across print, digital and audio.

The early e-book years saw cover designers deemed expendable, with stock art and templated designs proliferating. But publishers now realize quality covers pay dividends across a book's lifecycle through discovery, engagement and remarketing.

Designers like Na Kim, who relaunched Penguin Classics with her signature illustrated covers, have become stars in their own right. Cover reveals for anticipated titles becoming standalone PR events. Cover designers are selective with projects and able to command higher rates.

Cover design personalization may be the next frontier as books evolve across digital, print and audio. Dynamic digital covers can be customized based on reader preferences for color, imagery or layouts. Authors test multiple covers to optimize for conversions.

Whatever shape the future of books takes, the importance of their covers has been etched firmly into the front pages of publishing's next chapter. The book cover comeback is far more than a return to form – it elevates and expands the possibilities of book packaging for the digital age through innovation and imagination.

Vikrant Shaurya

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

CEO of Authors On Mission

Vikrant Shaurya is the CEO of Authors On Mission, where his team provides Done-For-You book writing, publishing, and marketing services. He has empowered 500+ authors to grow their brands and businesses through their books, making a lasting impact.

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