We all know the saying ‘you can’t judge a book by its cover’ – however, it is the cover that initially attracts a reader to pick up our book. Choosing the ‘correct’ colour for your book cover can be difficult, as it will subconsciously give an impression of the genre/topic/trope of your story. We might look into the typical colours used for a genre, or go with our gut feeling and pick a colour we feel is ‘right’ for our narrative. No matter which avenue you choose all covers are an extension of us and our stories.
I am currently debating, which colour to use for an upcoming novella, which will be a prequel to a two-part series. The existing books have similar designs, but different colours to signify the different characters. As this third character is evil, having a black cover, or elements, will translate to the story of evil, and unhappiness.
Here is a list of colours and their significance with each genre.
Black evokes a serious theme and signifies mystery, death, evil, a sense of authority, power, control, and suspense, but also can feel sophisticated, modern, authoritative, and formal. It is most commonly used in horror, thriller, and mystery genres.
Gray is a neutral color associated with wisdom, sophistication, knowledge, and prestige, but also depression. It elicits an emotional spectrum ranging from remote, distant, cool, and bored to serious, focused, and intelligent.
Green is associated with nature, vitality, environment, health, evoking a soothing, refreshing, and tranquil state of mind, and is therefore a good fit for high fantasy novels or environmental nonfiction. Although it is one of the least-seen colors for book covers, it is often equated with a fresh beginning, excitement, vitality, wealth, and even jealousy.
I chose green not only for my medieval fantasy, but also my children’s picture and chapter books.
Blue has many associations including thoughtfulness, trust, calmness, serenity, inquisitiveness, dependability, mental engagement, sadness, stability and trustworthiness, safety and elicits feelings of calm and serenity as well as nature. Blue is commonly used for covers of political memoirs and nonfiction as well as more thought-provoking fiction. The choice of blue hue changes its meaning as a dark blue or indigo means intuition, truth, sincerity, and trust.
Purple/Violet signifies spirituality, prosperity, transcendence, harmony, while dark purple is related to royalty, depth, wealth, and fantasy. For my YA fantasy novella, Clickety-Click as you can see, I chose a deep purple not only for the background, but for the creature!
Yellow is a striking colour, evoking feelings of motivation, warmth, ambition, fun, cheerfulness, happiness, creativity, and energy, and in all has an attention-grabbing effect. However, it can also be grating and annoying, or even aggressive, while pale yellow is warm, friendly, approachable, and inviting. The choice of hue for yellow is paramount to balance the effect you are looking to convey.
Brown might seem an odd choice and dull, but it evokes feelings of nature, comfort, gives an ‘of-the-Earth’ vibe. Ecological genres may utilize a brown hue for a cover. I, however, utilized rich golden brown backgrounds for three books – a steampunk, a speculative fiction and a reincarnation romance. I find them atmospheric.
White is associated with purity, cleanliness, safety, simplicity, self-sufficiency, freshness and peacefulness. Although, white can come across as stark, bland, or cold, it is well-known as a symbol of purity suggesting a straight-forward, simple book.
Orange is a color associated with playfulness, energy, creativity, dynamic, positive, optimistic, hopeful, confidence and attention-grabbing with feelings of warmth and happiness, but can also be found to be overwhelming and cartoonish. Interestingly, I chose a blue background with orange lettering for my upcoming crime trilogy.
Red conveys energy, enthusiasm, emotion, power, dominance and aggression responses as well as angst for horror and thrillers, but with the choice of a softer tone also gives a feeling of passion, excitement, hunger (desire), love, and warmth.
Pink depending on the shade of pink, this hue can evoke feelings of passion, romance, innocence or childishness, femininity, playfulness, love, tenderness, youthfulness, emotion, and innocence.
With a combination of a deep rose and mahogany hues my YA alien adventure reflects the four young friends and the invading creature.
How did you choose your book cover colour(s)?