Series branding for paranormal romance book covers

Today I’m thinking about paranormal romance series’ book covers. Specifically, how the series’ covers achieve the following:

  1. make it clear it’s a paranormal romance novel!
  2. make it clear it’s a series
  3. have unique branding

I’m particularly interested in point (3) because there are so many very similar sounding series in this highly competitive market. How do you make your shifter romance series stand out from the eleventy billion other shifter romance series whilst still making it look like a shifter romance series?

For my extremely scientific investigation, I pulled up some series that popped up under “paranormal romance” in kindle books on Amazon. Then I decided to look specifically at shifter romance, to narrow down the genre into a subgenre, as it were.

Well, apart from the fact that bear romance is a lot more popular than I had realised, the first thing that strikes me is unsurprising: a bare-chested man on the cover is fairly mandatory in the genre.

Bare-chested men abound in the bear-shifter romance subgenre (see what I did there)

Bare-chested men abound in the bear-shifter romance subgenre (see what I did there)

These are three different series by three different authors, but they’re all using the same devices to create a series brand: font, layout, and—in the case of the top and bottom series—background. The fonts also create different impressions; the middle series’ font/layout makes me think there’s a more fantastical flavour to the series (more fantastical than werebears), whilst the bottom series’ font gives a hint of western. (I have no idea if these suppositions actually match the contents. That’s a whole other experiment).

(I’m also starting to wonder just how many stock photographs there are of naked man chests…)

So onto dragon shifters.

Fantastical fonts!

Fantastical fonts! 

The dragon romances above also highlight another form of series branding I’ve noticed: colour tinting. I think this is partly why the bottom series looks more coherent as a brand than the top series.

Tinted lion-y goodness! I like that the designer made the effort to find a different lion photo for each book.

Tinted lion-y goodness! I like that the designer made the effort to find a different lion photo for each book.

And I spotted this, by assuming it was the same series. A rather unfortunate coincidence in terms of creating unique series branding:

This is the must-have font for alpha dragons. Who knew?

This is the must-have font for alpha dragons. Who knew?

Conclusions? Nothing earth-shattering, but obviously the shifter romance cover design starter-kit includes:

  • a naked man chest
  • the animal your hero is shifting into
  • a distinctive font
  • tinting!

200 Covers / Editions of Pride and Prejudice

2013 marks the 200th anniversary of Pride and Prejudice‘s first publication. I, like many others, adore this novel. I love the romance, the humour, the social commentary, the satire… Every time I read it I take something new away. So in honour of this book’s 200th birthday, I have collected 200 different editions with 200 different covers. There are also graphs, because who doesn’t love a good infographic?

Thomas Egerton published the first edition of Pride and Prejudice in three hardcover volumes on 27 January 1813, with a second edition  published in November that year after the first sold out. The style of the first edition –relatively plain with some tasteful curlicues around the edges – is fairly typical of an old, casebound book.

1813 T Egerton First Edition

1813 T Egerton First Edition in three volumes

I haven’t managed to find many other editions from the 19th Century, but here they are:

Of the above, my favourite is the 1894 Peacock edition. Peacocks are used repeatedly on Pride and Prejudice covers, but in this case I think the first use is the best example. This brings me to my first infographic: the top ten elements shown on Pride and Prejudice covers.

Top 10 Elements Featured on Pride and Prejudice Covers

Top 10 Pride and Prejudice Cover Elements

As you can see, a man and woman together is the top thing shown on Pride and Prejudice covers. Unsurprising, given its central romance plotline of Elizabeth and Darcy.

But let’s talk about the covers that aren’t on the above infographic – the one-of-a-kind covers, for better or worse. I give you:

My Pick of the Top 10 Oddest Pride and Prejudice Covers

Also, because I do love my graphs, here’s a breakdown of 200 Pride and Prejudice covers by dominant colour:

Breakdown of Pride and Prejudice Covers by Dominant Colour

Breakdown of Pride and Prejudice Covers by Dominant ColourThis was a subjective judgement, and I tried pretty hard to categorise everything, but there were a few covers that I had to classify as ‘multicoloured’ despite my best efforts. As you can see, Pride and Prejudice covers come in pretty much every colour, with white being a popular but not majority choice.

OK, ready for the big finish? I give you 200 covers for Pride and Prejudice:

Printed Clothbound Hardbacks

I’m a big fan of hardbacks without dust jackets, and someone out there has been reading my mental memos lately. Over the last wee while, I’ve been seeing a few clothbound fantasy books with the design printed onto the cloth. The first of these was The Hobbit, which I coincidentally needed a copy of anyway. Witness its awesomeness:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The second one I saw was Game of Thrones, which I was tempted by, but I already own it and there was no indication that the rest of the series would be published in matching covers. However, this discovery led to some googling whereby I discovered that this whole clothbound-fantasy-books-with-clean-cut-designs was a thing, a thing being done by Harper Voyager. Yay Harper Voyager! Continue!

However, while I love the concept of printed-on-clothbound-covers hardbacks, I’m not so convinced by some of the actual designs. I love the one for The Hobbit, but I find the one for Assassin’s Apprentice extremely unappealing.

Assassin's Apprentice clothbound coverI don’t mind the design in and of itself, but it doesn’t fit the book. We’re talking about a gritty political intrigue/coming-of-age/quest pseudo-medieval fantasy here, right? With lots of pain and terror and wonder and magic? Admittedly, a wolf character is fairly central to the series, but howling in the purple rain?

And now I kinda want ALL the books.

harpervoyager clothbound

Hi there mysterious Cloak-person!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


I see the cloak-hiding-the-face device used a lot, particularly on fantasy covers (although I could only think of 4 examples off the top of my head. Will add more as I find them). It leaves the reader free to imagine how the character(s) looks and gives a nice sense of ‘mystery’, but sometimes these mysterious-cloaked-figures-in-dark-menacing-shades blur together in my mind until they start to seem like the same one.

Astonishingly bad cover poses

I discovered this gem at the library today:

julia_moore_piEverything about this pose/layout is designed to draw your attention to a rather unfortunate area. I particularly love the focal shadow in the centre.


One ribbon to rule them all


I see what you did there

Really? I have to admire the sheer audacity of this cover design. What I find particularly amusing about it is that it’s clearly a cash-in on the mega success of Fifty Shades of Grey, but it’s invoking Twilight with it’s cover art/layout. It seems like both an acknowledgement of Fifty Shades of Grey‘s fanfiction origins and a dig at the abusive undertones of Twilight.

Fifty Shades of Grey Cover Trends

So, design scrapbook is officially over, but I couldn’t resist making a post about about this. It’s insane. Actually insane. Look at this:

We have books clearly cashing in on the Fifty Shades of Grey craze advertising this through echoing the design of Fifty Shades of Grey, which in turn cashed in on the Twilight craze, blatantly mimicking cover elements from that series. It’s like the book cover version of Matryoshka dolls!

Another oddly sized book

Here’s Awa Press’ The Owl that Fell from the Sky. The very first thing I noticed about it was its odd size – it’s approximately the height of an A-format paperback, but much wider ( 170 x145mm), giving it an almost square appearance.

Aside from the format, the cover design is lovely with a simple black/white/teal colour palette. The only part I question is what appears to be a strange ligature between ‘s’ and ‘t’ – it distracts from the otherwise clean-cut nature of the cover design.

Looking at a page-spread, the margins have been chosen to create a text panel with relatively traditional proportions, rather than the square-ish proportions of the book. This measure works well, without needing too many hyphens (I can’t actually see any on this page-spread). I also note the use of the em rather than en dash – this seems appropriate, as the em dash is slightly more old-fashioned, and this book is about museum specimens.

Pretty cover and ragged edges

Presenting Terry Pratchett’s Nation:

The author’s name and title are clearly displayed in the order of importance, and are very easy to read despite the busy background. The title is eye-catching because it is foil-stamped, with a drop shadow for added emphasis.

The dust-cover shows one continuous scene – which I think is always a nice design touch. The transparent text box used for the blurb is a good way to put text on top of a busy background, whilst still allowing the sense of the image to be conveyed. 

As this is the US hardback, it also has a ragged ‘rough cut’ edge (something more common in the US). I find it makes it harder to flick through pages, and it makes the book feel less ‘perfect’, but it also adds an element of interest.
  • Goodreads

  • Blog posts

  • Advertisements