As the phrase "TikTok made me read it" dominates a new corner of the social media app, we reflect on how digitally savvy readers are shaping book cover designs
Has social media led to a renaissance for the book industry? “TikTok made me read it” is a slogan that younger readers might be very familiar with, but it’s not just a catchphrase relating to the video app.
In fact, now more than ever, consumers are impacting not only the books that sell well, but what they look like.
We’ve all heard the saying “don’t judge a book by its cover”, but it's pretty evident that the look of the novel in question has to grab our attention.
With a new digital trend that sees readers sharing their beloved purchases on social media apps like Instagram and TikTok, there’s more of a drive than ever to ensure that those covers match their desired target audience.
Browsing through BookTok
When exploring TikTok's reader-centric niche, BookTok—as it has affectionately been dubbed—it becomes quite apparent that there are a few notable aesthetics that continue to show up and are clearly resonating with buyers.
Sure, the story itself will continue to be a major factor in convincing an enthusiastic reader to go on the author’s journey with them—and ultimately nudge their friends and followers to do the same.
But the look of the book might now play an additional part for a few unique reasons.
"With influencers trying to boost their own status, they’re going to pick out books that jump out at content lovers"
With influencers trying to boost their own status, they’re going to pick out books that jump out at content lovers when they are scrolling through their social media feeds. Something bright and bold is going to excite a potential audience member far more than slightly dated design styles.
That doesn’t only relate to BookTok reviews and recommendations, or those classic BookStagram posts (another name for Instagram’s reading lovers). Bookshelves are now also considered to be part of the package.
No longer can items simply be organised in alphabetical order. Aesthetic is king here too, with social media users highlighting unique designs featuring colour coordination and displays that are complemented by inventive book covers and spines.
But what are some of the trending design choices that are really defining the industry right now?
It’s been a trick of marketing for the majority of branding's history. Bright colours stand out.
Minimalism used to be the trend for book covers, putting the focus on the title and presenting the feeling that the book might be complex, sophisticated or subtle in its intricacies.
Instead, boldness is now needed to look the part for those dressing their bookcases. The colour wheel has found a new purpose, with oranges and yellows often chosen to embolden one another, and a new wave of pink books jumping off the shelves.
Stylised graphic design
Stylised cartoonish characters and whimsical fonts have married into these bright colour combinations. An accompanying trend is to have a graphic design-focused piece of imagery to adorn the novel, usually based on the narrative.
"Stylised cartoonish characters and whimsical fonts have married into these bright colour combinations"
However, other releases have gone for a less subtle approach, with incredibly detailed pictures of both characters and settings, like the cover of The Love Hypothesis (Ali Hazelwood).
While ironically A Court Of Thorns And Roses (Sarah J Maas) does not include any floral imagery, the likes of The Possible World (Liese O'Halloran Schwarz) and The Ensemble: A Novel (Aja Gabel) continue the growing trend.
Interestingly, combining visual styles can lead to covers like Felix Ever After (Kacen Callender), which manages to tick every box, from bright colours and a stylised animated figure to a beautiful flower arrangement.
If you head into your local book store, you’ll notice a real growth in novels dedicated to new perspectives on ancient mythology.
"The covers of these books have stolen symbolism from the lore they draw their own mythos from"
The Greeks and Romans have become the main focus, but writers are beginning to extend past this, giving modern readers classical settings in which to explore timeless themes. The covers of these books have stolen symbolism from the lore they draw their own mythos from.
Circe (Madeline Miller), Ariadne (Jennifer Saint) and Six Crimson Cranes (Elizabeth Lim) are all perfect examples that draw from the stunning art styles that originally illustrated their ancient source stories and mythology.
Everyone loves a gimmick. Something that’s really going to draw attention to a product. Something that forces you to say, “Oh, that’s pretty cool.” That can be limited in the world of books, but there is a new increase in innovation.
The Priory Of The Orange Tree (Samantha Shannon) is a gorgeous gimmick cover in action.
The stunning piece of art, a dragon that has wound itself around a tower, also sweeps round to the spine. When two of these novels are placed together in a display, they create one full image again, a fact that book stores have taken full advantage of to showcase the release.
It’s the kind of look that has set the BookStagram world ablaze.
Next time you scroll through social media, or head to a coven of reading delights, look out for some of these trends; they’ll probably be found in the BookTok section, which has begun to pop up in plenty of book stores.
Will the future continue to track the trends of the internet age, now that their influences have hit the book industry?
With so many incredible covers now bursting from the shelves, judging a book by its cover could well lead to even more innovative designs.
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