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How TikTok is changing book cover designs

How TikTok is changing book cover designs

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? 

Bold colours

The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren book cover

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.

They Both Die At The End (Adam Silvera), The Unhoneymooners (Christina Lauren), and How to Kill Your Family (Bella Mackie) are some examples of those bright colours in action. 

Stylised graphic design 

The Flat Share by Beth O'Leary book cover

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. 

Often, the images chosen are relatively simple, like the bed in The Flat Share (Beth O’Leary), or the two figures in The Spanish Love Deception (Elena Armas).

"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)

Floral flourishes

The Possible World by Liese O'Halloran Schwarz book cover

It Ends With Us and It Starts With Us (Colleen Hoover) both epitomise the trend of adding a floral design to a cover.

The natural and environmental aesthetic doesn’t appear to be married to any genre in particular, but has been used to represent everything from romance narratives to high fantasy.

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. 


Ariadne by Jennifer Saint book cover

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. 


The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon book cover

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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