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Design 101: how to create a modern YA fantasy book cover

Ever get the sense of deja vu when seeing young adult fantasy novel covers?

Here is how you can create your very own young adult fantasy novel cover.

Step 1:

Single-tone background — this can be a metallic silver, a neutral white, black or grey, or a bold teal or red. This base background of the book should be compliment the overall cover design as well as hint what is in the book, for example:

  • red = romance or bloodshed

  • silver = technology

  • gold = royalty

  • black = mystery and intrigue

Step 2:

A single, stand-out image — pick one, single, stand-out image for your cover — extra points if the image is cropped half off the page. If you choose to feature a person, it must be your female protagonist and her face can't be shown (either have her face cropped from the cover, or obscured by her hair or clothes, or have her facing away from the reader).

Step 3:

A distinct, functional, but instantly recognisable font. Simple enough.

Step 4:

An intriguing, punchy title about 2 to 5 words long, bonus points if the title has some sort of connection to royalty, gentry, or ruling. For example:

  • Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

  • The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

  • A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Maas

  • Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas

  • Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare

  • Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare

  • Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller

  • Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian

  • The Queen’s Rising by Rebecca Ross

If you're struggling, remember a good format is: [insert noun] of [insert noun]. This format is, of course, made popular by George RR Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series.

Here are some recent examples:

  • Ace of Shades by Amanda Foody

  • Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor

  • Dance of Thieves by Mary E. Pearson

  • Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

  • Heart of Iron by Ashley Poston

  • City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

  • A Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi

  • Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza

  • A List of Cages by Robin Roe

  • The Alchemists of Loom by Elise Kova

  • Reign of Shadows by Sophie Jordan

  • Daughter of the Burning City by Amanda Foody

  • Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller

Or take it up a notch and follow this formula: [insert noun] of [insert noun] and [insert noun].

  • A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J Maas

  • Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

  • Queen of Air and Darkness by Cassandra Clare

Step 5:

A punchy, mysterious teaser, should be printed on the cover, giving the read a taste of what is inside. Here are some examples:

  • "She stole a life, now she must pay with her heart." A Court of Thorns and Roses, Sarah J Maas

  • "Power is a dangerous game." Red Queen, Victoria Aveyard

  • "First survive, then tell the truth." Illuminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

  • "A heart of ice, a will of steel meet the assassin." Throne of Glass, Sarah J Maas

  • "In a land without a queen a princess must rise." Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian

Step 6:

Any praise for the book, or the Author's previous accolades.

  • The international bestseller

  • #1 New York Times bestselling author

  • From the bestselling author who brought you...

  • Now a major motion picture

  • Now a Netflix original series

  • "This is the next Twilight" — an author I actually like

  • "This is the next Twilight" — some author I vaguely remember

  • "This is the next Twilight" — some person I've never heard of from some newspaper no one reads

Step 7:

Bonus round — if the author knows they'll make good sales on the book, consider adding something special on the book, such as embossed font, a metallic shimmer or high-gloss pattern. But don't do this if you're unsure if the book will sell — embossed covers are EXPENSIVE.

... and putting all my advice together, here is my YA book cover (plot, character and any actual writing or work still to come) (but also, publishers I am willing to accept your contracts and advance payments for this masterpiece).

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