When it comes to book buying, many purchasing decisions start with the cover. Get your book noticed with these takeaways from famous covers.

Great book cover design is more than just an art – it’s also marketing. Designers must capture the essence of a story while intriguing potential readers with a unique design that makes a statement. It’s important to use principles of good design to create a beautiful book jacket as many of these principles will accelerate your marketing. Here are 23 book covers to inspire you to create the next best-selling design.

1. Psycho, 1959

23 Book Covers Show What Goes into Best-Seller Design – Psycho

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Before the terrifying movie came out, the novel Psycho shocked readers when it was released in 1959 by Robert Bloch. Tony Palladino, who helmed the book cover design, created an iconic and memorable picture by focusing on the word “psycho.” The white, cracked lettering on a simple black background invited brave readers to find out more. When the movie was in production, director Alfred Hitchcock chose to use the same typography on the poster.

2. Jaws, 1974

23 Book Covers Show What Goes into Best-Seller Design – Jaws

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In 1974, readers were traumatized by the horror of Peter Benchley’s Jaws. The book cover artist, Roger Kastel, brought the tension of the story right into the cover art. He presents an image of the shark lurking underneath an oblivious swimmer. The scene is placed on a dim, black background, adding to the uncertainty. The design was such a hit, Stephen Spielberg copied elements of it for the poster of the movie that came out a few years later.

3. Jurassic Park, 1990

23 Book Covers Show What Goes into Best-Seller Design – Jurassic Park

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This best-selling novel by Michael Crichton drew readers in with a simple yet effective book cover design by Chip Kidd. The focal point is a black silhouette of a tyrannosaurus rex skeleton. Its sharp teeth and raised claws give the reader just a hint of what will unfold in this thrilling novel. When the movie was made in 1993, the producers used that same powerful dinosaur skeleton image.

4. The Godfather, 1969

23 Book Covers Show What Goes into Best-Seller Design – The Godfather

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The Godfather was published in 1969 by Mario Puzo to positive reviews and obsessed readers. The book cover was designed by graphic artist S. Neil Fujita. Fujita made a play on the title’s text and inserted a clever image of a hand pulling puppet strings. Francis Ford Coppola loved the book cover style so much he made it his choice for the movie poster design as well.

5. To Kill a Mockingbird, 1960

23 Book Covers Show What Goes into Best-Seller Design – To Kill A Mockingbird

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Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird has been printed and published many times in the past few decades, inspiring plenty of book cover ideas. For a recent reprint, artist Sebastian Andreas focused on a closed, defiant fist shackled by a white chain. The interesting white typography of the title appears in the closed black fist, creating stark contrast and a representation of the powerful story.

6. 1984, 1948

23 Book Covers Show What Goes into Best-Seller Design – 1984

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Another beloved novel that has inspired numerous book cover ideas is George Orwell’s classic 1984. For a new edition, designer Adronauts Berlin went with a simplistic approach. The cover is mostly white with the title of the novel featured in heavy black text. The number nine is stylized with the piercing eye of Big Brother.

7. Flowers in the Attic, 1979

23 Book Covers Show What Goes into Best-Seller Design – Flowers in the Attic

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In 1979, readers were shocked by the twisted world of V.C. Andrews’ Flowers in the Attic. The cover art, created jointly by Milton Charles and Gillian Hills, presents a foreboding attic in shades of red and black. The face of the protagonist looks out into the darkness, giving readers an idea of the bizarre and disturbing story to come.

8. The Wizard of Oz, 1900

23 Book Covers Show What Goes into Best-Seller Design – The Wizard of Oz

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Readers have been delighted by the classic L. Frank Baum story of Dorothy and her friends adventuring through Oz since 1900. In that time there have been many different book covers used to introduce this story to a new generation of readers. One notable example is this recent cover design by Paul Bartlett, which employs a symbolic emerald green over a collage of images that relate to the narrative. Try this for yourself with a collage of images and a bright colored overlay that brings them together.

9. Beowulf, 1999

23 Book Covers Show What Goes into Best-Seller Design – Beowulf

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The story of Beowulf has been around for centuries, but in 1999, poet Seamus Heaney put together a new translation of the tale. The cover designer for this new volume, Seth Rubin, manages to convey the history and heart of the story to potential readers. He places a powerful image of the main character in rich chain mail as the reader follows him into battle. Focusing on a main character can help your readers connect to the story and the protagonist’s journey.

10. A Clockwork Orange, 1962

23 Book Covers Show What Goes into Best-Seller Design – A Clockwork Orange

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Book cover artist David Pelham was tasked with creating a new cover for Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange to pair with the movie release in 1971. Pelham used bold, bright colors and clean shapes to let the character imagery shine through. While there have been many other cover designs for this timeless story, Pelham’s style remains the most memorable.

11. The Brief History of the Dead, 2006

23 Book Covers Show What Goes into Best-Seller Design – The Brief History of the Dead

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Oftentimes, an effective book cover design needs to give readers some clues about the story – if they don’t know the author or the title, they’ll need some reason to look twice. The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmier is a fantasy novel that gives readers a new perspective on life and death. The cover artist Archie Ferguson created intrigue with a curious and unique image that invites readers to find out more.

12. The Bell Jar, 1963

23 Book Covers Show What Goes into Best-Seller Design – The Bell Jar

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Sylvia Plath’s dramatic life and death are often what brings new readers to her writing. The graphic art for her 1963 novel, The Bell Jar, illustrates the sense of loneliness and depression that Plath and her characters faced. The cover, designed by Shirley Tucker in 1966, features a series of concentric circles. This hypnotizing design helps the reader understand the protagonist’s state of mind.

13. Dracula, 1897

23 Book Covers Show What Goes into Best-Seller Design – Dracula

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Bram Stoker’s 1897 Dracula has been published for millions of readers since its initial printing. Many different designers have tackled this horrifying subject matter with success. One design that stands out is a more recent style for a new printing of the book by Megan Wilson. This cover combines an image from a classic painting with some suggestive triangles (fangs) and imprints the novel’s text on a woman’s neck.

14. Something for the Pain, 2008

23 Book Covers Show What Goes into Best-Seller Design – Something for the Pain

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Non-fiction books don’t have to sacrifice style with boring book covers. Something for the Pain, which is a 2008 medical memoir by Paul Austin, attracts readers with its clever use of white space. Cover designer Helen Yentus conveys the sterile, nameless atmosphere of a hospital waiting room with large white boxes.

15. Treasure Island, 1882

23 Book Covers Show What Goes into Best-Seller Design – Treasure Island

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When classic novels are republished, book cover art designers have a challenge to present an old story to readers in a new way. A new edition of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island does this beautifully with stunning cover art with paper art. Design studio Bomboland incorporates three-dimensional cut outs to excite readers with this dramatic tale of adventure.

16. An Object of Beauty, 2010

23 Book Covers Show What Goes into Best-Seller Design – An Object of Beauty

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Typography is another useful tool for a memorable book cover. Steve Martin published the novel An Object of Beauty in 2010 and recruited graphic artist Darren Booth for the cover design. Booth makes the title the focus of his design, revealing some of the story’s setting in the organic cutout shapes of the letters.

17. American Psycho, 1991

23 Book Covers Show What Goes into Best-Seller Design – American Psycho

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Anyone who has read Bret Easton Ellis’ 1991 novel American Psycho understands how chilling the main character is and how disturbing the events in the novel become. Cover designer Marshall Arisman evokes this psychosis in his stunning design, showing a simple portrait of a man with the devil inside of him.

18. The Sky Is Everywhere, 2010

23 Book Covers Show What Goes into Best-Seller Design – The Sky Is Everywhere

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Young adult novels present a unique challenge in book cover art, as they must attract an entirely different audience. With The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson, the cover artist catches the eye of young readers with a brilliant use of color. Despite all the bright colors and movement on the cover, the title is still front and center.

19. Dept. of Speculation, 2014

23 Book Covers Show What Goes into Best-Seller Design – Dept. Of Speculation

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The cover artist for the 2014 novel Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill uses a creative approach to engage potential readers. The cover is a simple puzzle with one piece set aside, revealing the author and title. Readers may want to find out more about the story and try to solve the puzzle within the book.

2o. Columbine, 2009

23 Book Covers Show What Goes into Best-Seller Design – Columbine

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True crime books and their covers are notoriously over the top and sometimes exploitative. Henry Sene Yee needed a different approach for the horrible 1999 school shooting at Columbine High School. Writer Dave Cullen presented his 2009 account of the story with a respectful cover that captured the pain the nation still felt from the shocking events. The cover conveys despair with a gray sky and the white title of the book across the horizon.

21. The Road, 2006

23 Book Covers Show What Goes into Best-Seller Design – The Road

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The designer for Cormac McCarthy’s 2006 offering, The Road, was tasked with giving audiences an idea of the post-apocalyptic setting. Artist Nick Lowndes does this and more with a muted blue background and black silhouetted figures that reveal the strength of minimalist design.

22. Why You Should Read Kafka Before You Waste Your Life, 2008

23 Book Covers Show What Goes into Best-Seller Design – Kafka

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The artist for James Hawes’ Why You Should Read Kafka Before You Waste Your Life was inspired by the source material for this study of the influential writer Kafka. On the cover, there is an insect reading a title of Hawes’ book, making a play on Kafka’s famous work, The Metamorphosis.

23. The Disappointment Artist, 2005

23 Book Covers Show What Goes into Best-Seller Design – The Disappointment Artist

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This cheeky series of autobiographical essays from Jonathan Lethem needed a cover that matched the book’s tone. The cover designer, Marc Cozza, took the idea of disappointment and ran with it. Potential readers see a melting ice cream bar, a fun but poignant symbol of upset.

Start with these 23 book covers as inspiration, then head over to Shutterstock Editor to bring your book cover to life. Access tons of royalty-free images perfect for any genre, then add text, shapes, filters, or your own imagery to fully customize it. Make sure your book gets noticed on the shelf (or in the browser) with these simple yet powerful tools.

Top Image by Vladimir Sazonov