The demand for sci-fi literature continues to be remarkable.
As a science fiction writer, you have an intimate understanding of the genre’s massive appeal.
SF allows us to peek behind the fringe of our knowledge, to wander unknown lands. It answers some of the countless “what ifs” we have. In the age of growing uncertainty, believable speculations of sci-fi books are attractive.
The question is, how to communicate the genre’s appeal via book cover? What makes science fiction book cover design an instant hit?
To help you figure it out, we compiled a list of SF cover design tips and examples.
Figure out who science fiction readers are
A book cover is a great marketing tool. And any marketing effort starts with target audience research.
No doubt, you’ve read plenty of sci-fi literature and communicated with other readers. You already know your reader’s likes, dislikes, and preferences. But, let’s dig deeper.
According to the research — “Who Reads Science Fiction and Fantasy?” — the sci-fi enjoyers
- are open to and believe in science;
- read a lot;
- are highly educated;
- watch sci-fi and fantasy TV and movies.
Also, the sci-fi audience believes that reading SF leads to a positive attitude towards science.
These are the people that the cover of your sci-fi book should attract and intrigue.
Stick to the sci-fi genre conventions
The cover of the Hugo award winner The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jay Anders is stunning.
Though undeniably astonishing, this example of the cover artistry isn’t that SF-y at first glance. It targets a much wider audience.
It’s a viable strategy to aim for more readers. But, if you are a beginner or don’t want unnecessary risks, make your book cover genre-friendly.
It means, when a reader looks at 10 different books, yours should be screaming “sci-fi” the loudest. Or at least attempt to.
A great example of super genre-specific covers is books by prolific creative-force, Adrian Tchaikovsky.
These three fairly-different covers communicate their genre clearly. Also, each tells a different story and conveys different emotions.
Now, let’s look at what makes an effective sci-fi book cover.
The sci-fi book cover art tips
The imaginative cover art of science fiction literature is difficult to ignore. It mesmerizes and inspires.
The pioneers of the past looked at the maps of uncharted territories and wondered what’s there. The modern readers should look at science fiction book covers and wonder what’s behind this beauty.
A few tips on how to achieve such a cover.
Sci-fi art should tell a story:
Be it a tale of spacefarers, a story about a strange-new world, or a time-travel book, the art should reflect it.
You either can be specific about the book’s intent or vague. Both approaches are effective as long as they convey the atmosphere, themes, or tone of the book well.
Exile of Snake by Patricia Renard Scholes is about the alien invasion, and the protagonist who tries his damn best to resist it. Though you’ve probably figured it yourself by glancing at the cover once.
On the other end of the spectrum, we have a cover for Fated by Jay Thomm.
The cover doesn’t tell us much about the story. At the same time, it communicates space adventure, mystery, and suspense — a perfect representation of the book.
Sci-fi art should have nice contrasts
Nice contrasts help ensure that the cover’s imagery will be easy to understand.
Different colors aren’t the only way to achieve good contrasts. The shadow and light use, guiding lines, and composition help as well.
For example, this cover of Relic by Paul Rix is mostly orange and black. The placement of characters, the guiding lines, the lighting are on point. As a result, the scene is easy to parse.
The opposite example is Refract by Yvonne M. Thompson. The warm-red and orange character pops on the cold greenish background. The contrast draws attention and makes the art pleasant to the eye.
Sci-fi art should have a focal point
A cover should have a well-defined focus. Especially if the cover is busy or depicts an intense action scene with a lot of stuff going on. Focus is the surest way of drawing the reader to the art even if the style seems chaotic.
This cover for Carrie Annes World by Mark Whiteway is full of visual information and tiny details.
Nonetheless, the alignment of the components, the circle of the clock, and the placement of the character create a clear focus.
The mentioned examples succeed in conveying the genre as well as the vibe of their stories. You need a book cover concept that does the same.
If you struggle to come up with a sci-fi art idea for your book, look for references in books, video games, TV, and movies.
You can go here, and we’ll help you with the ideas for your book cover for free.
Color in sci-fi book covers
Maybe, you’ve noticed that all the SF covers we provided have dominating colors. These primary hues emphasize the mood of the cover.
To better prove our point, let’s do something immoral. Let’s change the color of the Children of Time cover.
The imagery remains the same, yet the mood of the cover changes drastically.
Overall, green serves the book much better.
Not only is green accurate to the story. It is also associated with life, nature, renewal. And, in this instance, the bright-green signals danger as well.
The color reminds us of the overgrown jungle thicket where predators are hiding, waiting for the opportunity. We feel that the planet crawls with life, and we shudder at this thought.
A couple more examples of color effect:
- purple feels mysterious, royal, magical;
- blue conveys solitude and a tinge of melancholy.
So, pick the cover colors carefully. For reference, you can consult our guide on colors in book cover design.
The typography of sci-fi book covers
Let’s imagine, you have gorgeous sci-fi art for your book cover. Then, you slap Grusskarten Gotisch typeface on top of it.
It’s a beautiful font, no doubt. But, in this context, it doesn’t do the genre justice. (If your book is about the futuristic order of space templars, it can work. That’s a rare case though).
So, to top sci-fi book cover off, you need a proper font.
The most common fonts for science fiction literature belong to the sans serif family. Those are fonts without little hooks on the end of the letters.
Another popular choice is modern, geometric fonts.
Some surefire science fiction fonts include
- Good Times,
- Shapirit Regular,
- Linotype Authentic Sans Pro Regular,
- Tulpen One,
You can also apply texture or effects to the text so typography better fits the mood. For example, glitch effects are a common choice.
An appeal of illustrated sci-fi book cover design
The majority of successful book covers tread a thin line between unique and “cliche.”
By cliche, we mean recognizable elements of the science fiction genre. They include planets, spacecraft, strange creatures, and futuristic landscapes.
One of the most effective ways of keeping the balance is illustrated book cover design. Each hand-crafted drawing is unique. The style of artists grants the covers a custom feel that is difficult to replicate.
To check out more examples of our illustrated covers, go here.
We can speak about science fiction book cover design for hours on end. Creating such art is a lot of fun. You can let your imagination go and design a breathtaking imaginative beauty.
But, to ensure the success of the book cover, one must remember to follow the conventions. So, ensure that the art fits the genre and your story, is easily readable, and has a clear focus.
What are your favorite science fiction book covers?