Young adult fantasy is a thriving market. Despite that the hype around Hunger Games and Twilight faded out, people continue writing and reading YA books in millions.
The popularity of the genre is a two-edged sword. On one hand, there are plenty of people who’d want to read your book. On the other hand, your creation needs to stand out to attract attention. A professional book cover design can help your story pop on the virtual or real shelves of the store.
Such a piece of art requires work, dedication, and research though. But fear not as we’re here to make this quest easier for you by analyzing what makes a good YA fantasy cover.
So, read along for YA book cover tips, examples, and trends.
YA fantasy target audience
Though YA fantasy is aimed at teens aged 12-18, 50% of its readers are adults. It’s not strange as the genre is full of gems. The YA fantasy books often raise interesting questions and relevant issues and do so in an engaging and action-packed way.
Besides, these books are often coming-of-age stories. And, let’s be honest here, growing up is a continuous process. No matter the age, each year we become a little more comfortable with ourselves and get to know the world around us a tiny bit better.
This makes a YA fantasy book a universally approachable read.
What it means for you — no need to limit your target audience to a single age group. Aim broader. Create a cover that will appeal to a teen as well as an adult who likes a captivating fantasy story.
So, what makes a good YA fantasy book cover that will appeal to such a broad age category?
Let’s figure it out.
YA fantasy book cover trends
Let’s take a look at modern YA book cover trends. You can’t live up to the standards of the industry’s style without knowing how the “fashion icons” do it.
1. YA fantasy prefers illustrated covers
Just like its older sibling, fantasy, the young adult genre sticks to the hand-drawn style of book covers.
And rightfully so, since the dawn of the fantasy era, illustrations have been THE face of the genre. Such artists as Chris Achileos, Allan Lee, Frank Fazzeta, and other greats were the inspiration for the modern YA book cover designers.
Though the style of illustrations has changed, the essence remains. A nice fantasy drawing creates a hard-to-replicate atmosphere of fairytale and wonder.
If you aim for that extra-fantasy flair, illustrated book cover design is the choice.
2. The protagonist is often the face of the cover
A character is a focus point of the YA fantasy book cover, be it illustrated or custom design. It helps to connect with the reader. We often seek kindred souls in the books we read — characters who share our ideals, principles, or background. So when a person looks at a cover and sees a familiar face, they’re more likely to pick it.
3. Elaborate typography is a go-to
YA fantasy prefers fonts that amplify the vibe of its covers. You won’t find a lot of typographic minimalism in the genre. Lush fonts, interesting textures, ornamentations, and hard customization are the trends for the YA book cover typography.
4. Color in YA fantasy
When it comes to the color of the modern design, we see two schools of thought.
The first one prefers a focus on a single color that dominates the cover. The other hues play supporting roles. They help establish tender contrasts and don’t even dare to challenge the main color’s dominance.
Other YA book cover designers choose sharp contrasts. You can see pinks and blues, reds and blacks, goldens and whites. These colors challenge each other and fight for the reader’s attention. When done right, they’re vivid and catchy.
5. Some covers go against the grain
Though not really a trend, it’s still worth mentioning. There are a group of YA adult fantasy books that ignore the fashion of the industry and decide on sufficiently different styles.
Intuitively, going against the grain is a surefire way to stand out from the crowd. And, it’s true. Besides, those are gorgeous covers. But it also means you’ll have a more difficult time targeting your readers. So, it comes down to balancing risks and deciding which approach is better on a case-by-case basis.
YA fantasy book cover design tips
Based on our experience with the genre and modern YA book cover trends, a few tips of the appealing fantasy book art:
- Make sure typography suits the vibe of the cover and your book. Don’t be afraid of lush or bold angular fonts. If needed, apply texture that complements the art or the title of the book.
- Focus on the characters; make them the focal point of the art. They are the soul and heart of your story. Let the cover reflect it.
- If unsure, stick to traditional composition — a character in the middle, the focus is on their face, the title at the top or bottom.
- Remember strong or mellow contrasts can work equally well. Feel free to experiment to find what works better for your book. But pick a color that sends the intended emotional message.
- If budget allows, pick illustrated covers. But if not, custom cover design can work wonders as well.
- The most effective YA fantasy book covers communicate their subgenres and topics well: be it sci-fi-adjacent, about the vampires, paranormal stuff, or dystopian worlds.
- And finally, some rules exist to be broken. But before attempting to break them, it’s better to know how and why they work.
In our opinion, that’s a core of a robust cover design for all flairs of the fantasy subgenre.
If we were to give a single piece of advice, it’d be:
Above all, a good YA fantasy book cover often comes down to great character design. That’s where the majority of visual storytelling and intrigue of the cover exist. So, we suggest investing a lot of effort into creating characters that do your stories justice.
Effective YA fantasy books wear their heart on their covers. They are sincere, bold, and aren’t afraid to fully lean into a certain aesthetic. Though the covers are often centered around characters and prefer the illustrated design, the genre is open to experiments and novel approaches. So, if in doubt about YA cover design, stick to classics. When done well, they work. And if you need any help with a book cover design, we’ll help you.