Cover Design Advice

According to Tema Frank who attended a presentation by well known cover designer CS Richardson, “never put your main character on the cover”. So let’s have a look at some of his cover designs.

Note that some of these are non-fiction and several are contemporary.

So, what do you think?? Do these designs grab your attention? Does this work for historical fiction?

For other posts on cover design check out:


M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel is THE ADMIRAL’S WIFE, a dual timeline set in Hong Kong. Mary’s other novels, PARIS IN RUINS, TIME AND REGRET, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from AmazonNookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on FacebookTwitter and Goodreads or on her website

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9 Responses

  1. Maybe I am atypical, but I don’t think I would buy any of these books based on their covers, unless I knew the author or knew something about the book. These say nothing to me at all! (Visit my home page on my website if you want to see my book covers and let me know what you think!)

  2. I agree with comment above. Visit Amazon books and search Vaticans’ Pirates by Maximus Basco…and cover…

  3. I think it depends on what your readers are looking for. If #maincharacterenergy is what they want, something that speaks to that needs to be on the cover. This is really tough if you are writing historical series as you may struggle to find images that flow from book to book.

  4. Putting the main character on the cover (for historical fiction)? It depends. Some do, some don’t. Some do and obscure the figure, like Mary does with “The Admiral’s Wife.” Some highlight the setting more, as I do with my “New York 1609.” But then, some go full frontal, like the current #1 Bestseller in Historical Asian Fiction: “Lady Tan’s Circle of Women”. FYI: I’m not a fan of the all-type treatments for genre fiction.

    1. Good point on ‘all-type treatments for genre fiction’ Harald. Something on the cover needs to signal the genre.

  5. Not mad on any of those covers.
    As to not using images of a main character, I agree with that to a point. I’ve used historical portraits on three of my ten covers – they’re very definitely historical, the patina suggests age but I hope the images don’t remain in people’s minds as they read.
    I think it’s different if one’s cover designer uses photographs of people. For some reason, it burns into one’s consciousness more. I can think of any number of his fict books where characters are models (photogenic and otherwise) dressed in costumerie of the day. In a way, I think it’s lazy design.
    TBH, I think a good designer is able to design an amazing histfict cover without using people at all – I’ve just read Robyn Cadwallader’s Book of Colours – a perfect example. Likewise Nancy Bilyeau’s books The Blue and The Fugitive Colours and more.
    My ideas have changed significantly over the years.

  6. I like characters and setting on the cover, suggesting the genre/ period/ country. But not always it is possible. My historical books, some have classical paintings on them, showing the genre.

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