Happy Halloween everyone! In honor of one of my favorite holidays—in large part because it kicks off the rest of the holiday season—I have put together a gallery of five horror book cover designs that capture the meaning of their genre.
One of the most exciting steps in publishing has got to be seeing the final book cover art, a sign of a writers hard work coming to fruition. A book cover is also the first impression a reader has about your work. It is critical to have an excellent design that grabs attention, and different genres deserve different styles. During a #storysocial twitter chat one Wednesday, the host posed a question about the importance of a book's cover in convincing a reader to buy that book they're holding. It was unanimous; everyone in the chat confirmed that book covers deliver the first selling pitch to readers.
The following book covers are Don Drapers of horror book jackets. They not only get it right, they get it fright!
1. The Fifth Child by Doris Lessing
I know I am not the only one that thinks that children as subjects make for the creepiest horror books and movies. If there is a child at the center of a horror story, it will often prove to be a chilling and nightmare inducing one. The cover for The Fifth Child achieves intrigue and ominousness with those soulless eyes.
2. The Case of Satan
by Ray Russell
I almost left this cover out because it scares the crap out of me, but that's the point right? Is it a child? Is it a doll? Who knows. Either way it is creepy. Before you even flip the book over to read excerpts or testimonials, the jagged image tells you everything that you need to know: This story will torment your dreams.
3. Doctor Sleep by Stephen King
Smoky haphazard font foretell a hair-raising future for the reader of Stephen King's Doctor Sleep. Stephen King is king of the horror novel genre. Dozens of his book covers could have made this list, but I chose this one because it ticks so many of the boxes for effective horror book jackets: the use of the color red, a menacing font, and an obscure figure. These elements are layered together in an aesthetically—albeit ghoulishly—pleasing way.
4. The Exorcist
by William Peter Blatty
Do I really need to explain why I selected this cover? The cover artist chose to use a hazy image that immediately gets you thinking "paranormal". The eye sockets appear hollowed out and inhuman. You may not know what is happening in this image, but you get the gist that it is sinister. Even the occult font foreshadow a story riddled with evil.
5. NOS4A2 by Joe Hill
The main credit to this effective cover goes to Joe Hill for the title. It's not a word, or phrase, but a license plate number. The anomalous use of this title steals attention. Joe Hill's book jacket is simple in concept, but impactful in it's message. Aren't you dying to know what it's about? This cover is genius. But what else to expect from the son of the king of horror. Joe Hill is the pen name of Joseph Hillstrom King, one of Stephen King's three children.
Horror is not my first genre of choice. I have read a few horror books over the years, but they're not really my cup of tea. I am prone to nightmares, and though I am nearing forty I am still afraid of the dark. But, in the spirit of Halloween—and to share some marketing tips that I've picked up during my writing journey—I felt it was necessary to put this together for you. I hope you enjoyed reading this post because it will surely affect my dreams for a long while.
(If you're enjoying this on mobile, and would like to purchase copies of these books, I have included links at the bottom of this page.)