How to Design a Mystery Book Cover: A Step-by-Step Guide


If you’re a writer working on a mystery book, you may have heard the old cliche, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” However, in the publishing world, book covers are often the first point of contact between readers and books. A well-designed cover that accurately captures the spirit of your book can be the difference between enticing a curious reader and losing them to the competition.

Understanding the Mystery Genre

The mystery genre has been captivating readers for centuries. From the classic whodunit to the gritty noir, mystery books have something for everyone. The first step in designing a mystery book cover is to understand the genre and its various subgenres.

One of the defining characteristics of a mystery book is that it involves a crime or a puzzle that needs to be solved. This could be a murder, a theft, or any other type of crime. The protagonist of the story is usually a detective or an amateur sleuth who is tasked with solving the mystery. Along the way, they encounter a variety of suspects and red herrings that keep the reader guessing until the very end.

In addition to the crime or puzzle, mysteries often involve suspense, tension, and a sense of intrigue. The reader is drawn into the story and compelled to keep reading to find out what happens next. This is why it’s so important for a mystery book cover to convey a sense of intrigue and mystery.

Key Elements of Mystery Book Covers

Before creating a cover for your mystery book, it’s essential to understand the key elements that make up a successful mystery book cover. Firstly, the cover should give a hint of the genre of the book. This can be done through the use of color, typography, and imagery. Your reader should know that this is a mystery book by looking at the cover.

Secondly, mystery book covers should always show a sense of intrigue. Your reader should want to pick up the book just by looking at the cover. This can be achieved through the use of bold imagery, clever taglines, and striking typography.

Another important element of a mystery book cover is the use of symbolism. This can be anything from a magnifying glass to a shadowy figure. The key is to choose an image that is both visually striking and relevant to the story.

Popular Mystery Subgenres and Their Cover Styles

There are several subgenres of mystery, each with its own cover style. Cozy mysteries, for example, have a very different aesthetic than a gritty noir mystery. Cozy mystery covers often feature whimsical illustrations and bright colors, while noir covers are typically dark and moody.

For a mystery thriller, consider a cover that adds to the intrigue and secretiveness of your story. Rather than getting lost in a black-and-white candid, try something game-like for a mystery thriller. This could be a maze, a crossword puzzle, or a hidden object game. The key is to create a cover that draws the reader in and makes them want to solve the mystery themselves.

Ultimately, the key to designing a successful mystery book cover is to understand your audience and the conventions of the genre. By using bold imagery, clever taglines, and striking typography, you can create a cover that not only conveys the genre of the book but also entices readers to pick it up and solve the mystery inside.

Planning Your Mystery Book Cover

Before beginning the design process, you need to do your research and plan out your cover’s essential elements. A well-designed book cover can make all the difference in attracting readers and selling your book. Here are some tips for planning your mystery book cover:

Identifying your target audience

The first step in planning your mystery book cover is identifying your target audience. Different sub-genres of mystery often appeal to different types of readers, and it’s essential to speak to your target audience with your cover design. For example, if you’re writing a cozy mystery, your target audience might be older women who enjoy a lighthearted mystery with a touch of humor. On the other hand, if you’re writing a thriller, your target audience might be younger men who enjoy heart-pounding action and suspense. Knowing your target audience will help you choose the right design elements to attract and entice them.

Analyzing successful mystery book covers

Another critical step in planning your mystery book cover is analyzing successful mystery book covers. Look at the cover designs of best-selling authors in your sub-genre. What elements are they using? What color palettes and typography styles are they gravitating towards? Paying attention to what has worked well for successful books can be a useful starting point. However, be careful not to copy another author’s cover too closely, as you want your cover to stand out and be unique.

Creating a mood board for inspiration

Once you have identified your target audience and analyzed successful mystery book covers, the next step is creating a mood board for inspiration. A mood board is a collection of design elements, textures, images, and colors that help you visualize the overall look and feel of your cover design. You can create a physical mood board by cutting out images and textures from magazines or create a digital mood board using websites like Pinterest or Canva. Your mood board should reflect the tone and mood of your book and help guide your design decisions.

In conclusion, planning your mystery book cover is an essential step in the book publishing process. By identifying your target audience, analyzing successful book covers, and creating a mood board for inspiration, you can design a cover that will attract readers and sell your book.

Designing the Cover

Once you have your research and planning done, it’s time to start designing your cover. The cover is the first thing a reader will see, so it’s important to make a good impression. A well-designed cover can entice readers to pick up your book and start reading. Here are some essential design elements you need to keep in mind when designing your cover.

Choosing the right typography

Font choice is a critical design element that can significantly impact the overall feel of your cover. The typography you choose should be eye-catching and unique. It should make your book stand out from the rest. Make sure it’s legible and bold, with words that will catch the reader’s attention and add some mystery to the image. A good font choice can help convey the tone and genre of your book.

Selecting a color palette

The color palette you choose can significantly impact how your book is perceived by readers. The colors you choose should complement each other and help to convey the mood and tone of your book. Depending on the sub-genre, you need to select colors that are eerie and bold or soothing, darkish or sleek – keep your target audience’s age and preference in mind when selecting a color palette. For example, if you’re writing a mystery novel, you might want to use dark, moody colors like black, navy, and deep purple. If you’re writing a romance novel, you might want to use soft, pastel colors like pink, lavender, and baby blue. Whatever color palette you choose, make sure it catches the readers’ eye and helps convey the genre and tone of your book.

Incorporating imagery and symbols

Imagery is another important design element that can make or break your cover. The images and symbols you choose should be relevant to the story and help convey the genre and tone of your book. Ask yourself what images will give a sense of intrigue and be related to the mystery genre. Make sure the images and symbols you choose are clear and support the book’s title, genre, and tone. Try to give a sense of the story through imagery. For example, if you’re writing a mystery novel, you might want to include an image of a magnifying glass, a detective badge, or a crime scene. Whatever imagery you choose, make sure it’s clear and supports the overall design of your cover.

Balancing elements for a cohesive design

When designing a cover, it’s essential to balance all the elements to create a cohesive design. Make sure all the elements work together to catch the reader’s attention and give them some idea of what’s inside the book. Try to balance the text, images, colors, and typography in a way that creates an overall impression that matches the mood of the book. For example, if you’re writing a suspenseful mystery novel, you might want to use dark colors, bold typography, and an image of a crime scene. Whatever design elements you choose, make sure they work together to create a cohesive and eye-catching design.

In conclusion, designing a book cover is an important part of the publishing process. A well-designed cover can help your book stand out and entice readers to pick it up and start reading. By choosing the right typography, color palette, imagery, and balancing all the design elements, you can create a cover that accurately represents your book and catches the reader’s eye.

Working with a Professional Designer

If you’re unsure of your abilities to design a cover on your own, it’s always best to work with a professional. Here are some tips for working with a professional designer.

Finding the right designer for your project

When looking for a designer, be sure to choose someone who has experience designing covers for your sub-genre. Look at their portfolio and see if their style matches your book’s intended tone. Ensure that they can work with you within your budget.

Communicating your vision effectively

If you decide to work with a professional designer, make sure you can communicate your vision effectively. Provide them with a detailed brief outlining your book’s genre, mood, and audience and give them examples of covers you like. Give them the outline of your story and provide them with some vital graphics if there’s any.

Collaborating on revisions and finalizing the design

When working with a professional designer, you’re likely to collaborate on multiple rounds of revisions before finalizing the design. Make sure you’re open to feedback and willing to work together to make sure the cover is perfect. Finally, prepare and finalize your design to be print-ready and in the proper format suitable for the book platform of your choice.


Designing a mystery book cover can be a complex process that requires careful planning, research, and a keen eye for detail. It’s important to think about what makes your book unique, who your target audience is, and what visual elements will best capture the essence of your story. If done well, a compelling cover can be the key to success for your book.