Turn It Over: Back Cover Art

Back covers

I am fortunate.

I’ve had the pleasure of working with two amazing graphic artists in the years I’ve been publishing my stories. A ton of work goes into the front covers because in this digital age of ours, that’s what gets seen. But I like print books too; the naysayers out there might say print is dead, but I don’t believe it. What I have noticed though, is that some of the books I buy in print now have very little in the way of back cover art. Even popular books might only have the printed back cover copy, maybe an endorsement or two, perhaps a picture of the author if he or she is the most salient selling point for the book.

And that’s fine…I guess. I won’t not read a book because there’s no back cover pictures or pretty graphics to entertain me, but I have to say, I have a certain fondness and nostalgia for the days of beautiful and/or interesting back covers.

Here are a few from my family’s collection of books:

This is a coffee table book, At Home With Jane Austen, by Kim Wilson, and pictures are an important part of its charm. Notice the lovely sunlight shining on the path, evoking a feeling of ageless tranquility. The book states that this is the lane leading to St. Nicholas Church, where Jane Austen worshipped with her family.

Published by Abbeville Press, 2009
Published by Abbeville Press, 2014


Next, the back cover of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, by Seth Grahame-Smith (of Pride, Prejudice and Zombies fame). Certainly less tranquil than Exhibit A, but it conveys exactly what the book is about without using back cover copy. Talk about a picture that’s worth a thousand words! This one is clever because the front cover is a familiar, iconic photograph of Abraham Lincoln, and the composite back view of him is an unexpected, albeit rather gruesome, surprise.

Published by HatchetteBookGroup, 2010
Published by HatchetteBookGroup, 2010


This is the back cover of Winter’s Heart by Robert Jordan. It’s from my husband’s sci-fi/fantasy collection. I love the shadows the soldiers cast on the snow, and the vast numbers fading to blurry anonymity as the eye travels into the distance. Brrr!

Copyright 2000, Bandersnatch Group Inc.
Copyright 2000, Bandersnatch Group Inc.


Finally, the back cover of JK Rowling’s Chamber of Secrets. Mary GrandPré ‘s artwork lent a unique, elegant distinction to the Harry Potter book series. I love the movement in this one—Ron looking back at Hermione as they soar through the air, clinging to Harry (on the front cover), who clings to Fawkes. I wonder how much the artist knew of the eventual character arcs, even this early in the series.

Published by Scholastic Press, 1998
Published by Scholastic Press, 1998


And here are my own back covers, of which I’m extremely proud. They don’t get as much playtime as the fronts, but they are just as lovely. I want to take this opportunity to shout out to Ellen Pickels and Zorylee Diaz-Lupitou for their dedication and their expertise. Do you have a favorite back cover or cover artist?


3 Responses

  1. Christina Boyd

    Where are your back covers?

    Great article. And excellent back cover example!

    • Meryton Press

      They’re back.

  2. KarenMC

    It doesn’t look like they cross posted on the mobile version – readers can go to my blog page http://www.karenmcox.merytonpress.com/blog if they are interested and/or they don’t show up here.
    Thanks for your interest!