Don’t judge a book by its cover. Well, here we are. Like it or not, a cover can say a lot about a book—about its content, its character and, in some cases, its quality. More and more indie authors understand the value of a great cover—particularly in the all-important thumbnail size. Here are a few that stuck out to us this year. —Ryan Leahey

1. Murder by Misrule—Castle’s laugh-out-loud mystery uses textured background and a unique serif typeface to help it stand out in a crowd.

 The Cellar

2. The Cellar—Lo’s cover paints the main set piece in an alluring light, because that’s what this cellar is: a haunted refuge where ghostly love can be found.

 Vitamin Q  

3. Vitamin Q—The bright colors on Brogan’s cover help make a splash, especially when the thumbnail image has only a few pixels to make an impression.


4. Eleven—Rogers’ book—“A touching, terrifying book about family, growing up and an event that shook the United States,” we said in a starred review—has a soft, tasteful touch for a sensitive subject. Sometimes that’s the best route for handling a raw topic. 

 The Man who saved the v8

5. The Man Who Saved the V-8—“Morsey’s detailed prose, passionate recollections and careful documentation help bring this era of automotive history to life,” we wrote in a starred review. Classic cars on the cover get the motor revving at first sight. 

White Man's Problems

6. White Man's Problems—Who doesn’t want a cute pup staring them in the face? And if they don’t, are those really the readers you want?

The Orphan Bear

7. The Orphan Bear—A stylized bear lumbers forward on the cover of Rewak’s stellar collection, hinting at his poetry’s power and craft. 

american neolithic 2

8. American Neolithic—Hawkins’ cover speaks to what we found profoundly moving in the novel, which Kirkus awarded a star: “The disturbing contrast of nonviolent, contemplative and deeply compassionate Blingbling”—the book’s modern Neanderthal—“to the brutality, apathy and ignorance of modern-day America.”

River Talk  

9. River Talk—Little things matter, even on a cover. Take, for instance, Anderson’s title lettering, slightly skewed to match the angle of the building’s wood slats—an attention to detail that doesn’t escape keen eyes.

Scouting for the Reaper

10. Scouting for the Reaper—A bunny, a lawn mower, a tombstone, a bleeding thumb—the silhouettes on Appel’s cover neatly blend the cute and creepy.

Ryan Leahey is an Indie editor at Kirkus Reviews.