Columns > Published on July 20th, 2021

Book Cover Trends: Skulls!

The cover of a book is so important. It's the introduction; the first impression. The reader engages with the cover before they read the synopsis or maybe even read the title or the author's name. That picture, that artwork, the font, the tells its own story right there in a manner of seconds. "Never judge a book by its cover" might be great advice as it pertains to people, but when it comes to books, readers should one hundred percent judge that cover. If it looks like someone phoned it in, perhaps the contents were as well? Or maybe that's not the case. Maybe the book is actually really well written, but nobody will ever know if that first engagement is a turn off. The cover art might be amazing and then the inside is total garbage, but you know what? At least people bought it. The artwork sold the buyer. A much better scenario than a book not finding its audience because of lousy cover art. And really, it's all in the eye of the beholder for what constitutes great art; it's subjective. I will say this: Good artwork is usually worth some money, so if an artist was paid, chances are it's going to be worth it. One of the latest trends in cover art that I've noticed is skulls. Let's take a look shall we?

1. "The Ghost Sequences" by A.C. Wise

Cover Art: Olga Beliaeva

This cover is everything. I look at it and honestly, anything could be typed on these pages and I would buy it. It could be the cover for a discontinued membership directory for pet sitters and dog walkers in Iowa somewhere and I'd still buy it. Thankfully, it's a short story collection by an extremely talented writer, A.C. Wise. Pre-order and then while you wait until it ships in October, you can listen to her story "Final Girl Theory" on PseudoPod.

Get The Ghost Sequences at Bookshop or Amazon 


2. "Road of Bones" by Christopher Golden

Cover Art/Design: Jonathan Bush

Those icy, snow covered trees. The winding, dark road. The Stephen King blurb. The way "A Novel" is right where the teeth would be. Then there's this..."A supernatural thriller, where a small film crew is covering an elusive ghost story about the Kolyma highway, a road built on top of the frozen bones of the thousands of prisoners who once traveled to work in the camps of Stalin’s gulag." You had me at "film crew" and "elusive ghost story" and Stephen King saying, "creepy as hell."

Get Road of Bones at Bookshop or Amazon 


3. "Big Dark Hole" by Jeffery Ford

Cover Art: “Vanitas Still Life” by Herman Henstenburgh

I love the way that ink spot makes up the eye socket of the skull. I saw this book cover and added it to my wish list, and then just now when I went to the Small Beer Press website to get more info, I saw that they accept PayPal and I pulled the trigger. I love short story collections, this cover, and this: "Big Dark Hole is about those big, dark holes that we find ourselves in once in a while and maybe, too, the big dark holes that exist inside of us."

Get Big Dark Hole at Bookshop or Amazon


4. "Constellations of Scars" by Melissa Eskue Ousley

Cover art: Mila Book Covers

So the cover art is so beautiful, I would hang a poster of this book cover on the wall in my house. I think font is important and I love everything about this artwork. But the synopsis: "When Amelia turned 12, she began growing pearls. Every month, a crop of beautiful pearls bursts from the skin on her back." Woah. That makes me gag a little bit in my mouth. I have trypophobia and the visualization of pearls "bursting" from a person's back and the word "crop" being involved...*gagging sounds*. I'm very intrigued though, because I love body horror and this is so...evil and gross. 

Get Constellations of Scars at Bookshop or Amazon


5. "Dreams for the Dying" by Adam Light

Cover Art: Mikio Murakami

I love the way the landscape makes this subtle, yet ominous skull image in the woods. It shares space with my first selection The Ghost Sequences—do you see the skull or the objects arranged to create the image? I love it. This is another short story collection, which I absolutely can never get enough of. "These are songs for the damned, poisons for the cure, and . . . Dreams for the Dying."

Get Dreams for the Dying at Bookshop or Amazon


6. "What Remains: An Inked in Gray Anthology" edited by Dakota Rayne and San G. Crow

Cover Art: Covers by Christian

I love the way this cover art communicates destruction; maybe even chaos? Something hellish.

"What Remains brings together fifteen tales of horror, fantasy, and science fiction. From sacrificing loved ones or oneself, to doing what it takes to keep them alive, these stories shake the soul, rip out its insecurities and flays them on the page."

Get What Remains at Bookshop or Amazon


7. "The Hungry Earth" by Nicholas Kaufmann

Cover Art: David Dodd at Crossroad Press

It was a combination of the fungus growing out of the skull, the premise of the book, the fact that this is the first book in a series of books featuring a medical examiner as the main protagonist (ever read any Patricia Cornwwell-Kay Scarpetta books? Love that series) and the blurb from Sarah Langan that made me add this to my wish list. "Nicholas Kaufmann’s The Hungry Earth is required reading for anyone who loves tightly plotted horror. It’s a gleeful throwback to the best body horror of the '80s, updated with a modern premise. His best work to date. Devour it, before it devours you!” - Sarah Langan, bestselling author of Good Neighbors.

Get The Hungry Earth at Amazon


8. "Dark Stars: New Tales of Darkest Horror" edited by John F. D. Taff

Cover Art: Jeffrey Alan Love

I wanted this book from the moment I heard about the TOC, but then this cover reveal from the good people at Tor Nightfire really closed the deal. 

"Dark Stars features all-new stories from award-winning authors and up-and-coming voices like Stephen Graham Jones, Priya Sharma, Usman T. Malik, Caroline Kepnes, and Alma Katsu, with seasoned author John F.D. Taff at the helm. An afterword from original Dark Forces contributor Ramsey Campbell is a poignant finale to this bone-chilling collection."

Get Dark Stars at Bookshop or Amazon 

What do you think? Let me know if there are any upcoming or recent releases I may have missed with skulls gracing the cover!

About the author

Sadie Hartmann, “Mother Horror” reviews horror fiction for Cemetery Dance Online and Scream Magazine. She is a co-owner of a curated, horror fiction book subscription company called Night Worms. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, kids and Frenchie.

Reedsy Marketplace UI

1 million authors trust the professionals on Reedsy. Come meet them.

Enter your email or get started with a social account: