Model Based Covers: Pros & Cons

So, to model or not to model? That, m’dears, is today’s burning question. Well, one of them at least. Something is definitely burning. And no, that something is not the smell of my last brain cell fizzling away to nothing. I hope.

In any case, I digress. Back to the point!

Model based covers are popular, even, dare I say it, trendy. For lots of designers, a model (or models) as the focal point for cover design is a solid go-to template. I personally love using people on my covers. However, while a good standby and often works well, it may not be the perfect fit for you. There are countless creative ways to encapsulate and present a book’s unique themes and spirit without using a literal image of the MC. My goal here is to lay out a few pros and cons regarding model based cover designs, to help you decide if it is the best route for your cover. So, without further dawdling, let’s get to it!


Genre Expectations: Some genres practically demand a model (or models) on the cover. Romance and all of its subcategories, for instance. Readers of Romance generally expect at least one sexy bod on a cover. Erotica and Paranormal likewise often lean heavily toward model-based designs, especially if you are selling on Amazon. 

Emotional Connection: People like looking at people. Fact. When the model on a cover is registering emotion, be it fear, wonder, etc. it can be a direct connection with the viewer. This is great for marketing and just overall appealing to the eye.

Conveying Information: ethnicity, age and overall look of your cover model can say a lot about the story that a text or object based design may not so readily communicate.

Action: This is particularly true for genres that rely on a lot of running about and other exhausting activities to propel the plot. Nothing says, “This story has ACTION!” like a dynamically posed model in the middle of a flying side-kick.


Creativity: This is not to say that a model-based cover isn’t creative. On the contrary, I have seen some absolutely stunning original work done with models. However, in design, it is always worth exploring every possibility, and an object or text-based design can be very eye-catching amidst a sea of dramatically posed models.

Compromises on Originality: You are likely not the only one using that model on your cover. Stock photography of models in genre appropriate costumes and poses are usually not that prevalent. This is mainly the case for genres like Fantasy, Scifi, Historical, and basically anything requiring a very specific ‘look’ for your MC. Unless you or your designer has the ability to commission a costumed model shoot (and lawd, if you have the cash for that, congratulations!), or render a decent 3D pose, then chances are you may have to use model stock that has been used before, though perhaps not by them. This isn’t necessarily bad at all, just something to keep in mind.

Genre Expectations: Again, what your readers are usually looking for is visual familiarity, at least to some degree. It helps them find their favorite genres with ease. Thus, much like some genres almost require a model, others do not. Using imagery on your cover that readers of the genre will find unfamiliar or off-putting can only harm sales.

Ease for Your Designer: Yes, it is true–sometimes it is much easier to find stock images of an object than the perfect model for a cover. Models are not always exactly as the author pictured their MC, and this can lead to complicated photomanipulation and/or inaccurate “casting”.

The Reader’s Vision: This is purely down to personal taste, but do you want people to picture your MC on their own, based off of the text, or have a mental image of your MC from the cover model? It is not unlike watching a film before reading the book it was based on–you will picture the actors from the adaptation instead of basing your ideas purely off the story. This is why the “back view” or silhouette is so popular with genres like Thrillers–it hides the identity of the MC, so to speak, and leaves more to the reader’s imagination. 

So, there it is. Again, I love using models. They figure on most of my own cover designs. But I also simply adore a good typography or object-based design, and want people to consider every angle to find what best suits, flatters and sells their book.

Thank you for reading, and I hope this was helpful. Don’t hesitate to drop a comment, I love chatting with y’all!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *