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Will your book cover attract your intended audience? It’s hard to know if you don’t test it first.

A recent PickFu poll perfectly illustrates this point. In this poll, an author of mystery books asked 50 women, ‘Which book cover is more appealing?”

Take a look at the two mystery book covers.

Option A features a woman standing in a sexy, let’s-take-on-the-world pose. A cityscape is her backdrop, along with some alluring silvery sparkles to go with a silver-black color scheme.

Mystery book covers - Option A

In Option B, the woman is turned away from the reader. There are no sparkles, no city, and no sexy pose. The woman is wearing red, and the title font is also red.

Mystery Book Covers - Option B

Can you guess which one won?

And the winner is… Option A! With the score split 54 to 46, the race was close.

Let’s see why this audience of women preferred the bolder cover.

Women want strong women

Many respondents loved Option A not because it was sexier but because the woman on the front looked stronger.

One woman said, “This cover is more appealing because the woman on the cover seems like she’s more capable of kicking butt and taking care of herself.”

Others agreed, adding that “the woman looks more powerful” and that she looks ready to “dive into the nightlife of vampires.”

In short, if you’re writing a series for women, go ahead and let the woman on the cover look ready to take on the world. Women are done reading books about men doing the same and are ready for some danger and action.

The backdrop matters

Option A’s cover shows a glimmering city behind our kick-butt protagonist. Option B, on the other hand, looks like a cross between a mausoleum and an office building.

Readers liked the city because it let them know that the woman would be working to keep the city safe. The cityscape background promised street fights and car chases and mystery.

One respondent put it bluntly when she said that the background in “Option A is much more appealing for that vampire vibe. Option B is actually quite boring and the colors don’t pop nearly as well. Please don’t consider [Option] B at all.”

Well, then!

Key takeaways: Mystery book covers

If you’re writing a book about women, for women, the first thing you should do is test your covers with an audience of women. They are your most relevant audience, and they’ll give you honest feedback.

Second, pay attention to the way your female protagonist looks on the cover. Does she look strong or nondescript? Ready to fight or ready to run? If you’re writing a female action series, consider making the lead female, well, kick-ass.

And definitely always choose an intriguing cityscape over a boring indoor setting.

Do you need help choosing a cover for your mystery or action series? Conduct a PickFu poll that targets your intended readership today!


Laura Melchor

Laura Ojeda Melchor (she/her) is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in,, Gardener’s Path, and of course, PickFu. She holds a Master of Fine Arts in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her debut middle-grade novel, Missing Okalee, was published in the fall of 2021 by Shadow Mountain Publishing. Find her online at

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