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Tesla’s Signal

The author says:

Visionary inventor Nikola Tesla and his assistant Clara must use their extraordinary talents and devices to save Earth from alien invaders. This is a SF novel set in the early 1900s, with the themes of advanced ‘weird’ science, alien invasion, mind control, interdimensional travel and telepathic beings. The target audience is readers of classic SF, and any fan of Tesla, who is a cult favorite of nerds and New Agers alike.

TESLA SIGNAL cover

TESLA SIGNAL cover

 

Nathan says:

The historical back-and-white photos look like they’d be more at home on a nonfiction book (especially the assissant Clara, since the poor quality of the photo makes it look like “this is the only documentation we have of her”).  I’d say lose both photos, as they really don’t fit with the rest of the full-color cover.  If you’re worried that that leaves the bottom half empty-looking, then move the Tesla tower further down the page, put your byline at the bottom (and make it bigger), put your blurb closer to the top, and increase the size of the title (which would also help correct the almost-but-not-quite-centered look).  You might also want to experiment with making the dark blue even darker, and perhaps adding a subtle texture to it.  (You could also play with adding a subtle texture to the main part of the Tesla tower; at full size, the computer-generated image looks a bit plain, and a slight texture could help set the tower off from the lightning emanating from it.)

Other ideas?

Scar Jewelry

The author says:

Where and when: southern California, now and in the early days of punk Genre: literary fiction Target audience: readers of literary fiction. Thumbnail: What do we really know about our parents or the ways they shape us? For twins Deirdre and Langston, 20, the answer is: not enough. With their father long dead, and their mother now in a coma, they realize they don’t even know whom to notify. In fact, they understand almost nothing about their mother. They delve into her life and uncover secrets that revise the past and transform the future.

scarjewelry

scarjewelry

Nathan says:

A much better cover than your last one in terms of design. What I’m not seeing here is much, aside from the barbed wire, that relates to the punk genre. Yes, there is the overlapping type, but it’s in far too “gentle” a font to convey much punkishness. Where’s the ripped paper? The hand-drawn type? The in-your-face imagery?

Also: Centering is a bit wonky in the text below the title, and “by” is unnecessary.

Other opinons?

Frames, Book 1: Nica of Los Angeles

The author says:

Setting: Los Angeles and other dimensions. Genre: speculative fantasy with detective and dystopian elements. Audience: adults who are comfortable crossing genres, able to enjoy Chandler *and* Tolkien, Douglas Adams *and* Dashiell Hammett. Thumbnail: When rookie private eye Nica takes on a mysterious case, she enters a world of multiple dimensions called Frames, where buildings and lawn chairs can be sentient, where a stray cat has great powers, where books can be killers, and clouds can be spies. At home, Nica tackles missing persons cases, while in the larger reality of the Frames she is swept into an escalating battle between good and evil.

nola

nola

Nathan says:

There are two groups of problems here which we can loosely group under “what the cover says,” and “how the cover says it.”

The biggest by far are under “what the cover says.” I get Los Angeles from what I see, but I get nothing that hints that this book contains either detective or fantasy elements — there’s no Chandler or Tolkien in evidence.  If you’re committed to the grid outline (which has its own drawbacks — see the next paragraph), couldn’t you use some of the squares for something other than skyline and aerial shots? How about evocative back streets at night? Noir silhouettes with glowing eyes? Something other than postcard imagery?

Under “how the cover says it,” the biggest problem is the grid itself. I’m guessing that you went with that because of the “Frames” idea, but the grid prevents the cover from having any single noteworthy image as its center of attention.  As you can see from the thumbnail version above, the postcard images in the grid are rendered even more generic.

Another problem under “how the cover says it” are the fonts. There are at least three (I’m guessing that “Book 1″ and your byline are the same font), they don’t work well with each other, and — again — not a one of them evokes either detective or fantasy fiction.

And a third problem is the white space on the cover. White space can be very effective when it looks like part of the intentional design (usually, though not always, in nonfiction books). Here, it just looks like you didn’t know what to do with it.

If the covers posted here are salvageable, I like to suggest ways in which that can be accomplished. In this case, however, I think that starting over with a new visual concept is the way to go.

Anyone think differently?

 

Black Book

The author says:

A Sci-Fi Fantasy Horror Western. Initially set in the old west, the story follows time travelling special forces commando Jack as he hunts down the Black Book. An ancient ledger that can save humanity’s future. Dark forces conspire to put an end to Jack’s mission even before it begins and Jack’s personal demons are dangerously close by.

image

image

 

Nathan says:

From a design standpoint, there are no egregious errors here. But I think we can fine-tune it to better attract the eyes of the right people.

First, I don’t know that the cover scheme is right for a SF/horror/western — it seems too soothing for me. Especially for westerns, I think one expects “dry” or “dusty” colors on the orange-through-scarlet spectrum. I think that would work for the horror part, too.

Second, the leaf silhouettes look like something more commonly seen in a romantic drama. Maybe it’s just the fact that they’re maple leaves (not really associated with the West).

Third, the way the silhouette of the Indian on the left overlaps the cowboy silhouette is visually confusing.  I know you didn’t want to hide the horse entirely, but I think you might want to sacrifice it for visual cohesion.

Fourth, while the illustration captures the “western” part of the story, there’s not much indication of the SF/fantasy/horror parts (the existing color scheme may be an attempt to indicate SF instead of pure western, but I think all it really does is detract from the western appeal). Maybe a riveted border? Maybe a texture of ominous ancient writing over the lower shadowed parts? Obviously one doesn’t want it to get too busy, but I think this cover would be missing out by only emphasizing the western elements.

Finally, for the description under your name, rather than “previously released as,” you might try “collecting parts 1-5″ or “parts 1-5 complete.”

Anyone else?

Among the Red Stars

The author says:

This is a historical novel about the Night Witches, an all-female night bomber regiment that served in the Soviet Union during World War II, flying obsolete wood and canvas biplanes.

Cover

Cover

 

Nathan says:

So, if I’m understanding your description right, this is a fictionalized account of a true story. Yes?

I like the idea behind it, but I see whole bunches of things I’d tweak.  Most of it becomes apparent in the thumbnail: The cover is dominated by something I just can’t make out.  In the larger version I can see that it’s a plane, but I can also see that it looks oddly comic-bookish.  That may be what you’re going for — it’s a story which lends itself to a knowing pulp flavor of derring-do — but in that case, the comic illustration should look older.

Here’s what I’d do:

  • Make the title larger.  And give it a little more character, like the grungy paint texture one would see with stencils.
  • Remove the “by” from the byline. If readers see a title and a name on a cover, they’re smart enough to understand that the name belongs to the author.
  • Add a simple tagline that gives more context. “Soviet Bomber Babes vs. Nazis!” (Again, I don’t know the full vibe of the novel, so my tagline may be completely inappropriate for this book. But you want as many of those essential elements as you can fit into one line: Soviet, female, bombers, WWII.)
  • Lighten the artwork so you can at least get a glimpse of it in the thumbnail. I know they’re night bombers, but you can still get that across if you leave the background dark and lighten the plane itself.
  • If you were going for a knowing comic-book feel with the artwork, I’d play that up by adding “Ben-Day” printing dots and maybe some paper fold marks.

Other ideas?

 

Totem (Book 1: Scars) [resubmit]

The author says:

Totem (Book 1: Scars) is set in 1978 in a small Massachusetts city at the beginning of a blizzard. A Passage has been opened on Wachusett Mountain that connects an ancient Native American tribe with those now living in 1978. A brother and sister come through the Passage, one seeking revenge for a past massacre, the other trying to stop the impending carnage. Mystical powers are used by each, including skinwalking and manipulating nature. The genre is urban/dark fantasy and its audience would be readers of Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Robert McCammon, Terry Brooks.

Totem-72dpi-1500x2000(3)

Totem-72dpi-1500x2000(3)

Nathan says:

Definitely a great improvement over the previous cover. It’s a compelling image, and I can definitely see both the Native American and New England story elements.

Here are some ideas for fine-tuning, most of which are “try this and see how it works” suggestions:

  • The black cloud around the title might be a bit much. I’d experiment with thinning it down, or adding a warm tone to it that mimics that of the clouds, or pulling it lower so that it’s more like a drop shadow than an aura.
  • Everything on the cover is centrally aligned, with the exception of the steeple in the skyline silhouette. I don’t think you should move the steeple to the center, because having something be completely aligned can be visually boring, but having that one element out of step with the others makes it look inadvertent.  I’d experiment with moving one or more of the other cover elements off of the center line: the eagle, the moon, maybe even some of the type.
  • I’d make the ReadersFavorite.com pull-quote smaller, possibly putting the quote and attribution on a single line. (You could eliminate “Totem is” from the quote and not sacrifice anything.)

Anyone else? Other ideas?

07/02/14 Update:

Chad sent in his final cover, based on the advice he’s gotten.

Totem-72dpi-1500x2000(5)

Thanks to everyone who contributed their thoughts. This is definitely a much stronger cover all around than the original.

Protecting Emma

The author says:

This is a short in a series that I hope to compile as a novel. I’d like to see if these covers work or not. Set in modern day. A standard “serial killer with a mission” thriller. This would likely (I hope) appeal to anyone who liked “Silence of the Lambs” or John Sandford’s Prey series.

protectingemmasample

protectingemmasample

 

Nathan says:

There’s nothing here that I’d classify as “wrong.” It seems competent, but unremarkable. If this were my design, I’d now start experiments to crank it up a notch, and here’s what I’d try:

  • pulling the image lower so that I could increase the size of the title (I’d either reduce the space between the letters of “PROTECTING” without squeezing the letters themselves, or I’d increase the font size just of “EMMA,” or possibly both)
  • adding a tint and/or a filter to add some character to the stock photo; take a look at how, for instance, horror DVD covers often add a scratched-up texture on top of everything

You said that this is part of a series, so I looked on Amazon for the rest of them. You’ve been very consistent in the design and layout of the covers, which I was going to recommend. So any changes you make here, remember that you’re going to need to be sure they work across all covers.

Other ideas?

 

 

Totem (Book 1: Scars)

The author says:

Totem (Book 1: Scars) is set in 1978 in a small Massachusetts city at the beginning of a blizzard. A Passage has been opened on Wachusett Mountain that connects an ancient Native American tribe with those now living in 1978. A brother and sister come through the Passage, one seeking revenge for a past massacre, the other trying to stop the impending carnage. Mystical powers are used by each, including skinwalking and manipulating nature. The genre is urban/dark fantasy and its audience would be readers of Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Robert McCammon, Terry Brooks.

81G0W2v5zTL._SL1500_

81G0W2v5zTL._SL1500_

 

Nathan says:

First up, you’re probably going to get some grief from this crowd, most of whom also comment over at LousyBookCovers.com, because of the inclusion of that wolf; so many paranormal and historical romances feature a wolf on the cover that it’s become a cliche. I don’t see any specific mention of wolves in your description (it probably falls under skinwalking); if it isn’t essential, you might consider removing that element of the cover.  (The oversized planet-thing is also something you’d expect to see on a paranormal romance cover — don’t ask me why.)

On the other hand, the wolf is the only part that even obliquely references the Native American angle, and nothing in this cover anchors it to the modern day (or 1978, which is close enough). Is there anything you could add — maybe in the fonts, or as a border around other graphics — that lends a Native American flavor to it? I assume that we’re talking about a New England tribe here, so you wouldn’t want Navajo blankets or Pacific Northwest totem poles, but…

From a strict design standpoint, I like the color scheme and layout. I’d suggest you change the font for “Totem” (leave it as is for the byline and volume title) just for a little more variety — possibly something sans-serif to contrast with the serif font. Also, as you can see in the thumbnail, the title text intersects with the edge of the moon; it’s a bit distracting. If you keep the moon element, you might want to either move things around or make the title text stronger so it doesn’t get “beat up” in the thumbnail.

In summary: Pretty good design, but I’m not sure it advertises your book accurately.

Other thoughts?

The Magician’s Horses [resubmit]

The author says:

The Magician’s Horses is a Sci-fi novel built heavily on mystery and suspense. My intention is to extend beyond the usual Sci-fi audience to reach any young adult reader, while also appealing to the older, more sophisticated Sci-fi fan. I am still working on the wording for the back cover, but envision it reading as follows: “Follow Dave as he is drawn out of his solitary life by a mysterious couple who introduce him to a world of adventure far beyond his television remote. Science and thought combine to form a magic act that breaks the boundaries of time and changes Dave’s world forever…”

tmh

tmh

Nathan says:

This is definitely a much stronger cover than the original. Strictly from a design standpoint: I think there’s too much dead space. Make the amulet bigger, and strengthen the grid/sine wave pattern in the background so it can be seen in the thumbnail. (It’s the only SFish element on the cover, and while I understand you don’t want to pigeonhole the book as sci-fi, I think the hint needs to be stronger.) Also, I’d toy with the font so it’s a little less common; Impact has been so overused (especially with LOLcats and such) that it’s lost a lot of its effectiveness. Here’s a five-minute redo to illustrate what I mean: tmh-redo

You could experiment further. Maybe make the background pattern bigger; there’s no reason the text can’t overlap it. I kept my font choice to the same general feel as yours, but maybe a more ornate font will fit the bill better.  Make a couple of different versions; look at them big, look at them small, look at them side by side with books that you think they’d be shelved with. Other ideas?

Something Taken [resubmit]

The author says:

In constant conflict with her family, Terry leaves home to prove she can make it on her own. Arriving in Denver, her plans unravel quickly and her drinking lands her in trouble. Then all her plans collapse when she is stopped by the police and the officer intimidates her into submitting to his pleasure. The cop isn’t content with one encounter and pursues her relentlessly. The only one Terry can depend on is her pup, Sprout. But the escalating pursuit is about to reach a deadly climax. SOMETHING TAKEN is a urban crime drama set in the 70′s. It’s graphic realism is directed to an adult audience.

something take cover A2 dark

something take cover A2 dark

Nathan says:

Definitely better at advertising the genre here. I can instantly tell “cops and a non-cop woman,” which is what I need to know.

From a design standpoint, the bottom half of the cover looks very plain compared to the top half, with too much of the unbroken red background.  I would scrunch the title, the silhouette and the byline further toward the bottom so there’s not as much empty red space to draw the eye.

Anyone else?

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