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Bodyswitch

The author says:

BODYSWITCH Multi-racial split personality thriller appealing to fans of Dean Koontz, Clive Barker. Tagline: ‘If you think your body belongs to you – think again’.

Cemetery by night

 

Nathan says:

Hmm.  Sort of like the last cover featured here, we could talk about font choices and layout and contrast… But before that, we need to talk about the overall concept.  Because this cover and that description don’t seem to go together.  This cover art is perfect for a boogedy-boogedy spooky story; that’s not what your description says at all.  Even if this is more of a supernatural story than your one-line description suggests, it still looks like a “haunted ruin” story, not a “split personality/possession” story.

I think before we can help you fine-tune your vision, you need to start with a different vision.

(Side note: Better remove the original metadata from the stock image.  When I posted the cover here, the title came up as “Cemetery by night,” with a caption of “Old cemetery in a foggy full moon night.”)

Valkyrie’s Vengeance

The author says:

Valkyrie’s Vengeance is set in Albuquerque, New Mexico in the modern era. Best read by those interested in urban fantasy and Norse mythology. Fans of C. Gockel, Neil Gaiman, and Jim Butcher would enjoy it.

Valkyrie's Vengeance 750

Valkyrie's Vengeance 750

Nathan says:

I think the biggest thing we need to discuss here is the overarching concept.  By that, I mean: I can see the Norse mythology.  But modern-era? I don’t get that from the cover.  Albuquerque?  I don’t get that either.

If the New Mexican setting isn’t terribly important (just an “everything needs to take place somewhere, so this happens here” thing), then concentrate on how you can indicate a modern timeframe.  A city skyline? Cars? Cellphones?  If the New Mexican setting is specifically important — if it adds a distinctive flavor that can’t be transported to Chicago or New Orleans or Seattle — then get that in there too — desert or mesas or New-Agey ex-hippies or Los Alamos or… If it’s important enough to mention in a one-sentence description, it should at least be hinted at one your cover.

Once you get a cover concept that more clearly portrays your novel, then we can talk about color and type and whatnot.

Race Against the Dark

The author says:

Between changing names, yanking an elven king’s soul out of his body on accident, and battling a bat the size of a minivan because it dared try to eat her horse, Ka’lei has issues. Kidnapped into another world, Haylie must work with her captors to save Erth and the two worlds connected to it from the darkness that follows her. Race Against the Dark is adult fantasy with a romantic subplot.

RAD_Cover

RAD_Cover

Nathan says:

I warn you ahead of time, you’re not gonna like a lot of what you hear, because your cover hits two hot-buttons that have become cliches over at LousyBookCovers.com:

1) The font.  The title isn’t terrible, but the font for the byline, Algerian, not only clashes terribly with the title, but calls attention to itself as “the font that everyone uses when they want something fantasy-ish and don’t know what to choose.”  (And the third font used for the tagline and the series title looks far too modern for a fantasy.)

2) The CG horse.  I suppose rendered imagery has its place, but a fantasy doesn’t strike me as that right place.

Sorry. (Anybody got anything else?)

Jackman

The author says:

This is a concept/composition cover for a title I probably will self-publish. You know, after the publishing houses reject it. Title: Jackman Genre: Space opera, science fiction and fantasy mash-up Target Audience: SFF readers Short synopsis: As Arekan traveled the stars as a crewman aboard merchant vessels, he used many names. It was safer that way. The young man had his own secrets to keep. But Sinlon Mor’a’stan, a member of the outlawed family that once ruled the Kyn Empire, did not know these secrets. When he taps Arekan as his son Santir’s guide and protector, he unchains a force that would change not only Santir and Arekan’s lives, but the Empire of Kyn forever. But before the two young men get to Santir’s home world they face many dangers, including Santir’s failed spacewalk, pirates, and their intense dislike of each other. Thanks for taking a look at this!

Jackman concept cover

Jackman concept cover

 

Nathan says:

I like the fact that the image you sent me is labeled “concept art.”  This is a starting place, and a good one.

First, when I look at the thumbnail, it seems oddly bleached — and by “oddly” I mean that the lack of contrast doesn’t seem to be for any reason in particular.  I can see that you were going for a glow/aura/nimbus look, but I still think you can work some contrasts into the figure.  Especially with a light title across the figure, it just looks washed out.

Also from the thumbnail, I can see that the proportion is a little wider than standard. Obviously with an ebook cover you can technically make it at any proportions you want, but there’s still reader expectation to deal with.  Readers of genre fiction unconsciously expect their book covers to approximate the standard dimensions of a mass-market paperback — two-to-three, or 6″ x 9″ if you’re printing at Createspace.  The good news is that I think that trimming the right side of the image would actually make for a better layout of the figure.  I mean, it’s not like you need to see his left shoulder…

Moving from the thumbnail to the full image, here’s my first impression:

BUSYBUSYBUSYBUSYBUSY

The combination of filters adding “fake detail” to the photo plus the textured font for the title adds up to “too dang much.”  What’s worse, it looks like you’re trying to compensate for a blurry or too-small photograph by gussying it up.  There are ways to do that that work better than this.

And finally, your synopsis puts this book firmly in “space opera/science-fantasy” territory, but the cover doesn’t hit that bull’s eye nearly so well.  From the cover, I’d guess maybe SF, or maybe urban fantasy, or possibly a light-hearted post-apoc adventure…  What can you do to up the “sciffyness” of it?  More futuristic fonts?  The silhouette of a Kelly Freas-like spired city on the horizon?  A multi-colored planet peeking in from the upper left?  Whatever you choose, give more definite clues to your potential reader.

Other thoughts?

First Mystery of the Time Vandal

The author says:

Dr. Elijah Snow wanted to record history, not become a part of it. But after stealing the T714 time-displacement craft from his US Air Force benefactors, he quickly found out that witnessing an event without participating in it was easier than it sounded. Accompanied by his quirky A.I ‘Fuzzy’, Dr. Snow sets out to document many of the major historical occurrences which had always intrigued him. From the Mongol Invasion to the crowning of the Danish king Harald Bluetooth, Elijah does his best to record without getting involved. But invariably he ends up becoming embroiled, time and time again, in these events, never failing to leave his footprint on the pages of history.

coverforweb

coverforweb

Nathan says:

I sometimes have “opposite” days where I think I have a good design concept, and yet everything I do to make it better instead makes it worse, until the only thing left for me to do is scrap it.  This cover reminds me of my output on those days: there may have been a good starting point (“good” meaning “something that caught your imagination”), but a succession of decisions that didn’t seem bad at the time bury it.

From your description, I’m envisioning a novel of obviously wide scope, colorful adventure, and more than a little humor. Unfortunately, I don’t get any of that from your cover.  The only indication of adventure or thrills is the silhouette of the running man, and he’s not central enough to draw the eye, nor specific enough to convey anything.  After reading your description, I can recognize the clock face as meant to convey the time travel element, but clock faces are also used to convey “ticking clock” tension in contemporary thrillers.  The buildings, likewise, are modern, as is the stolid typeface; there’s absolutely nothing here to clue the reader in on the genre, tone, or scope of the novel.

And the color scheme… waaay to murky to draw the eye.

This is a link to the current bestsellers in the Time Travel subgenre on Amazon. (You can refine the sub-subgenre further to Horror,  Humor,  Mystery,  Non-Romantic,  Romantic,  Thriller — and the fact that they have “Non-Romantic” as a specific sub-subgenre fills me with despair for my species.)  Ignore the covers from books by Stephen King and Douglas Adams, since the most important element of those covers is the author’s name.  The rest? These are your comrades, and your competition.  This is how readers of time travel novels expect their novels to look; this is what they look for.  Could your cover attract the positive attention of someone who just read one of these books and wants more?

My advice, cruel as it may seem, is to scrap what you’ve got and start over.  Start with a color scheme, or maybe with a font — those are the things a reader will see first, and they have to be interesting enough that they’ll take a second look.  Build from there.

If that’s beyond your skill set, seeking help from a reasonably-priced professional is your best bet.

Anything feel differently?

Still Life

The author says:

A short story about the end of the world, told through the eyes of an eleven year old little girl, hiding inside her parents pet shop.

stillife-cc

stillife-cc

Nathan says:

It never pays to spend an inordinate amount of time or money on a short-story cover, so if any suggestions here seem extravagant to a modest budget, cut back where necessary.

That said, it’s a great cover, but I’m not so sure it works for the story you describe, for one reason: the eye. I think that if the viewpoint character is a little girl, then the eye central on the cover should be that of a little girl.

Other than that, I’ve got the minor tweaks that are one designer’s preference over another, but they don’t impact the design in any major way. Anyone else got a major issue?

Gabby

The author says:

When Bo, a grieving widower, meets Gabby, he’s struck by her beauty, grace and laughter that wash over him like the sweetest song in heaven. Gabby is unlike any angel ever dreamed of—evil has no strength against her and the dark one and his minions are no match for this warrior of God.

What if You Knew Your True Love Was Meant for a Higher Calling?

Bo is a widower, trying to raise two kids by himself. His life is changed forever when he meets an angel in a black dress and a pair of killer stilettos. Little does Bo know at first that his new love, Gabby, doesn’t just look like she’s from heaven, she is God’s messenger. Gabby isn’t just a pretty face. She can also be an avenging angel, striking down anyone trying to block God’ plans. But, when the biggest obstacle to Gabby’s mission surfaces things get dangerous and complicated fast. As Bo and Gabby race forward on a crucial mission, Bo learns the healing power of love, but also becomes more attached to Gabby. She is everything he has always been looking for. Will Bo’s determination to get what he wants ruin not only his future, but also all of mankind’s? This story of peace, love, and hope will show every loss has a purpose and that no sorrow is forever.

Gabby Cover

 

Gabby Cover

Nathan says:

It’s a very pleasant image. That said, I’m getting more than a little bit of “suspense thriller” vibe from your description that I don’t see reflected in the cover.  Would a cover with more contrast help convey that?  Maybe not quite so broad a smile on her face? I dunno, because I can’t really tell how much of the appeal of the book comes from the suspenseful part.

The only technical issues I have are:

1) The selection edge on the top of her hair is too distinct; blurring that out will keep it from calling attention to itself.

2) The title looks fine at full size, but fades out for the thumbnail. That might solve itself if you use more contrast in the art behind it.

3) I have bad reactions whenever two different script fonts are used together.  In this case, I’d say to keep the ornate font for the title, and change the byline into something non-italic.

I have to admit, I’m not really the target audience for this kind of book, so I’ll have to supplicate other input even more than usual.

A change in policy regarding resubmits.

With the volume of first-time covers submitted currently, I want to decrease the number of resubmit posts to prevent a backlog.  Accordingly, a new policy: unless your resubmitted cover is a completely reworked and re-imagined cover, please post successive “tweaked” version of your cover in the comments to the original post.  I’ve edited the HTML hints below the comment box so that the image tag appears.  To repost your cover, please:

  1. Upload it somewhere on the web (your own website or blog, or a free host like postimage.org or imgur.com).

  2. Post it using the HTML tag like this:

    <img src="http://www.whereveryourimageislocated.com/yourbookcover.jpg">

Onward and upward!

The Eight Lives of Harvey Bradshaw

The author says:

Synopsis- Harvey El Bradshaw insists that his life is fragmented, defined by eight places, eight different times, eight, eight, eight. He feels like he is always becoming a new person as he grows older, almost like a snake consistently shedding its skin. To contrast the divided way he sees things, Harvey meets a small Spanish girl again and again over the years (her appearance almost always being a constant). Her name is Lucia Pérez. This book captures the life of Harvey and is split into eight main parts. Play on numerology to almost parody how much humans look for patterns in life. I am not the author, but I did design the cover. The genre is something like a combination of phycological journey/satire. The target audience would likely be young-mid adults (think 20s and 30s.) I tried to capture both genres through the cover, as well as make the “eight” very prominent. I worked off the idea of Harvey feeling like he was constanty becoming a different person, hence the faceless suit to represent a unknown identity (if that makes any sense). Thank you for your time and critique, I really appreciate it!

the eight lives of harvey bradshaw medium

the eight lives of harvey bradshaw medium

Nathan says:

I have absolutely no complaints about the general design. I think it’s distinctive, simple, intriguing, and appealing to the “intelligent lit” crowd.

My only advice would be on execution. The edges of the hat and suit (especially the hat) are hard enough that I can see exactly how and where you used the lasso tool.  That’s easily solved with a bit of feathering.

Also, I’m not thrilled with how you treated the byline.  At thumbnail size, it’s easy to be unaware of it completely; in full size, it still seems strangely shrunk and subdued.  I’d increase its size so that it stretches at least 80% of the width of the cover, and maybe add a blurred drop shadow to help it stand out more.  (I’m also not thrilled with “A. Fountain” as a byline either — it could easily be mistaken for a description of some sort. If this is your first novel and you don’t already have a following under that byline, I’d strongly suggest using a full name instead of a single initial so that your name looks more like a name.)

Other comments?

The Secret of Blackwood Manor

The author says:

When Mavis Grace inherits her aunt’s manor in the country, she thinks she’s received a chance to clear her family’s reputation. But her luck takes a turn for the worse when she discovers that the manor is haunted. Together with Alois Muscio, the mysterious village curate, Mavis must figure out how to banish the ghosts that walk the halls of Blackwood Manor. Between exorcism, dealing with her husband’s antics, and her budding interest in Reverend Muscio, Mavis’ life has never been stranger- and, when the light of the full moon strikes the Manor’s tower, things get much, much worse. The Secret of Blackwood Manor is a Gothic paranormal romance, aimed at, say, fans of Crimson Peak or Edgar Allen Poe. It’s set in an English manor and the countryside around it in the late 1800s.

blackwoodmanor

blackwoodmanor

Nathan says:

It’s a good thing I have a reputation for being brutally honest, or people might think I’m being particularly hard on this cover.

The brutally honest assessment of this cover is that it’s not very good; it’s got many more problems than good points.  Hopefully by pointing out the problems specifically, you’ll see better how to get your intent on the cover.

Problem #1: Type color. Red on shades of gray is hard to read and hard to see. Even in the larger version above, you can see how “Blackwood Manor” blurs into the images behind it; even though the colors are distinct, the contrast (the brightness/darkness) is too close.  Now imagine looking at it if you had only moderate color blindness, or if you’re browsing on a monochrome Kindle.  The problems are exacerbated in the thumbnail; not only is the print hard to read (which is not in itself a deal-killer), but the lack of contrast practically demands that your eye ignore it.

Problem #2: Type placement. Wedging both the title and the byline “out of the way” is a bad decision even in the best of cases — and by “best of cases,” I mean that the designer doesn’t want to cover up or interfere with the art.  That’s really not a consideration here (see below); there’s nothing that demands not to be obscured by type.  Instead the type seems like an afterthought instead of an integral part of the design.  (And the off-center placement of the byline seems pointless.)

Problem #3: The image.  I look at your description, and I see historical-paranormal-suspense-romance.  All that I can see of that from the cover is historical (because the images are old) and maybe romance, or maybe just pin-ups.  But there’s nothing there to entice me to read.  The straight grays — not even sepia tone — is dull and off-putting.  The images seem to have no relation to each other; no one component or image is central, either spatially or in terms of visual interest. Technically, the hard edges to image parts (like the headless man’s suit) and the inconsistent contrast in the various image parts make this, very distinctly, several images instead of one image.  And none of it seems to relate to the story: Is Mavis Grace a wasp-waisted dancing girl?  Is it so darned important to show a man in suit with a hat that he needs to intrude on the cover?  (If this were over on LBC, it would have earned the “photobombing” tag from the way that the headless man just seems to stumble into our field of vision.)

If I were you, here are the either/or options I would follow:

a) Start over, deciding on a color scheme and type layout first. Find a pattern — maybe Victorian wallpaper or wood paneling — and play with the contrast and color so that it conveys both age (yellowing works well for that) and suspense (high contrast, with shadows at the edge, is what I’d start with).  Let the type take up enough room that it has space to breathe — I’d probably let the title take up at least the top third.  Use drop shadows and/or subtle beveling to make the type “pop” from the background.  Then decide on a single central image to place on the background, in between the title and byline.  If it’s going to be that woman (or not — that particular picture might be appropriate if your heroine is a charming seductress, but not so much otherwise), then color her in such a way that she seems to be part of the cover, then do something distinctive to her.  I don’t know your story in depth, but find something either from the story events or the general theme that you can add. Maybe a blindfold.  Maybe a big chain instead of those drawstrings.  Maybe a birdcage over her head.  Whatever it is, remember that a cover’s first job is to entice the kind of reader who would enjoy the book, not to depict any single setting or event from the story.  Play with it all, until it looks good at first glance both at full size and in thumbnail.

or

b) Turn it over to a professional designer.  If your writing is good, it deserves to be represented by good design, and if your design skills aren’t up to snuff, you need to do what’s best for the book.

Other comments?

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