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Son of Ruin

The author says:

There are beings who walk unseen through the world, demons with evil in their dark, twisted souls. The young demon Succubus, summoned to the prison world of rock and fire, is learning to curse, using the dark lore of his kind. Talented and reckless, he desires to enter the world of humans. Meanwhile two brothers, Jonathan and Solomon, live in suburban Chicago with their parents. Solomon’s clear blue eyes see things others don’t and he helps his older brother navigate childhood. The talented demon and the two brothers are on a collision course, one that could alter the order of things.

Nathan says:

This cover has several problems; some are apparent at thumbnail size, and some at full size.

From the thumbnail:  We have a perfect storm here — the artwork makes the text unreadable, and the text makes the art incomprehensible.  There is literally nothing here that a casual browser, encountering the thumbnail on Amazon, can identify or find attractive in the three seconds or less that they’ll give this thumbnail before glancing to the one on the left or right.

From the full size: The title font is still almost unreadable.  At least I can make out the artwork now, but that’s a mixed blessing, because the artwork is simply not of professional grade.  One glance at the top demon’s misaligned face screams “amateur.”  To add to that, the stone background behind the (I assume) series title only serves to make that text harder to read (and to remind viewers of the design aesthetic on display at Geocities).  Top that off with a total of four fonts, and damn.

And on top of that (yes, I’m piling on, I know), the cover makes it look like the book’s about two demons fighting.  That doesn’t match well with the description you gave.

The advice I’ll give your is common advice around here:  Look up those books that you would expect to be popular among readers who would enjoy your book, and see how those readers expect to be marketed to.

Other comments?

Gladness Goes to the City

The author says:

Marguerite Martyn was a noted journalist and artist in 1910s U.S.A. Besides her serious reporting (always accompanied by her drawings), she occasionally wrote lighter fiction, which appeared on the newspaper’s feature page. The book is based on one of those fictional pieces. It’s about a girl named Gladness. This will be one of a series based on Martyn’s reporting and including her sketches.

Nathan says:

Hm. Hm, hm, hm.  Your description gives us very little to go on, really, unless your target audience really, really likes early 20th-century female journalists. With that said, I think we can offer some constructive advice from a pure design standpoint.

  1. You’ve divided the cover in an odd spot — almost-but-not-quite center.  And as you can see especially in the thumbnail, the real estate in the lower half seems terribly under-utilized compared to the top half, which is nearly unintelligible due to the detail and lack of color.  I think you should let the illustration take up about 3/5ths of the cover.
  2. Extend an unobtrusive border around the top half — the off-white background of the illustration conveys the idea of “old paper,” but it clashes with the white-white that will be surrounding it on most ebook vendor sites.
  3. Lose the third font for your byline. Just reuse the title font again.

Other comments?

Fight: Become The Best Of You One Step At A Time

The author says:

This book is about challenging people to be their best, to beat the odds against them. It is about the need to better and how to become a better version of yourself. Its about not accepting the status quo. Its about fighting back and taking life by force.Its about reaching for the stars.

Nathan says:

If what you’ve given us is the mock-up you plan to give to your designer, that’s all well and good. If this is actually what you plan to present as your book cover, I think you had better step back and work with an actual designer.

Even when taking into account the foreshortened perspective of the book that isn’t reflected in the graphics (again: this is a mock-up, right?), the mismatched type aligned at random, the BRIGHT PINK cross the cover model (who seems to be wearing a shrug made entirely of Photoshopped dots), the completely unnecessary “VS” before the byline… all of it seems to be either a joke, or a dashed-off brainstorming idea which has not benefited from reconsideration.

Sorry if that seems cruel, but it’s the truth.

(Also: *It’s)

RJ: The Age of Innocence

The author says:

RJ: The Age of Innocence is a young adult romance set in present day America with a part in Italy. I am attempting to appeal to a similar audience as John Green. An agnostic teenager’s world views forever change after his new stepsister comes into his life and breaks down after an unexpected and disastrous trip to Verona.

Nathan says:

I’m not the target demographic, but you certainly seem to have nailed one of my most common pieces of advice: Figure out how the audience for your book is used to being marketed to.  This has certainly got the same vibe as the cover for The Fault in Out Stars.

The only head-scratcher for me is “RJ” — it’s not a part of the title you gave in your description, so what is it?  Why is it bigger than the title?

Other comments?

[01/18/17 Edit: Due to the way my submission form frontloads the message I get with extra data, I missed that “RJ” is indeed the first part of the title, so all comments expressing confusion at that are my fault.]

Glory on Mars

The author says:

A one-way journey to Mars may be a mistake. Colonization of Mars is in trouble when the colony psychologist, one of the first eight settlers, commits suicide. Four more settlers are now on their way, bringing renewed hope – and a cat. Emma volunteered so she could explore Mars in her robotic walkabout suit. Even if she gets the chance, that may not make up for everything she left behind. Mars is a hostile planet, danger follows from Earth, and an inexplicable sense of desolation cripples the settlers’ efforts. Would you go?

Science fiction set in the near-future, at the first colony on Mars. Hopefully will appeal to readers of scifi with an emphasis on the science. Some violence and a little romance, but mostly the struggle to survive, explore, and figure out what’s going wrong with the settlement.

Nathan says:

There is no single major problem here, but there are a lot of little issues that, added together, may tip the scales away from you in the eyes of potential buyers.

  • The inconsistency of the black border around the title is confusing.
  • There’s an overabundance of mid-range orange tones, mushing everything together.
  • Mars taking up the perfectly round porthole gives us a crescent of black which ends up being the most eye-catching part of the cover.  You could easily solve this by having the porthole be a different shape.
  • Shadows are inconsistent; the rock face is lit from the left, but the cat is lit from the right.
  • Problems with your cut-and-pasting: the front of the cylinder pedestal is obviously flat instead of rounded, the edges of the cylinder don’t line up with the top, the borders of the porthole are completely texture-less in contrast to the stone wall, the black space in the porthole overlaps onto foreground elements.
  • The cover may make perfect sense once you’ve read the novel, but it doesn’t make sense when seen fresh: If we’re seeing Mars through that porthole, what red rocky place could we be in?  Why aren’t we in a spaceship with riveted, steel-blue bulkheads instead?

Like I say: No single big problem. But it definitely needs a thorough tweaking before it’s ready to compete for eyeballs on Amazon.

Other observations?



The author says:

Historical Romance. The year 895. Slayde’s job as an top military leader of Kent is to rid England of the last of the Viking raiders. But Llyrica is no ordinary Viking. She’s a beauty with a mysterious past … and a talent for weaving song spells. Even as Slayde saves her from drowning, he knows Llyrica will be a dangerous distraction. Llyrica is now a stranger in a strange land on a mission to fulfill a deathbed promise. But she must also find her missing brother. This man, Slayde, known as The StoneHeart in his country, seems determined to block her at every turn. And yet she can’t help but be drawn to the affectionate, loving side of him that awakens when he sleeps – The sleepwalker. Unknown to both Llyrica and Slayde, each will use the other to accomplish their quests. Both will also fall under the song spell that she wove into the braid of his tunic. Will her Lovespell ensure a happily ever after for them? Or condemn them to a love that was never meant to be?

Nathan says:

It’s a fair-to-middling example of its kind: A historical romance cover which, while not terrible, screams “self-published.”  Why?

  • First thing I noticed: That male model.  He’s almost as overexposed in indie covers as Jimmy Thomas.
  • The edges of every element composited into the cover are distractingly crisp: It’s obvious at first glance that the man, the woman, and the landscape are separate images, that the sword isn’t really in the man’s hand, that there’s something funky about the man’s right arm and his tunic…  My suggestion would be to try out a very subtle colored texture layer and see if it helps tie all the elements together.
  • The type placement seems to be determined by desperation more than design.  I appreciate the gray bars you used, especially beneath the title where it overlaps both dark and light backgrounds, but it still seems shoved toward the bottom.  And is there a reason that it’s not larger?  I think adjusting the size upward might take care of that “wedged out of the way” look.
  • The font for the byline is not only hard to read at anything less than full size, it’s awfully twee for a historical romance.

Other comments?

Patchers of the Code

The author says:

Yes. This is happening again. Rejoice! The third book of my Elfrotica series is now covered, with this cover. The name was changed from Redeemers, as that didn’t fit so well. So I present to you Patchers, now with centaurs! (As a bonus I remembered to put highlights and the background solid colour thingies in this one before submitting this! A new record) The angel was going to have a giant sword, but there is no room for it. He has a flower instead. I was thinking of maybe using a dagger, as flowers are not that intimidating but are in the book. He doesn’t actually have a dagger in the book, but it would look more ‘dangerous’.

Nathan says:

I will, of course, go to hell for what I’m about to say:

Phallus harder!

I think that each successive cover needs to be even more suggestive, juuuust inside the bounds of plausible deniability.  I went into this saying, “Surely there’s gotta be some suggestion of phallic imagery in the spear…” Nope.  And you’ve got a centaur, without ever playing with the visual idea of “hung like a horse?” For shame!

(Also,”Patchers” isn’t very readable in that font.)

Anyone else? Also, don’t tell my mom.

Mrs. Hartley and the Senator

The author says:

This is a nonfiction book. It is 1895. A young artist moves into the top floor of a bank building in frontier Reno, Nevada. The bank owner slips something into her drink and, well, has his way with her. The book is told almost completely though newspaper stories of the time, with transitions from one to the other by the author.

Nathan says:

An interesting premise.  And the cover’s professionally done.  But I don’t know that the cover as it is will draw in the audience that would want to read this account.

One of the tests of cover design often mentioned in the comments here (and which I will thus shamelessly steal) is, “Would someone who doesn’t understand English be able to look at the cover and tell what the genre and tone is?”

If I didn’t understand the text, I would assume that we’re looking at possibly a detective story (the newspaper background would lead me there), but I would assume, I don’t know… a chemical or scientific angle? (The drink in the hand isn’t distinctly enough a shot glass at first glance, and coupled with the newsprint, I’d jump to the conclusion of some sort of newsworthy chemical announcement.) And the typefaces chosen say neither “Reno, Nevada” nor “1985.”

Here’s what I’d do:

  • For the title, bylines, etc., I’d find some actual fonts used in newspapers of the time.  If need be, I’d get things a little more Western-looking than the actual fonts (small-town newspapers didn’t WANT to look small-town, after all), but I’d at least use the original fonts as a touchstone, including the wear and printing mistakes that would show up in newspapers of the time.
  • The newsprint is a good idea; I’d put it in several clippings at overlapping angles, riffing off the idea that there are several disparate accounts being assembled here.
  • Rather than a male hand triumphantly holding a drink aloft, I think you’d get a lot more mileage out of a female hand, on the floor, a spilled drink next to it.  There’s a lot more drama to be had there.

Other ideas?


The author says:

Homicide detective Kim Phillips isn’t like the other officers of the Chicago Police Department. She’s quiet, isolated, and she can speak with the dead. Born with the ability to see into and interact with the afterlife, she is a Burner: a person tasked with hunting down dangerous spirits and sending them to the other side. When Kim exorcises the ghost of a young girl, she’s dragged into a new and unsettling case, one where people like Kim are being killed. The only problem? There’s no connection between the victims, and no proof that they were murdered in the first place. Kim has to catch the killer before he finds his last victim and unleashes an unknown evil on the world.

Burner, the first book in the Affinity Series, is a dark exploration of how life and death are only separated by a single breath and how even those with power can be powerless.

Nathan says:

I think this is a very professional cover — the limited palette works well with the focal element of the art, the fonts chosen are distinctive without being overloaded with novelty… I think it says “urban fantasy novel” very well.  However, as the story is also a police investigation, I think it would work better if you could find some way to say “urban fantasy crime novel.”

Could there be yellow traffic lines on the ground, underneath the glowing sigil (muted to match the color scheme, of course)?  Or some police tape in the shadows behind the title? Or a pair of handcuffs on the ground by the byline?  I would brainstorm on some simple addition like that to add the angle of police involvement to the cover.

Other ideas?

(And since everyone expects me to say it: “Burner? I don’t even KNOW ‘er!”)

A Hostile Takeover

The author says:

This is a science fiction novel set in a post-cyberpunk world, struggling with the rise of corporate gangs and untamed technology. I wanted it simple as possible and chose the skull motif to represent criminal/piracy elements to the story involving corporate banksters, slumlords, rogue AI’s. It is set in a near future, post economic super-depression civilisation. I’m aiming to soon publish a new edition and am wondering if I should redesign the existing cover or ditch it altogether.

Nathan says:

As a practical matter, you should always put a distinctly different cover on a new edition.  Which gives you lots of room to play with this one!

First: The sizing of the words in the title make it look like “A” is the most important word/letter.  Meanwhile, “Takeover” becomes unreadable in the thumbnail.

Second: While the digitalized, dot-matrix effect on the skull comes through at full size, that’s completely lost in the thumbnail; it could a cross-stitch, for all we can see.  Coupled with the fact that “blank white” isn’t a a color that anyone associates with cyberpunk, the cover fails to let potential readers know in their first glance that this is a post-cyberpunk criminal dystopian novel.

My suggestion? Steal. Add Matrixy, grungy elements.  Let “cyberpunk” and “dystopia” and “crime” be the first thing people notice, even before they read the title.

Here’s my five-minute redo:

I know I’ve got your title font somewhere on my computer, but I couldn’t find it quickly, so I substituted.  I played with the color balance until it looked like The Matrix, enlarged your name, and added the first “broken glass” wallpaper I found.  I’m not happy with it as a final, obviously, but I think it’s a good starting point.

Other ideas?

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