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While you’re waiting for the next critiquable cover to show up here, you could check out Corp-ID-Theory, a cool new blog by Michael Shumate. why yes, we are related; in fact, he’s my father.  And whereas I’m a largely self-taught designer who proceeds by gut feeling and tries to justify it afterward, Dad is an honest-to-goodness retired professor of graphic design.  His new blog is all about branding design, and if you think that’s a field unrelated to book cover design, you definitely need his blog.

We Can’t Rewind [resubmit]

The author says:

The newlywed Don and Denise Richards get their minds swapped with those of his son Jackie and her daughter Jaymee respectively while their Caribbean honeymoon cruise is lost in the Bermuda Triangle. No matter what they try, they can’t seem to find a way to swap back! Now what will they do? “We Can’t Rewind” is the latest prospective title for this paranormal romance. (Before you ask, yes, that’s from the lyrics of “Video Killed The Radio Star” by the Buggles, though it has only the most tenuous association with this story.) The prospects of coming to an agreement with traditional publishers so far are looking rather poor, so it seems I will have to design and publish the whole book myself; I still plan to get a professional artist to redraw the final cover, however.

We Can't Rewind Scratch

We Can't Rewind Scratch

[previous submissions and comments here and here]

Nathan says:

The cover is definitely evolving. Much clearer, brighter, easier to process.

That said, it’s still not sitting right with me somehow. It’s a (very strange) love story, but I don’t get that from the cover. I’m guessing from the description that there’s a certain amount of wacky comedy a la Freaky Friday, but I also don’t see that in the cover.

You said that, as independent publishing is looking more likely, you “plan to get a professional artist to redraw the final cover.”  May I suggest that a professional graphic artist or designer is worth more than his ability to draw what you tell him?  You seem very attached to using certain elements to market your story, but maybe you should have a graphic professional read the first few chapters and tell you how he would market your story.  You might be surprised (pleasantly).

Other comments?

Breakers of the Code [resubmit]

The author says:

Hello everyone! I made some changes to my cover in an attempt to kick it up a few notches. The idea of using a more obvious monster, and more obvious… implements helped and I like it more now! There are a few specific notes from the last version that I am addressing up here. 1) I tried the different colour backgrounds, and while they did work and look nice, the main character’s accent colour is green, so it didn’t feel right to have it someone else’s colour! (I did gay it up with a rainbow though.) 2) I am not sure if I am sold on the phallic arrow as opposed to the bum arrow. Everything I tried looked a bit too… spot on. I have included it on this version to see what others think. Otherwise thank you everyone for the comments! – ♥ CB

Breakers of the code - Cover v2

Breakers of the code - Cover v2

[original submission and comments here]

Nathan says:

Boy, that butt just pops now, doesn’t it?

I honestly wouldn’t notice the phallicness (phallicity? phallusy? whatever) of the arrowhead, but the lower viney protuberance jumped out at me… so much so that I’m wondering if Amazon is gonna let it by.

I don’t know. I think that I’m not the best commenter on this one, as I’m really not the target buying audience.  I’ll just say this: My favorite humorous-erotic cover (and it’s even fantasy!) is one that I saw on Joe Konrath’s blog a couple of years ago. Here it is. (What, you think I’m gonna display it here?)

Otherwise, I’ll let everyone else weigh in on this one.

The Book of the Not-Dead-Enough

The author says:

With a fresh round of spending cuts in the Afterlife and immigration services stretched to breaking point, mistakes are inevitable. Admin errors, but from the Other Side. The Book of the Not-Dead-Enough is a collection of contemporary short shorts and flash fictions about the people who have died but been returned to their bodies. And don’t drop the Z-bomb; they hate that. These stories are their continued attempts to keep calm and carry on in a world that has seen too many George Romero films. Some of them are silly, some of them are topical or satirical. Loitering somewhere between Dickens, Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams, this collection isn’t wholly flippant nor wholly serious, but tickles at the join between. [This is a second draft cover, and obviously needs to lose the Shutterstock stuff]

NDE Cover 5a - Xcrop

NDE Cover 5a - Xcrop

Nathan says:

A clever idea, and clever imagery.  I think a few tweaks will yield huge dividends, design-wise.

I’m okay with the typeface used, but I think you need to use it more dynamically; making “of the” smaller than the rest of the title is the first thing I thought of.  (You might even try shrinking the initial “The” to the same size and putting it on its own line; I don’t guarantee the results, though.)

I also think letting the title occupy more of the cover is a good idea.  Obviously, you’re hampered by “Not-Dead-Enough,” which needs to be on a single line, but I still think that the title needs to take up more real estate.  Nothing in the imagery will be hampered if it’s slid further down the cover.

The “for rent” sign really sticks out as being cut-and-pasted due to its angle; if you can find a replacement image, you ought to use it, and maybe have it canted as it sticks out of the grave. (Same thing with the “Gone Fishing” sign — those things never hang straight, even for the living.)

This looks like a really clever project; I’m actually pretty interested in reading this.

Other comments?

Breakers of the Code

The author says:

A virtual world perverted. An ancient threat looming. A spunky elf pantsless. Industry giant Tornado Tech Games has just released their latest masterpiece, the massively multi-player online role playing game Annals of Gentalia and Anders, the honest elf Night Ranger is pumped to explore its most secret depths. But things are not always how they seem in the virtual world and when the elf accidently breaks into the hidden code of the game, his play experience is forever altered. Adapting to a game world where the once normal monsters have become charged with sexual energy, Anders sets off on an epic journey to save his own ass. As the world quickly plummets into chaos around him, a vital question lingers over the world. What kind of avatar would willingly release a horde of sex crazed monsters into the world? More importantly to Anders though is his own personal question, when am I finally going to find some new pants? Title: Breakers of the Code Genre: Elfrotica (A mix of fantasy & gay sexyness that does not take itself seriously) This is one on my cover ideas for this book. It is at a publisher right now and I am waiting to hear if it will be published by them, but I still am working on ideas for the cover anyways. I am not sold on the ‘Book one’ part. It may not be needed. This cover does contain one element that must be on any final cover though. A key plot point: Elfbutt.

Breakers of the code - Cover

Breakers of the code - Cover

 

Nathan says:

It’s a technically good cover, but it just looks like a straight (in at least two senses) YA fantasy. It’s missing two elements that need to be there in much greater quantities according to the description:

  1. Funny!
  2. Sexy!

I mean, come on — “Elfrotica”?  This is way too reserved for that! Accentuate that elfbutt — I should be able to see the buttcrack in the thumbnail! Go all out with the exaggerated fantasy font! Make the monster a lot more obvious and cheesy!  Turn it up to 11!

(Unless everyone else says I’m wrong, of course.)

Serpentine

The author says:

Basically, high school junior Xen Aspen (still working on that name) is a mutant. At least he thinks he’s some sort of freak, that is. He is immune to snake bites and has an illegal part time job hunting venomous ones for rich people. One day, though, he learns that he belongs to a group of hybrids from a failed mutation experiment a hundred years ago (This is the book cover I designed for my book and I’m such a noob so I need your help and advice. Thanks).

WITH NAME - Serpentine

WITH NAME - Serpentine

Nathan says:

One thing you need to keep in mind is that, even though there’s no utilitarian reason for ebook covers to be any particular shape, they still ought to strike prospective readers as “book-shaped.”  The first impression of yours is that it’s an album cover.

I like the serpent eyes in a (more) human face, but I warn you that the floating disembodied eyes are such a design cliche that they’ve lost effectiveness.  I think you would get a lot more mileage out of the cover if you put an entire face/head on the cover with reptilian eyes.  (The fact that the image you use for the snake eyes is far lower resolution that its needs to be isn’t helping.)

I think the font you use for the title is marginally okay, but leaving it hollow decreases readability.  Make it either solid, or a texture tight enough that it looks solid in thumbnail.

The byline font, on the other hand, doesn’t have much going for it: It’s hard to read at any size, and it gives a medieval flavor to the cover which doesn’t match the description you gave for the book.

Anyone else?

Capitol Kidnap

The author says:

Paranormal mystery. Geared towards readers of Kim Harrison. It’s set in modern day Sacramento, CA. Naomi’s living a normal life and trying to keep being a werewolf secret, when her brother’s kidnapped. His kidnappers threaten to kill him and reveal he’s a werewolf to the world.

Cover-Medium

Cover-Medium

 

Nathan says:

I’m going to assume this is the “sketch” version and not hammer you on mechanics like the bad “magic wand” cut-and-paste edges around each of the elements. Let’s look at the big picture.

First: The font has to go.  There’s nothing evocative about it.  I would recommend you use a maximum of two fonts — one for the title and byline, the other for the series title.

Second:  Give that your name is not a household name, I think you should reserve the place of prominence for the title and put the byline at the bottom.  Or maybe put all three at the top, and shift all of the images down, getting rid of that black block at the bottom that screams “I couldn’t think of how to fill this space!”

On to the images themselves:

I understand what you’re trying to do, but it seems like the image elements are working against each other instead of with each other  — the silhouette vs. the bridge vs. the moon vs. the pawprints. Silhouettes, in particular, work a lot less frequently than they’re used.  I think you need to decide: Which will be the focal element of the cover?  (It doesn’t necessarily have to be dead center, as long as it’s very clearly the main point of the cover.) Then work with the other elements to have them help and add to that main element — and feel free to toss the elements (whether you replace them or not) that don’t play well with others.

More suggestions?

Dover Park

The author says:

This is a proposed cover redo for my already published mystery novel “Dover Park.” I’ve never really been satisfied with my current cover. My redo is utilizing a picture sample (hence the watermark), so the finished product will have better resolution. The current cover can be found at: http://www.amazon.com/Dover-Park-ebook/dp/B009P4Z1WO Here’s the blurb: “In the waning days of spring, in a quiet suburban town, the Moreau family prepares for another busy summer. But a stormy night brings strange calls from an enigmatic young woman. Her claims are perplexing, and her very existence is a paradox, but the evidence she brings is conclusive. She harbors a long hidden secret that threatens to upend their idyllic suburban life. A terrible tragedy occurred in Dover Park many years ago, but what really happened is not what everyone thought.”

DoverPark2014-3

DoverPark2014-3Nathan says:

The redo certainly has a more suspenseful vibe!

I like most of the elements, although the man’s silhouette looks too stiff, like it’s a mannequin.  the bigger problem for me is that blank space above the park bench, and I’m not sure what to do about it. Maybe a very short, stark declaration:

You
 can’t
run
forever.

 (Obviously not the right one for your book — just an example.)

Otherwise, it looks like you have the makings of a professional and genre-targeted cover. Congrats.

Anyone see something else?

The Hunt

The author says:

The Hunt is the second book in a fantasy series. This one is based on the varied legends of the Wild Hunt. The main character, after suffering a betrayal by her fiancé, is found and enslaved by the Hunt and forced to labor while trying to stay alive. She eventually forges a life with them, thanks to an elderly pair of slaves and one particular hunter, Zephyr, who at first seems annoying and later, more than appealing. Set in modern times, it is part of a five book series dealing with different myths that tie together in the last book with a fight to keep magic itself alive.

The Hunt Ebook remake-001

The Hunt Ebook remake-001Nathan says:

It’s certainly a dynamic image. I’m at a little bit of a disadvantage here, in that it’s the second volume of a series and I don’t know what design elements are common to both covers.

[searches Amazon]

Oh. Eep. I’d say forget the cover to Book One, finish the cover to Book Two, and go back and redesign Book One to match it.  Because ew.

So anyway, blank-slating for Book Two:

The biggest problem I see is that, while the image is eye-catching and energetic (by definition), it doesn’t tell us anything about the book: genre, setting, etc. I’m assuming that if the books revolve around the Wild Hunt, there’s at least a bit of celtic folklore to the books, right? Why don’t we see that?  Even just a knotwork border (or even a semi-transparent border that disappears as it gets behind the firewood) would help.  Same with the text; maybe you want to leave the title as is because it’s easily readable, but how about something uncial-flavored (while still easily readable) for the byline and/or series title?

The placement of the tagline bothers me — it seems to be moved over so as not to obscure something noteworthy in the cover image, but what’s beside it isn’t really that noteworthy; why not have it run the width of the cover?

Other comments?

 

My Nerdy Werewolf

The designer says:

Usually I do horror pieces, so this is a bit outside my experience. This is for a humorous paranormal romance aimed at the YA market (think the “Teen Wolf” tv series) and also have appeal for older paranormal romance readers with nostalgia for 80’s comedies. The directions were to make it look like a retro-80’s movie poster, and to keep the werewolf character appealing. The tag line probably isn’t the final choice.

CCnerdywerewolf

CCnerdywerewolf

Nathan says:

Boy, this seems like fun.  I think most of my suggestions stem from the fact that, aside from the big word “WEREWOLF” in the title, most of the rest doesn’t suggest there’s a werewolf in this book, especially at thumbnail size.

For one thing, the background looks like a clear mid-afternoon sky. Unless he’s a werewolf who transforms in daylight (and even if he is), I think the background should say “night.” It doesn’t have to be much — just darken the gradient a lot, especially at the top, and maybe stick a part of the full moon into the upper right.

For another, the nerd could as easily be taken for a vampire as a werewolf. (Yes, I know, yellow wolf eyes, but that’s still kind of subtle.) Maybe some hair growing up his neck, and sticky-out tufts from the points of his ears?

The font treatment is fun.  I’d pull the slant off “WEREWOLF” so it stands up straight.  I also think that using upper and lowercase for “My Nerdy” would look better than “MY NERDY.”  Maybe even add a slight (slight!) arch to it.  (If the gradient behind it ends up dark enough, you may need to reverse the blue and white on “My Nerdy” to make it pop.)

Those are my thoughts. Others?

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