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Viridian Gate Online: Cataclysm

The author says:

This is the first book in a new series. I really like the cover art and think it fits for the genre, but I’d love to get any extra feedback before I release this bad boy into the world.

October, 2042 An extinction level asteroid, 213 Astraea, is cannonballing toward earth. Collision, imminent. An international team of scientists are working around the clock to avert the cataclysm—few are optimistic. World Governments are preparing for impact with deep earth bio-dome bunkers, but only a select few lottery winners will be saved.

Jack Mitchel, a thirty-two-year-old EMT living in a tiny studio apartment on the West Coast, isn’t one of those winners. Still, there might be a way for him to survive Astraea; a slim chance, requiring a radical leap of faith. Through a connection at Osmark Technologies, Jack’s acquired a NexGenVR capsule and with it, a one-way ticket to the brand new, ultra-immersive, fantasy-based VRMMORPG, Viridian Gate Online. Taking that leap of faith, though, means permanently trapping his mind in the game, killing his body in the process. Worse, one in six die during the transition and even if Jack beats the odds, he’ll have to navigate a fantastical world filled with vicious monsters, domineering AIs, and cutthroat players.

And when Jack stumbles upon a secret conspiracy to sell off virtual real-estate to the ultra-wealthy—transforming V.G.O. into a new feudal dark age—the deadly creatures inhabiting Viridian Gate’s expansive dungeons will be the least of his concerns. If Jack can’t game the system, he’s going to be trading in a quick death for a long, brutal one …

viridian-gate-cover

viridian-gate-cover

Nathan says:

The artwork is beautiful, and the font is well-chosen.  My only concern is with the length of the title: there are so many colons, line breaks, subtitles and series titles that it almost seems like a parody.  I would say put “Viridian Gate Online” in one font and “Cataclysm” in the other, and skip “A V.G.O LITRPG Adventure” altogether.

Good work!

Any other comments?

The Eden Conspiracy

The author says:

The Eden Conspiracy is a standalone thriller that follows a gun-for-hire and a virologist as they go head-to-head with an ancient religious order plotting a global pandemic to bring about a new Garden of Eden. Professional killer Jack Reagan is hired by a mysterious group to kill virologist Daniela Grosskopf and steal a vial of a deadly virus known as the Omega Strain. But when Jack has second thoughts and decides to instead protect Daniela and the virus, he must face off against modern-day Knights Templar seeking to recreate the Garden of Eden.

the-eden-conspiracy

the-eden-conspiracy

Nathan says:

My biggest concern is how the elements overlap, or don’t.

To wit: There’s a lot of space between the byline and the top of the cross — not a problem in itself, but the bottom of the cross then runs into the title at the bottom, which is already hard to read in thumbnail (the tiny white border around the letters doesn’t set it off sufficiently from the black-and-white background).

There are other little tweaks I’d try — the parallel placement of “THE” and “A THRILLER,” for example — but that’s my big concern.

Other comments?

Wish For Amnesia

The publisher says:

Barbara Rosenthal’s Magic Realism / Philosophy / Political Fiction / Literature novel, WISH FOR AMNESIA, is a modern-day mix of futuristic fable and historical fact that follows six idiosyncratic characters in New York and Rome from 1968-85, Hippiedom to Halley’s Comet.

It pivots around Jack Rubin, son of Holocaust resistance workers, who develops a Messianic Complex as he struggles to be as exemplary as his father. “His genes alone were salvaged from the wreck.” Jack embarks on a life of politics, anthropology and early computer technology, but is beset by doubt, paranoia and voices in his head. They say he has no right to lead until he has the perfect plan. A troubled relationship with Beatrice, a blind Black performance artist, moves him to marry one of her students, Caroline, stunning, Jewish and disturbed. Caroline grows up in a dismal little town, her character set by rivalry. Jack becomes a tyrant to his family. The artist is named godmother to their precocious daughter, Jewel, and she takes the child to Rome, where they fall in with a nefarious cabdriver, Toto. “Toto shut his off-duty sign and crept along the curb next to the signorine curiose, following behind them several lengths.” Jack desperately strives to fulfill the potential of his father’s sacrificed generation, but when he travels to Rome to meet up with his daughter, as he descends a ramp at DaVinci Airport on the date of a historically infamous attack there, he’s killed by someone he knows.

There are 55 of the author’s images between the chapters (50 “Surreal Photographs” and 5 collages). This extraordinary book has been in development for 38 years, and is due for release Nov. 30.

deadlychapspress_barbararosenthal_wishforamnesiaopencover2016

Nathan says:

This is the actual size of the image I was sent, so a lot of detail is lost. I can’t tell from the cover what the book is about, but then again, I can’t even really tell from the description what it’s about, either. However, I think everything you truly need to know about this book is contained in the last sentence of the description that came with the cover:

This extraordinary book has been in development for 38 years….

This book isn’t the work of a storyteller attempting to entertain a potential audience in hopes of some modest commercial success; this is a labor of love, worked on in bits and pieces over the years for personal fulfillment in between the other demands of life.

As such, is there anything that we can say to make the cover appeal more directly to its target audience?  The author is its target audience — her, and people who know and love her, and will appreciate the book because its hers.

I guess the only advice, then, is to enlarge the author portrait on the back.

Other thoughts? Am I wrong? Or am I right but to brusque about it?

November 21 Update:

The publisher updated with this:

I am re-submitting this cover in higher resolution. Hopefully, this will alter the understandings of your cover critics because I put the description of Barbara Rosenthal’s book on the back cover. I’m publisher of Deadly Chaps Press, and I published WISH FOR AMNESIA because this is the most extraordinary, comprehensive book I’ve ever read; not in the least a book for only her friends and family, but truly for the world. It IS aging skin, the author’s right forearm, in fact — there had been 12 proto-editions over the years; we published these last 6, and this one, due to launch Nov 30, is the Definitive First Edition. The first of our covers was pure white, then aging gradually until this one. I am taking your comments VERY seriously, since so many of you are grossed out by what I found to be extremely intriguing, so I MIGHT change the cover as time goes along, even if the inner text remains the same, but I want you to see the cover as it looks to buyers (at 100% resolution) so here it is again.

barbararosenthal_wishforamnesia-cover-two-may24-july18-2016-gasch-createspace-cropped

Secret of the Master

The author says:

“After discovering that he can enter the World of Books, 15 year-old Tommy Travers has accepted training under the Gifted and now must learn to control his new powers. He has already seen the devastating consequences of ignorance. The repercussions for his past decisions are not over. The escaped wizard Mephitis read his mind. He knows where the Gifted are. If he can just get his powers back the warehouse, the Gifted, the world, will be his. Tommy is the only one who can stop him, but first he must discover the secret that Amelia has been keeping from him all along.”

official-book-2-cover

official-book-2-cover

Nathan says:

I love how you took the advice from your last cover submission and made it part of your series branding.

The  artwork is professional, as before. However, it seems to lack a level of novelty appeal. The last cover stood out with magic being used on the tilting deck of a ship; compared to that, this image seems awfully generic — there’s nothing here to stand out from the YA fantasy novels which could be displayed to either side of it.  And while readers who are already fans of the series won’t mind, you’re missing the opportunity to catch the interest of new readers who could see this second volume’s cover and look around to see if the first volume is available.

I don’t know the story, so I don’t know what other details could be pulled out and added to the artwork.  Tentacles? Building silhouettes? Flowers around his feet?  I dunno. But I would suggest going back to your cover artist and seeing if he’s amenable to adding something to uniquify* the image.

Other comments?

*I just made this word up.

The Evil Locked Within

The author says:

Set in the current time, this horror novel follows a serial killer as he stalks his victims. Unfortunately for him, his sixth victim is far from the normal woman he is used to taking. Now at her mercy, he discovers the horrible connection between his latest catch and his departed mother.

bookcover6x9_cream_240

bookcover6x9_cream_240

Nathan says:

The chain is a fair image for this genre, but everything else lets it down:

  • The color scheme is cool and reserved. It needs to be dirty and dangerous.
  • The type is professional and generic. It, too, needs to be dangerous — their bold and brutal, or wild and untamed (or both).
  • Red type is always problematic, as there are always contrast issues; as you can see here, readability as the red crosses both dark and light backgrounds is reduced almost to nil.

Here’s my five-minute redo:

bookcover6x9_cream_240-5-minute

I’m not completely happy with the font I picked, and I think that the texture I added to the photo ends up being too monochromatic, but hey — five minutes.

And finally: I know that the text on the back cover is a placeholder, but please make sure it’s readable, using upper and lowercase.

Other comments?

 

The Robin Hood Thief

The author says:

The Robin Hood Thief is a futuristic thriller.

(tagline) The opposite of death is courage.

A middle-aged mom and nonprofit employee in 2050s America, Helen M. Dawson suddenly finds out she has 45 days left to live. But she’s not ready to go. Helen decides to become a hero, the Robin Hood Thief, in hopes of righting the wrongs of her increasingly dystopian society. If she can pull it off, perhaps she can cheat death of its final sting. But can she do all the good she wants in the time she has… and can she keep her daughter safe while she throws her own life away?

rht-hilary

rht-hilary

Nathan says:

Hmm.  I don’t think having this face dominate the cover is successful, because there’s nothing about this face that clues the prospective audience in that this book is for them — there’s no distinct expression, no dramatic light… It’s just a face, and not a particularly attractive or distinctive one. I would bet that half the people who glance at this cover at thumbnail would assume that it’s a biography of someone they don’t recognize.

The type is underwhelming. At full size, you can see the binary numbers and understand that this is either futuristic or computer-related, but that detail is lost at thumbnail size; the only thing left to indicate the genre is the typeface, which isn’t equal to the task.  Even something that is slightly more mechanical would work better.

Finally, I think your byline looks awkward.  Three initials and a last name is odd, and with the periods in between, the initials end up taking up more space than the surname! I would suggest rejiggering the layout so that the initials are above the surname in a smaller point size.

Other suggestions?

Clouds of Ecstasy

The author says:

A young woman’s boozy days at college hit a bump when she discovers a strange parasite in her ovaries. Her quest to secure funding for the surgical removal of her unwanted guest flings her into a world of relentless madness.

clouds-cover-paperback-2-small

clouds-cover-paperback-2-small

Nathan says:

You know what? I’m just gonna leave this one for everybody else to comment on.  Have at it.

A Girl Called Thief

The author says:

A MG/YA Fantasy/Fractured Fairy Tale.

Synopsis: Once upon a time, there was a girl who set out to learn the meaning of fear. Twelve-year-old Saena likes to steal words. She sees them shimmering in the air, beautiful and fragile and perfect; sometimes she plucks a word that she really likes and stores it away in her head so that it belongs to her. One day she plucks the word Mama, and her mother disappears into Saena’s head. This time, something is different. Saena has stolen her mother, and she can’t seem to return her. When a gold-necked nightingale with a strangled voice and red-and-green feathers appears at her window one night and promises to help her get her mother back, Saena is only too ready. Thus begins an adventure fraught with danger, as Saena and the nightingale – which calls itself Jiu – travel the secret moonlit roads that will take them into Fairy Country, guided by Saena’s mother and the words. They travel up hill and down dale, and across sparkling seas and cities made of glittering bone. Along the way Saena collects a strange assortment of companions, none of whom are even remotely what they seem. The words have never failed Saena before. But as they come closer to the place where all the lost things go and where the dark fairies hold sway, Saena is finding it increasingly difficult to see them. Her mother’s voice is fading fast, and at every turn Saena discovers more and more about her mother that puzzles and befuddles her. Who exactly is the Red Fairy? Why does the name Marya Morevna taste so familiar on Saena’s tongue? As a word thief, Saena knows better than anyone that nothing can be hidden away forever. But perhaps some things are better left alone…

cover-version-1

cover-version-1

Nathan says:

At first glance, I like it — the only problem I see is that the colors on the bird clash with the rest of the color.

At second glance, a few other problems emerge. The dragon in the upper right looks like it’s cut-and-pasted out of another source, as evidenced by the fact that it’s standing on nothing; you should find an image of a dragon flying (one which you have appropriate rights to, of course). And what’s with that dotted line through the star?

Other comments?

Gift of the Master [resubmit]

The author says:

Tommy is a 15 year old recluse who’s only friends are the characters in his books. On his birthday he is suddenly pulled into the World of Books and he quickly finds that reading about a battle and trying to survive one couldn’t be more different. Artwork is by Edouard Noisette.

book-1-cover-offficial

book-1-cover-offficial

[original submission and comments here]

Nathan says:

This is custom artwork, yes?  I think it’s terrific.  No complaints there.

I think your type treatment has swung to the other end of the pendulum from your previous version.  It’s very clear, but it’s awfully small, and pretty dull. Trajan is still a workable font, despite its overexposure, but it needs to be spiced up a big, especially as the title itself.

Your artist left plenty of space for the title, as a good cover illustrator will.  Don’t be afraid to fill it more — there are no essential details you have to worry about covering.  Here’s a starting point:

book-1-cover-nathan

I think I’d continue to play with edge shadows, to make the text more distinct where it overlaps on the bright sky at the edge of the sail.  (And I’d similarly make the byline larger.)

But I think you’re almost there!  Other comments?

Hallowed Souls [resubmit]

The author says:

I had forgotten to mention this in my prior submission, but the title is a reference to a major schism ongoing in the first book, as the book series is primarily focused on religion and its flaws. I had taken most of the suggestions into account, such as a more fantasy-esque art style and bigger characters. I did make a font for this that was somewhat Asiatic, but I decided to abandon it as it did not fit the art style.

War rages on as various kingdoms struggle to gain power and maintain their freedom. From the shores of the Grey Sea to the mountains of Cosca, chaos reigns. It is a tale of murder, rape and war. Here a peasant girl masquerades as a princess; a deposed king schemes to regain his throne; and fierce pagans strive to regain their freedom. As opposing forces scheme and plot to gain power, a strange sickness blows in from the mysterious east and ravages the land. Not even Spenta can save them as everyone, from fools to sages, realize that even the most hallowed of souls can do nothing in the end.

hallowed-souls-book-cover-draft-1

hallowed-souls-book-cover-draft-1

[original submission and comments here]

Nathan says:

You’re not going to like this: I think the first submission was better.

Why? Because this kind of semi-cartoonish illustration looks like a chapter book or middle-grade book, which is absolutely not your target audience. The readership for an epic political-historical fantasy is not going to pick up something that looks like a volume of The Magic Tree House, and vice versa.  The original cover told us nothing about genre etc., but at least it seemed aimed at adults.

There are other issues with the focal event of the illustration and the placement and readability of text, but those would be rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

The advice I’ll give you is advice that I give often: Look at the covers of the books that you expect your target readers to have read and liked.  See how that audience is used to being told, “These are books for you.”

Other comments? Am I wrong?

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