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Becoming Bearserk

The author says:

Stressed-out lawyer Ellie dreads having another nervous breakdown. When she passes out in a museum after touching an ancient artifact, Ellie finds herself in Viking-age Iceland, certain that she’s just dreaming while her over-worked body lies in a hospital bed somewhere. But after meeting sexy berserker Aron Hrossbjorn, she is thrust into a war that is more real than she could imagine. Sparks fly, but can their relationship withstand the powerful forces pulling them apart?

This is a full-length novel with paranormal elements (including shifters), based loosely on a story from the Icelandic Sagas. A sweeping romance for fans of Outlander with a Viking twist. (I have not decided on a subtitle yet, but I will be adding one to the cover.)

becomingbearserk

becomingbearserk

Nathan says:

Again, we’re running into the fact that I’m not a fan of the genre, so everything I say must be received with that in mind.

That said: How did “man looking at his own junk” become a cover pose?  I’ve seen it on a dozen books, and I’m still puzzled.  My own inclination would be to have a man looking straight out, or off to the side like a catalog model, but if genre conventions mean that he has to check to be sure he’s still packing, I guess run with it.

All right, useful comments:

  1. One too many fonts.
  2. No Viking fonts.  Couldn’t one of them look at least a little bit runic?
  3. The tattoo doesn’t look like a tattoo. (If it’s supposed to be a brand instead of a tattoo, that’s another whole problem — I don’t think brands that cover so much skin leave the skin looking so smooth.)
  4. I have no idea what that thing is behind him, and if it takes up so much real estate it really ought to be something identifiable.
  5. From the thumbnail, you can see that it’s a little murky. I know that ancient Northern Europe was a cold, bleak place, but maybe adding some bronze highlights to his skin would help it pop.

I’ll leave it to the other commenters to tell how on the mark I am with my suggestions.

Whiskey

The author says:

20 years after nuclear war collapsed civilization and unlikely heroes Hood and Whiskey defeated the despotic Kaiser, new kingdoms and factions have arisen in the rebuilding civilization of the Americas. Whiskey’s life as a Ranger for the Sons of Liberty has been thrown back into war again, a war he refuses to fight after the harrowing trauma of the first war so many years ago. When someone from Whiskey’s past makes themselves known in a cryptic message, Whiskey must range far into the borderless lands to try and answers, and some sort of redemption.

Copy of WHISKEY

Copy of WHISKEY

Nathan says:

Because this is the second book of a series, I went looking for the cover of the first book on Amazon:

cover[1]

While I have some complaints on the first one — mostly having to do with the byline font which clashes with the rest of the type — I think it’s generally a solid cover, by virtue of (a) the central image and (b) the color scheme.

Unfortunately, the second cover does away with both of those positives, and brings nothing in their place.

(a) The image: It’s entirely pastoral and uncivilized.  There’s nothing to signify the post-apocalyptic milieu, or indeed any milieu; if I were to guess without the benefit of “a post apocalyptic novel,” I’d think it was a memoir of backpacking or other wilderness travel, or at best a Jeremiah Johnson-style frontier tale.  The rag-wrapped gun from the first cover, which is the visual clue as to genre, has no counterpart here.

(b) The color scheme: I cannot think of a more peaceful, idyllic, conflict-free color scheme — and that doesn’t sound like it matches your novel.  The color that dominates the first cover suggests both military drab (the color of choice for post-apoc cosplayers) and the sickness of vegetation undernourished and past its prime.  By contrast, the second cover could easily be used for a CD of meditation music.

And there’s still the clash between byline font and the rest of the type that was my main complaint about the first cover.

Other thoughts?

Wolf’s Cross

The author says:

Wolf’s Cross is an urban fantasy novel rooted in Norse Mythology. The series unfolds as the doom of the gods onsets. It will appeal to fans of Ilona Andrews and Patricia Briggs.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00033]

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00033]

Nathan says:

It’s a very eye-pleasing cover. I don’t know, however, if it’s going to strike your target audience as something aimed at them.

My first thought when I look at this cover is that it’s a straight historical novel, a la Bernard Cornwell — not a mythologically-influenced fantasy, and certainly not something that belongs on the same shelf with Ilona Andrews…

andrews

…or Patricia Briggs:

patricia

Does your book look like it would be brought to the Barnes & Noble counter in the same armload as these books?  If not, how will your target reader be able to determine — in the split second that he or she will see your cover before flicking his or her eyes to the cover next to it — that it’s meant to appeal to them?

You may think that getting more targeted cover art is gonna cost you an arm and a leg, but really, all you need (judging from these examples) is a colorful valkyrie. In fact, we recently had a cover here on CoverCritics.com featuring just such a character; the author had paid a small amount to use an artist’s pre-existing artwork. A quick search for “valkyrie” on DeviantArt gives me over 98,000 results. A lot of them are manga-influenced, and I’m sure a goodly proportion are artwork that was produced as work-for-hire and is just reproduced on DeviantArt as a portfolio piece, but there will also be plenty which the artist produced for the heck of it, and most of those artists would be happy to get fifty bucks for the right to use artwork that they had made in the first place for free.

Remember: Your book cover is a marketing piece. You gotta go after your market.

Free Apps and Hacks

The author says:

It is a printed workbook for web authors and writers who want to know where to go and try the best productivity apps – includes 150 sites, or video’s, infographics (social media image sizes for example) with space to write their own comments, or add their own apps they use – always carry it with you.

apps book cover final 3jpg

apps book cover final 3jpg

Nathan says:

I think you can guess everything I’m going to say by looking at the thumbnail. The title is hard to read, the subtitle is impossible to read, and the byline might as well be invisible.

This is the second nonfiction title with abstract imagery on the cover that we’ve look at in the last little while (here’s the first), and while there’s nothing wrong with abstract imagery per se, especially for a book for which there really isn’t an image or class of images that gets the point across, that also means that the text has to do the heavy lifting here — it’s got to inform the reader of genre and appeal, as well as give specific information on the contents of the book.  That means it MUST BE READABLE.

I mean, yes, it’s a neat image, but you really don’t have to be careful about covering up “important” details with text, do you?  Make the title large enough that it takes up two lines: “Free Apps / and Hacks.” Enlarge the subtitle so that it extends practically from edge to edge. And for heaven’s sake, don’t hide your byline in itty-bitty type. You wrote the book — let people know it!

We could squabble about specific font choices — I’m not sure the kindergarten-penmanship font works for the subtitle — but even that is secondary to simple readability.

Other opinions?

Ossie & The Babe

The author says:

My book is the true story of a quest spread over many years. I was given a vintage baseball photograph, and found it arresting in its stark simplicity and the intensity of its action. Two players occupy the foreground: a runner identified as Babe Ruth is sliding hard into third base, while an unidentified infielder crouches to apply a tag. Questions sprang to mind at once. Who was the infielder? Where was the game played and when? Why were the distant left-field bleachers nearly empty, if that’s Babe Ruth? Was Babe going to be safe or out? A longtime fan but a novice to baseball research, I set out to crack the photo’s mysteries. A few answers came easily, but others were more elusive. Out of thousands of old baseball photos, this one turned out to be one of a handful that have defied full identification even by dedicated experts. As so often happens, there were unforeseen complications and surprising revelations; there were side trails to follow and broader contexts to explore. Embracing all these has enriched the experience and has helped to elucidate why baseball occupies a special place in the fabric of North American society.

Ossie & The Babe front cover

Ossie & The Babe front cover

Nathan says:

Kinda nice when the subject of your book is an image, isn’t it?  You go into the design process knowing what you have to work with, at least.

Not having seen what the rest of the photo looks like, my first recommendation depends a lot on factors I can’t know, but I’m wondering if shifting the image right so that the player on the left is a little more visible (and a little more instantly recognized as a baseball player) might be a good strategy.

I also understand that blowing up an original photo is going to give you a fuzzy image — the problem is that we’ve seen so many fuzzy images without that rationale (i.e., people just not knowing how to process an image) that I fear some readers will just assume that it’s a poor image choice.  Are there any texture or flaws to the original image — scratches, dust motes, etc. — that would show more clearly that what we’re looking at is an enlargement of a historical photo, and further show that this is a faithful reproduction of a blurry-at-that-size photograph?  Does the original photo have any tinting, or any yellowing from age?  I think that should be included, rather than bleached out.  Shucks, even if the original image doesn’t have any tinting, I think it would be okay to “cheat” a bit and add a light sepia tone.

I like the font for the title, but I don’t know that the color scheme works.  On a black-and-white Kindle or Nook, the title is going to wash out into the gray background.  I’d play around with making “OSSIE &” darker and “THE BABE” lighter so they stand out better against their respective backgrounds.

And finally, I really don’t like the font for your subtitle.  You should keep with the theme of period typefaces; look back on some advertising of the period — especially sports advertising — and use that as inspiration to pick another font.  Or go for a good handwritten font; it would add the connotation that this is a personal quest.

Other ideas?

 

Functional & Funded

The author says:

This nonfiction book was put together and published through Bookbaby within the last year. It deals with the imperative to pursue operating resources that persists among most nonprofit organizations in the public and private sectors. Featured is a strategic combination of “business as unusual” along with often equally unusual common sense, derived from the author’s years as an acclaimed trainer among nonprofits. It is a workbook, if you will, for anyone in or around nonprofit fundraising, and that’s a passel of people.

12698609_10201657032543268_2887076427773804556_o (1)

12698609_10201657032543268_2887076427773804556_o (1)

Nathan says:

It looks great to me — professional, on-topic, business-like.

If I were forced to come up with suggestions, I’d have these two:

  1. Is there a possibility that potential readers will see the DNA and assume it’s a science book?  I don’t know that it’s a great danger, but as a possibility…
  2. “How to create the only proposal your organization will ever need!”  I’m not a non-profit guy, so maybe your potential readers will know exactly what kind of “proposal” you mean, but it seems a little vague to me.

Other comments?

3 Days of Grace

The author says:

Shortly after moving to Prague, Grace is attacked by a werewolf and has now 3 days to decide if she wants to go through with the transformation or not. The intended audience is more or less young adult with a sense of humor. I would especially appreciate feedback about the typography.

Big-Cover

Big-Cover

Nathan says:

[looks at description]

[looks at cover]

[looks at description]

Are you sure this is the cover to that book?

I mean, I know I’m not the target audience for a YA werewolf novel, but I’m pretty sure that a werewolf novel should give some indication of it being a werewolf novel… or at least not look like it’s something completely other than a werewolf novel.

All we’ve got is an Old World cityscape. That’s not indicative of genre, readership, or anything else that would allow a potential reader to identify him/herself as the target audience.

And the typography, as especially requested, is awfully gentle. Even if this isn’t a slam-bang werewolf action novel, it still seems gentler than is warranted.  Between the flowing script and the words “3 Days” and “Grace” in the title, I would assume that it’s a Christian drama at first glance.

(And “RSPOB Series?” That’s an entirely uninformative series name — once again, it’s not telling the reader anything about the novel. And given that this is the first entry in the series, it’s not like you can count on name recognition to bring in the returning readers.)

I think this is definitely a case of a bad initial concept… or maybe even no initial concept.  You need to sit down and think, “What would catch the eye and the mind of my target reader?  How would I use that half-second of attention before they move on to the book sitting next to mine to tell them that, yes, this IS a book that will interest them?”

Good luck.

Any other comments?

Tyr

The author says:

TYR is a space fantasy (part one in a series) that follows Kai Brecken. It’s set in an undefined ‘future’ and takes place partly on a planet (Egeria) and partly on a spaceship. The target audience is lovers of sci-fi/fantasy/Vin Diesel. Thank you in advance!

COVERPLAY2

COVERPLAY2

Nathan says:

No glaring problems that I can see.  Let’s go to fine-tuning!

  1. While the star-scape is visible at full size, in the thumbnail it just blends into a gray texture.  I’d suggest adding some extra stars the look like stars even from a thumbnail.
  2. I don’t think your byline needs to be so small.  I also don’t think that a typewriter font is the the right font for this cover.
  3. Back cover: The planet that takes up half the cover really doesn’t need all the focus; it would be better as background. Don’t you have a bio note, or a blurb, or a publisher logo that you could use to fill in that shadow-side?

Other comments?

Rock the Boat [resubmit]

The author says:

ROCK THE BOAT is an erotic romance or maybe a (romantic thriller I’m really not sure) set in current day America. A simple love affair becomes complicated when a soldier shares his new wife with his best friend. Parental disapproval escalates to lies and manipulation. A man with an obsession, a kidnapped spouse, and a murder, change a happy home into a nightmare. One that might be fixed by choosing the right man. this is my third attempt at a cover. I’m going for a hint of sex in a thriller vibe. The covers for erotica books are not at all the ‘feel’ for my story. Mine has very little actual erotica in it.Sorry I’m not clearer, I’m confused myself on my genre.

rtb4.JPG

rtb4.JPG

[original submission and comments here]

Nathan says:

If this isn’t erotic, then you are going to have a lot of readers angry at you for the bait-and-switch, because that definitely ain’t a “hint of sex in a thriller” vibe.  That’s a bikini babe.

The most important role of a cover is to attract the kind of readers who would enjoy the book.  That means you need to know who your target audience is.  Then you need to figure out which other books those same readers would like, and use the covers of those books to learn how those readers are accustomed to being marketed to.

Until then, you’re just throwing random things into PhotoShop.

Black Book

The author says:

A lightning fast action packed sci-fi thriller for fans of Stephen King’s Dark Tower and Lee Child’s Jack Reacher. Sheriff Jack is an elite soldier from the future, trapped in the Wild West. He must find and protect the sacred Black Book before someone or something else does. The clock is already ticking for humankind, but for Jack the countdown has only just begun.

x

x

Nathan says:

Hmm.

Obviously, the most important component of the covers of the books that you cite are the huge letters proclaiming “Stephen King” or “Lee Child.”  You can’t really go that way.

And I’m going to assume that this is a quick sketch version of the design concept, so I shouldn’t worry about things like how the title doesn’t line up with the byline, or how the cowboy silhouette is artifacted against the moon.

A common observation around here is that red text against a black background is surprisingly unreadable. Your byline is in orange so it’s not as bad, but in the thumbnail it still becomes a smear.

For the rest… I’m of two minds, so I’m going to have to defer to the hivemind instead.  Does the minimalist approach work? Could it work, even if this one might not?

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