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Charybda

The author says:

“Charybda” is set in a fantasy world in a semi-medieval time period. The target audience is high school to adult, so more of a New Adult book than a Young Adult book. The main character, Nivin, is a seventeen-year-old blind girl living in a society where all physical imperfections are met with a death sentence. After she is discovered, she flees, only to stumble across mysterious portals called “Charybda” that pass between two worlds.

Nathan says:

Were I to guess from the cover alone, I’d say that the book is maybe an urban fantasy or possibly a suspense-thriller… but mostly I just wouldn’t be able to tell.  The clues as to its genre and content are too sparse.

From your description, it looks like there are two fantasy settings involved (or at least two imaginary settings).  How do they differ in technology, society, etc?  How could you portray that on the cover?  You’ve got a natural opportunity with a human figure in the center; could the side of the portal she’s leaving be behind her, and the other side in front of her?  Is one technological or urban, and the other agrarian?  At the very least, could they be different (but complementary) color schemes?

If the protagonist’s blindness is a major part of the story, could you indicate that on the cover?  Could she be wearing a blindfold or hood?

Even with all that, the fact that the title is a word that doesn’t have a concrete meaning for the audience is a problem.  Even a subtitle like “A Saga of Two Worlds” could help immensely.

Other comments?

Project Team Leadership and Communication

The designer says:

This is a textbook designed for students and business professionals who are entering into their first project leadership role. Chapters cover the basics of leadership and team dynamics, project fundamentals/management, stakeholder communication, and some common pitfalls to avoid. This cover should target students and early-career business professionals equally. Thanks in advance for your feedback!

Nathan says:

The two great things about textbooks:

  1. They’re not impulse buys.  An instructor, department head, etc. will carefully evaluate what text to use for his classes.  That means that the cover doesn’t have to carry as much weight in the persuasion process.
  2. Selling one individual on the book means that dozens of copies just got sold!

Because of those factors, as long as a textbook cover provides a clear title and space on the back to describe its merits, the rest is gravy.

That said, what I would be tempted to do here — and this may be just me — is add some red or orange to a few of the icons on the front, just for variety and a touch of warmth.

Other comments?

Thrill Kings: Fragmented Sky

The author says:

Impulsive young test driver of the world’s first interdimensional motorcycle, enlists the help of a terrified news-crew-intern to expose a murderous army colonel who is trying to steal the technology. Night of adventure/end of the world

My other cover. I’m having trouble picking between the two.

Nathan says:

If this were a graphic novel, I would definitely say go with the second one.  However, with a prose book that will be first seen at thumbnail size on Amazon and other sites, I think the first one has more “instant impact.”

Anyone disagree?

Quality DNA

The author says:

In 2059, every person’s DNA is recorded in the Genome Database. Even though Annette’s perfect baby girl was the product of a one night stand, she knows the database will give her the name of the sexy stranger who fathered her child. Instead, her baby’s DNA matches that of a man she’s never met who died several years ago. Irene works at the Social Department and is assigned Annette’s case. When more and more instances of births that don’t make sense and babies who shouldn’t exist cross her desk, she realizes there’s something deeper going on. Her investigation sucks her into a sinister organization with a single goal in mind. Misguided matchmaking. Deranged medical experiments. Outright terrorism. All in the name of finding one elusive thing: Quality DNA.

Nathan says:

This is the kind of cover that relies almost entirely on its ability to interest the eyeballs and make the potential reader stop in their browsing.  With that in mind, I think that the random color patterns detract and distract from the impact of the cover.

Sorry, I’m a little under the weather today, so I’ll let the rest of our cadre of helpful commenters helpfully comment.

Catslash

The author says:

In 1985, a modern-day witch casts a spell on a six-year-old boy who’d been annoying her that turns him into a black cat. Ten years later, he escapes the witch and takes up with a little six-year-old girl whose guardians are sexually abusing her. Starting with her rapists, anyone who wrongs his new owner or himself is going to be severely crippled or killed in mysterious “accidents” in the years and decades to come, with no one to stop him; for who in our skeptical modern society would ever suspect a cat of being the killer?

Basically, this is an urban fantasy with more than a little psychodrama-style horror to it, as we’re given a view of events that might occur in a horror movie through the eyes of the sympathetic “monster” killing off a whole slew of rather unsympathetic victims.

Nathan says:

Look at the books that urban fantasy readers buy. Look at the books that horror readers buy. Does your book look like either of those?

Urban fantasy books tend to have some indication (usually in the background) that the setting is present-day, and rely on color scheme and ornamentation (swirls, etc.) to indicate the presence of magic.

Horror books tend to rely on grungy textures in both image and font to flag their genre.

In contrast, your cover combines two flat image components in such a way that the cat is almost invisible at thumbnail size, and not much better at full size.  The font you’ve chosen does nothing but display the letters; it doesn’t pulls its weight in telling about the book.

Just take a look here and brainstorm, “If I want my book to be bought by the people who buy these books, what do I need to do differently?”

Mended Wings

The author says:

Mended Wings is a Young Adult novel that tells the inspirational story of a young woman’s recovery from a traumatic brain injury. Her name is Flicker, and she is a survivor. Her journey celebrates the dignity involved in making choices, and taking risks to achieve one’s goals. Readers cheer as they watch Flicker take flight.

Nathan says:

This isn’t a bad cover, but it inspires me to use one of the running gags from LousyBookCovers.com: “Photobombing woodpecker!”

I think there are some suboptimal decisions here.

  1. There are definitely covers which succeed with minimal spots of color in a largely monochromatic image, but they use the color as a focal point wihin the image. Here, the upper two-thirds of the cover is monochrome — then you suddenly have color with the title and with an image element which is entirely separate, in layout and content, than the main image.
  2. I would suspect that very, very few potential readers will be able to identify the bird as a red-shafted Northern Flicker (I had to google it), and without knowing that the bird is a flicker, the subtitle “A Flicker’s Tale” will make no sense — especially if they have read your description.  It will seems as nonsensical as “A William’s Tale.”
  3. Not as big a problem, but I think that the subtitle font clashes with the title and byline font; not similar enough to complement, but not a good contrast either.

So my main recommendation would be to work both the bird imagery and the spare use of color into the main body of the layout, instead of having them confined to one area as an afterthought.

Other comments?

The Promised One

The author says:

Javin Cox has a special ancestry which makes him the ‘One’ (or maybe One of Two) who can save all the races in the galaxy from being snuffed out. The problem is he knows nothing about it. And the Guardians who are supposed to watch over things can’t tell him anything because they’ve got troubles of their own.

Nathan says:

I know this is not what you want to hear, but there are more problems than successes here.

  1. Pyramids and planetoids don’t tell me anything about the setting.  Does this take place on Earth?  Other planets?  Vessels out in space?  Is it the present or the future?  Is is a sfi-fi-flavored coming-of-age story, military SF, mystical science-fantasy?  Dunno.
  2. Why is all of the type in italics?  It doesn’t accomplish anything.  The typeface is also very nonspecific; given that the image isn’t pulling its weight, the font needs to do more.
  3. Why is the series title so much larger than the book’s title?
  4. “Bestselling Author” — the fact that you don’t give a specific venue sets off bullshit detectors.  NY Times bestseller? USA Today?  Amazon overall?  Amazon itty-bitty category?  Given that the cover definitely isn’t what you would see on a “real” bestseller (NY Times or USA Today).  A laudatory quote or a tagline can do a lot more good than a vague “bestselling” claim.

Other comments?

The Rabbit Thief

The author says:

Set in 1840s New Hampshire, the novel is the story of Lucy Blunt, a maid convicted of the murder of the mistress of the house she had served. With weeks left until she will hang, she convinces a newspaper reporter to listen as she untangles the lies and secrets of her short life. Women’s historical fiction. Would appeal to readers of Sarah Waters and Emma Donoghue.

Nathan says:

It’s a very good layout. I only see two deficiencies:

  1. Sorry, but the resolution of the image you’ve got here is simply not high enough. Unless you just sent us a quick mock-up and the “real” version is much better, you’re going to have to find a higher-resolution image (or find an original historical photograph and scan it yourself at high resolution).
  2. As much as we poke fun at its random use, I this this is definitely one of the times when the subtitle “A Novel” would be appropriate.  Not only does it peg the book as fiction rather than nonfiction (there being no other clues on the cover), it also has the connotation of being a non-genre novel, and thus — rightly or wrongly — of greater literary merit.

Other comments?

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?

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