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Sundrop Sonata

The author says:

Sundrop Sonata is a contemporary woman-and-child-on-the-run suspense novel featuring a heroine whose skills as a piano turner both trip the action and eventually resolve it…The widest target audience would be women readers who are looking for something different in mystery and suspense novels or who have a music background/interest.

Sundrop Sonata Cover

Sundrop Sonata Cover

Nathan says:

I think it’s a good cover, but not for the book you describe. (BTW, I assume “piano turner” is a typo, unless we’ve started rotating them like crops.)  At best, it could be mistaken for a “cozy” mystery; at worst — and more likely — readers would assume that it’s a memoir, or litfic.  The “A Novel of Suspense” sub/supertitle doesn’t make up for the fact that there’s no suspense in the cover.

And what does “suspense” look like?  At its most basic, it looks like something is wrong with the world.  Too many shadows, or too stark, or lighting that says that something is out of kilter. The photo for the cover of your book is the opposite — it looks like everything’s perfect.

Now, here’s what I did in five minutes, playing with exposure and saturation and a couple of filters.  I’m not saying this is a good cover, but I think it shows that making things look a little less “perfect” and “right” is good.

Sundrop Sonata Cover

Again: Not a good cover. But I hope it indicates the possibilities.  If I were working with the original photo, I’d be playing with things like having the girl be the only red tone on the cover, adding some scratch marks, playing with a heavier, grittier font… I hope this gives you some ideas.

Anyone else?

This Friday: The Cover Critic, in person!

This Thursday through Saturday (February 11th through 13th), I’ll be participating in Life, the Universe & Everything (aka “LTUE”), a slightly fannish symposium on science fiction and fantasy held in Provo, Utah.  On top of having some items in the art show, participating in discussion panels, and barking sudden nuggets of wisdom to bewildered random passers-by, on Friday at 5pm I’ll be giving a presentation on “Book Cover Design for Self-Publishers.”  If you’re local and you don’t participate in LTUE, you’re missing out on so much I can’t tell you.

Sparkle

The author says:

Contemporary fantasy with some horror elements.


scoutcover4

scoutcover4

Nathan says:

Hmm.  Lotta problems here, and I don’t know which to address first.

First, I suppose, is that the main image is composed of elements in disparate styles which don’t blend well together.  You’ve got an over-processed (and poorly composited) photograph of a house in the middle of a digital sketch.  They look like they were thrown together not by design, but by desperation.

The digital sketch is a problem by itself, because it looks just like what it is: A hasty sketch. Lord knows I love sketch artwork, but this is too scribbly to be much more than a guide for a later, more controlled rendition.  And the scribbled details to either side look almost like digital graffiti — they distract without adding anything.

I could go into font choices and such, but I think you’ve gotta correct the main image before any other repairs make sense.

Am I wrong? Other opinions?

Bethany

The author says:

Experimental literature in the key of science fiction. Are you reading or being read? Are you the character or the author? Are you the created creating their creator? Ponder these questions and more as you are taken through a labyrinth of false memories, alternative timelines with an overly maternal Artificial Intelligence.

bethany cover maybe

bethany cover maybe

Nathan says:

I’m in a little bit of a bind here, because “experimental literature” usually means it’s willfully obscure and isn’t meant to appeal to most people… so a cover that does just that is right on target.  You can’t represent genre, story content, etc. on the cover, because the book is meant to defy expectations.

So by those standards, um… I guess it’s good.

Seriously, I’m gonna defer to the other commenters on this one.

 

November 17

The author says:

When Bre Collins family tells her to leave a week after her brothers death she devastated. They blame her for it. But, the thing is, they’re right.

Cover2

Cover2

Nathan says:

Playing it a little close to the vest, aren’t we?  The CoverCritics submission instructions say:

Tell us where and when it’s set, what the genre is, who the target audience is…

I can’t tell from your description what the story is about, who the prospective readers are, or even what the genre is.  I can tell from your description that apostrophes frighten you, and I hope that the actual text of the book is better edited.

Looking at the cover simply as a piece of design work, it’s clean and well-composed… but again, I can’t tell genre or intended readership.  From thumbnail size, I can’t even see the authors’ names; I’m not one of those people that insists the byline must be readable at thumbnail size, but I should at least be able to tell that the text is there.  Why?  Because if all I can see is “November 17,” I can’t even identify it as a book cover.

I think you need to take another look at the cover and, while keeping the strong and clear aspects of its design, ask yourself: “How will readers who would like the novel know from the cover that it’s for them?”

Other suggestions, please.

Arenia & the Golden Key

The author says:

Arenia is a shy, young woman troubled with fears and insecurities living an ordinary life in a big city. All that is about to change when she falls into an illusive world, where reality is dreamlike and surreal. As she searches for a way back home, she embarks on a journey encountering bizarre and deadly creatures at every turn. Arenia must distinguish between what is real and what is illusion if she is to survive. She must learn to make choices between fear and courage, between risk and comfort . . . or someone else will make them for her.

Blending myths & legends, dream and reality into an inspiring tale of self-discovery and transformation, ARENIA & The Golden Key is for readers, both men and women, across all generations. Whose author’s readers would it appeal to? Paulo Coelho, “The Alchemist”. For readers that enjoy fiction (Metaphysical & Visionary) with inspirational life lessons.

Thank you very much for your help! Much appreciated.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000446_00069]

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000446_00069]

Nathan says:

I have no complaints about the artwork.  (Well, the cobra isn’t obviously a cobra at first glance, but aside from that…)  So let’s work on bringing the type up to the level of the illustration.

I think the biggest problem is that you have the byline where the title should be and vice versa.  The top of the illustration is render in more consistently dark tones, which means that the title will stand out better.  And even if you end up obscuring the cat and bluejay, it’s still a better choice than trying to squeeze the text across her collarbone.

I also think you need to reconsider the font and type treatment.  Spaced type can sometimes work well, but usually when, again, it’s in front of a background with which it contrasts strongly.  Where you’ve got it, you realized that you needed an extra element to help the type distinguish itself from the background so you added the drop shadow, but the end result of spacing and drop shadow is that the letters look too disassociated from each other.  (A slightly — slightly — more ornate typeface on the title wouldn’t hurt either.)

I would also suggest that, as your name is very unlike most names in the English-speaking world, it’s not immediately recognizable as a byline.  Adding “A Fantasy Novel by” just over it will eliminate that confusion.

Since you’ve given us the back cover too, I’ll say that the same drop shadow problem exists here.  My solution would be to put a solid or mostly solid square behind the type, which would allow you to get rid of the drop shadow and tighten up the line spacing, so that your solid square doesn’t overlap onto the peacock.  (There’s a sentence I couldn’t ever predict I would type.)  And of course, put something in that big blank spot at the bottom of the back cover.

I feel like I’m missing something, but that’s what I can depend on the other commenters for.  Ideas?

Time With God

The author says:

The book is designed for the Christian who longs to love God with all their heart but needs a little help. This is the first in a series and focuses on spending time with God in prayer.

Time with God CreateSpace Cover3a

Time with God CreateSpace Cover3a

Nathan says:

There’s nothing wrong with what you have here.  (Well, it does seem like a lot of text on the back cover, but…)  But it would be easy to make it so much better.

If I were to look at the cover without reading the text, I’d assume it’s a nonfiction book (check) of an instructional variety (check) about time management (sorta check).  But I would assume it to be dry and functional.  Where’s the joy?

Here’s what I’d do:

  • Add some slight texture to the blue background.  I’d probably play with it so it was really only visible at the edges.
  • Change the font in at least a couple of instances — the word “God” and the byline.  It doesn’t have to be a big, flowery cursive that’s hard to read, but something with a bit more elegance and beauty.

Other suggestions?

3AM Nightmares

The author says:

A trio of short Stories inspired by my nightmares (hence the 3 AM nightmares). Nothin’ more complicated than that really.

3am_nightmares

3am_nightmares

Nathan says:

Well done.  If I saw this in passing on Amazon, I’d have no criticisms.  Since I’m supposed to offer suggestions, I might throw out things like widening and moving “Nightmares” down so it doesn’t overlap “3AM” and seeing how that looks, but that’s only idle tweaks.

Anyone got a more substantive suggestion?  I think it’s fine as it is.

The Eyes in the Gingerbread House

The author says:

A middle-grade to YA satire about government and digital security in the U.S. involving an evil Santa Claus. It’s mainly fantasy with a bit of sci-fi, set in a future Canada where Santa is real and runs a global Christmas operation. It is NOT dystopian by any means. It’s just normal Canada with some slight interference from Santa’s surveillance department. One line pitch: After a school trip to the North Pole goes awry, revealing some unpleasant truths, a twelve-year-old aspiring journalist and her friends must find a way to bring down Santa’s global surveillance operation. Just FYI, because I have a feeling somebody is going to jump to this conclusion: The red background is purely for aesthetics, as well as to invoke the imagery of candy canes (a fairly important part of the plot). It is in no way related to Russia, Communism, or any other western ideas of totalitarianism. The book is criticizing the U.S. Thanks!

6

6

Nathan says:

You lost me at “middle-grade.”

Seriously, there’s nothing here that indicates that the book is meant for a middle-grade-to-YA audience.  Even more than us adults (and that’s saying something), young readers pick up on the visual cues of covers to immediately understand that, of the books on display (either in a real bookstore or on an Amazon page), this one is aimed at them.  And what clues them in?:

  • A colorful, “fun” illustration of an interesting scene that portrays human figures, including the protagonists (so that the readers can identify the protagonists as someone in an age group they identify with)
  • Easily read type

By contrast, your cover includes type which cannot be read at anything less than full size, simplified icons instead of an illustration, a limited color scheme, and no human figures.  The red which you meant to evoke candy canes doesn’t, because (a) candy canes aren’t striped like that, and (b) at smaller sizes, it just becomes a solid red background.

If I saw your cover in thumbnail on an Amazon page — which is where most readers will first encounter your book — I would probably assume that it’s a nonfiction book with something to do with home surveillance systems.

As I’ve recommended before for books aimed at young readers, I say: Pony up for custom artwork, from someone who’s got experience in book covers for that audience.  Otherwise, your target audience will never know it exists.

Other thoughts?

Phoenix Afterlife

The author says:

This book was released in October with the cover as shown. I guess I thought most readers were like me: more interested in the description on the back than the picture on the front. Apparently I guessed wrong, and I’d like to come up with a new cover. This is primarily a literary story about the nature of consciousness and what makes us human, but the genre is near-term hard science fiction (emerging tech, not spaceships or time travel). Thanks for any suggestions for improvement.

phoenix-afterlife-500

phoenix-afterlife-500

Nathan says:

Before we get to the design particulars of your cover, I want to address your marginally passive-aggressive comments on covers in general.

You may have noticed that there are, like, a LOT of books competing for each reader’s attention. Wikipedia says that in 2013, over 300,000 books were published or republished in the U.S. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have the time to reserve judgment until I’ve read the back covers of 300,000 books; I have to use other clues and cues to narrow down the books in which I might conceivably be interested.

In other words, I need to be able to instantly gauge the interest factors shown on the cover for genre and style to guess if I want to bother reading the back cover.

For self-published books, the cover serves an additional purpose: it can present the book as a professional-grade work, as worthy of the attention of your readers as something published in New York.  Despite all of the rote repetitions of “don’t judge a book by its cover,” readers use the covers of self-published books to tell them if the author/publisher is sufficiently self-aware and self-critical to understand what actually looks good and appealing for a book cover — because an indie author who decides, through a combination of hubris and ignorance, to use an amateurish cover for his book probably has used that same combination of hubris and ignorance in judging whether the contents of said book are ready to compete for money with professionally published works.

Conclusion: The cover is important.  It is absolutely the first impression available to 99.9% of your potential readers, and you can’t afford to screw up that first impression.

So, on to your cover in particular:

  • I can’t tell by glancing at it — which is all the exposure most readers will have to it initially — its genre, or even whether it’s fiction or nonfiction.  I can’t tell if it’s cozy or gritty, challenging or easily-read.
  • The two main image elements — a photograph of snow mountains and a texture-filled silhouette of a phoenix — don’t seem to relate to each other in any way; they’re just random images, and not presented particularly evocatively.
  • The standard serif font is likewise not evocative.  You can convey a lot in the typeface, but this one doesn’t tell me anything.

Rather than try to reverse-engineer your present cover to meet the role of a book cover, I’d advise you to do some market research:

  • Find a half-dozen books which you would expect to appeal to readers of your novel.
  • Take careful note of any common elements among the covers, and how elements of the design convey the differences between them.
  • Sketch out a cover with an eye toward trying to appeal to those readers.

Good luck!

Any other comments?

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