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The Worst Man on Mars [resubmit]

The author says:

This is a resubmission for ‘The Worst Man on Mars’

[original submission and comments]

Nathan says:

I like the concept of this one a lot more — there’s both humor and action in the image.

Here’s what I’d do to tweak it:

  • Reduce the size of the main astronaut a little, and the background astronauts more.
  • Move the Mars horizon further up.
  • Find a taller font (or a taller version of the font) for the title, so that the title is more discernible in the thumbnail. Ditto for the byline, which is unreadable at thumbnail and still not easily read at full size. (That’s one of the reasons for moving the horizon up — you’ll have more room for bigger letters.)
  • Reduce the beveling on the text, and instead work on contrast with the background.
  • Find better places for the pullquote and subtitle; as it is, they look like they were crammed in there as an afterthought.

Other suggestions?


The author says:

It has been 50 years since humans were introduced to the fantastic beings that shared their galaxy. Technology has been thrust to futuristic depths, producing an elaborate space station that orbits Earth where Tara lives with her mother and sister. But it is not quite the melting pot of cultures that idealists had hoped for. A tragedy on Earth pushes Tara and her family to abandon everything they know to escape being tied into the conspiracy. But who labeled them as traitors in the first place? As they run deeper into uncharted space, the mystery grows as thick as the tangles of trouble they find themselves in.

Nathan says:

Honestly, I can’t that title. I’m not being hyperbolic for emphasis; I literally have no idea what it says. THIS IS A PROBLEM, especially because your synopsis doesn’t give me any clues. Readers simply won’t buy your book if they can’t read your title.

Given that you only sent a small version of the cover, I can’t tell if the texture on the face is an interesting effect or the consequence of scanning a too-small image from printed material.  However, I can tell you that the story you describe — intrigue aboard a space station and beyond — isn’t really indicated by the cover.  If it weren’t for the angular (unreadable) title font, I would assume that this is fantasy or nhew-agey paranormal fiction.

My advice to you:

COMMUNICATE with your cover. Make it readable, and make it reflect the story, so that the people who would like your novel will realize from the cover that this book is for them.

Death Divers

The author says:

A small group of death Divers (hazmat equipped salvagers) pit wits against a group of armed mercenaries to retrieve an artifact from an irradiated and abandoned part of future Earth.

Nathan says:

Oh, goodie! I am totally the target audience for a book like this, so I can speak with even more authority than normal.

  1. The tan overlay makes everything murky.  I appreciate that you’re trying to limit the color palette, but there should still be enough highlights and lowlights to make it stand out.  (You’ve got the lowlights handled.)
  2. But the image itself isn’t very evocative; in fact, without the tan, it wouldn’t seem post-apocalyptic at all — none of the buildings seem ruined at first glance.
  3. I don’t propound “Always have people on the cover” as a hard-and-fast rule, but in this case, where your story isn’t just “someone wanders around the wasteland” but a conflict between two groups of people, there should be some hint of conflict or violence on the cover.
  4. Even at full size, the byline blurs into the background; in thumbnail, it’s almost hidden.

I think you might want to start over with a different image. The good news is that there are plenty of photos and digital paintings of armed people against a post-apocalyptic setting out there, and I bet you wouldn’t have any trouble finding a photographer or artist willing to let you use their work on an ebook cover for twenty or thirty bucks.

Other comments?

Hell of a Deal

The author says:

Paul is a dealer in demonic contracts, a middle-man selling safe deals, deluded that he is a master of the dark arts. A seriously hot uber-witch tries to kill him as the start of a hostile management restructuring from the demons who need to replenish their human livestock. Paul is caught in the battle between the demons, an obscure Church sect (led by the uber-witch’s crazed and violent sister), and the other demon traders in town who think he’s playing for the wrong side. It’s not a good time, but Paul also wants a date with the psycho witch. Paul is just trying to survive – he’s already died once and come back, but you only get one do-over like that. As his friends are drawn into the fight there is no way out, and once the demons complete their planned acquisition, his sacrifice is needed to get everyone home again.

Genre: Urban Fantasy with a touch of dark humour

Target: Adult – a lighter tone for fans of Mike Carey’s Felix Castor series, or Richard Cadrey’s Sandman Slim, with a hint of Pratchett and Gaiman’s “Good Omens”

Nathan says:

I can see what you were going for here, but too many little problems add up for a big problem.

  1. The title is too small (there’s nothing in the background that shouldn’t be covered up), and the gradient through it makes it harder to read in thumbnail.  It also clashes with the background.
  2. The filter effect for the main photo muddies the contrast instead of heightening it. It looks like you rebooted your computer in safe mode.
  3. The glowing Greek letters on the wall end up being the only part of the image aside from the title and byline that draw the eye — but the photo is arranged so that there’s a human figure dead center.  The result is that nothing is dominant in the image; it becomes focus-less.
  4. The human figure… It’s not clear, but it’s not a mysterious silhouette; it’s just indistinct.  The pose doesn’t convey dynamism, or strength, or humor; it’s boring.
  5. The edges between the midground (with the strongly filtered effect) and the background (rendered in an entirely different visual style) are distinct and artificial.
  6. The fonts you chose are all different sans serif fonts — not close enough to be unified in their effect, not far enough to contrast effectively.  They seem like fonts that just happened, instead of fonts that were deliberately chosen.

Take a look at your cover in thumbnail, and compare it to the thumbnails for covers from Mike Carey and Jim Butcher: stark and bold typography, strong contrasts, narrow color schemes.  This is how readers of books like yours understand that the book is for them. Go and do likewise.

Other comments?

Joe Coffin: Season One

The author says:

Setting: Birmingham UK, the present.

Genre: Horror/Crime

Target Audience: Fans of Stephen King and TV show Dexter

On the day that Joe Coffin, hitman for Birmingham gang The Slaughterhouse Mob, is released from jail he has nothing but murder on his mind. While inside his wife and young son were killed, and now he is out for bloody revenge. The problem is, Coffin’s enemies are circling, and his wife might not be quite as dead as she should be. Joe Coffin is a vampire horror story and a gritty gangster thriller, written TV style in episodes and seasons. If you liked Breaking Bad and Dexter, and if you prefer your vampires bloody and brutal, then you will love Joe Coffin. With a fast paced, multi character storyline, smart dialogue and great characters, the Joe Coffin books are written to be binge consumed, just like those TV shows you love.

Nathan says:

Know what the first thing that leapt out at my was? You’ve got an unattributed Amazon review front and center on your cover. GET RID OF IT. Pullquotes are only valuable if they carry authority with the reader, and “some random reviewer on Amazon” does not have authority.  While we’re at it, if you can’t put an actual name to the second pullquote, at least attribute it to the website instead of just the site name; that way, readers feel that they could actually check on the review if they wanted.

Second: Aside from the fact that two nameless people liked it, I can tell very little about the book from the cover. Yes, I get that it’s violent, but aside from that, nothing. Now, it’s not necessary to convey setting or storyline on the cover, but there’s got to be something that draws the interest of the potential reader — something to catch the eye.  Especially when your book is going to be first seen by most potential readers at thumbnail size, there needs to be something that registers on their consciousness as a thing of interest.  As it is, the only things that register instantly at thumbnail size are “Coffin” and “Season One” (even “Joe” takes a second to register, as it’s smaller and against a deeper red of the blotch).

I’m not talking about cutting and pasting an extraneous object into the layout.  What could be a part of the bloody background? A shoeprint? Pocketknife? Cigarette butt? Broken crucifix?  Something that relates to your story, sure, but also — and more importantly — something that the right brain (the non-verbal side) can focus on.

So: Lost the first pullquote (and maybe even the second one), increases the size and contrast of “Joe,” give a little bit of space so that “Joe Coffin” and “Season One” can be read as discrete phrases, and use the space between the byline and title to add a feature of visual interest.

Other suggestions?


The author says:

A Fanfiction writen on the Watch_Dogs game franchise* It started in late 2014, the second assassianation attempt didn’t go as planned, leading the Fox and his hitwoman into a rabbithole of the company 1337 Electronics.(Go harsh, I’m new to this.)

Nathan says:

I know nothing about Watch_Dogs, the fan community thereof, or how fanfic is normally published in that unknown country.  So my comments are confined to basic design concerns:

  • I like it — the thin lettering, which is normally hard to see at thumbnail size, is surprisingly clear against the white sky.
  • Color? Any color? I’d probably add a gradient red near the base of the buildings that fades out as the buildings get higher.
  • Make your name/handle bigger — there’s no reason for it to be completely unreadable in thumbnail.

Anyone got some expertise in the field to lend?

Get That Job! The Quick and Complete Guide to a Winning Interview

The author says:

Get That Job! The Quick and Complete Guide to a Winning Interview is packed with all you need to get ready for the best interview of your life. Through proven interview tips and step-by-step instructions, you will learn to:

✔ Identify and communicate the unique strengths that make you the right person for the job.
✔ Understand why employers ask many of the most common interview questions – and how to answer with confidence.
✔ Succeed with video interviews, behavioral interviews and panels.
✔ Build an arsenal of success stories – more than you think you have!
✔ Ace every step – from the first screening to accepting the offer.

“A practical guide to authentic, well prepared interviewing, Get That Job! offers an abundant tool kit of resources – including great answers to challenging questions every job seeker is sure to encounter. Kudos!” –Marie Zimenoff, Director of Career Thought Leaders and the Resume Writing Academy


Nathan says:

Honestly, I’ve got no suggestions. It looks fine to me as-is. Over to you, hive-brain!

Falling For Mr. Nice Guy

The author says:

A contemporary romance for Young Adults set in the Caribbean nation of Belize. Adam Lockwood is bamboozled into a date with an escort– who doesn’t seem to approve of her own job. Through a series of adventures, they draw closer and fall in love.

Nathan says:

First up: If it’s set in the Caribbean, why am I not seeing any indication of that?  Romantic novels are a form of escapist entertainment, and that means that the exotic setting is a big part of its draw. I should see sunny beaches or colorful Mayan ruins or something in that big blank area.

Second: Because the cursive font for “Falling For” is less easily readable than the font in which the byline and rest of the title is rendered, the eye (and the attention behind it) has to linger longer on it to decipher it, with the unintentional result that it gains more emphasis.  In the reader’s mind, the title becomes “FALLING FOR Mr. Nice Guy.”

My suggestions:

  • Move the byline up to the upper left, put “Falling For” in the same readable font, and render “Mr. Nice Guy” in the cursive font — or better yet, a similar cursive font which is both heavier (thus making it more readable in thumbnail) and less ornate (ditto).
  • Add something colorful and tropical in that unused area thus created by moving the byline up.

Other suggestions?


Hunger – A Thrilling Suspense

The author says:

HUNGER -A Thrilling Suspense

Adam was a satisfied New Yorker until he receives a suspectable letter of his grandmother from Pakistan, requesting him to visit her to know the truth about his thrilling past, his insatiable Hunger begins. Will he satisfy his hunger?

Iman is dejected by her life, yet she wanted to save her marriage. will she be able to save it? or a new chapter in her life awaits?

It’s adventure, drama, thriller and suspense plus with a little hint of family and love. Target audience is everyone who lovery thriller with travel and adventure. My primary objective to write the book was to tell the world positive aspects of Pakistan. As I am a proud Pakistani myself. At the beginning it’s set in new York where Adam finds our about his grandmother travels to Pakistan to meet her. Then it goes back to his parents story connecting Adam himself with it. at the end the story takes a seven year leap and the action thickens.

Nathan says:

All automatic cover generators and their templates have problems, and this one is no exception.  Here are the main problems with this template:

  • There is a metric ton of wasted space.  Look at the thumbnail; we can barely read the title, and the subtitle and byline are only a few pixels each, but golly do we see a lot of blue-gray background!
  • I assume that the font is one of only a few options given for this template. It’s completely wrong for thrilling suspense.
  • Coming back to the byline; seriously, who would want their name to be so small?

Those are all complaints directly related to the template itself.  Now here are some complaints about your use of it:

  • “A Thrilling Suspense”?  Yes, “suspense” is technically a noun, but as a descriptor of a book it functions as an adjective.  It should be “A Thrilling Suspense Story” or “A Thrilling Suspense Novel” or something.
  • Blue-grey, and more blue-grey, are not thrilling colors.  Look at how other suspense novels broadcast their genre: Lots of high-contrast color and strong type.  (And no frames.)
  • On the other hand, the story you describe on the back cover isn’t a thrilling suspense story. It’s a family drama.  You either need to change the subtitle on the front, or include the actually thrilling parts of the story on the back.
  • If all of this is about Pakistani heritage, why is there no hint of it in the imagery?  A guy sitting in a tree isn’t specifically Pakistani. (Also not thrilling.)

I think you’d be better off by scrapping this and starting over from these questions:

  1. What do I want my potential audience to comprehend in the first split-second of seeing the cover?  (I think the answers are “suspense” and “Pakistan,” unless you decide that “suspense” is really not a primary descriptor of your story, in which case “drama” and “Pakistan” would be the answers.)
  2. How do you visually say “suspense” to potential readers? (Again, look at the covers of other successful suspense novels to see how readers of suspense novels are used to being marketed to.)
  3. How do you visually say “Pakistani” to potential readers who will likely not be Pakistani?  (I’m assuming here that your target audience is a broader one than simply Pakistani-Americans.) A Google image search for “pakistani culture” shows me lots of bright colors, intricate designs, and Islamic imagery. If you’re not using some combination of those elements, you’re not telling us about the book at all.

I think the evidence says that thinking in terms of visual design and impact is not your skill set.  There’s no shame in an author admitting that they don’t have experience in design, and instead turning to someone who does have that skill set.  You should probably look around for a designer to work with.

Other thoughts?

Sax Club

The author says:

Historical fiction of the tough times in Detroit in the 1970s. A poker group meets once a month at the Sax Club and always stops for a dink and view before heading up to the poker room. Members of the group including a police sargeant, are key players in confronting the mafia’s strong hold on the city. They are the “Thorn Birds of Detroit.”

Nathan says:

So is it a crime novel? A buddy novel? I can’t tell from the description whether the main story takes place inside or outside the club (the cover definitely wants me to believe “inside”).

And is the title “Sax Club”?  Or is it “Sax Club: Thorn Birds of Detroit Confront Mafia”?  I would strongly advise the first, and then just dropping (or at least both downplaying and rewriting) the subtitle, as it confuses more than it elucidates.

It’s obvious, and thus detracting, that the neon font has been “squished” to fit in the space… and it’s then confusing that the “Thorn Birds of Detroit” logo also glows just like the neon.

I think that, with a stripper photo, your cover will get a lot of second glances. But then your potential customers will come away without knowing what story you’re telling, and move on to the next book instead of reading the back cover copy.  You need to remember the most essential part of designing a cover: Remember who your target audience is, and concentrate on letting that target audience know that this is a book aimed at them.

(This is a side note, but I don’t know if a ’70s setting qualifies as “historical.” “Period,” yes, but most people don’t consider living memory to be “historical.”)

Other comments?


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