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Covers

First Ten Days in Heaven

The author says:

Michael Greyson awoke one morning feeling better than he had in years. Unfortunately, he soon learned he felt so good because he had died the day before. The upside to being dead was he made it to Heaven. The potential downside was he didn’t believe in Heaven, or God. Although Heaven is the last stop, Mike has one other option. This is a thoughtful story about being dead and Mike’s first ten days in heaven; helped by his guide Pete, no relation to the famous saint. Audience is baby boomers seeking a better understanding of the meaning of life. It’s literary fiction.

Nathan says:

I often joke that literary novels go out of their way to look like they’re about nothing, but in this case I think even that has been done to excess.  I understand not wanting to go “flashy” on the cover, but even with a muted and understated design, you could at least make the font a touch more eye-catching.  (And thicker; there’s no reason that the byline and accompanying credits need to be so hard to read.)

I’ll let others suggest font upgrades if they so choose — as far as I’m concerned, ANY clean, sedate typeface which is more easily read is an upgrade.

Have at it, folks!

Dirty Snow

The author says:

Dirty Snow is a contemporary erotic romance retelling of Snow White set in a made-up Kingdom. Target readers would be those who enjoy the stories of Madison Kaye and Nikki Sloane.

Nathan says:

It’s a good cover, but I don’t think it would appeal to what you say is your target audience.  I couldn’t find Madison Kaye on Amazon (probably some funky variant spelling), but this is what came up for Nikki Sloane:

…which is pretty much what I think of when I hear “erotic romance”: people gettin’ it on. And yes, a couple of the covers crop out most of all of the face to concentrate on the bodies.

If you search “erotic romance fantasy” on Amazon, the covers are a little different: most of them concentrate on male torsos, not female figures (and yes, almost all of the men’s heads are cut off).  They also go bolder on the colors — bolder than your misty pastels, and the direct opposite of the monochrome images on Sloane’s covers.

So my takeaway here is: If I were to design the cover of an erotic fantasy romance that appeals to Nikki Sloane readers, I would use an image of a couple in an intimate position, but use deep, engaging colors.

Other comments?

Hunt

The author says:

This is for the first book in my YA urban fantasy series. I’m trying to go for a more urban fantasy/paranormal feel than the current cover. It’s set in the city and follows a teenage girl who has the power to control water and who is being chased by a Demon (she finds out later in the series that she’s an angel). It’s pretty comparable to the Mortal Instruments in tone and content.

Nathan says:

Having read the description, I can therefore make the connection that what I’m seeing around her is water.  However, for people who see the cover before they read the description, 98% of them will wonder if that’s some sort of bio-luminescent ectoplasm… and won’t click through to find out if they’re right.  Confusion does not equal interest.

I think you’re probably heading in the right direction overall, but you’re not there yet.  The model pose isn’t dynamic or active, the water doesn’t looks like water (as mentioned), the title font is a terribly dull Times-New-Roman-esque filler font (there’s only so much that filters and ornamentation can do to make a fundamentally boring font less boring), and the color scheme doesn’t look planned so much as discovered.

If I were hired to make a cover from this concept, I’d use stock photos of actual water that come up from the bottom as if the waves are magnetically attracted to her hands, find a font with just a titch of antique feel for the title (and extend it from side to side), and use the actual Mortal Instruments covers as a model for overlaying a consistent color scheme.

(Apropos of nothing: Chrome’s built-in spellchecker doesn’t know the word “ectoplasm,” but is just fine with “titch.”)

Other comments?

Double Dealing in Dubuque

The author says:

Double Dealing in Dubuque is a contemporary novel influenced by the noir mysteries of the past. Frank Dodge gets an assignment to write about the growing appetite for boutique food in the Midwest. When a fire breaks out at the food convention he’s attending in Dubuque, Iowa, two people die. Dodge suspects the real cause is being covered up by city officials. As he investigates, he gets drawn into a bitter dispute between two of the area’s craft food royalty, all while trying to fight off a rival writer intent on undermining his work. Double-Dealing in Dubuque delves into what can go wrong when feuds get out of hand. The book will appeal to fans of writers like Nevada Barr, William Kent Krueger, and Dana Stabenow. Peggy Nehmen created the cover art.

Nathan says:

I love it when submissions here include specific writers whose audience is the same audience.  That allows me to go to Amazon and see a gallery of their current covers.

Nevada Barr:

William Kent Krueger:

Dana Stabenow:

The first thing that jumps out at me? Crisp, clear, THIN contemporary fonts.  Stabenow’s are the only ones that even use any serif fonts, and even they are both clear and thin. My takeaway from this is that your faux-typewriter font isn’t going to signal to your target readers that this book is for them, and the distress on the title is another false step.

The second thing I see is a lot of high-contrast cover images, with the text both dominant and stark in its contrast with the image, whereas yours concentrates on midtones and avoids areas of high contrast.

The third thing I see is that only seven of the fifteen covers above feature a human figure at all, and the only ones that could be said to feature a “portrait” are Stabenow’s “Kate Shugak” series book — and a little bit of checking shows me that those are reissue covers, not the covers that originally introduced the character.  So I’m going to say from those examples that having fully a third of your cover space taken up with the bust portrait of the dude with the hat is the wrong way to go.

Your designer obviously has the technical skills to put a cover together; now you need to put your heads together to come up with a cover concept which targets your intended audience.

Other comments?

The Psychic and the Priest

The author says:

Hidden truths and new found strength have brought this unlikely pair together, and together Annie and Asha are a powerful duo. But will their magic be enough to take on an evil seeking vengeance, willing to do anything to get what they want, even if it means making a deal with the devil himself. Even with new revelations unfolding and new alliances being formed, going up against the powerful demon, Damarcus won’t be easy. Sacrifices will need to be made, lines will be crossed and loved ones will meet their demise as they take on evil in hopes of saving their kind and each other. Will they win or will they meet their demise?

Nathan says:

You’ve got the basics down, but the execution has some problems.

  1. While the byline is clearly readable in thumbnail, only the main words of the title are; I think just about anybody who saw the thumbnail first would conclude the title is “Psychic Priest.”
  2. The overlapping faces are confusing; the male face is cut off at his left cheek, as if the female face were in in the foreground — but the male face is so much bigger, the brain says, “Wait a sec, that can’t be right…”  The demon merely becomes “image noise” at thumbnail, and the other unidentifiable lays just make it murkier.
  3. Neither your cover nor your description give me any idea of setting.  Is this contemporary urban fantasy?  Second-world fantasy?  Historical fantasy?  Is this a pastoral or an urban setting?  A large part of the appeal of fantasy is the milieu against which the magical events take place — somewhere, you gotta give that to the potential reader.  (And there’s a lot of other text in your description which basically means, “Stuff happens, but I’m not gonna tell you about it here” — you could excise that to make room for some concrete details.)

Other comments?

The White Raven

The author says:

The White Raven is contemporary fantasy/magical realism with just a splash of romance about a cursed witch, set in modern times, who is shadowed by a white raven. The main plot deals with the mysterious connection between the heroine and the white raven, and whether it’s the cause of her curse or the instrument of her release. It’s an adult novel targeted to women mostly. **This cover is a draft to replace my existing cover that I already know is not working.**

Nathan says:

I love it.

Seriously.

The only things I would be tempted to do are (1) find a way to make the byline clearer in thumbnail, either by increasing the contrast or enlarging it a little bit, and (2) making the white raven emerging from the back of her head (now there’s a phrase I never expected to have occasion to write) just a little bigger, so that it “reads” as a bird easier in thumbnail.

But I love it.

Other comments?

The Eden Conspiracy [resubmit]

The author says:

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. A reworked cover previously shown here (http://covercritics.com/?p=1686). It is a quick mockup using free sample images.

[original submission and comments here]

Nathan says:

Definitely bullseyeing the “international thriller with archaeological overtones” subgenre.

My three comments:

  1. Make sure there’s enough contrast between the text and the background for it to be readable; as you can see in the thumbnail, even the largest words on the cover tend to blur into the background.  At the very least, add an outline, drop shadow, or dark outer glow.
  2. I’d suggest more space between byline and title.  Having them so close together may lead people to believe that “The Eden Conspiracy” is a volume in the”Thomas Cooper” series.
  3. You’ll want to play some more with the size relationship of the gunman to the background — some people might realize, given the relative size of the man to the handrails, that we’re dealing with an armed hobbit here.

Other than that, well done.

More comments?

Gladness Goes to the City [resubmit]

The author says:

Reprinting, with my comment and explanation, of a series of fanciful drawings and narratives by a leading newspaper artist of the 1910s.

[original submission and comments here]

Nathan says:

It looks like you made good use of the comments from last time around.  Good job!

I don’t think the typeface for “A Marguerite Martyn Book” works; everything else on the cover, while pediod-specific, is fresh and clean as if it just rolled off a sparkly printing press.  Adding a distressed font to that mix is jarring. (I’m also of two minds about the maroon-tone font color. At the very least, add an outline or drop shadow to separate it slightly from the aquamarine background.

I think you could also stand to enlarge your byline — not enough that it seems crowded, but enough so that it doesn’t seem to be the most unimportant part of the cover.

Other comments?

Programming Fundamentals in JavaScript

The author says:

A textbook for a college freshman level computer programming course. The goal of the book is to teach programming fundamentals, and it uses JavaScript to do that. This is different from some textbooks which are written to to teach JavaScript.  I am interested in the feedback from others about the comic on the back, which I freely admit is “art for a refrigerator”. However, I wonder if it is appropriate for the audience of the book.

Nathan says:

This is… dull.

Not that a programming primer is supposed to be whiz-bang exciting, but “clean and straightforward” doesn’t mean that it needs to be dull.  Take a look at the other programmings books on Amazon, and take note of the common factors:

  • clear, solid type
  • a simple but pleasant color scheme
  • explanatory subtitles
  • a simple central image

Your cover definitely has clear type, but it falls down on the rest.  And given the description you give above, I think even the title works against you — it still looks like a text on the basics of programming JavaScript itself, and the minimal description on the back does nothing to clarify that.  Something that separate the concepts better — “Using JavaScript to Learn Programming Fundamentals,” “The Fundamentals of Programming: Using Javascript Examples,” etc. — would help.  Then use a subtitle of the length of your back-cover description to explain more fully: “Understand the core concepts of all computer programming, using JavaScript as an example.”  And then put something substantive on the back cover: How this book approaches the subject differently than others, what exactly is covered, and why you’re qualified to explain this.

I think the idea of the cartoon is fine (the art, as you note, isn’t professional-grade), provided that there are some lighthearted moments of wit in the book — if it’s entirely dry-as-toast, then including the cartoon on the cover is false advertising.

Other comments?

Walking on Air

The author says:

This is the continuation of the book “Breaking the Edge“. Still on the same genre as it is, sport-romance YA-NA, but this time, around dancing. It was said that “Breaking the Edge” was lacking of the ‘romantic’ feeling inside the cover, so I think of something like this?

Nathan says:

Yeah, I’m thinking you’ve definitely got “romantic” covered.

I can see that you deliberately kept the typefaces for both the title and byline, and good for you. That kind of continuity between books in a series is essential for branding.  I don’t know if you changed the position of the byline on the Breaking the Edge cover; if not, you should put the byline in the same place on this cover as well.

Breaking the Edge had a limited color palette — not artificially, but simply because that was the nature of the photograph. I’d suggest that you use a similarly muted color scheme here: have the skin tones be the only vibrant colors here, and desaturate the rest of the cover to a large degree. Breaking the Edge also had distinct grain to the photo; I’d try to mimic that here, to maintain visual continuity.

Other comments?

 

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