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Month – May 2015

Invivo

The author says:

Invivo is a love story of honor, remorse and revenge, and one man who sacrifices everything to fulfill a promise. The story opens in a small university town in Scotland. Dr. Harold Spencer is arguing with his wife Shelly. She wants a child. He does not. Harold’s father and then his brother died of Cystic Fibrosis. He did not want an abbreviated, unhappy life for his child. He would not have children unless they could be healthy. His research was progressing. He promised they would not wait too long. Harold was deep into a bold experiment, injecting foreign DNA into a host animal, doubling the viable DNA. His approach promised miracles. So far, however, he had managed only to kill hundreds of rats, until one survived. A brutal murder ends all possibilities and results in one lost life, one given away, and one life allowed to blossom and quickly die. Harold found the one way he could keep his promise. Aimed at adult fiction readers.

Frontcoverlarge

Frontcoverlarge

Nathan says:

Minimalism is a tough gig. More than any other style of design, I have only by gut reactions to go by when saying whether something works or it doesn’t. I don’t think this works, and what follows is my attempt to reverse-engineer my gut reaction in intellectual terms.

1) I think most minimal designs work best when the lack of extraneous information lets a strong focus be put on one, and only one, detail.  In this case, I think that seeing the curve of the back distracts from the navel, which would otherwise be the obvious focus.

2) With very little to take away the focus from the type, it becomes imperative that the type be presented confidently.  That doesn’t mean that it needs to be gaudy or even ornamented with serifs, but I think the font you chose here gives more of a “chosen at random” feel than “chosen for strength.”  I hope that makes sense.

3) I’m nor sure from the description what the real focus of the story is, but I’m pretty sure that the cover doesn’t convey it.  Looking at the cover without the description, I may think that it has to to with the pursuit of physical beauty, and the title gives at least an indication that procreation is involved, but I don’t get anything remotely science-y or science-fiction-y, or murder-y.  Again, I don’t really know how central those themes are to the book, but they seem central to the description and yet absent from the cover.

Given that there’s a lot of image to work with here, I was to do one of my Five-Minute Makeovers to see what I could come up with.  But when I tried cropping the curve of the back and the text out of the photo, the navel over to the side wasn’t enough of a visual clue of what we’re seeing. I think you might want to find a different photo (it could even be something from the same modeling session) with the navel more toward the middle so that you can include the muscle and bone structure around it and have it be more recognizable.  An added bonus there is that you can play with the color more to indicate either the suspense-thriller or medical-science mood of the story, while not impinging on recognition of the navel.

I have now talked about navels more in the past twenty minutes than I have done in the last five years.

Anyone else?

Time Winders

The author says:

A time travel novel with a strong, female protagonist.

TW cover Critique

TW cover Critique

Nathan says:

Hmm. You didn’t give us a very big image to examine, so we can really only critique it as a thumbnail.  There’s only a very short description to compare it to, so forgive us/me if the advice we give doesn’t match the novel well.

First: Fonts. My rule of thumb is that, unless you have a compelling reason, try to limit yourself to two typefaces.  I don’t think you’ve got a compelling reason; what’s more, the most difficult-to-read font is used for your smallest text. (Another rule-of-thumb: The smaller the text is, the easier you should make it for the reader to read.)  And your largest type, your title, is in your most boring font.  I understand that big, bold sans-serif typefaces can appear strong, but I think this one misses the mark.

Second: Cover vs. description. All that we know about this time-travel novel, really, is that it has “a strong, female protagonist.” If that’s the most important thing you want the reader to get from your cover as well, then the image should concentrate on the female character more than the male; as it is, they have pretty much equal visual weight.  I don’t know if the original artwork has cropped-off portions; if it does, you might want to crop it differently so that the female is central and the male is off to the side and partially cropped.

Third: Layout.  The pattern you use — am image in the middle, completely separate from text above and below — is more often used for non-fiction than fiction books.  Again, if the original art allows it, I’d recommend the text go on top of the image.

Fourth: The words.  Maybe it’s just me, but I really dislike subtitles which essentially tell us the (sub-sub) genre of the book.  Maybe it’s because you see it more in crank-em-out erotica ebooks: “A Polyamorous BBW Shifter Billionaire Romance,” etc.  I’d recommend something more like “A Romantic Adventure Across Time” or somesuch — something that tells the reader about the contents without seeming like a taxonomic classification.

Fifth: The words, part two. I understand why you have “by” in front of your name; it’s such an unusual name that readers likely wouldn’t immediately identify it as the byline.  However, the “by” just seems like it sticks out there uncomfortably.  You could solve the problem by combining it with the tagline and putting it just above the byline — “A Romantic Adventure Across Time by” — instead of under the title.

I really want to do a five-minute mock-up to show you how these fixes would fit together, but the small size of the image you’ve given us doesn’t lend itself well to that.

Eh. what the heck.  Here’s something.

timerunners-2

These aren’t the fonts I would go with for the final, but I think this gets across all the ideas I was trying to spell out.

Anyone see something different?

 

Wanderer’s Diary: Daydreams

The author says:

Wanderer’s Diary: Daydreams is a collection of emotions, friendship, and practical life. The book includes sketches, short stories, an essay, and poems by Qumber Rizvi. A few of the contents are detailed here.

 

1. Just To Hold Your Hand (Sketch): She fulfills his dream suddenly when she holds his hand and walks with him. He experiences what he had never dreamed of. Or, perhaps, dreamt everyday. Don’t put it down before the climax. There is a BIG twist.

 

2. Imperfect Us (Sketch): John Smith has a big crush on his classmate. She is the most perfect person he ever met. Even perfect that himself. But what happens when she rejects him? 3. The Best Buddies (Story): Three friends, classmates are the weirdest buddies in the school. They, together, can do what others won’t even think of. A humorous collection of their crazy deeds in their high school.

 

3. Change In My City (Story): Author returns to his city after six years. Many things are changed there, but what change he observes is what others won’t really see as significant as he does.

 

Three poems in Wanderer’s Diary: Daydreams are: 1. Forgery 2. I Was Blind, But Now I See 3. Park Bonus Read (Essay) – Internet Is A Boon

Wanderer's Diary Daydreams Large

Wanderer's Diary Daydreams Large

Nathan says:

The great thing about single-author collections with varied content is that the cover doesn’t have to represent any single theme; it just needs to be visually intriguing.  I think you’ve got that here.

The tweaks I would look at are these:

1. The dimensions are a bit elongated — not necessarily a problem, but given that a lot of ecommerce sites such as Amazon create their thumbnails by defining a maximum height, your cover will look smaller in thumbnail and be that much harder to see.  It may seem like a little thing, but of such little things are big things determined.

2. There’s no indication on the cover that this is a collection. In fact, the tagline at the top makes it seem that this is definitely not a collection, but a single story.  (The tagline is also hard to read at normal size, a combination of the irregular typeface and the color behind it that reduces the contrast.)  It seems that both 1. and 2. (partially) can be improved with one edit: Chop the cover down to a 2×3 proportion, sacrificing that blue area at the top of the artwork and the tagline over it.

3. Your name being as unusual as it is, it won’t strike readers immediately as a name.  (I’m not saying that Stephen King’s success comes from being named “Stephen King,” but it didn’t hurt.)  But you can improve this, and solve the other half of 2., by adding “Stories and Poems by” or “A Collection by” above your byline, which will both identify your name as a name and give more of a clue to the contents.

4. Even if we cut off the tagline at the top, that still leaves us with three different fonts on the cover, and all three of them are serif fonts, which tend to clash with each other.  (That’s why you see so many book covers that use two fonts — one serif, one sans serif).  Since the byline is far from the title, you could use a single serif font for both parts of the title (maybe with “Wanderer” in regular weight, and “Daydreams” in bold) without much danger of clashing.  I would definitely remove the italics from “Wanderer’s Diary.”

Other ideas?

 

 

Water Pearl

The author says:

In this fantasy, a magic pearl made of water by a forest sprite serves a major role throughout the story. A youth “borrows” it and aches to return it, but circumstances prevent him until the end.

for-waterpearl-4-png[1]

for-waterpearl-4-png[1]

Nathan says:

The more I do this, the more I become convinced that the two most basic parts of any book cover are:

  1. Color scheme
  2. Typeface(s)

In other words, it would be possible to create an acceptable cover for a fantasy novel using nothing but this photograph, with color manipulation and appropriate fonts.

First: The photograph is too “blah.” It looks like exactly what you’d see if you, well, took a photograph in the forest.  But fantasy needs to be more intense.  What colors could suggest a magical forest? Or magical water?

Second: Neither font you have here is terribly evocative. The Rosetti font you use for the title is ornate, yes, but gets no support from layout or color, and the Comic Sans… Sorry, there is NO appropriate use for Comic Sans.  It’s so overexposed and hated these days, I wouldn’t even use it for a coloring book.

Third: There’s no detail in the background image that you need to be sure not to cover, so the off-center placement of both title and byline accomplish nothing.  You may be trying to achieve a bit of visual interest by breaking the byline into two lines, but its off-centeredness just makes it look haphazard.

Fourth: The “water pearl” doesn’t look much like a pearl. What it mostly looks like is an afterthought.

Now. The good news is that, as this isn’t a complex cover, the fixes don’t need to be time-consuming.  I did an image search and couldn’t find the exact stock photo you used, but I grabbed a more-or-less similar one to do a “five-minute fix” demo for you.

waterpearl

Definitely not the best cover for this, but it’s a quick sketch showing you what I’m talking about.

Anybody else have thoughts?

The Invisible People

The author says:

Genre: Horror Synopsis: Nobody saw them. Nobody cared. They were the perfect camouflage. It used them to hide in plain sight as the world walked on. Dan saw them. He looked up and saw the invisible people, and when he held out a helping hand, It latched on.

Tip2.3

Tip2.3

Nathan says:

Conceptually, it’s a very strong cover.  I think some fairly minor tweaks could yield huge dividends.

  1. Think about small revisions to the layout. If you concentrate on the thumbnail instead of the full-sized image, some of the weaknesses jump out at you: There’s an awful lot of black space that isn’t doing anything, the gray tones in the central graphic tend to merge together (you can’t even tell that the chin is there under the tagline), and the byline is awfully small for no good reason. If you enlarge the face (and let some of the forehead slip under the title to give room for the chin at the bottom), increase the contrast especially on the chin area, and double the size of the byline, I think the cover will have twice the “first glance” impact.
  2. I don’t think the horizontal blur on the title has the effect you want it to have. My first reaction, and I’m pretty sure this is common, is to rub my eyes in case my danged allergies are clouding my focus.  I’m also not sure the red splatters work well — they make it harder to immediately read the title, which already has a creative but counter-intuitive layout working against easy readability. (Speaking of that layout, it places an inadvertent emphasis on the “IS” of “INVISIBLE.” There are also some kerning issues.  One thing I would try, to see if it’s easier on the eyes, is reducing the “I” of “IS” to three-quarters its current size, anchored along the bottom baseline, and then do the same to the “S” but anchor it at the top. Just a thought.)
  3. Also, regarding the tagline: I think the phrase “Looks can be deceiving” is more familiar to most people.  When I tried to figure out the word behind “fatal,” I read it as “Looks can be defective.”  Red against black is surprisingly difficult to read.

(As an aside, I think your synopsis tries to hard to be mysterious that it ends up being too fragmentary to be enticing. But this site isn’t really for criticism of synopses.)

Other comments?

The Burning of Cherry Hill [resubmit]

the author says:

I hope that it’s okay that I’m submitting the THIRD version of this cover! I’ve been working hard on it, and got help from Katie Miller who posted on this site and has been absolutely priceless. I love all y’all’s help, thank you!

AmazonCover

AmazonCover

[previous submissions and comments here and here]

Nathan says:

Definitely more creative and less generic.  Anything I saw from here on out is not so much “stuff to be fixed” as “stuff to consider”:

If you make the silhouettes larger, to take up more of the cover space, you can increase the size of the type proportionally. I’d especially experiment with overlapping the silhouettes of the two figures — as long as the presence of two separate people is readily seen, you can overlap and then make them bigger, taking up more of the background.  the fact that this would increase the size of the type seems like a plus to me.

Do you really want “OF” to have that much emphasis in the title? I’d definitely tweak it and see if reducing the size of that one word makes it flow better. The same with the byline; maybe reducing the size of “AK” and shifting it upward will allow “BUTLER” to grow into the arm space and thus get bigger.

Other comments?

Shopping Survival Guide For Men

The author says:

A frank and hilarious guide to every man’s mind-numbing nemesis: Shopping. Guys: spent one too many Saturdays marooned at The Mall? Rejuvenate your manhood with the Shopping Survival Guide for Men. This indispensable sanity-saver exposes the hidden history and insidious psychology of shopping (Hint: it’s crazy), plus cool-headedly guides you through the treacherous, credit card-melting mazes of shoes, handbags, lingerie, fitting rooms and more.

shopping-survival-guide-sm

shopping-survival-guide-sm

Nathan says:

Witty and engaging!  Only two thoughts:

  1. Go ahead, make your byline bigger. You’ve got the space.
  2. The smiling head with a pipe immediately makes me think of “Bob” from the Church of the Subgenius. If that’s a conscious reference, great; if not, you may want a slightly different image — say, with a hat?

Other comments?

Blackest of Lies

The author says:

Blackest of Lies is set in 1916. It aims to suggest an alternative view of Lord Kitchener’s death at the hands of the German Navy in the cold waters off Orkney. There were many questions raised concerning the security of his journey which started immediately after the tragedy and have rummbled on until the present day. This book suggests that Kitchener was murdered in his house by the IRA and follows the efforst of the security services to keep the murder a secret by employing a military doctor as a resonable stand-in to fool the public at a distance. But, when he is sent to Russia via Scapa Flow, it is in the interests of friend and foe to ensure he does not return. It is left to Lt Hubert, the man who suggested him, and Anne Banfield of Special Branch to race after him to prevent his death in the coled waters of the Pentland Firth. Thsi book is aimed at those who are interested in espionage, the security branches and the Great War.

blackestOfLies_Cover

blackestOfLies_Cover

 

Nathan says:

Very confident in its use of images, a muted color palette, and type.  Here are tweaks I would recommend:

  1. I don’t know about most people, but I know I’m not history-savvy enough to instantly grasp the setting from the images shown.  Perhaps a subtitle/supertitle giving just a smidge more info — “A Conspiracy of the Great War” or somesuch — would be appropriate.
  2. I can’t tell what exactly I’m supposed to pick up from the upper image. If it’s the military imagery, it might be worthwhile to move that photo up so that the medals are more clearly seen, and make it a bit less transparent. That would also help the train tracks be more easily recognized as well; readers would benefit from instantly understanding “military” and “railroad” than “what am I looking at?” in that first three-quarters of a second.
  3. I’d probably also try a bit more space between the title and byline, but maybe that’s just me.

Other thoughts?

 

Logoons

The author says:

The title is a portmanteau of logo and cartoons. I wrote (and hired a cartoonist) 120 single panel gag cartoons. The cartoons are built around a word and its definition. Not multi-syllabic words no one cares for or could ever remember (except for a couple I couldn’t pass up), nor highly technical jargon, but interesting words rarely used in the banter of daily conversation. Readers expand their word knowledge and get a good chuckle at the same time. The prospective cover, for instance, is of one of the cartoons (attached to this email). I’m attaching a couple more cartoons to give you a better feel of the book.

 

I would be very interested in hearing other voices ( bad choice of words there) in hearing other people’s opinions of the book cover. I truly appreciate the help you and your group offer.

 

(I’m thinking of putting in a splash of color – perhaps yellow on the feet of the chicken patient and pale blue coverings on the chicken surgeons.)

Furcula copy

Furcula copy

 

Nathan says:

Thanks, Dennis. I hope our comments are as helpful as you expect. (Bring your A game, folks!)

I definitely agree about the color. In fact, I’ll go one further: I think you should fill that big white background space with color, maybe a light blue.  Even the covers of books of entirely black-and-white cartoons should be colorful. (Look at the covers of any of the Dilbert books.)  And the black border? Make it a color — either a darker version of the light blue, or maybe a burgundy.

While you’re at it, you don’t have to put the text entirely outside the borders of the cartoon; that’s a lot of wasted space.  there’s plenty of room beneath the end of the bed for the byline, and the title could even drop until it starts to overlap the medical monitor.

Anyone else have thoughts?

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