The author says:
A science fantasy series for children, The Plumseed Chronicles: Eternity’s Island takes place in a world of machines. Eternity’s Island focuses on a nameless girl who arrives on a drifting island with no memory of who she is. As she explores the island that is her home alongside her newly-adopted family and the sleepy village they live in, the girl soon discovers that something else far more dangerous and sinister followed her to this little island. Inspired by A Wrinkle in Time, Doctor Who, and The Golden Compass, The Plumseed Chronicles as a whole is intended for those who love stories that deal with scientific concepts played around with magic.
This is a competent (though not terribly exciting) cover markup, but it completely misses your target audience.
Let’s do some market research. I pulled up Amazon’s page for science fiction and fantasy, ages 9 – 12. These are the bestsellers:
Now, I’ll grant you that it’s very skewed toward name recognition; the only book on here that isn’t related to Harry Potter or Percy Jackson is Lois Lowry’s The Giver. But still, these are the books that your target audience already knows that they like. And how does that target audience expect books aimed at them to look?
- Big words, slightly ornate but still very readable
- Clear imagery, showing characters in adventurous situations (there are a couple that rely only on an iconic image, but they can do that because they’re Harry Potter books, and readers already recognize the owl or round-glasses-and-scar imagery; you don’t have that recognition)
Compare that to your cover: An unusual but sedate typeface (which is, by the way, completely wrong for your back-cover copy — that needs to be readable, readable, and readable), an abstracted pseudo-landscape in tones of blue, and — if you look really close — something that might be the main character:
This is not how the target audience for your book is accustomed to being marketed to. It will not snare the attention of the people whose attention you want to snare.
My advice, simply, is to start over.
(And semi-related: You want to give that back-cover copy another scrub. It’s ungainly, and some of the grammar is questionable at best.)
The author says:
This is a freshly minted resubmit of an earlier cover for Blood-Lines, Book I of my Tales of the Weird Wild West series that I will be self-publishing at some point in the near future. Although admittedly I’m still very much using a pre-made template (for a newbie at this, it’s also just that much easier for someone of my artistic level to accomplish what they can 8)), this version seems to have a much better look and feel to it for what I wanted the cover to tell someone at first glance. Hopefully just the right mix of a little bit of hook, some line and a sinker as it were 8)
[original submission and comments here]
It’s true that someone can tell the genre much easier from this cover. Unfortunately — and this sounds a lot crueler than it really is — someone can also tell that you have limited skill/experience in cover design, and that this book is self-published, by which I mean the cover isn’t up to professional levels. And given that you’re releasing your book to compete against the Big Boys, you can’t afford giving any indication from the get-go that your book isn’t as worthy of a customer’s money as a traditionally published novel.
Indicator #1: The Bleeding Cowboys font. Yes, I told you previously to find a distressed Western font. But don’t use this one. It’s been so overused and overexposed in the past decade, on all sorts of inappropriate projects, that no one with any familiarity with book cover design would touch it. A pity, because this is the kind of book it would have been good for before it became a punchline.
Indicator #2: The floating zombie girl head. Over at LousyBookCovers.com, this would fall into the running gag of “Photobombing [something]!” — where an element that’s obviously extraneous to the main image has been added. In this case, you’ve taken an otherwise non-weird Western scene, and added an element that is unrelated to the rest of the image in both style and layout. Yes, a zombie head is a good indication that this isn’t a typical Western, but again, it’s also an indication that a non-professional put this cover together.
I know that indie writers like the “do-it-yourself” ethic, but remember that you’re not just the writer, you’re the publisher. That means that you need to do the best you can to make sure that the book has a chance on the open market. And I know the budgetary strictures that self-pubbers can be under, but the slogan for this site is true: “In self-publishing, there’s nothing more expensive than a bad cover.” Because a bad cover will cost you sales, and you can’t afford that.
The author says:
Tommy Travers is a teenaged recluse who dreams of entering a book and never coming back. When he turns 15 his wish is granted but unlike reading, the consequences are real. YA/Adult novel
The artwork’s terrific. The type treatment, not so much.
As you can see from the thumbnail, the title retreats into the background, and the byline is practically invisible. It’s even worse on a black-and-white ereader device:
The bottom half of the image, under not-Godzilla and the ship, has no essential detail in there. Rather than try to crowd the title over not-Godzilla’s head, I would leave the series title up there (with a larger and clearer icon of an open book worked into it), then put the title below, in clear bold letters on two lines:
I’d probably try putting the text in a white or cream with a dark border or outline. And then I’d extend the byline across the width of the image. For both of these, you’d want a wide font, rather than the current tall one.
The author says:
Sports plus romance between two dudes, Sports story about two college age dudes who meet when the straight dude moves into the front house, and they start practicing Soccer drills together, and playing on the same team. They draw closer over time, share a lot, and the straight dude finds himself in love with his slightly older mentor, coach, who’s been like a big brother, nurturing him. They run up against circumstances and ingrained attitudes and both have to get some enlightenment in order to reach a happy ending.
Again, I’m not even remotely the target audience for this, but here’s my first big impression:
You’ve got a guy in shorts just standing there, against a white background. Even the type is dull. Take a look at this and say, “If I saw this in a bookstore or on Amazon, what would make me want to pick this up?”
Remember, your readers have a choice, and the choice isn’t between your book or nothing. It’s between your book and the other books next to it. Why would someone want to check out the description on your book, instead of the next book to right or left?
There are plenty of romance novels. There are plenty of gay romance novels. I’m guessing (without wanting to check) that there are plenty of sports-themed gay romance novels. Give the readers of sports-themed gay romance novels a reason to think that this sports-themed gay romance novel is the one they should check out.
The author says:
This book chronicles the steps the five terrorists of Flight 77 (that hit the Pentagon) took in suburban Maryland in the two weeks prior to 9/11.
The subject matter of this one practically demands that the cover content be (1) an airplane, and (2) pictures of the five hijackers. You’ve got that part. Now, what should you do with it?
- Lose the swirly filter. Seriously, I don’t even know why they include that with PhotoShop, because it’s impossible to do anything good with it. The look you want here is “stark” — deep blacks, bold contrasts.
- Those cover elements, being obligatory, don’t need to be the dominant elements in your cover. That should be your title. Nonfiction covers have an advantage over fiction covers in that regard; readers don’t mind if your cover tells them with words what the book is about. If it were me, I’d have the title take up fully half of the real estate here.
- While your title font choice isn’t necessarily bad, you’ll notice in other covers that as the subject of the book becomes more serious and worthy to be remembered, the title fonts tend more toward serifed fonts in capital letters. Why? because a font that connotes two thousand years of history says, “This is important. This is permanent. This is worth being remembered.” Trajan Pro (aka “The Movie Poster Font”) is becoming too overused to clearly give that connotation, but there are other serif fonts that can give that same impression.
- Your subtitle font clashes with the title font — and I suspect, would clash with a serifed Roman font. Try using the same font that the book text uses. (Also, “driving tour” sounds waaay to idyllic for this subject. You’re not sending people on a terror-tourism family vacation here.)
- The title is centered, the subtitle is centered, the airplane is smack-dab in the middle, the five headshots are center-aligned… Why isn’t your byline centered? I understand the impulse to add some variety, but it just ends up being the odd element out.
The author says:
A werewolf lives through the violence that is human history starting in medieval times and eventually finds himself working for the United States Government, they don’t let him leave when he wants to quit and then he has to team up with other movie monsters, a vampire, alien, demon, and frankenstein monster, to stop an evil robot from destroying the world.
This looks like a tumblr meme, or something you slapped together in five minutes to display your makeup FX selfie. This will NOT sell this book, or any book. You may think I’m being cruel, but that’s the way it is: If you expect readers to spend money on, and time reading, your book, you need to demonstrate that your book is a professional production. This doesn’t do it.
Hire a professional. Even a cheap one. The fact that you’re submitting this here for critique means that you do not have the grounding in basic design needs to recognize the deficiencies in your abilities. Just go pro.
The author says:
Welcome to the Weird Wild West. There are people here who are not as they seem and others who watch them. Supernatural and mortal alike unite to reach what peace that can be found between them as hunters can become prey and prey can become the hunter. This is their story.
Those pre-made Cover Creator templates look exactly like what they are. They scream, “I’m self-published, and I tried to save money on a cover!” At least the image you chose doesn’t clash horribly with the template — the diagonal of the paper background intersects in an interesting way with the diagonal of the roofline — but still: Nope. It looks impoverished and amateur.
On top of that, the image you chose is Western, sure, but there’s nothing weird or paranormal or off-kilter about it. You miss your entire audience if the cover looks like “a happy market day in the Old West.”
If you just found a Western-themed photo or illustration (preferably one that concentrates on an individual or some other central image, instead of a town) and then applied a color scheme that you find on horror novel covers (stark contrasts, lots of shadows) and a distressed Western font, you’ve be about 400% ahead of where you are now.
Best of luck. Other comments?
The author says:
YA Fantasy trying to turn the fantasy tropes on their heads. The main character doesn’t win the trial to become the hero and has to live with all that entails.
More than anything else, we’re seeing a particular flaw with the book covers submitted here: They don’t look like the kind of book they are.
Take a look at this cover: Does ANYTHING about it say “YA fantasy?” No. I would guess that it was some lit-fic coming-of-age story, or maybe a memoir of child abuse. In other words, if I were a reader who would enjoy a subversive YA fantasy, nothing about this cover would tell me that it’s for me.
You need to rethink the concept, and you need to do it like a marketer: “How do I attract the readers who would enjoy this book?” Because otherwise, having this cover on this book would lose you more readers than having no cover at all.
The author says:
A comedy sci-fi set in the far future when humans have spread across the galaxy. The book revolves around a hunt for an elusive ring, which turns out to be a portal. The book has absurd humour in it and the target audience is probably young adult, I’m going for the audience that enjoyed hitch-hiker’s guide to the galaxy.
So where’s the funny?
Here’s a rule of thumb (I have many more of them than I have thumbs): If your book’s a comedy, something on the cover needs to tell us that. If the title isn’t absurd at first glance and your name isn’t Douglas Adams, then the art or type need to clue us in. Your title, while not non-humorous, isn’t funny in and of itself — and the font you chose makes it hard to read anyway. And while the subtitle edges more toward comedy, it isn’t visible from thumbnail size. You’re left with something vaguely science-y.
My own inclination would be to start over with a new image, but even if you didn’t do that, there are tons — oodles — craploads of humorous fonts you could try. Like this one. Or this one. Or this one. Those are from a two-minute browse through the top 100 fonts at only one font site. (And I’m sure that Hitch will show up in the comments with other recommendations.)
If your readers can’t tell that it’s a funny book, your cover is doing nothing for you. So funny it up!
The author says:
The stunning love child born of a human and an alien holds the cure to a pandemic on Earth in her genome. While the humans await a rescue ship 25 light years from home, they must also keep the xenophobic aliens from exterminating the ‘abomination’.
This is classic science fiction genre of adventures in space centered on the characters. I designed this cover entirely myself using Word, Live Photo Gallery, and Paint layering three images which I credit in the front matter. I’m not sure about the pod, lower right. It seemed boring without it. Thanks for your opinions!
The problem here is that while the main image says “SF,” it doesn’t say “SF adventure.” If I were to look at the cover and guess about the story, I’d probably think that it’s a tale of exploration and isolation like The Martian. Take a look at how classic SF adventure novels marketed themselves; there was action, usually involving characters, not just spaceships.
That’s aside from the technical problems here: The spacing on the subtitle just looks weird, the font for the byline looks like it was chosen at random, the main landscape image is artifacted, and the pod is pretty clearly added to the image.
My advice to you is a common bit of advice around here: Pick the books that you expect your readers to compare your book to, and look at how those books are marketed. (Also look at how they were marketed originally, if they’re classics.) Covers like that are how your target readers are used to being marketed to.