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Month – January 2017

Catslash

The author says:

In 1985, a modern-day witch casts a spell on a six-year-old boy who’d been annoying her that turns him into a black cat. Ten years later, he escapes the witch and takes up with a little six-year-old girl whose guardians are sexually abusing her. Starting with her rapists, anyone who wrongs his new owner or himself is going to be severely crippled or killed in mysterious “accidents” in the years and decades to come, with no one to stop him; for who in our skeptical modern society would ever suspect a cat of being the killer?

Basically, this is an urban fantasy with more than a little psychodrama-style horror to it, as we’re given a view of events that might occur in a horror movie through the eyes of the sympathetic “monster” killing off a whole slew of rather unsympathetic victims.

Nathan says:

Look at the books that urban fantasy readers buy. Look at the books that horror readers buy. Does your book look like either of those?

Urban fantasy books tend to have some indication (usually in the background) that the setting is present-day, and rely on color scheme and ornamentation (swirls, etc.) to indicate the presence of magic.

Horror books tend to rely on grungy textures in both image and font to flag their genre.

In contrast, your cover combines two flat image components in such a way that the cat is almost invisible at thumbnail size, and not much better at full size.  The font you’ve chosen does nothing but display the letters; it doesn’t pulls its weight in telling about the book.

Just take a look here and brainstorm, “If I want my book to be bought by the people who buy these books, what do I need to do differently?”

Mended Wings

The author says:

Mended Wings is a Young Adult novel that tells the inspirational story of a young woman’s recovery from a traumatic brain injury. Her name is Flicker, and she is a survivor. Her journey celebrates the dignity involved in making choices, and taking risks to achieve one’s goals. Readers cheer as they watch Flicker take flight.

Nathan says:

This isn’t a bad cover, but it inspires me to use one of the running gags from LousyBookCovers.com: “Photobombing woodpecker!”

I think there are some suboptimal decisions here.

  1. There are definitely covers which succeed with minimal spots of color in a largely monochromatic image, but they use the color as a focal point wihin the image. Here, the upper two-thirds of the cover is monochrome — then you suddenly have color with the title and with an image element which is entirely separate, in layout and content, than the main image.
  2. I would suspect that very, very few potential readers will be able to identify the bird as a red-shafted Northern Flicker (I had to google it), and without knowing that the bird is a flicker, the subtitle “A Flicker’s Tale” will make no sense — especially if they have read your description.  It will seems as nonsensical as “A William’s Tale.”
  3. Not as big a problem, but I think that the subtitle font clashes with the title and byline font; not similar enough to complement, but not a good contrast either.

So my main recommendation would be to work both the bird imagery and the spare use of color into the main body of the layout, instead of having them confined to one area as an afterthought.

Other comments?

The Promised One

The author says:

Javin Cox has a special ancestry which makes him the ‘One’ (or maybe One of Two) who can save all the races in the galaxy from being snuffed out. The problem is he knows nothing about it. And the Guardians who are supposed to watch over things can’t tell him anything because they’ve got troubles of their own.

Nathan says:

I know this is not what you want to hear, but there are more problems than successes here.

  1. Pyramids and planetoids don’t tell me anything about the setting.  Does this take place on Earth?  Other planets?  Vessels out in space?  Is it the present or the future?  Is is a sfi-fi-flavored coming-of-age story, military SF, mystical science-fantasy?  Dunno.
  2. Why is all of the type in italics?  It doesn’t accomplish anything.  The typeface is also very nonspecific; given that the image isn’t pulling its weight, the font needs to do more.
  3. Why is the series title so much larger than the book’s title?
  4. “Bestselling Author” — the fact that you don’t give a specific venue sets off bullshit detectors.  NY Times bestseller? USA Today?  Amazon overall?  Amazon itty-bitty category?  Given that the cover definitely isn’t what you would see on a “real” bestseller (NY Times or USA Today).  A laudatory quote or a tagline can do a lot more good than a vague “bestselling” claim.

Other comments?

The Rabbit Thief

The author says:

Set in 1840s New Hampshire, the novel is the story of Lucy Blunt, a maid convicted of the murder of the mistress of the house she had served. With weeks left until she will hang, she convinces a newspaper reporter to listen as she untangles the lies and secrets of her short life. Women’s historical fiction. Would appeal to readers of Sarah Waters and Emma Donoghue.

Nathan says:

It’s a very good layout. I only see two deficiencies:

  1. Sorry, but the resolution of the image you’ve got here is simply not high enough. Unless you just sent us a quick mock-up and the “real” version is much better, you’re going to have to find a higher-resolution image (or find an original historical photograph and scan it yourself at high resolution).
  2. As much as we poke fun at its random use, I this this is definitely one of the times when the subtitle “A Novel” would be appropriate.  Not only does it peg the book as fiction rather than nonfiction (there being no other clues on the cover), it also has the connotation of being a non-genre novel, and thus — rightly or wrongly — of greater literary merit.

Other comments?

Son of Ruin

The author says:

There are beings who walk unseen through the world, demons with evil in their dark, twisted souls. The young demon Succubus, summoned to the prison world of rock and fire, is learning to curse, using the dark lore of his kind. Talented and reckless, he desires to enter the world of humans. Meanwhile two brothers, Jonathan and Solomon, live in suburban Chicago with their parents. Solomon’s clear blue eyes see things others don’t and he helps his older brother navigate childhood. The talented demon and the two brothers are on a collision course, one that could alter the order of things.

Nathan says:

This cover has several problems; some are apparent at thumbnail size, and some at full size.

From the thumbnail:  We have a perfect storm here — the artwork makes the text unreadable, and the text makes the art incomprehensible.  There is literally nothing here that a casual browser, encountering the thumbnail on Amazon, can identify or find attractive in the three seconds or less that they’ll give this thumbnail before glancing to the one on the left or right.

From the full size: The title font is still almost unreadable.  At least I can make out the artwork now, but that’s a mixed blessing, because the artwork is simply not of professional grade.  One glance at the top demon’s misaligned face screams “amateur.”  To add to that, the stone background behind the (I assume) series title only serves to make that text harder to read (and to remind viewers of the design aesthetic on display at Geocities).  Top that off with a total of four fonts, and damn.

And on top of that (yes, I’m piling on, I know), the cover makes it look like the book’s about two demons fighting.  That doesn’t match well with the description you gave.

The advice I’ll give your is common advice around here:  Look up those books that you would expect to be popular among readers who would enjoy your book, and see how those readers expect to be marketed to.

Other comments?

Gladness Goes to the City

The author says:

Marguerite Martyn was a noted journalist and artist in 1910s U.S.A. Besides her serious reporting (always accompanied by her drawings), she occasionally wrote lighter fiction, which appeared on the newspaper’s feature page. The book is based on one of those fictional pieces. It’s about a girl named Gladness. This will be one of a series based on Martyn’s reporting and including her sketches.

Nathan says:

Hm. Hm, hm, hm.  Your description gives us very little to go on, really, unless your target audience really, really likes early 20th-century female journalists. With that said, I think we can offer some constructive advice from a pure design standpoint.

  1. You’ve divided the cover in an odd spot — almost-but-not-quite center.  And as you can see especially in the thumbnail, the real estate in the lower half seems terribly under-utilized compared to the top half, which is nearly unintelligible due to the detail and lack of color.  I think you should let the illustration take up about 3/5ths of the cover.
  2. Extend an unobtrusive border around the top half — the off-white background of the illustration conveys the idea of “old paper,” but it clashes with the white-white that will be surrounding it on most ebook vendor sites.
  3. Lose the third font for your byline. Just reuse the title font again.

Other comments?

Fight: Become The Best Of You One Step At A Time

The author says:

This book is about challenging people to be their best, to beat the odds against them. It is about the need to better and how to become a better version of yourself. Its about not accepting the status quo. Its about fighting back and taking life by force.Its about reaching for the stars.

Nathan says:

If what you’ve given us is the mock-up you plan to give to your designer, that’s all well and good. If this is actually what you plan to present as your book cover, I think you had better step back and work with an actual designer.

Even when taking into account the foreshortened perspective of the book that isn’t reflected in the graphics (again: this is a mock-up, right?), the mismatched type aligned at random, the BRIGHT PINK cross the cover model (who seems to be wearing a shrug made entirely of Photoshopped dots), the completely unnecessary “VS” before the byline… all of it seems to be either a joke, or a dashed-off brainstorming idea which has not benefited from reconsideration.

Sorry if that seems cruel, but it’s the truth.

(Also: *It’s)

RJ: The Age of Innocence

The author says:

RJ: The Age of Innocence is a young adult romance set in present day America with a part in Italy. I am attempting to appeal to a similar audience as John Green. An agnostic teenager’s world views forever change after his new stepsister comes into his life and breaks down after an unexpected and disastrous trip to Verona.

Nathan says:

I’m not the target demographic, but you certainly seem to have nailed one of my most common pieces of advice: Figure out how the audience for your book is used to being marketed to.  This has certainly got the same vibe as the cover for The Fault in Out Stars.

The only head-scratcher for me is “RJ” — it’s not a part of the title you gave in your description, so what is it?  Why is it bigger than the title?

Other comments?

[01/18/17 Edit: Due to the way my submission form frontloads the message I get with extra data, I missed that “RJ” is indeed the first part of the title, so all comments expressing confusion at that are my fault.]

Glory on Mars

The author says:

A one-way journey to Mars may be a mistake. Colonization of Mars is in trouble when the colony psychologist, one of the first eight settlers, commits suicide. Four more settlers are now on their way, bringing renewed hope – and a cat. Emma volunteered so she could explore Mars in her robotic walkabout suit. Even if she gets the chance, that may not make up for everything she left behind. Mars is a hostile planet, danger follows from Earth, and an inexplicable sense of desolation cripples the settlers’ efforts. Would you go?

Science fiction set in the near-future, at the first colony on Mars. Hopefully will appeal to readers of scifi with an emphasis on the science. Some violence and a little romance, but mostly the struggle to survive, explore, and figure out what’s going wrong with the settlement.

Nathan says:

There is no single major problem here, but there are a lot of little issues that, added together, may tip the scales away from you in the eyes of potential buyers.

  • The inconsistency of the black border around the title is confusing.
  • There’s an overabundance of mid-range orange tones, mushing everything together.
  • Mars taking up the perfectly round porthole gives us a crescent of black which ends up being the most eye-catching part of the cover.  You could easily solve this by having the porthole be a different shape.
  • Shadows are inconsistent; the rock face is lit from the left, but the cat is lit from the right.
  • Problems with your cut-and-pasting: the front of the cylinder pedestal is obviously flat instead of rounded, the edges of the cylinder don’t line up with the top, the borders of the porthole are completely texture-less in contrast to the stone wall, the black space in the porthole overlaps onto foreground elements.
  • The cover may make perfect sense once you’ve read the novel, but it doesn’t make sense when seen fresh: If we’re seeing Mars through that porthole, what red rocky place could we be in?  Why aren’t we in a spaceship with riveted, steel-blue bulkheads instead?

Like I say: No single big problem. But it definitely needs a thorough tweaking before it’s ready to compete for eyeballs on Amazon.

Other observations?

 

Loveweaver

The author says:

Historical Romance. The year 895. Slayde’s job as an top military leader of Kent is to rid England of the last of the Viking raiders. But Llyrica is no ordinary Viking. She’s a beauty with a mysterious past … and a talent for weaving song spells. Even as Slayde saves her from drowning, he knows Llyrica will be a dangerous distraction. Llyrica is now a stranger in a strange land on a mission to fulfill a deathbed promise. But she must also find her missing brother. This man, Slayde, known as The StoneHeart in his country, seems determined to block her at every turn. And yet she can’t help but be drawn to the affectionate, loving side of him that awakens when he sleeps – The sleepwalker. Unknown to both Llyrica and Slayde, each will use the other to accomplish their quests. Both will also fall under the song spell that she wove into the braid of his tunic. Will her Lovespell ensure a happily ever after for them? Or condemn them to a love that was never meant to be?

Nathan says:

It’s a fair-to-middling example of its kind: A historical romance cover which, while not terrible, screams “self-published.”  Why?

  • First thing I noticed: That male model.  He’s almost as overexposed in indie covers as Jimmy Thomas.
  • The edges of every element composited into the cover are distractingly crisp: It’s obvious at first glance that the man, the woman, and the landscape are separate images, that the sword isn’t really in the man’s hand, that there’s something funky about the man’s right arm and his tunic…  My suggestion would be to try out a very subtle colored texture layer and see if it helps tie all the elements together.
  • The type placement seems to be determined by desperation more than design.  I appreciate the gray bars you used, especially beneath the title where it overlaps both dark and light backgrounds, but it still seems shoved toward the bottom.  And is there a reason that it’s not larger?  I think adjusting the size upward might take care of that “wedged out of the way” look.
  • The font for the byline is not only hard to read at anything less than full size, it’s awfully twee for a historical romance.

Other comments?

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