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Month – March 2017

Astrologer’s Proof

The publisher says:

Astrologer’s Proof features a clandestine group of people who have all the money, connections and computing power to decide whether Astrology is real. Using elaborate hacking schemes, they secretly obtain massive amounts of data on the American people to perform a grand astrological experiment. The story takes place in present day America over a two year period.

Genre: Science Fiction

Target audience: Readers of soft science fiction, contemporary fiction, techno-thrillers. Astrology lovers.

Authors’ readers Astrologer’s Proof may appeal to: Kevin Wignall, Michael C. Grumley, Douglas E. Richards, Adam Fawer, Ray Bradbury, Kurt Vonnegut.

(We are trying to decide if the silhouette man helps the layout or not.)

Nathan says:

Of the two, definitely the one with the silhouette. Without the awareness of scale that the human figure brings, the shapes along the side aren’t immediately recognizable as computer banks.

I will note that the man’s shadow doesn’t seem to match the single light source visible.

Some of the words you use to describe the story, as well as authors you cite like Kevin Wignall, Michael C. Grumley, Douglas E. Richards, etc. definitely puts this book into suspense-thriller territory.  However, I don’t think the cover supports that. There’s not enough foreboding to it; it’s too centered, too clean, and the title doesn’t “loom” enough.  You should look at the covers for the authors you list and see how to signal to readers that this book is for them.

My five-minute redo actually took 10+ minutes; I recently replaced my computer, and hadn’t restored all my fonts.  But you can see where I’m heading here:

Other comments?

Aesir Ascendant

The author says:

The Reigns of the Marshal Kings continues with Aesir Ascendant. It is the story of the great, shining king and the dark history which surrounds his rise, his voyages of exploration, and his ultimate fate beyond the edges of the world. A dark fantasy and cosmic horror novel, book 2 in a series that began with Vandal Valkyrie, critiqued earlier on this site. This book has a heavy nautical bent, will be darker, and suffers from the mid-trilogy ‘depressing’ ending. Original Cover Art by Chris Garrett,, and is used with permission.

Specific concerns: I have added a thin white drop shadow to the upper left of the text to lend the letters a glow. Does it work? Would a black shadow for darker contrast be better? I added some simple texturing to the letters for visual interest. Does it detract or is it not going far enough? The art is practically perfect for this specific book. Is it adequate for the genre? Also, how is the font? I seem to have a particular weakness with fonts.

Many thanks all. I hope what I’ve learned here so far has yielded a somewhat less amateurish result. I’ve sent along a current version of the first book’s cover and an early mock-up for the third’s to allow comparison across series. Art for the first is by Alex Ruiz,, and used with permission.

(The final version of first cover, for comparison:)

Nathan says:

Good work incorporating our comments on the first cover (visible here), and also on maintaining both the typeface and type placement for the second cover; a lot of people don’t understand the importance of type placement as part of branding.

However, before we get to your questions regarding drop shadows etc., I have some concerns about the artwork on the second cover — not in itself, as it’s unquestionably good artwork, but again in terms of branding and series continuity.  You gone from an image on the first cover in which a human figure is the central, dominant part of the layout, to an image with no human figures; on top of that, it’s a layout with no dominant single element (certainly not in comparison to the first cover), and literally nothing in the center.  I think that’s definitely a series branding mistake; having established a “series look” on the first cover, you should do all you can to tie the first book to the second, and I definitely think that having a central human figure is a big, big part of that.

I would also say that the difference in art and stroke style between the covers (scribbly “speed-painting” vs. smooth and refined) works against you.

What says the collective?


Sorry for the sparse posting here.  I’ve spent the last couple of weeks deep in preparation for a comic con over this last weekend, and then the time since fighting through my stacked-up email, and putting in some extra hours on the day job.  Regular posting will resume soon.

Quality DNA [resubmit]

The author says:

Here’s a resubmit of my cover for Quality DNA, a genetic engineering sci-fi novel. I made a bunch of little changes that were recommended and believe it’s made the cover much stronger.

[original submission and comments here]

Nathan says:

What a difference those little tweaks make! The color overlay no longer distracts from the face, and allows the eyes to really pop.

My only suggestion would be to brighten the circuit pattern background, at least at the edges of the image, leaving a dark aura around the model.

Other comments?

Breaking the Edge

The author says:

“Breaking The Edge” is a YA-NA, chick-lit novel revolving around sport and romance. I’m trying to pull readers who like Mariana Zapata’s “The Wall of Winnipeg and Me”, and “Kulti”, having the same genre as this story is. A story about the protagonist working in a ski-lodge dealing with her exhilarating father/employer and (hilariously aloof) snowboarder. Note : I don’t know, I’m new in this, and honestly I feel like the cover isn’t really telling about the story?

Nathan says:

Your fortune-cookie wisdom of the day: “Knowing that you don’t know what you’re doing is the first step to knowledge.” So there you go.

And remember, the primary purpose of a cover ISN’T to tell the story; there’s nothing wrong with it doing so, as long as it doesn’t interfere with the ACTUAL primary purpose, which is to attract the interest of readers who would want to read the book by signalling to them that this is the kind of book they like to read.

Actually, looking at the covers for the novels you cite, I think you hit the essentials for your genre –i.e., that it’s energetic, and that it’s sports-related.  I think that the second edge you’ve put over the artwork (the one under the word “Edge”) breaks up the cover image too much; the dark lump at the bottom is unrecognizable as a foot unless one purposely studies the photo, because it’s dissociated from the rest of the person.  I’d also like to see that right hand extending into the light space above “Breaking” — having both the hand and the helmeted head visible would help instant recognition of the figure as a figure.

One other thing: “Twaine Novak” isn’t the title of the novel, so “A Novel” shouldn’t be associated with it, it should go with “Breaking the Edge.”

Other comments?

The Worst Man on Mars

The author says:

‘The Worst Man on Mars’ is a British Sci-Fi Comedy that’s a cross between ‘The Martian’ and ‘Red Dwarf’. It’s aimed at the same audience who enjoyed ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’. A blunt Yorkshireman and reality TV show winner has seized control of the first manned mission to Mars. He finds that the base – built by an advance party of incompetent robots – isn’t ready. Worse still, the planet isn’t as empty as first thought.

Nathan says:

One of the rules of thumb often bandied around here is, “Would a person who knows no English understand the cover?” In this case, I’d have to say that they wouldn’t; while the orange color scheme works if if you know that the book is set on Mars, it could just as easily be a motocross novel set in Southern Utah.  I think that the humor of the description really doesn’t come through, either.

Here’s what I would do:

  • Replace the main title font with something either “noble” (Trajan, etc.) or computerized.
  • Use actual handwritten letters for “worst.”
  • Add something that looks like a Mars base in the horizon space behind the motorcycle.
  • Add a gradient to the sky, so that it darkens to purple at the top, possibly with some stars showing.

(An aside: Is there enough oxygen in the Martian atmosphere that an internal combustion engine would work? Just asking.)

Other comments?

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