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Month – June 2017

Evaline Transcendent

The author says:

Genre: Science-Fiction (colonization)

Back blurb: “Evaline is the shipboard computer on the Miranda Two, a colony ship destined for the planet Karman-III-Delta. She is possibly Earth’s last hope of establishing a working off-world colony. However, her predecessor stopped reporting home, so now she and the colonists must establish what happened to the previous colony.”

Nathan says:

What we’re seeing here is the common problem of being too close to the book. You’re the author and you know it inside and out, so the cover seems appropriate to you because it matches an image that you know is in the book.

But look at it from the perspective a potential reader — one who would enjoy reading the book you wrote — and ask, “What does this cover instantly convey about the book?”

Not much. Something science-fictiony, yes, but that’s a big arena.  In the thumbnail, I can see that there’s technology, and a redhead.  I may not even realize that she’s transparent (or I may just assume that she’s part of a semi-transparent collage — what we call “layers upon layers” over at

At full size, I really don’t get much more.  I might understand that she’s a hologram in that techno-industrial setting, and I may even get, from her binary morph-suit, that she’s an A.I., but probably before either of those my takeaway will be that she’s a rendered figure from Poser or similar software… and that will probably be a strike against you, because so many indie publishers think that Poser-generated covers are adequate (they’re not) that they also have their own category of “pseudohumans” at

Nowhere do I get “colony ship” or “mysterious lost colony” or anything that would be an honest draw for your target audience.  (And honestly, the title itself doesn’t help; it tells me nothing.) From the summary, I would expect to see a massive colony ship in space, or — and this would definitely get my interest more — humans in shiny space suits looking down on the overgrown ruins of a colony on an alien world.  (In my mind’s eye, the illustration is by Bob Eggleston. For what it’s worth.)

Remember: Your cover is a movie poster.  Your cover is a daring flash of ankle. Your cover, as an esteemed commenter on this site so succinctly put it, is clickbait.  What it needs to say is, “Check out what’s cool over here!” and show something that the target audience for the book would think is cool.

Other comments?

Rabbit Girl

The author says:

Would you abandon your best friend to save your sanity?

“Have I gone mad?”

“I’m afraid so. You’re entirely bonkers. But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are…”

Lissie has long had more than her fair share of problems. For one, her only friend is a six-foot white rabbit called Lewis. Add to that a childhood traumatised by schizophrenia and Lissie generates enough material to keep a whole team of psychiatrists busy for years. If she is to recover, Lissie must be prepared to give up the only friend she has ever known. However, getting rid of Lewis is no easy matter…

Nathan says:

I think what we’re seeing is a common problem when an author designs her own cover: She tries to represent the whole book up front, instead of narrowing it down to a single engaging image designed to appeal to her target audience.

Some specific problems:

  • The font Papyrus has been so overused and misused over the years that it makes readers instinctively recoil.
  • You misspelled “Lewis Carroll.”
  • You have a center to your image, but then you mar it by putting the title right across it — the words and image war for attention.
  • The silhouettes in the lower left are not only in a distinctly different style from the rest of the image, but the impression of adults embracing (with one wearing rabbit ears) unfortunately connotes all of those head-scratching paraphilia-porn novels of the last couple of years.  Sad, but true.
  • The description makes it seem like a darker version of the Jimmy Stewart movie Harvey; the cover instead paints it as an Alice in Wonderland fanfic (of which the world has far too many).  The readers who would enjoy the first won’t be attracted by a cover that promises the second; the readers attracted by the promise of the second will be annoyed at receiving the first instead.

Other comments?


The Belief Algorithm

The author says:

The Belief Algorithm – How to be the Alchemist of Your Life

Belief _ how what you believe can determine you success and if you believe in yourself you can win and succeed

Environment – how your environment and the people you hang out with can determine your level of success

Law of attraction – how what you focus on can determine how successful you are.

Ikigai – your why and motivation. How to use this to be successful in your life.

Emotional Intelligence – how emotional Intelligence can lead to success. It is a better predictor of success than iq as per the research

Focus and failure – how to use focus and failure to achieve duccsss in your life

All the letters of belief stand for a way to achieve success in an area of your life

Next chapter is bridging the gap

Bridge the gap between beliefs and achievement through hard work, dedication, persistent, passion, etc. This chapter discusses other areas to work in such as discipline, etc to achieve succsss

The book is a self help, personal development/self improvement book intended to show people how to be the alchemist of their own life and create the life they always desired. I hope that makes sense. I can answer any questions you have related to others parts of the book. I discuss gratitude and perspective as a way to achieve success and how my beliefs around not wasting time, implementing with a sense of urgency and taking action with uncertainly can ultimately lead to success. Thank you for your feedback Looking forward to reading it

Nathan says:

While acknowledging that I’m not the target audience, I think this has winning elements. My only two recommendations:

  1. Add either a border or an off-white background so that the edges of the cover are visible against a white webpage background (as most ebook vendor sites have).
  2. Strengthen the word “Algorithm” (either make it darker, or add a dark border) so that it’s readable in thumbnail.

Good job!

Other comments?

The Multi-Passionate Entrepreneur’s Playbook

The author says:

This is a non fiction how to business book geared to entrepreneurs who want to create online businesses.

Nathan says:

The biggest problems are those you can see in the thumbnail — or rather, that you can’t see: The entire cover is unreadable and unintelligible.  The fonts are too neutral and unassuming, the orange-vs-teal color scheme doesn’t contrast in value enough for the subtitle to be distinct from the background, and the stock graphic doesn’t seem to have any relation to the topic — it certainly doesn’t draw in potential readers who would want to learn about online businesses. The entire effect is definitely not a passionate one.

There are a lot of online business how-to books out there.  Your cover needs to be aesthetically appealing and easily understood, or else the eyeballs of your target audience won’t even pause on your cover before being drawn to the covers to either side of it in their Amazon search:

These are the covers that come up when I search for “online business” books on Amazon.  This is your competition.

My advice would be to start again from the concept up.

(And as an aside, I have no idea what a “PMP” is, or why that designation improves your credibility.)

Other comments?

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?


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.


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?

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