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Month – July 2017

Man & Horse: The Long Ride Across America

The author says:

In 1974 a disenfranchised young man from a broken home set out to do the impossible. John Egenes saddled his young horse Gizmo and started down the trail on a seven month journey that took them across 11 states, from ocean to ocean. It is a tale that’s as big as the America they crossed, an America that no longer exists. It was a journey that could only have been experienced step by step, mile by mile, and viewed between a horse’s ears.

Nathan says:

The faux sepia tone, and the lack of anything visual which immediately places this in the 1970s, leads to the instant error that it’s a tale of a much, much older time.  (Yes, a few seconds’ examination of the rider’s garb shows that it’s very likely a photo from the ’60s or ’70s, but you will have lost the attention of those potential readers turned away by the initial impression.)

In addition, both title and byline get lost — the title because of size and color, and the byline because of size, color and the busy background behind it.  There would be no downside to putting the title across the horse and lower — ain’t nobody going to complain about the horse’s face being obscured.

My advice would be to take the sepia filter off the photo, and then add an element or two to show that the photograph itself is a document of the journey: a white border with black mounting corners, perhaps, or a couple of fold lines across the print.  Then seek out a period-specific (or at least appropriate) typeface — not something as gaudy as the “Mary Tyler Moore” font, but still something with a connection to the time period — and make sure that it’s readable, or at least visible, at thumbnail size.

Other comments?

My First Ten Days in Heaven [resubmit x2]

The author says:

I’m comfortable exposing yet another effort because the tone of this site is educational, not one where finding fault is the turn on. Much appreciated by all of us writers without funds and with minimal design sense. You make the world of writing a better place. Thanks.

[original submission and comments here and here]

Nathan says:

Aw, shucks. Thanks. We’re all happy to offer pre-publication advice and support — we save our snark for after a cover has been published to the world.

My first reaction — before any of the technical design stuff — is that, in looking at the three prospective covers, I really don’t know what to expect in your novel. I don’t know the tone, the mood.  I know that it’s “literary,” whatever that means… but is it lighthearted? Leaden with awareness of the futility of existence?  Postmortal existentialism?  The three covers we’ve seen so far could each apply to one of those three, which would each appeal to different readers.

I’ve got several specific pointers about this cover (kerning, position of “A Novel,” etc.), but I feel like it would be rearranging deck chairs on… not the Titanic, but a boat that’s not going where you want it to go.

At this point, my advice would be to get a second pair of eyes.  Find a reader with at least a cursory awareness of book marketing, have them read the book, and then ask, “What kind of cover would you expect to see on this?”  If you want, show them each of the three covers you’ve shown us so far and find out which one best matches the mood or feel of the book.  Then you’ll be able to dive into how best to design that cover to appeal to your prospective readers.

Best of luck.


The author says:

Colden Frost, nineteen years old gaming genius has always day dreams of ‘better’ worlds, like the ones in his games he plays – and wins. When he finds himself transported to a different world in a different persona, he is elated. But is it the world he has always dreampt of or a dark reflection of his own world encased in ice. A reflection that holds something much darker, much deeper? Will Colden be able to clear this game? Or will he be consumed by his own personal Ragnarok?

Nathan says:

You’ve got a good balance between “techno” and “archaeo” elements here.  However, the wolf’s head looks more juvenile than primitive.  You could play with filters to make it look etched in stone etc., or you could just replace that with an actual Norse carving of a wolf’s head.

The other thing I’d say is make the title and byline bigger; there’s no benefit to leaving unused space around them.

Other comments?

First Ten Days in Heaven [resubmit]

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.

[original submission and comments here]

Nathan says:

I think all of the original criticisms from commenters still hold true here: There’s nothing to catch the eye or indicate the contents. There’s nothing that makes the cover a promo for the book.

You’ve changed fonts, but this one has its on problems: the kerning (spacing between letters) is problematic, so that “FIRST” looks scrunched together while “HEAVEN” has visible gaps (often a problem between A and V).  And the italic version for Personal Wisdom and Simply Bob isn’t a true italic; it’s just that same font, slanted.  I’ll grant you that most readers won’t be able to articulate comments about “kerning” and “true italics,” but they will come away with the impression that, not only is the cover not intriguing or appealing, it’s also not put together very well.

I think your best bet is advice I commonly give: Seek out half a dozen titles in the same genre that you would expect to appeal to the same readers, and examine their covers to see how readers of books like yours are used to being marketed to.

Other comments?

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