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Our Love’s Irreversibility

The author says:

(Note to Mr. Shumate: I hope you’ll pardon the verbosity; this is a fantastically complicated story. Also, this is a *very* preliminary “scratch” cover: I haven’t finished writing the last third of the novel yet, and I’m considering hiring a professional artist to do the actual final cover.) Truth can be stranger than fiction, as Don Richards knows: his unlikely modern fairytale marriage with Denise, the unwed teen mother he hired to take care of his little son Jackie after his first wife died in a car wreck, has Don doubting his life can possibly get any more bizarre, even with their Carribean honeymoon cruise passing through the legendary Bermuda Triangle. Fiction, however, proves to have a few surprises of its own as the Bermuda Triangle proves to be a place in which paranormal events long dismissed as exaggerations and mythical mumbo-jumbo are rare, but do happen. The trouble is, when myths come true in reality, metaphor is powerless to dispel these paranormal events the way it does in all the made-up stories. In Mr. and Mrs. Richards’ case, this is especially problematic because their minds have also been swapped with those of his nine-year-old son Jackie and her eight-and-a-half-year-old daughter Jaymee, respectively. What will they do if their swap proves to be irreversible? This is an adult paranormal romance with just a hint of time travel and a kind of “trash TV talk show meets the Brady Bunch meets Freaky Friday meets John Varley’s ‘Air Raid'” plot to it.

Our Love's Irreversibility Scratch Cover

Our Love's Irreversibility Scratch CoverNathan says:

(I hope the author doesn’t mind that I included his note to me in his description above, as I think it contains important information.)

Your cover ideas have good elements. I always encourage going with a professional, but the following may be helpful if you either decide to go it alone or want to give the designer other ideas:

1) Is your byline really “Blake Rem Lumen Coryn”?  That may be your name, but I think it’s ungainly as a byline — there’s distinctive (e.g., Martin Smith adding his “Cruz” middle name to stand out), but then there’s unwieldy.  People are unused to author names that are more than three names long — it doesn’t look like a name at first glance. I think “Blake Coryn” is distinctive enough to stick in memory much better than a four-part name would. (Also, once your name looks like a name, the  “By” is unnecessary.)

2) There’s a lot of unused background space. Especially when you look at it at thumbnail size, you can see that the large areas of nothing-but-rail to left and right add nothing.  You can make the child silhouettes larger and thus more immediately recognizable.

3) One of my rules of thumb is “big words need simple fonts.”  Irreversibility (which my spellchecker isn’t even recognizing as a word) is a perfect example. As you can see especially in the thumbnail, the word easily turns into “bunch of letter that cause me to tune out.” Also, the gradient in both the title and byline reduces the contrast and thus the readability.

4) There’s such a thing as having too many things aligned to the center. Shifting the moon off to one side (my instinct says to the left, but I can’t back that up) adds a little bit of variety to the layout.

Other ideas?

 

Comments

  1. Two things popped out at me:

    1. I think you should consider a different font. The one you are using is difficult to read in full size, and probably nearly impossible to read in thumbnail size. Red is also a difficult color to read over a dark background.

    2. I know this is a paranormal romance involving mind-swaps into 9-year old bodies, but I think showing silhouettes of children about to make out gives this cover a creepy factor that could scare away readers. It certainly gave me pause.

  2. I have a few suggestions.

    1. Red font on dark backgrounds. Red is a funny colour. It has so much contrast and pop, and it is eye catching so it is used in everything! The problem is that red does not have contrast with black tones at all. The colour of your text needs to be changed.

    2. I read your book blurb so I understand what is going on here, but other people will not have that luxury beforehand. You know vital things that the viewer would not, story details.

    How to say this… What you essentially have here is a cover that is showing two very young looking children just about to passionately kiss. Not cute innocent kid kisses either, that is a full blown we are going to make out pose.

    That is a big deal breaker and I am sure you can understand why. This causes the cover to have the wrong kind of ‘hook’. The reason people pick up this book to look at should not be “Because there are kids kissing on it”.

    3. The story. This cover does provide a good setting. We know where at least some of it takes place, a cruise ship. It doesn’t tell us much about the story… well that I want to think about.

    I think I have a good idea that will help to better convey the story, and remove the kids are kissing portion of this cover.

    Have you thought about having two sets of silhouettes? An older couple about to kiss, in a darker shade of a colour (possibly two colours, 1 each) and another set in front of the children holding hands. If you connect them visually it might even have a body switching vibe. This would be especially helpful if there are multi-stories in this, as in the children have something to do swapped at the same time as the adults.

    Good luck!

    1. Have you thought about having two sets of silhouettes? An older couple about to kiss, in a darker shade of a colour (possibly two colours, 1 each) and another set in front of the children holding hands. If you connect them visually it might even have a body switching vibe. This would be especially helpful if there are multi-stories in this, as in the children have something to do swapped at the same time as the adults.

      Um, have you considered the terrifying implications of what you’re suggesting here? The kids’ minds have been swapped with their parents’ minds, right? The potential reader doesn’t know that yet, because he or she hasn’t flipped the book over to the blurb on the back, or seen the synopsis on Amazon or Smashwords or wherever it’s going to be posted.

      So let’s say we go with your idea of putting up both couples on the cover with the adults about to kiss and the children holding hands. The potential reader thinks that’s cute and kind of romantic, might like to know what the story’s about, and flips over to the description. Ah, so that’s why they were juxtaposed that way on the cover: the parents got body-swapped with the kids and…

      Hey, wait a minute! If the minds have changed places, doesn’t that mean the nine-year-old and almost-nine-year-old holding hands on the cover are actually the adults? Doesn’t that also mean that the actual nine-year-old and almost-nine-year-old are the ones in the whole “We are about to pork!” pose? Ewww! Ick! Ick! Ick! What kind of pervert designed this cover? I don’t know about you, but I think it would be kind of a relief to find out that mentally speaking, those kids about to do the Eskimo nose-rub on the cover aren’t actually kids at all, even if the concept of two parents’ minds being stuck in their kids’ bodies is kind of inherently creepy itself.

      Begging your pardon, I also think you’re exaggerating how intimate the shot is. The memorable movie My Girl (1991) raised no objections I know of when it showed the 11-year-old Macaulay Culkin and Anna Chlumsky locking lips. If you’re thinking that’s different because eleven years old “tweens” are sort-of-kind-of-mature and that’s a “chaste” kiss in the proper context of a coming-of-age movie, how about this stock photo of a couple of preschoolers kissing? The first page on my image search for “kids kissing” turned up dozens of shots of kids from preteens on down to toddlers doing some lip-mashing like this, though this looks to be the only one in which the little guy is already copping a feel. (Quick learner, that one!)

      Seems to me, if people are looking at photos of children kissing like that and thinking “Oh, how cute!” rather than “After we report this site to the FBI for showing us child pornography, let’s go find the pedophile who took this and castrate him!” then maybe we shouldn’t get too worked up over the mere silhouette of a couple of children ambiguously posed in an embrace (are those his arms, her arms, one of each?) face-to-face about to kiss. The art is rather crude and I’d say it definitely needs a professional’s touch, but the concept is best left as it is.

        1. *blink*
          *blink*

          Personally I do not think that this concept should be left as is. What does children kissing tell us about the book? Nothing at all about the story mentioned in the blurb!

          All this does is conjure up other times our brains have seen this pose on covers and relate to that. When have I seen this pose?

          Romance covers. The moon at night? More romance. Cruise ship? More romance. This is why it turns into feeling wrong, regardless of the actual pose. Two people leaning in like that on a cover like this means that this is a romance, and then your brain registers that it is children and you get the shivers.

          3.5 out of 8 people have said so far that the picture is ‘creepy’, I think that is probably a big enough percentage of the sample group to change the pose at the very least. Quite frankly the children have younger looking shadows than the ages listed which just adds to it.

          I don’t see how my idea of adults kissing is any more nightmare inducing than this one. If anything they are on the same level of nightmare induction, mine would just take longer to realize. At least you might have bought the book before you came to my horrible realization! Less instant horror means more sales! 😀

          seriously though, the two sets of silhouettes is still an idea to help give this a body swapping vibe, but how about if none of them are kissing? It is at least something to consider, how will anyone know it is a body swapping book?

          These movies sprang to my mind as having good covers and being about body swapping. If you look at the picture, it is obvious what has happened. You don’t need to read the tagline to know what is up.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/It's_a_Boy_Girl_Thing#mediaviewer/File:BOYGIRLTHING_POSTER.jpg

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freaky_Friday_(2003_film)#mediaviewer/File:Freaky_friday_post.jpg

          1. Quite frankly the children have younger looking shadows than the ages listed which just adds to it.

            You know, I was just thinking about your saying this when I answered a similar objection from Axolotl on The Burning of Cherry Hill. Your perceptions of characters’ ages might both be somewhat distorted by the Dawson Creek Effect. For children with ages in the single digits, how old they are is even trickier to determine than for teenagers, since their secondary sexual traits aren’t in evidence yet: about the only frame of reference we have is their size, and that can vary significantly from child to child within the same age range.

            Judging by the only other (vaguely scientific) standard available here, the proportions of the kids, it looks to me like these two really are about 8 or 9 years old. If they were younger, their heads would be bigger and more rounded and wouldn’t stick out from their bodies so much and their limbs would be shorter. If they were older, she would be a bit curvier (though not on her chest area until she hit 11) and he would have more of a chin.

            They might not be the exact ages advertised, but they’re probably pretty close.

  3. Everyone else has said what I was going to say, but I’d like to add that the silhouettes look sloppily pasted on. Not professional at all.

  4. I have to say I don’t find the children creepy, nor does it look like they are about to ‘make out’ – just going by the image, if you do not read the blurb. If one was adult it would be creepy.

    That said, the font is bad, and the colour makes it sink into the background even more. The silhouettes are also quite bad. The background – well, the moon is OK, but I would put it to the side as Nathan suggests. The cliché of a couple, by the railing of a ship, in the moonlight, is maybe a bit overused too, to the point that replacing them with the kids is not going to distance it enough from Love Boat and pulp romance novels; all things considered, I would start again. As you say, it is just a sketch, so you lose little in trying to sketch another idea or two.

    1. Oh, no…that silhouette creeped me out, instantly–before I read the synopsis. It’s beyond suggestive. The first words that leapt to my mind were “kiddie porn” and then I decided it was disguised kiddie porn. That impression, BTW, was reinforced, not eliminated, after I read the synopsis. I wouldn’t open the cover to see the LITB, if that silhouette stayed on–and I’m pretty wildly far from prudish.

      That aside, I concur–the “couple in the night by the cruise ship railing” scene is right up there with someone looking at themselves in the mirror, (in prose) in terms of overdone. It’s dreadfully cliche’d, even with the creepy overtones on this. The vignette fade-in on the top should also go.

      The font is, agreed, overly florid. The name, if it’s a name, too long. The tagline, if that’s what it is, should be in a different font than the author name, perhaps a nice sans serif with some weight. And yes, it’s entirely too centered/symmetrical. Covers need contrast, yes, but this one is in the wrong direction, somehow. The contrast is ALL in the moon and the bright red, too-foofy font, which pulls the eye away from everything else.

      Lastly, the elements don’t really fit “together.” The ponytail on the girl is sometime 20th-21st century; the cruise ship is sort of 1950’s/70’s, the font is pseudo-medieval/fantasy/romance. The moon feels like it was an image from the Hubble, it’s so bright. I’m not expressing it very well, but it’s disjointed–like someone took a bunch of elements from other books that had better-defined thematic designs, and kluged them together. Although still–that silhouette is just going to creep me out, no matter what’s done to it. The implication is just repugnant to me. Sorry.

      1. Maybe I’m just a bit behind the times or something, but what does “LITB” mean? I can’t seem to find that on any list of internet acronyms anywhere.

        1. “LITB” is Amazon’s “Look Inside the Book.” It’s likely not on some list of Internet acronyms, but the typical self-pub would recognize it. I’ll try to remember that some folks might not.

  5. When I first saw the thumbnail at a glance, it was hard to make anything out in the glance itself. You want to attract eyes to your cover from those glances. No image stands out and forms a good, natural resting place for my eyes. The bright lines seem to be fighting with the shadow people. Even the font, not quite right, but also the red on dark is hard to read. This could be one of those cases where this mock-up can be preserved, yet properly PhotoShopped to make the different pieces coordinate much better and provide a good resting place for the eye and natural focus.

    But then… The cover is quite dark as it is; the main bright object is the moon, which is a bit blurry, and is fighting with the lighting effect with the rails, and the moon probably isn’t the main image. But the bigger issue I see is attracting your target audience. From the note in your description, it seems that you first need to choose which way you want to spin this. Choose one audience and package the book to catch that specific audience. If we could catch several major audiences at once, that would make cover design and blurb writing so much easier, but what we can do is pick one and go for that. I see these kids as the main image. Is it a children’s book? My point is that you have to choose what is likely to attract your specific target audience to get interested in your book. The end of your description explains the role of the kids, but the customer browsing thumbnails on Amazon looking for an adult paranormal romance will pass over your book because that adult doesn’t yet know that it’s not a kids’ book.

  6. I can’t do more than agree with everyone else.

    Placing black silhouettes against a dark background is probably not the best idea.

    The same goes for red against a black ground—especially when much of the red is in fact a dark brown.

    The font is indeed much too ornate to be readable…and the color only exacerbates that problem.

    I would be really careful about tangents. That blue line bisecting the two children looks extremely odd (my first thought was that it looked like something running out of their noses).

    You do not need the “By” before your name.

  7. (I hope the author doesn’t mind that I included his note to me in his description above, as I think it contains important information.)

    Not at all, not at all, Mr. Shumate. I do wish, though, that your system’s submission form had kept my line breaks. Without the breaks between the note and the synopsis (and the synopsis and the line about the target audience), what was already getting to be a rather dangerously long paragraph turns into an unwieldy wall of text. Ugh. Any chance you could break them up again?

    Allow me to start by saying this criticism session has been an education. All of your remarks and recommendations have been most helpful, and I continue to welcome them. When I first submitted this cover, I found this instruction on the submission form:

    4) Shut up. No, really, shut up. Remember that you won’t be standing next to every potential reader as they browse Amazon and make a snap judgment about your book based on your cover; the work has to stand for itself, without you defending your design choices. The only exception is if you phrase it in the form of a question: “You said the cover was boring; can you be more specific?” or “I was trying to go for a certain vibe; can you suggest some way to accomplish that?”

    This is sound reasoning, and I heartily agree with it. However, the sheer number of helpful critiques you’ve provided have left me with much to clarify and many clarifications to request, and I cannot do this with questions alone. Moreover, now that another cover has been posted for critique, I believe this first criticism session is drawing to a close. I shall have to beg your indulgence therefore as I answer some of your questions while asking you mine.

    After much careful consideration, I’ve broken the various critiques into four categories. To keep this response from possibly triggering some kind of system lockout for being overlong, I believe it best to break it into four posts, one for each category.

    Byline

    1) Is your byline really “Blake Rem Lumen Coryn”? That may be your name, but I think it’s ungainly as a byline — there’s distinctive (e.g., Martin Smith adding his “Cruz” middle name to stand out), but then there’s unwieldy. People are unused to author names that are more than three names long — it doesn’t look like a name at first glance. I think “Blake Coryn” is distinctive enough to stick in memory much better than a four-part name would. (Also, once your name looks like a name, the “By” is unnecessary.)

    The name, if it’s a name, too long. The tagline, if that’s what it is, should be in a different font than the author name, perhaps a nice sans serif with some weight.

    You do not need the “By” before your name.

    Yes, that’s a name, albeit an anagram of my real name. (You didn’t think I’d sign my real name to a story dealing with such controversial subjects, did you?) Having four names is a bit uncommon, I’ll admit, though one of my siblings does, and the famous fantasy author J.R.R. Tolkien did too. Nonetheless, I see your point that the name is too long. While I could just cut the two middle names out, I was thinking an abbreviation would be better. How does “B.R.L. Coryn” grab you?

    Uh, that’s not a tagline, Hitch. If you all still agree that no one’s going to miss the “By” in my byline after the name is shortened, then I’ll gladly kiss the “By” in my byline goodbye. (Heh heh… I love alliteration.)

  8. Layout

    4) There’s such a thing as having too many things aligned to the center. Shifting the moon off to one side (my instinct says to the left, but I can’t back that up) adds a little bit of variety to the layout.

    The silhouettes are also quite bad. The background – well, the moon is OK, but I would put it to the side as Nathan suggests.

    And yes, it’s entirely too centered/symmetrical. Covers need contrast, yes, but this one is in the wrong direction, somehow. The contrast is ALL in the moon and the bright red, too-foofy font, which pulls the eye away from everything else.

    But then… The cover is quite dark as it is; the main bright object is the moon, which is a bit blurry, and is fighting with the lighting effect with the rails, and the moon probably isn’t the main image.

    I had my doubts about having that moon in the frame in the beginning, especially when laying the title font over it and thinking how much easier anything would be to read without a huge bright object shining out of the middle. Considering how the moon is proving to be an attractive nuisance to practically everybody, would anybody complain if I just got rid of it altogether? It’s not as if we need a moon in the frame to recognize the soft glow of moonlight on an ocean at night.

    2) There’s a lot of unused background space. Especially when you look at it at thumbnail size, you can see that the large areas of nothing-but-rail to left and right add nothing. You can make the child silhouettes larger and thus more immediately recognizable.

    When I first saw the thumbnail at a glance, it was hard to make anything out in the glance itself. You want to attract eyes to your cover from those glances. No image stands out and forms a good, natural resting place for my eyes. The bright lines seem to be fighting with the shadow people.

    What if I punched up the glow of the moonlight via gamma correction and expanded the upper part of the children’s silhouettes to fill most of the frame? Would any of you complain if you couldn’t see their legs and feet (which are barely visible behind the byline anyway)? When I view this on my laptop’s LCD, I’ve noticed besides that a certain little glitch which sometimes afflicts my graphics editing program when working with enormous images has duplicated a piece of the deck at the bottom below their feet; might as well eliminate that too.

    Everyone else has said what I was going to say, but I’d like to add that the silhouettes look sloppily pasted on. Not professional at all.

    (are those his arms, her arms, one of each?)

    Placing black silhouettes against a dark background is probably not the best idea.

    The same goes for red against a black ground—especially when much of the red is in fact a dark brown.

    For the record, RK, that’s her arm on top and his on the bottom; which now that I think of it, makes them both southpaws. Anyway, I’ll count these complaints as a vote for hiring a professional artist. Would it be better, do you think, if I had the artist add a few reflective internal details to the silhouettes? That’s a bit beyond my photo shopping skills, which is why I’d need an artist to draw them professionally. Meanwhile, I hope you’ll forgive the crudeness of the silhouettes if I do another cover; they’re only scratch art, after all.

    I would be really careful about tangents. That blue line bisecting the two children looks extremely odd (my first thought was that it looked like something running out of their noses).

    This could be one of those cases where this mock-up can be preserved, yet properly PhotoShopped to make the different pieces coordinate much better and provide a good resting place for the eye and natural focus.

    Lastly, the elements don’t really fit “together.” The ponytail on the girl is sometime 20th-21st century; the cruise ship is sort of 1950’s/70’s, the font is pseudo-medieval/fantasy/romance. The moon feels like it was an image from the Hubble, it’s so bright. I’m not expressing it very well, but it’s disjointed–like someone took a bunch of elements from other books that had better-defined thematic designs, and kluged them together.

    The art is rather crude and I’d say it definitely needs a professional’s touch, but the concept is best left as it is.

    Another vote for the professional from RK! All right, Ron, what if I move that rail post over a bit to the right and the couple a bit to the left? Would that look better while preserving the artistic balance of the picture? Hitch, how the devil can you discern a ship’s age from just some railing and a piece of the deck? As for the font, I confess: it’s something called “Fairy Dust B” I picked up free from a fonts site because I thought it resembled the swishy lettering of a number of popular romance novels I’d studied; it probably is more for the “olde tyme fantasy romance” kind of novel than this. The children, however, are supposed to be roughly contemporary, so I’m glad to hear at least the girl’s ponytail looks up-to-date. As for the disjointed look… try as I may to blunt the hard edges and meld things together, it’s still a scratch. I’ll try to make it look a little better next time.

  9. Font

    3) One of my rules of thumb is “big words need simple fonts.” Irreversibility (which my spellchecker isn’t even recognizing as a word) is a perfect example. As you can see especially in the thumbnail, the word easily turns into “bunch of letter that cause me to tune out.” Also, the gradient in both the title and byline reduces the contrast and thus the readability.

    The font is, agreed, overly florid.

    For the record, that title is tentative and by no means final. When going over what the title should be, I kept thinking maybe “Bermuda” something, since anything about the Bermuda Triangle tends to get people’s attention. The more I looked at it, though, the less relevance the Bermuda Triangle actually had to the central story; it only serves as a convenient excuse for all the paranormal stuff to occur. “Irreversibility” is an obscure and therefore exotic term mostly used in scientific contexts that neatly happens to describe the central conflict of the story.

    I could maybe have used “Irreversible” instead, but there’s already a cyberpunk romance novel with that title listed on goodreads.com, and a really disgusting film with that title by the pretentious French film-maker Gaspar Noé. (Remember him? As I recall, you once tore another of his pretentious films–to which this is a kind of sequel–up one side and down the other in one of your more hilarious reviews. I Stand Alone was fittingly advertised right on the cover as being set “In the bowels of France!” That’s where Irreversible originates as well.) “Our Love’s Irreversibility” it is, therefore.

    Anyway, though the current title does have a certain ring to it, if anyone can come up with a snappier title that fits, I’m all ears. As for the font, I can see “Fairy Dust B” isn’t having the desired effect. How would Romance Fatal Serif suit you guys better? (It’s free for personal use, such as on scratch covers, but I’ll have to pay its designer something if I actually end up using it commercially, such as on the final cover.) If not, I’m open to suggestions.

    1. I think you should consider a different font. The one you are using is difficult to read in full size, and probably nearly impossible to read in thumbnail size. Red is also a difficult color to read over a dark background.

    That said, the font is bad, and the colour makes it sink into the background even more.

    Even the font, not quite right, but also the red on dark is hard to read.

    The font is indeed much too ornate to be readable…and the color only exacerbates that problem.

    1. Red font on dark backgrounds. Red is a funny colour. It has so much contrast and pop, and it is eye catching so it is used in everything! The problem is that red does not have contrast with black tones at all. The colour of your text needs to be changed.

    I hear you all loud and clear. It seems my favorite color red is falling down on the job and will have to be replaced. Very well, then: what shall the new color be? What will provide the desired effect?

  10. Theme

    2. I know this is a paranormal romance involving mind-swaps into 9-year old bodies, but I think showing silhouettes of children about to make out gives this cover a creepy factor that could scare away readers. It certainly gave me pause.

    2. I read your book blurb so I understand what is going on here, but other people will not have that luxury beforehand. You know vital things that the viewer would not, story details.

    How to say this… What you essentially have here is a cover that is showing two very young looking children just about to passionately kiss. Not cute innocent kid kisses either, that is a full blown we are going to make out pose.

    That is a big deal breaker and I am sure you can understand why. This causes the cover to have the wrong kind of ‘hook’. The reason people pick up this book to look at should not be “Because there are kids kissing on it”.

    3. The story. This cover does provide a good setting. We know where at least some of it takes place, a cruise ship. It doesn’t tell us much about the story… well that I want to think about.

    I think I have a good idea that will help to better convey the story, and remove the kids are kissing portion of this cover.

    Have you thought about having two sets of silhouettes? An older couple about to kiss, in a darker shade of a colour (possibly two colours, 1 each) and another set in front of the children holding hands. If you connect them visually it might even have a body switching vibe. This would be especially helpful if there are multi-stories in this, as in the children have something to do swapped at the same time as the adults.

    Personally I do not think that this concept should be left as is. What does children kissing tell us about the book? Nothing at all about the story mentioned in the blurb!

    All this does is conjure up other times our brains have seen this pose on covers and relate to that. When have I seen this pose?

    Romance covers. The moon at night? More romance. Cruise ship? More romance. This is why it turns into feeling wrong, regardless of the actual pose. Two people leaning in like that on a cover like this means that this is a romance, and then your brain registers that it is children and you get the shivers.

    3.5 out of 8 people have said so far that the picture is ‘creepy’, I think that is probably a big enough percentage of the sample group to change the pose at the very least. Quite frankly the children have younger looking shadows than the ages listed which just adds to it.

    I don’t see how my idea of adults kissing is any more nightmare inducing than this one. If anything they are on the same level of nightmare induction, mine would just take longer to realize. At least you might have bought the book before you came to my horrible realization! Less instant horror means more sales! 😀

    seriously though, the two sets of silhouettes is still an idea to help give this a body swapping vibe, but how about if none of them are kissing? It is at least something to consider, how will anyone know it is a body swapping book?

    The cliché of a couple, by the railing of a ship, in the moonlight, is maybe a bit overused too, to the point that replacing them with the kids is not going to distance it enough from Love Boat and pulp romance novels; all things considered, I would start again.

    Oh, no…that silhouette creeped me out, instantly–before I read the synopsis. It’s beyond suggestive. The first words that leapt to my mind were “kiddie porn” and then I decided it was disguised kiddie porn. That impression, BTW, was reinforced, not eliminated, after I read the synopsis. I wouldn’t open the cover to see the LITB, if that silhouette stayed on–and I’m pretty wildly far from prudish.

    That aside, I concur–the “couple in the night by the cruise ship railing” scene is right up there with someone looking at themselves in the mirror, (in prose) in terms of overdone. It’s dreadfully cliche’d, even with the creepy overtones on this. The vignette fade-in on the top should also go.

    Although still–that silhouette is just going to creep me out, no matter what’s done to it. The implication is just repugnant to me. Sorry.

    But the bigger issue I see is attracting your target audience. From the note in your description, it seems that you first need to choose which way you want to spin this. Choose one audience and package the book to catch that specific audience. If we could catch several major audiences at once, that would make cover design and blurb writing so much easier, but what we can do is pick one and go for that. I see these kids as the main image. Is it a children’s book? My point is that you have to choose what is likely to attract your specific target audience to get interested in your book. The end of your description explains the role of the kids, but the customer browsing thumbnails on Amazon looking for an adult paranormal romance will pass over your book because that adult doesn’t yet know that it’s not a kids’ book.

    There’s really no other effective way to answer all of these complaints except all at once, so here I go.

    1) Negative as many of your reactions are, this is actually a good thing from my perspective. As Orson Scott Card noted in a book on how to write fantasy and science fiction, if people you give your drafts to read like your characters, that’s good, and if they hate your characters for all the right reasons, that’s good too. Only when they keep forgetting about your characters is your story in trouble. The image of two children getting rather… intimate on the cover is intended to come as a bit of a shock to someone browsing through the paranormal romance section. Children are not something romance readers of any kind see on their covers very often–and therefore not something they’ll soon forget.

    2) Most of you don’t seem very familiar with the nature of the genre I’ve chosen. A paranormal romance is about the romance first and foremost; the paranormal aspect is always secondary. That’s what sets it apart from a fantasy or science fiction story with romantic elements in it. Certainly, paranormal romances can easily be set in a previously established fantasy or science fiction universe, but the genre shift always requires a substantial change of perspective. Set a paranormal romance in any Star Trek series, for instance, and suddenly the emphasis shifts from whatever crisis-of-the-week is endangering the characters to their relationships, and how they build and maintain them (or don’t) during these crises.

    Waffles, it may interest you to know that as part of my extensive research for this story, I’ve watched both of the movies whose posters you held up as examples of effective advertising. Indeed, for what they are, the advertising is very effective: specifically, they’re modern paranormal fantasies with a strong element of romantic comedy. Were these paranormal romances like mine, however, the new emphasis on romantic relationships at the expense of the fantasy elements would take both stories in a decidedly darker and more mature direction.

    The central theme of my story is: what would you do if you were in one of these fantastic situations and you weren’t provided some standard writer’s cop-out to get you back to normal at the end? Resolving the situation in It’s A Boy-Girl Thing in some socially acceptable way, I think, would be difficult and time-consuming but ultimately fairly simple. Specifically, it seems likely that all the hormones running through the sex-swapped protagonists’ bodies and brains would eventually alter their sexual identity to match their bodies. That’s a story for someone else to write, however; maybe some husband-and-wife tag team who know more than I do about being a member of the opposite sex.

    Far more problematic–and therefore relevant to my research–is the situation in Disney’s in-name-only remake of Freaky Friday starring Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan. Put simply, [spoiler alert] the formerly bratty teenage daughter effectively marries her new step-father at the end. Fortunately for everybody, this noble act of self-sacrifice which proves the daughter has learned her lesson turns out to be the trigger for returning the mother and daughter’s minds to their proper bodies so that everybody can live happily ever after. Can you imagine what a brutally sordid mess they would have on their hands if that hadn’t worked?

    Putting all of this together, do all of you understand now why I can’t use the same layout as these movies’ posters on the cover of my book? Yes, if I showed potential customers a picture of the parents stuck in their children’s clothing and vice-versa, they would definitely think this is a light-hearted body-swapping romantic comedy they might like to buy. They would also be horribly, horribly wrong. The point of my cover is to shock the readers and maybe unsettle them a little, not deceive them. I can maybe soften the blow, change the stance of those silhouettes to turn down the heat a bit, but the central concept must stand.

    Try this on for size: what if I were to show the boy and girl clasping both hands with each other? Think it might help by neatly symbolizing their struggle to resolve their seemingly unresolvable situation? Think it might still be disturbing and edgy enough to get a potential reader’s attention?

    3) Finally, I’m not sure whether to congratulate you or express my regrets, but clearly most or all of you are not in my target audience. This much I anticipated, considering that even the more professional covers on best-selling romance novels tend to have a lot of the “bringing sexy back” cliches you critics tear into books for having on their covers over at lousybookcovers.com. The art on the best ones is better done, but the central element on almost every last one of them is breasts, beefcake, or both. Anything other than this would instead earn them a tag for “false flagging” on this site’s companion.

    Moreover, ever since the Twilight series made a big splash, a vast majority of aspiring new paranormal romance writers seem to be scrambling for Stephenie Meyer’s table scraps: the genre section on any major book-seller’s site is awash in the vampire/werewolf/angel/demon/ghost/wraith/extraterrestrial romances that provide so much of your fodder for lousybookcovers.com, and almost nothing else at all. Some of these sites have even opened a new subdivision in romance for books like mine in the “time travel” genre, to which I reluctantly must consign my story also though it barely fits. (What time travel elements are in my story come only at the very end, and only in response to a question everybody on that cruise ship has to be asking themselves, namely “Where the hell are we!?”)

    Whether you even agree with me that such a thing as a non-trashy romance novel is possible, my target audience consists mainly of these romance novel buyers. My hope is that they’re ready for something new and original that isn’t just aping the latest trend. These are, I might remind you, much the same crowd that keeps trashy TV talk shows and the Lifetime Channel on the air, though you can rarely get any of them to admit as much. They were the much-despised audience who made Stephenie Meyer one of the richest and most hated women in the world. They’re currently enriching E.L. James, though moralists (perhaps rightly) rage that his Fifty Shades of Grey is nothing but pornography in prose, and BDSM enthusiasts (also perhaps rightly) complain that their lifestyles are really nothing like that at all and hate being associated with his story. That’s not such a tough market to crack, is it?

    As for where I’ll sell my story, I’m well aware that Smashwords would never accept it for publication, it being in rank violation of TOS 9b. Also, though the book may eventually find its way to Amazon.com, it’ll have to do so the same way that Piers Anthony’s Firefly, Stephen King’s It, and Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita did. I’m certainly not going to let it be associated with the puerile “erotica” by the likes of Selena Kitt and Esmeralda Greene on there, much as their rock-bottom-of-the-barrel-common-denominator target audience may actually overlap with mine.

    Anyway, while this is only a scratch cover and I’m ready to change and throw out virtually any part of it that isn’t working, the amorous children-who-aren’t-children must stay on some form, just as they must stay in the story itself. (To do otherwise would be like cutting the murder out of a murder mystery to keep it from upsetting children.) This novel will undoubtedly inspire numerous angry and hysterical reviews from self-appointed moralists who haven’t actually read it. Many of these tirades will be expletive-laced and far less respectful than any of your complaints. Despite their complete lack of moral standards, Hollywood and television executives will never even consider adapting this story into a movie. Nevertheless, for the reasons given, I am also convinced the book will sell.

    As such, whether you find my story and its cover’s theme to your liking or not, please answer my questions. Thank you.

  11. Wow! So much… reply!

    Seriously, it was fascinating reading all of your comments on our comments. That really should be the law around here. It did open my eyes as to what I could do to make this cover better, and the reasons why you did what you have done.

    Your pseudonym: For the record, I think that B.R.L. Coryn is better on the eyes. BRL I read as Brill. Which is UK slang for Brilliant, so take what you will from that.

    The font: Yes, that twinkle-sparkle unicorn font has to go. No doubting that. I like the font you found, I suspect you can find a true free free one though that is similar. Try Font Squirrel, they are a bit more high class than dafont and the ilk, and are less well known so the fonts are not in as many places. When I need a unique font for something like this, I snoop there first! 🙂

    On Body Swapping Movies: I know this as a fact – Something happened six months into the main character’s relationship that started after Its a Boy Girl Thing ended. During an awkward pause, they turned to the other and said at the same time, “Damn! Why the hell didn’t we body-swap pork each other before we learned a valuable lesson and swapped back into the right bodies?” The same cannot be said for Freaky Friday. They didn’t say that.

    It can be said that in Big the boy is still a boy but in a man’s body, and he totally taps that ass. The same cannot be said for 13 going on 30.

    On Character: I agree completely with that point. If a reader loves a character, emotionally connects with them, and cares about them – the author did a great job. If a reader despises a character, hates their actions, and loathes them to the very core for real reasons – the author did a great job. Some of the best characters I have read, and written for that matter, fit into the last one. Bad characters are not the same as badly written ones, and a memorable asshole of a character is someone that sticks with you!

    The Story: I certainly admit the concept is an interesting one, what would you do if you couldn’t switch back when you are swapped with a child? Or even if you could swap back in a Disneyesk moment, still it is interesting.

    It is a good plot hook, a reverse Big if you will, a Small. (Which by the way might be a good title, or word to the title… more on that next). I think you may be selling yourself short in that department. I think Hollywood would eat that up, I mean child adults and adult chilren, they would eat that shit up! I see no reason that Smashwords would not allow that book to be uploaded.

    The problems will only arise if the protagonists get it on graphically, and right in front of the reader. Can they have confusing thoughts about what to do with life? Absolutely. Can they look at each other, see the deep love for each other and question what could be done about it? Of course. Can they be attracted to the same person and catch a glimpse of the original adults smile? Yes. Can they kiss? Yes, but I’d be wary of passionate kisses. Can they graphically get it on as children in front of the reader in an attempt to titillate them with hardcore erotic subtext? No. No they can’t.

    Lolita can be a story about a man lusting for a young girl. It is certainly on a lot of book burning lists, but as I understand it (as I have never read it) is that it isn’t very graphic on the matters of sex. In fact, people that read it to get off on kiddy porn apparently stop reading it because it isn’t graphic. It is about lust.

    Mysterious Skin is a movie I have seen that does deal with this matter as well, it is very creepy. Jospeh Gordon-Levitt’s character while young falls in love with with his molester. In fact, it is mostly his idea. All of the graphic things are only mentioned or shown from far off camera. They are not shown. It is the ultimate in soul crushing viewing, and even though there is much more story than that, it still sticks with me as creepy.

    Can this idea be done, yes, but ever so carefully you must tread.

    It is very much like the werewolf trip off fiction you mentioned. Did you know that most places will not take a novel if there are werewolves in it that have sex while in animal or hybrid form. They fear the bestiality tags and bans even though it is technically not as the character is still in control of themselves (likely) and sentient. That is how these things work though, you can easily be banned for something like that from many publishing houses and book selling websites. If you use your human form dick though, just go to town apparently.

    The title: This is hard. I am not crazy about yours. It does’t tell me much about the book, but that can be said of so many others as well. As I said earlier, small is a good word. It might help to convey the story. (or little, or tiny, or something!) Everything I think of now sounds like a TLC special though, Little Love, Small problem, … I will need to think more on it.

    The creepy: If creepy is what you are going for, then well it is on the right track.

    The problem that I still have here is that even if your novel is a darker version of the more fun versions of this trope, there still is no indication that it is a story like this. Just having children on the cover in a pose doesn’t tell us anything of the actual plot of this book, just that kids are in it and being romantic. The question is though, why are they doing this? This is a paranormal romance, but where is the paranormal part on this cover? It just looks romance, which is why the vibe still feels off to me.

    If the cover was showing me the fact that the children are kissing on it because of them being reverse aged, or body swapped, or caught in a worm hole triangle of parallel dimensional clockwork gears spinning in reverse, then I would understand it.

    Children on a cruise ship kissing under the moon I do not get.

    Lastly: Poor red. It is so mistreated on black backgrounds. Remember though, the background doesn’t need to be dark! Look at the next post here, the burning of cherry hill and look at the examples that were provided by Kata. Those use silhouettes, have children, and tell a story at the same time. The background on many are bright and flashy.

    Something more like this could fit your book so much better in my opinion. Yes, even kissing kids, with a flashy time swirly background thing that indicates they are not emotionally kids could work. It could work so well. Side note: You can show love in gestures that don’t involve kissing.

    Good luck: Good luck! I want to see what happens next with this.

    1. <I see no reason that Smashwords would not allow that book to be uploaded.

      I’m not sure about the specifics, but I can guess some of the general reasons. Have you read that Smashwords Term Of Service he linked? Here are some parts that gave me pause:

      9b. You further warrant that the Work contains no materials which:
      [….]
      • violate state and federal laws.
      • advocates hateful, discriminatory or racist views or actions toward others
      • advocates or condones violence against another person, whether or not the other party is a willing participant
      • advocate illegal activities
      [….]
      • if you publish erotica content, neither the book cover nor the book interior may contain graphic images of nudity (either photographic or illustrated) or persons involved in sex acts, and does not include children or underage minors engaged in sexual acts or situations, witnessing such situations, considering sexual acts, or thinking about sexual acts. Fine art books of a non-erotic nature that contain nudity may be accepted on a case by case basis at the sole discretion of Smashwords and/or its retail partners

      Conspicuous in their absence since the big brouhaha with PayPal back in 2012 are the restrictions against bestiality and incest they forced Smashwords to institute. Have those been allowed to lapse? Anyway, that probably explains why we’re seeing twisted tales of out-and-out incest on there by perverts like Baron LeSade instead of the “pseudo-incest” stories those same perverts were writing back in 2012. You’ll probably notice this also means no restrictions against werewolves or any other kind of human or animal having sex with anybody or anything in any form. In fact, there’s nothing in there against someone having sex with a tree, which you may recall is a story someone actually wrote on there.

      What is restricted, nevertheless, remains an awfully broad category. Take the restrictions against illegal activities, advocating for hatred or racism or discrimination, and violence even with willing participants. Various locales here in the United States alone have obscure and rarely enforced laws against just about every kind of sexual activity you can imagine, and plenty of non-sexual ones as well. (Think a story advocating marijuana legalization might violate this restriction?) Characters in Smashwords stories have probably been portrayed violating every last one of these laws at some point.

      No advocating violence, even with willing participants? So much for stories advocating for BDSM, extreme fighting, or any kind of religious ritual combat. No hatred, racism, or discrimination? Better hope you don’t run afoul of any stridently misandrist women’s studies profs, outspoken race hustlers, or politically connected “tolerance” pushers. Point out that nowhere near 20% of all women on campus are even sexually assaulted, let alone raped, and that means you’re a “rape apologist” to be kicked off Smashwords for “creating a hostile environment” and being discriminatory against women. Bring up the many crimes and hypocrisies and moral failings of Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, and Louis Farrakhan, and you’re a “racist” to be kicked off Smashwords for advocating racism. Say that Christians shouldn’t be forced to violate their consciences and religious beliefs by baking cakes for gay “marriages” they believe are an affront to God, and you’re a “hater” to be kicked off Smashwords for advocating hatred. See how this works?

      I haven’t even gotten to the restrictions involving the book in question yet. I’m guessing the part about “erotica content” covers that pretty thoroughly. A careful reading of the words means that nobody so much as a day under the age of eighteen can engage in, witness, consider, or even think about sex acts in a story. It’s not specified whether this refers to the characters’ mental age or physical age; but I think we can safely assume Smashwords’ lawyers interpret these restrictions as broadly as possible. Think how many of the works you’ve discussed already are in violation of that rule; I believe I could make a case that every single one of them violates the Smashwords TOS.

      So what about this paranormal romance novel? We know the wife Denise was an “unwed teen mother” and will be inhabiting her almost-9-year-old daughter’s body. (How old was she when she gave birth to that kid?) The man Don, who loved her enough to marry her, will be inhabiting his 9-year-old son’s body at the same time and they’ll apparently have to deal with their romantic (sexual?) feelings for each other. Material from a “trash TV talk show” is in some way an element of the plot; presumably meaning one of those shows where people scream and throw chairs at each other and accuse each other of all kinds of sexual misbehavior.

      Does any of that sound to you like it might involve minors engaged in, witnessing, considering, or thinking about sexual acts and situations? It sure does to me. This book might have loads of that “redeeming social importance” we’ve heard about in our courts’ free speech cases, but that doesn’t mean anyone can force Smashwords to publish it in violation of its TOS. I think our author has done his (her?) homework. Amazon might take this book if it’s carefully marketed, but Smashwords won’t.

      As for a movie adaptation, that’s a question for another day when we know more about the plot. I will say that it would probably be fun to challenge a movie studio executive with it: “Hey, I bet you can’t make a movie out of this!”

      1. I had never considered that, but after reading up it appears as Smashwords is a slippery place, and easy to get banned from if you cross the wrong paths. People make it their business to get competition banned, especially those that outsell them. What a great place that sounds like.

        They have never allowed underage erotica though, even before their scandal with PayPal. So yes, much of what could be in this book is certainly in violation of Smashwords’ policies. That is a ‘could’ though.

        While many of the things that could cause this book to be banned might be in this book, they may not be as well. I was just really hoping at a personal level that they are not.

        Without knowing for sure if they are, or are not, I was being subjective. The concept of body swapping with a young child is not out of bounds as it stands alone, and Hollywood probably would eat that right up.

        There is a lot of potential there for some madcap comedy moments and Zac Efron is just waiting to body swap with his younger sister Maisie Williams and to be forced to go to a birthday party with all the mean girls in school while she is forced to work as a manager at A failing restaurant that she changes into a fun complex for adults and wins the hearts moviegoers everywhere! They learn a valuable lesson and are whisked back into their own lives thanks replaying the defective game of Pong that started the whole mess.

        It is true though, if the author has done their homework as they said, and knows for a fact that Smashwords will not accept this book… then the truth probably is not what I want to know about.

  12. There is a lot of potential there for some madcap comedy moments and Zac Efron is just waiting to body swap with his younger sister Maisie Williams and to be forced to go to a birthday party with all the mean girls in school while she is forced to work as a manager at A failing restaurant that she changes into a fun complex for adults and wins the hearts moviegoers everywhere! They learn a valuable lesson and are whisked back into their own lives thanks replaying the defective game of Pong that started the whole mess.

    That sounds like Vice Versa (1988) crossed with The Hot Chick (2009) with a little 17 Again (2009) thrown in. Yeah, I bet Hollywood would eat that up, especially with the originality deficit it’s running these days. Movie executives still wouldn’t be willing to adapt my book, though, unless they butchered it completely until nothing but the title remained.

    RK, you’ve effectively described my entire problem with Smashwords, though I should point out that the mere existence of a “BDSM Erotica” section on there proves that these rules are rather selectively enforced. (“Spank your little girl, Daddy! I’ve been bad!” sounds like advocating violence to me and is probably a line you’ll find in a lot of BDSM erotica stories at Smashwords, but they aren’t getting banned.) I doubt their enforcers will select in my favor.

    As you say, Smashwords could find something wrong with every story we’ve discussed on here. Take just the three professionally published books I mentioned for examples.

    It by Stephen King:
    Something you probably don’t realize (if you’ve only watched the movie) is that the book has a scene soon after the gang of eleven-year-old kids have defeated the titular monster in which they can’t find their way out of the sewers because they’ve lost their mojo. Solution? The only girl in the gang decides to help her five friends pull themselves together (and get back at her verbally abusive father for accusing her of being a promiscuous little slut) by having sex with all of them, one right after the other. Yeah… I don’t know why the book needed a preteen gang bang in it either, especially since the movie got along just fine without it. Anyway, this book is obviously not welcome on Smashwords.

    Firefly by Piers Anthony:
    Actually, this is only the most notorious of Piers Anthony’s books, as he seems to have a fetish for underage girls being sexually active in a lot of his books. The reason this one is the most notorious is that it has lengthy sections about the sexual adventures (including full hardcore penetrations) of a five-year-old girl in it. Yeah, I don’t think even the slimiest pedophiles in Hollywood would touch this book, let alone Smashwords.

    Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov:
    Yes, Waffles, I’ve read this book and what you’ve heard about it is basically true: perverts will find little to no fapping material in this book, since the actual sex all takes place “off screen” with fade-outs and fade-ins before and after the acts, respectively. Nevertheless, it includes lengthy passages telling about the titular Dolores Haze tempting and teasing the villain protagonist Humbert Humbert and his getting in the occasional “innocent” grope. She also tells him about engaging in some unspecified naughty activities at a girls’ camp with one of her friends and a boyfriend… Anyway, Nabokov’s masterpiece would not be welcome on Smashwords either.

    As for my book? There’s not a lot of sex “on screen” to be sure (apart from the still-adult newlyweds having a rather explicit wedding night), but Denise’s emotional baggage from her sexually abusive past continues to influence her actions in the story. Don is horrified when he does the math and realizes what little Jaymee’s being nearly the same age as his son Jackie tells him about her mother (good eye, RK). Not to give away too much of the plot, but a couple of primal scenes (Mr. and Mrs. Richards thought they had locked their kids out…) are also vital to the story. Smashwords is not going to like my book.

    Above all, the central conflict of the story remains that the adults are permanently stuck in their kids’ bodies, and are grimly determined to remain actively married; so no divorce, no separation, and no other socially convenient cop-outs. For having so many “grim n’ gritty” subjects, the story’s actually rather cheerful and upbeat; but this just serves to add another layer of thematic dissonance in the reader’s mind. That’s one reason why I want the cover to be dark, and yet have bright and cheerful colors on it; to be romantic, and yet a bit creepy.

    Waffles, I’ve been carefully considering what you say about needing some indication on the cover that this romance is indeed paranormal, and I’m at a bit of a loss for what to do. The problem is that what causes the body swap wouldn’t be a meaningful visual to anyone who hasn’t already read the story. Would layering a map showing the Bermuda Triangle into the background do the trick? (The Bermuda Triangle is a recognizable symbol, and at least indirectly responsible for the swap.) Should I add a tagline, something just intriguing enough to get the reader’s attention without giving the whole story away?

    One last question I’ve already asked but no one has answered as yet: what color(s) shall the new title and byline be?

      1. So I have to post the cover before you can tell me what should be on it, eh? Oh well. I’ve been busy revising a new “scratch” cover implementing some of the advice here, so expect to see it soon.

        For the record, the stock photo model for “Jaymee” (Denise) on this cover was indeed indicated to be eight years old, and the stock photo models whose head and body I edited together for “Jackie” (Don) were both indicated to be nine, so the physical ages of the child silhouettes are as accurate to the story as I can make them.

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