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Dover Park

The author says:

This is a proposed cover redo for my already published mystery novel “Dover Park.” I’ve never really been satisfied with my current cover. My redo is utilizing a picture sample (hence the watermark), so the finished product will have better resolution. The current cover can be found at: Here’s the blurb: “In the waning days of spring, in a quiet suburban town, the Moreau family prepares for another busy summer. But a stormy night brings strange calls from an enigmatic young woman. Her claims are perplexing, and her very existence is a paradox, but the evidence she brings is conclusive. She harbors a long hidden secret that threatens to upend their idyllic suburban life. A terrible tragedy occurred in Dover Park many years ago, but what really happened is not what everyone thought.”


DoverPark2014-3Nathan says:

The redo certainly has a more suspenseful vibe!

I like most of the elements, although the man’s silhouette looks too stiff, like it’s a mannequin.  the bigger problem for me is that blank space above the park bench, and I’m not sure what to do about it. Maybe a very short, stark declaration:


 (Obviously not the right one for your book — just an example.)

Otherwise, it looks like you have the makings of a professional and genre-targeted cover. Congrats.

Anyone see something else?


  1. Not too bad, though a little generic. The lone figure’s silhouette makes me think a little of the poster for The Exorcist, though this is in golden sunlight and that poster was in a more of a misty nighttime setting. The general idea of this seems to be “It’s a beautiful town with bright and sunny days and a picturesque park where children love to play, but beneath the beauty lies a brutal and sordid incident from the town’s past that its residents don’t much like to bring up in polite company, and a dark secret about what really happened in the park that could tear the whole community apart!” If that’s the kind of mystery theme you’re trying to evoke here, you’re succeeding.

    I do hope this isn’t actually your final cover, however. For starters, it’s got some pretty obvious watermarks from Shutterstock. If you’re just using the free preview picture for this mock-up because you don’t want to spend any money until you’re certain these are the pictures you’re going to use, I can understand that. Just be sure to get free-and-clear copies of the real thing for your final cover.

    Another important and necessary improvement is to make the silhouettes and background just a little sharper and clearer, and avoid generating compression artifacts. Having the character silhouette be a little murky is fine if you’re symbolizing that he has a somewhat mysterious role to play in this story, but be sure to apply the blur/softening evenly. Your obviously over-expanded (i.e. pixelated) character silhouette has a sharp edge on his right elbow that could do with some softening for this mock-up. For the final cover, be sure to get the biggest picture of the silhouetted character you can buy so that you can blend him in through shrinking, rather than expanding him.

    Keep in mind the old picture editors’ Law of Entropy while you’re editing: “Automatic filters can never get more useful information out of a picture than is already there; they can only clarify what’s there by masking and destroying the useless information.” Also, keep in mind that JPEG, while it is the most common picture format on the internet, is a lossy compression scheme. This means that each time you save a picture in that format, it loses some of its information to entropy, which shows up in the form of ugly and chaotic compression artifacts.

    While editing pictures, be sure always to use a lossless format such as Tag Image Files or Portable Network Graphics, only saving your final product in JPEG (if you really need to save that extra space on your hard drive so badly), and then only in the highest quality available to your editing program. That should prevent the formation of the mild blocking and “rainbow” artifacts that I’ve detected on this cover despite all your obvious efforts at masking them with softening filters.

    1. He mentions the watermarks and the low resolution in the original post:

      My redo is utilizing a picture sample (hence the watermark), so the finished product will have better resolution.

      1. Ah! Somehow, I missed that while skimming the post. Pardon my oversights; I’ve been a little off my game lately. Also, thanks for removing my double post.

        With my own image editor, I managed to make up the cover a little more to my liking: i.e. altering the aspect ratio slightly, scrubbing out the watermarks, clarifying and solidifying the mysterious figure’s silhouette, and adding an example of a somewhat spooky tagline that might (or, well, might not) reflect the theme of the story.

        I’m not asking for spoilers here, but this is a “terrible deep dark secret in somebody’s past” kind of story, right? I skimmed the free preview at Amazon, but it seems the first two chapters provided only the story’s slice-of-life setup. The reason I ask about the theme is that if somebody died as part of the mysterious incident in the description, the empty bench next to the silhouette does make some sense: it signifies the absence of the deceased. That said, as I think my mockup demonstrates, a tagline really would help balance the picture.

        I’m not incredibly fond of the spidery font either, but it’s legible in the thumbnail and I’m not sure what exactly I’d use to replace it. Also, I’m a little too lazy to go scrubbing out the title and byline and replacing them with something else, so that’s up to others to suggest something. The yellow does stand out, but something metallic with a gradient might work a little better.

  2. Not much to add to Nathan’s comments other than to second them.

    I always prefer asymmetry to symmetry, but the cover image is much too unbalanced, as Nathan noted. On the other hand, the empty area above the bench is a perfect space to put a blurb, so long as a sense of visual balance is maintained. That is, it shouldn’t fight with the figure for dominance. The “STOCK” watermark is actually a pretty nice indication of the space a blurb might fill. And speaking of symmetry, I think the symmetrical silhouette of the figure lends a nicely ominous air to it. I suppose my only criticism of the figure is that the description of the book (which I assume will accompany it) refers to an “enigmatic young woman”—so using the figure of a man might be a little misleading or inappropriate.

  3. I’m afraid I don’t like it. But it’s the second time I’ve tried to explain what I don’t like about it, and I’m struggling with this. I think that’s a good sign. It probably means it just doesn’t suit my style, rather than some fault one can point to. No cover will please everyone.

    Maybe that touch of yellow at the edges of the background near the title font, which matches the title color, bothers me. It’s hard to say. (I might say it looks better with it if I saw it without.) Maybe it’s that my eye is wandering around, unsure what to focus on. The the top and bottom are flashes of brightness, the shadow is out of focus, there is a large void… On the other hand, these effects may be okay because of the genre (which admittedly I don’t read much of, so you should value my opinion less).

  4. The same problems that plagued the first cover have been repeated on this cover. You have the title crammed at the top, the author name crammed at the bottom and you’re investing everything on a vast generic image.

    That current image has potential, but try stacking the title on the left…there’s plenty of room.

    I’m not a fan of that yellow or that font. You could do a lot more to make the text and even the image more interesting.

  5. Not much to say other than I agree with Nathan about the empty space. It’s much too bright to be empty (and if you delete that watermark you’ll see it’ll look even more empty without it). Also something others haven’t mentioned: I think the letters are too close to the edge. You can see it on the thumbnail especially. Making the title just a bit smaller and lifting the name just a bit will make for an overall more appealing image. Other than that, it’s a very genre appropriate cover.

  6. Great feedback from everyone, as always. Thanks!

    RK: I appreciate your cover re-rendering. I did a quick cut and paste of the silhouette on my version, which is standing well to the left of the park bench in the original stock photo. In order to make the cover work, I moved him over next to the tree. Since I was working with a low res sample image, my cut and paste came out blurry. Actually, I sort of liked the murkiness because(as you noted)it underscored the mysteriousness of the cover. However, your re-rendering is what I originally intended. It looks great, too. I’m going to have a tough choice to make on that one.

    I also LOVE the idea of adding a tag-line in the open space above the park bench. I’m already trying to come up with a good one. Thanks!!

    The title font and color are obviously a carry-overs from the current cover. I’m not really married to this font, but it took me a while of going through many fonts to settle on this one. My goal with this cover is to underscore a vibe of mysteriousness, and I haven’t found another font that does this as well without going too far into the horror spectrum. I’d be open to any suggestions.

    Also, I’m not only giving the cover a facelift, but I’m also going to rework the blurb. I hope to come up with something that will better complement the new cover.

    Overall, my goal with this (or any) cover is to convey a quick impression of the book, which will lead a reader to check out the blurb, and so on. It looks like the stock image I chose gives the correct impression, so I’ll go ahead and make the investment.

    1. Oh yeah, something I forgot to mention: whatever you do with your cover, try to make both the length and width something divisible by 100 pixels, or at least 50. Print services and other professionals like their picture resolution numbers big and round that way.

      Incidentally, I think I found the stock image you modified. It’s not bad, but with your bright coloring, I’d kind of thought those clouds behind the tree silhouette were blurry red autumn leaves or something. It might be good to grab a shot of some actual leafy branches to put behind the tree, or expand the sky behind the tree silhouette to blot out the clouds, or else change the coloring to make them look like clouds; your call.

      1. Oh, those are clouds? I feel stupid now because I somehow saw this as a huge fire behind the guy’s silhouette. It doesn’t even make sense, or even look that much like a fire, but the color’s right and I didn’t stop to think about it. The high-res cover will obviously be a lot clearer. Regardless, I think the mood of the story got through successfully for me.

        I agree with Catie about the lettering; the B and F of the author name look too close to the edge of the cover on the thumbnail. (For some reason, I don’t get this problem with the previous cover). I’m also not sure about the yellow font cover; I’ll clarify that I actually mean “not sure” and not “you should change it”. Maybe you could see how lavender looks?

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