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The Book of the Not-Dead-Enough

The author says:

With a fresh round of spending cuts in the Afterlife and immigration services stretched to breaking point, mistakes are inevitable. Admin errors, but from the Other Side. The Book of the Not-Dead-Enough is a collection of contemporary short shorts and flash fictions about the people who have died but been returned to their bodies. And don’t drop the Z-bomb; they hate that. These stories are their continued attempts to keep calm and carry on in a world that has seen too many George Romero films. Some of them are silly, some of them are topical or satirical. Loitering somewhere between Dickens, Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams, this collection isn’t wholly flippant nor wholly serious, but tickles at the join between. [This is a second draft cover, and obviously needs to lose the Shutterstock stuff]

NDE Cover 5a - Xcrop

NDE Cover 5a - Xcrop

Nathan says:

A clever idea, and clever imagery.  I think a few tweaks will yield huge dividends, design-wise.

I’m okay with the typeface used, but I think you need to use it more dynamically; making “of the” smaller than the rest of the title is the first thing I thought of.  (You might even try shrinking the initial “The” to the same size and putting it on its own line; I don’t guarantee the results, though.)

I also think letting the title occupy more of the cover is a good idea.  Obviously, you’re hampered by “Not-Dead-Enough,” which needs to be on a single line, but I still think that the title needs to take up more real estate.  Nothing in the imagery will be hampered if it’s slid further down the cover.

The “for rent” sign really sticks out as being cut-and-pasted due to its angle; if you can find a replacement image, you ought to use it, and maybe have it canted as it sticks out of the grave. (Same thing with the “Gone Fishing” sign — those things never hang straight, even for the living.)

This looks like a really clever project; I’m actually pretty interested in reading this.

Other comments?


  1. Pretty much what Nate said. You might also want a subtle, slightly darker gradient behind the title text, as in the thumbnails the letters on top of the area where the sun is coming through the clouds are hard to see.

  2. This is a good concept, but that ‘For Rent’ sign is just way to obviously pasted on. The lighting of it doesn’t match the light source of the backdrop image, and that’s what makes it most obvious. Same for the ‘gone fishing’ sign; it it too bright compared to the rest of the image. Maybe tone down the brightness and apply shading to them somehow, and I think it’ll work. Not that I have any idea how to do that, but I’m assuming it can be done.

    Note: I am not a designer, just somebody who likes books.

    And I really love the tagline you have on here. 🙂

    1. Sure it can. You put a new layer over it, paint some darker (maybe bluish-gray) tones over it with a soft brush, then you play with the opacity and blending modes of the layer until it looks good 😀

  3. I like the font, and I agree with Nathan’s suggestions regarding the varying font size. You could even try making the first “the” smaller, but leaving it on the same line as the “Book”. I assume the final stock image will be sharper, because I’m having trouble seeing what it is in the thumbnail. If it doesn’t, you might want to consider lightening the image slightly, without killing the mood. The mood is great, btw.

    The “For Rent” sign is totally off. It doesn’t follow the perspective of the rest of the image. Here’s an example of a one point perspective to understand what I mean: And since a picture is worth a thousand words, here’s a quick demonstration: The green lines are your real perspective lines, derived from the background image. The red lines are the perspective lines of the sign. As you can see, they’re way off. The blue lines show where the sign should be, if it’s going to look like it belongs to the picture. You should be able to easily transform it in photoshop to fit those guidelines. It’s also a bit brighter than the background image. Since the light looks like it’s coming from the left, a bit of shading to the right side of the image might help it blend in.

    1. Actually, for some reason which only the original artist can explain, there are two light sources in this image: the sun from the right, and the moon (doesn’t make sense astronomy-wise but hey, artistic freedom) from the left. Since the sun is a warm source of light (yellow light) the shadows it creates are cold (weird, I know, but it’s true), usually bluish. The moon is a cold, bluish source of light, which means that the shadows it creates are warm, I’d say brownish. Which means that you’re going to have a bitch of a time trying to make that sign fit into this image. I’d put some blue highlights on the left side of the pole, deepen the shadows on the parts of the pole and the horizontal, um, pole thingie which are already in shadow with a bit of orange-brown, and for the sign… that’s a hard one. I’d try to make it similar to it’s tombstone, which is to give it some orangy highlights to the right and bluish shadows to the left. If you leave it like this, it’s going to make an otherwise fine cover look amateurish. And of course, the bottom of the pole is too straight, doesn’t look like it’s stuck into the ground at all.

  4. Here is something you don’t get to say very often as a designer…

    Make that more wonky!

    I think that the ‘Gone fishing’ sign would be better if it was obviously at an angle. It is just slightly at an angle and it looks like a bit of an error. Twist that bad boy and it will look like it is on purpose. It is also not casting a shadow, so a hint of one would be nice. As others have said, the colour of it needs to be tweaked so that it looks like it is in the same shadow space as the grave.

    Next the sign. Yes, it is off kilter, but this is a different matter altogether! Who are you going to call to rent that spot? Who would have a for rent sign with a blank space and not use that for contact phone number! (Sorry I make signs, I get passionate about it) Even just an 867-5309… or a 666-HELL… or an ‘Inquire Within’. Ooohh! I like that last one. I got chills. 🙂

    Finally, I am not sold on white text with a drop black shadow. It makes it stand out certainly and it works, but I always think it could be more than that. Perhaps a subtle texture overlay on the text could make it stand out better, and look a bit more graveyard. Don’t focus on white, it can be any colour. Yellow would pop here for example.

        1. Awe. *Pat pat* There, there.

          It’s okay Red, although your contrast with black is awful, you really pop on white! We still love you.

  5. The main problem with using stock images such as this one is ever the same: anyone can use them, and somebody probably already has. If you’re looking to get rid of that logo, there’s one logo-free version available already, albeit a rather small one. If you’re inventive enough with the cropping, resizing, transparency, and other tools on picture editing programs, you could also try scrubbing out logos by combining this preview with this preview to produce a (mostly) complete picture.

    In the end, though, it’s rather a moot point what you do with this image, because if you look your stock image up on TinEye or Google Images, you’ll discover that you’re already in competition with some kind of crime thriller fantasy short by some guy named Scott Marlowe. Unless you’re parodying his work specifically, you’re just going to end up looking like another Johnny-come-lately imitator.

    Since the title of this book is obviously a satire on the allegedly more serious Egyptian Book of the Dead, why not do a parody of that book cover instead? Most iterations of the Book of the Dead on show stylized artwork from ancient Egyptian tombs on their covers, so try making up a picture in the same two-dimensional style yourself. The jokes being mainly about bureaucratic screw-ups in the hereafter, you can try showing one of the Egyptian deities in charge of processing the dead sitting at a complaints desk looking rather exasperated, and show some of the characters from your book standing in line to complain. To add to the humor, this cover should be made up with fonts and layouts similar to those of one of those Book of the Dead covers on Amazon; maybe with an editor’s mark pointing to the words “Not” and “Enough” or with the word “Dead” struck through and replaced with your phrase.

    These would also have the added benefit of being a bit more obvious than the jokes on your current cover. I saw the “For Rent” sign at once, but didn’t actually notice the “Gone Fishing” sign until someone mentioned it in this comments section and I took another look. It’s pretty obvious once you see it, but you want your readers to notice your jokes the first time they look. An Egyptian-stylized comic on the cover and obvious editing to the title will stand out a lot better than anything you can do with this stock photo.

    1. Hi,
      I had thought about parodying the Egyptian (or even Tibetean) Book of the Dead, but I just thought I’d end up a) doing a pretty poor job of it and b) even if I achieved what I was after, it’s be such a busy image. I mean, a jackal-headed God, looking confused or harassed, at a complaints desk, with a queue of people wanting to moan (either generic people or people from the book’s stories). And it’d have to be side-on, to stay in keeping with Egyptian carvings. I just knew it’d end up on that other book covers site.
      Although it might be one of the few times that the Papyrus font would work…

      It’s a shame about the Scott Marlowe thing (which I wasn’t aware of, let alone parodying), but hopefully these are sufficiently different genre-wise to avoid confusion or comparison. Fingers crossed.

      I do like the idea of strikethrough for the ‘Dead’, and replacing it with Not-Dead-Enough, which I think another comment has also suggested.

  6. The only thing I have to add without repeating other comments is a remark on the darkness of the graves. At thumbnail size, they are hard to distinguish. It may help to do some highlighting techniques to contrast the stone from the background. As it stands the detail in the background is easier to see than the foreground, but the background is covered up by the for rent sign.

  7. This one doesn’t do it for me, even setting aside the technical issues. It’s just such a gloomy image to start with, and the whimsical details don’t (to me) make the whole thing look more lighthearted, they just look out of place. I think you need to start with a base image that has a look-and-feel matching the tone of your book.

  8. I like the idea of accentuating the “admin errors” by using the “Not” or “Not Enough” as an afterthought. I recall a book titled something like “Things I (Didn’t) Know” that used that approach; there were several cover variations with slightly different treatments. The “oops” aspect served as an effective eyecatcher.

  9. I can only add my vote to the others who have objected to the cut and paste quality of the cover.

    The elements you have added to the stock photo need to be integrated much more carefully. This includes—as others have pointed out—making the perspective, color and lighting consistent.

    You are probably pounding the potential reader over the head, too, by including too many elements. The “For Rent” sign by itself is more than sufficient to get the idea across.

  10. I like it. Yes, it needs the tweaking that Nate and some of the others have mentioned, but this is one of the best covers I’ve seen come through here, and the only one I’ve seen that I really want to read. Keep an eye on the contrast; switch up the shadows (notes from Catie) and I like Waffles’ idea about the signs. Still, overall–as I said, I actually do want to read this one, and I think that with some tweakage, this may well have legs. JMHO, natch.

    1. Awh, thanks Hitch – hopefully when I’ve followed up on these things it’ll be looking better. Aiming to release in April 2015.

  11. Hi guys,
    thanks very much all of you, there’s some really helpful stuff here. I always kinda knew that For Rent sign and the lighting weren’t right, but hopefully I can fix it now (thanks for the perspective lines, Catie). I’ll have a play with the text colours and layout as well.

    And I love the idea of ‘Inquire Within’, though the point is that the grave is empty – otherwise that’d really work within the context of the book. A phone number might work though.

    1. Inquire within.
      Newly listed.
      Now available.
      Renters welcome.
      Must Sell.
      Just Renovated.
      just reduced.
      Real Estate Buzzword.


      Many real estate sayings could work on there. 🙂

  12. Thanks again, guys – this has been tweaked (hopefully improved) and was published today (Smashwords and Amazon) – thanks for your help!

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