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A Dodge, a Twist and a Tobacconist

The author says:

This story teams up better and lesser-known literary characters in Steampunk alt-Victorian London. They seek to uncover and overthrow a rising slave empire setting England on its ear and threatening to turn the social order on its ear. From the Indian jungles to the New England countryside they come to end a nightmare of disappearing souls. Lovers of Victorian Literature and movies like the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and recent Sherlock Holmes movies will enjoy this airship ride to adventure.

new font dodge 25

new font dodge 25

Nathan says:

it’s certainly got the Victorian/Steampunk vibe going on!

A few things:

– While the way you’ve arranged the words in the title is clever, it crosses the line into making it difficult to decipher. The eye naturally flows from “Dodge” to “Twist,” then has to go back to catch the “a” before “Twist.” The same thing happens with “Tabacconist” — the “a” gets left out.

– Even with the filters on the main image, it’s pretty apparent that it’s a touched-up digital picture. Filter harder!

– At thumbnail size, most of the image elements that say “steampunk” get lost.  We see the face, but not the hat lost behind the type, and the Victorianity (is that a word?) of the type is less recognizable. What can you do to make the genre more immediately identifiable from the thumbnail?

– Given that the face is one we (presumably) aren’t expected to recognize, you could reduce the space the head takes up, leaving you more room to space out the words of the title and make it more readable. Just a thought.

– The readability of the byline fades out in the middle (because of the gentleman’s white shirt behind it). If you’re not moving things around on the cover, then I think the byline needs more of a border or outline.

Other thoughts?


  1. Like Nathan said, this doesn’t read as steampunk in the thumbnail. There are tropes you see over and over on steampunk stories, they make not make for an astoundingly original cover but they do immediately grab the attention of someone looking to pick up work in that genre.

    Skip the filter. A painting filter never makes a photo look like a painting, it just makes it look like you’re trying to disguise a photo. You’d be better off subtly degrading it to make it look like a genuine vintage photo. Instead of the muddy pinkish tone here, try a golden or sepia tone that will set off the blue you chose for the title. There are some good tutorials here:

    Use another model shot if you can. Victorian era men didn’t typically wear this type of stubbly beard – it’s too modern, and it makes him look like a cosplayer. Reducing the size of the man would also leave more room in the background for era appropriate scene setting (horse & carriages, other people in period clothes, etc).

  2. I agree. It simply doesn’t read “Steampunk” at all. In fact, were it not for the word “Steampunk” in the subtitle, no one would have a clue that the book wasn’t a straight period novel. Steampunk by definition is pseudo Victorian science fiction: you need to include some visual elements that get this across.

    Nathan is certainly right about the title. It looks great but is impossible to read. Separating the “a” the way you did in “a Tobacconist” is especially unfortunate.

  3. I’d steampunkify this a lot. Give us some gears and stuff, like in a border or a header. I’d definitely aim to get rid of that subtitle, because the subtitle just states the genre, and the cover should communicate that on its own.

  4. Certainly a good first draft.

    In the thumbnail especially it looks like the title of this book is DTT. At a quick glance the rest of the letters look like filigree.
    It may be a good idea to make the words all a similar colour, so they go together more obviously. I do like the copper, but it is really close to the background colours and it is getting lost.

    I am not a fan of the gradients used. They are a bit too harsh in colour change and it is taking over your text.

    Where that ‘L’ and ‘Y’ meet in Lyon is driving me nutty. Why isn’t it filled in? 😀

  5. I certainly agree with Nathan regarding the arrangement of the title. I admit that I had to re-read the title of this post to figure it out.

    The filter doesn’t suggest Victorian so much as smudgy. Other than Big Ben, I really didn’t notice the other elements on the full-sized version until I went back and really looked for them.

    I’m inclined to agree with Viergacht about the beard. And I agree with Waffles that this is a good first draft.

  6. In addition to what everyone else said, what this cover mainly needs is something more obviously anachronistic. Isn’t that the point of steampunk? “What if some contemporary technology of ours had been available in the Victorian era?” Whatever technology that is in this story, show it on the cover. For cover designers as for writers, “Show, don’t tell” is the operating principle you should be following here. Lose the tagline telling us it’s a steampunk novel, and show us it’s a steampunk novel instead.

  7. Can’t disagree with anything that’s already been said, and for what it’s worth … So this cover for me is … ok .. like it’s –> <– close, but I don't get a steampunk vibe from it.

    You mention in the intro "Lovers of Victorian Literature and movies like the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and recent Sherlock Holmes movies will enjoy this airship ride to adventure." with that in mind i took a butchers at the downey Jnr sherlock posters.

    Have a look at the texture behind, the way that there are multiple, industrial/newspapers/victoriana images which play together to give the vibe of olden days London, perhaps you could borrow some ideas from that. My old man once said, "Never waste taken, especially other peoples"

    Next I had a quick look at LOEG … now once again, you could borrow the technique used here for your title. What i mean is to encompass a long at complicated se tot words into a logo type:

    Using this technique the complicated nature of the title can be contain into an easy to digest, bit sized chunk for the eye (now there is a mixed metaphor for you!)

    Just my .2 cents worth.


  8. Couple of things:

    Like the others, I think that this is a great start–lots of potential here, and you obviously have a real eye. I, too, think it needs something steampunk-ish to alert the reading public (I’m a genre fan). I honestly think you could lose Big Ben, in order to add that extra element (steam-driven computer, something with gears, the usual). I like Al’s idea about mooching the space-saving title ideas from LOEG…maybe you could use “Tobacconist” as the “big” word, and stack the rest above it, as LOEG did.

    I would lose the subtitle–“A steampunk literary tribute adventure.” First, steampunk = adventure, by definition. Literary? Let’s hope so. Losing it would add to the professionalism, give uou a skosh more space.

    And I gotta ask–is that a scarab? It’s hard to see, so I can’t tell. If it is, to convey the Egyptologist angle, bump it up. Hell, maybe it’s a steampunk scarab–a mechanized one?

    I like a lot of what’s going on here, in terms of ART, but I’m not sure it’s doing what you need it to do, as a commercial cover. I think that the other suggestions are good–smooth-shaven, etc. But you really do have a great eye, so with a little tweakage and stepping back a bit, so you can view it anew, you can really knock it out of the park.

    Good luck. (And I may well buy a copy of that–looks fun!

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