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Grand Master’s Game

The author says:

Athanor Griffin and Violet spin across the galaxy, following his risky plan to solve the worsening portal crisis. Failures of the interplanetary portals sever transport, leaving people to starve without vital shipments of food. In the inevitable battle with their enemies among the Grand Masters, Violet and Athanor must recruit allies and overcome their personal nightmares.



Nathan says:

What you’ve got here is a sketch, roughing in the layout of both images and type.  Now you need to step up for the finishing touches.

  1. The male figure: The fact that his skin shows absolutely no blue highlights keeps him entirely separate from the background. Also, I know that hair is a pain in the ass, but the crisp edge on the back of his head and the fact that the blue background doesn’t show through his hanging locks make it even more apparent that he’s an external element.
  2. The fonts.  The title is boring, and the italics on the byline is unnecessary.  I can understand wanting something bold and solid for the title, but there are plenty of bold and solid fonts that aren’t as run-of-the-mill.

Hope this helps. Anyone else?


  1. In nicer terms, Nathan has clarified the two main issues which might land this kind of cover on

    1. Cut and Paste: you’ve done a better job at blending the edges into the background than most of the artists whose work tends to end up on LBC, but as he says, the lack of any reflective blue highlights on the character and translucency in Athanor’s hair gives away his being a transplanted image.

    2. Font Boredom: the fonts look like nothing more exciting than Times New Roman and Arial (or any of thousands of similar fonts). This may not be a fatal error in itself, but it’s not helping your case.

    To this, I’m adding a further complaint:

    3. Pixelation: again, you’ve done a better job masking it than most cover illustrators, but particularly when I get a closer look at your cover, I can detect some tell-tale signs that you’ve expanded Athanor’s portrait a bit to fill the cover, particularly in the ragged edges where a little of the background is showing through. Though you obviously applied your editing program’s best algorithms to expand the picture evenly, no editing program can ever get more useful information out of a picture than is there in the first place.

    My proposed solutions:

    1. Try running a few blue filters on Athanor to match him with the background’s color scheme. Also, and more importantly, try fiddling with transparency filters to ensure that you eliminate all of what was obviously the white background behind him in whichever picture you originally modified in order to overlay him on this cover. GIMP has a “color to alpha” filter that works especially well for this purpose.

    2. Go font-shopping. I’m sure my fellow commentators here can suggest some more interesting fonts.

    3. Athenor’s picture is only a little too over-expanded. Once you’ve blended him into your background as advised, you might find that a 1400 X 2100 cover is still sufficiently large and detailed to please your target audience’s eyes without having any of the ugly tell-tale artifacts of the cutting and pasting that your 1536 X 2304 cover does.

    One final minor quibble: I know you’re obviously focusing on Athanor for this book, but you might still want to have Violet on this cover as well, if not quite as close and in focus to the reader as Athanor. If you keep the lovely lady from the first novel on your second novel’s cover as well as the handsome hunk, that should help keep the male half of your target audience engaged along with the female half.

  2. Your suggestions are really helpful. This is the first time I have tried this site and I’ll be testing more covers here.
    I decided to use one person because it is simpler, although two might help as RK says.

    1. If you reduce Athanor, (which solves some of your enlarging-him issues), that leaves you some room for a booty chick, which, as RK mentioned, would likely help you with the (largely male) readership for Sci-Fi/SF-Fantasy genre. Even if you just have a bootylicious woman in the background, it will give you an assist.

      For fonts: howza ’bout either Nova Round for the title/subtitle and…maybe Essendine for the Author name, spread evenly across the bottom? Actually…if you make Athanor smaller, and put the bootylicious woman in the background, you might be able to put your author name across the top. That might work.

      Or–again with the fonts (we’ll need to see mockups, to know), go stronger with the Sci-Fi force, using something like Omnibus Ova, Sui Generis, or go totally wild and crazy, channeling old-school sci-fi with something like Space Marine or Red Rocket. Then stick with a NICE SIMPLE font for the author name–without seeing them together, I don’t know, if you go strong into sci-fi font world, if you can make a sans serif work with those, or if you need to stick to a classic, probably all-caps serif. A la hmmm…classic roman? Classic Roman (that’s a font, it’s not Times or Times New Roman) might really rock with ANY of those sci-fi fonts. (Sorry, as you can tell, font-mad here). I think all those I mentioned are free or near-free.

      But you definitely need to nuke those fonts. DEFINITELY. They’re not doing ANYTING for you.

      (And I further admit–I’m not wild about the blue of Athanor’s eyes. It looks like he’s wearing tinted contacts. Can you do anything about that? make them Hazel, or green, or….?)

      Hope that helps.

  3. To me, this feels awfully stock-imagey. I know this is super obnoxious feedback to give you, but the background image looks to me like a planet photoshop tutorial (like this, for instance) and the guy just looks like a stock image of a mage-type person. It’s not gelling for me as a cohesive image that gives me a feel for the book. A couple reasons:

    -The extremely CG planet and the extremely sharply focused and clearly lit studio-photographic man are really different types of image, so it’s hard to see them going together. If the planet were more realistic and/or the guy were more “otherworldly” besides his eyes, it would help.

    -Both images are just too generic for me. I don’t get “portal” from the planet one, it just looks like “sci-fi blue stuff.” And the man is in a very static stock pose that doesn’t suggest battles or risky plans. Maybe a more dynamic pose or a more detailed background image, something that will give me a better sense of the book than “planet” and “guy.”

    -Also, where’s Violet? Two people on a cover do a lot to make it feel more dynamic and personal and less stock.

  4. I can’t do much more than underscore the other comments.

    The basic art is nice but the figure certainly needs to be interact with the background more both in color and outline (right now the hard edge works against this: if a few loose strands of hair were to be drawn in, this would help soften the edge) and the typography needs to be redone from scratch.

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