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Chasing Redemption

The author says:

Genre: Science fiction/Military thriller. Blurb: Captain Ben Wildes, the pioneer of Saturn and a highly decorated officer, is falsely implicated in a tragic accident that claims twelve lives. Once a rising star in the ESD (Earth Space Defense), he’s found negligent in a deeply politicized trial. A year later, Ben receives a surprising opportunity to redeem his career. He’s provisionally reinstated and tasked to investigate the fate of a missing commercial space mining vessel last reported an area that’s perilously close to a sensitive territorial line. The incident requires a delicate investigation, and Ben’s the only captain with the unique experience to handle the assignment. Evidence of attack is certain to breach long-standing treaties between two superpowers, which will lead to war. As the mission unfolds, Ben uncovers shocking secrets with alarming ramifications, and quickly learns that chasing redemption is far more perilous an undertaking than he ever anticipated.

Cover notes: This is a proposed cover upgrade to the current cover ( I’m also utilizing a Shuttershock sample image (didn’t want to purchase until I’m sure it’ll be used), so please try to overlook the watermark and lower photo resolution.



Nathan says:

I’m not sure that this qualifies as an “upgrade” to your current cover.  Both are executed with skill and precision, and both have exactly the same problem: They’re the wrong covers for a military sci-fi novel.

Remember, your book cover has one purpose beyond all others: to attract the attention of the readers who would want to read the book.  So if I’m the kind of reader who would want to read a novel about a disgraced former officer now on an interstellar mining vessel who ricks being at the center of a war in space, am I going to stop and pick up the book (or read the blurb on Amazon) when I see an almost monochromatic picture of a uniform cuff?  (And that’s if I can identify it; at thumbnail size, my first impression is of an abstract design.)

You’re already a Shutterstock user, so search “spaceship” on there and see the incredible art available.  Or do the same thing on DeviantArt; the artwork there is not as likely to be overused, and most DeviantArt artists are happy if you offer them twenty or thirty dollars for the right to use a piece of art that they already made for free.  And when you search, remember your main criterion: “Is this an image that would capture the attention of someone who would like this novel?”

Good luck.


  1. As a sci-fi fan, I have to say that I agree with Nathan. This looks like a competent cover for a contemporary military/legal thriller, which isn’t my pint o’ beer. I’d keep going.

  2. A striking design…but it suggests absolutely nothing about the book, its genre, themes or subject. It really needs to be rethought from scratch.

    All you have to do is ask yourself this: if someone were to see this cover for the first time, not knowing anything at all about the book, would “Science fiction/Military thriller” be the first thing to cross their minds?

  3. I think one of the problems is that all of the images you are choosing may be of special relevance…but only to you, someone is intimately familiar with the story. To anyone who has not already read the book the images have no special meaning at all…or, worse, may give the impression of a book that is entirely different than the one you wrote. It’s important to keep in mind the fact that potential readers have no idea what your book is about and do not have the advantage of the special knowledge you possess.

  4. Yeah…I am loath to “me, too,” but I’ve served in the military…and it took me more than a moment to see what the cover was. That can’t be good. Nathan’s right–the covers are nicely done, properly-crafted, but just bloody wrong for the genre. I hate to go with tropes, but they’re tropes for a reason. Spaceships, ray guns, planets….you seem to be completely focused on the military, rather than the sci-fi. When I did realize what I was looking at, I was assuming “A Few Good Men,” not Babylon-Mars. Juz sayin’.

    Oh, and my constant whine: fonts, fonts and fonts. Nothing has fonts ready-made for it like Sci-Fi (except Fantasy). Don’t waste the opportunity to be instantly identifiable, especially as your book is SO well-reviewed and liked.


  5. Hmmm… Yes, I’d definitely pass up buying that image from Shutterstock if I were you. It only just barely hints at the military themes of your story, and then only when viewed from close up. Your current cover (which could probably use an upgrade, but isn’t bad on the whole) points strongly to the political themes, only hinting at the military and science fiction themes in passing, and likewise only from close up. What you really need is a cover image that immediately points to all three from any distance.

    If I’m understanding your description and synopsis properly, this is apparently a Tom Clancy kind of political and military thriller IN SPACE; which shouldn’t be too difficult to illustrate, considering how Babylon 5 and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and so very many other space operas have produced their own stories in the style of political and military thrillers. In fact, to get an idea of what kinds of things you ought to have on your cover, I recommend studying the covers of Tom Clancy novels, of Babylon 5 and Deep Space Nine novels, and of other novels that touch on your novel’s three central themes, such as Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game series. You could probably do worse than to make a cover based on Tom Clancy’s The Hunt for Red October with outer space swapped in for the ocean and the submarine swapped out for a shot of a space ship. Layer in a picture of your protagonist in uniform as you envision him, and you’ve got everything your readers need to see on the cover.

    If you don’t care to mess with blending and layering images, an alternative approach is to get a shot of your protagonist inside the space ship staring out a window into the starry expanse. Either way, his uniform (and any logos you might put on it; that medallion on your current cover wouldn’t look out of place as a shoulder patch on a flight suit) should provide all the military and political subtext you need, while the shot of space tells everyone this story takes place in a futuristic science fiction setting. For extra emotional appeal, feel free to put a distant and forlorn expression on his face to hint at the losses he’s suffered and why (as your title says) he’s chasing redemption.

    Either way, give your readers a look at your protagonist and his setting before they open the book. From there, they’ll segue smoothly into reading your synopsis on the back cover (or on the Amazon page), and then into the book itself.

  6. Great feedback from all, thanks!

    I have to admit that before submitting, I had the same feeling that Nathan (and others) had about it probably being the wrong cover for the genre. Why did I submit it anyway? Because I thought [i]Hum, there’s a chance this could actually work because it might transcend the typical sci-fi space/starship covers, and yet won’t end up on Lousy Book Covers[/i]

    Glad I have Cover Critics to bounce my crazy ideas off of.

    I’m also very much in agreement that my current cover isn’t cutting it. In fact, this book has been my most frustrating challenge to develop an effective cover for. I suppose I’m just tired of seeing the same-old sci-fi covers with planets, spaceships, etc., that seem to scream (in my best Homer Simpson voice) NERRRRD. My stubborn refusal to embrace these standard sci-fi cover elements is probably making this much harder than it needs to be.

    RK – I think you’ve hit upon what I’m trying to go for: A Tom Clancy-like political/techno-thriller set in space, while trying to steer away from a Star Trek vibe. A Hunt for Red October vibe would be a better fit. You gave some good ideas for me to ponder, thanks.

    So it’s back the drawing board. Thanks again for the helpful feedback.

  7. ” I suppose I’m just tired of seeing the same-old sci-fi covers with planets, spaceships, etc., that seem to scream (in my best Homer Simpson voice) NERRRRD. My stubborn refusal to embrace these standard sci-fi cover elements is probably making this much harder than it needs to be.”

    Indeed. The problem is that people do judge books by their covers and if a cover suggests that a book is something different from what it is, they may either pass on it altogether or be disappointed when they buy it and read it. Neither of which is desirable.

    There is no reason that a science fiction book must necessarily include all the visual tropes you list. I have done scores of science fiction book covers—both for self-published authors and for traditional publishers—and few if any have been the kind of stereotype you dislike. But a cover does have to accurately reflect the nature of the book. If a science fiction novel is a bang-up space opera, then the cover does it no service by avoiding depicting spaceships or ray-gun wielding heroes. Likewise, a science fiction novel that deals more with interplanetary intrigue, politics and character—as yours appears to be—would be misrepresented by a cover focusing on battles between mile-long starships. This isn’t to say that you should not include imagery that suggests that your book is in fact science fiction, just try to focus on images that best reflect what kind of science fiction the novel is or what its main themes are.

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