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Arenia & the Golden Key

The author says:

Arenia is a shy, young woman troubled with fears and insecurities living an ordinary life in a big city. All that is about to change when she falls into an illusive world, where reality is dreamlike and surreal. As she searches for a way back home, she embarks on a journey encountering bizarre and deadly creatures at every turn. Arenia must distinguish between what is real and what is illusion if she is to survive. She must learn to make choices between fear and courage, between risk and comfort . . . or someone else will make them for her.

Blending myths & legends, dream and reality into an inspiring tale of self-discovery and transformation, ARENIA & The Golden Key is for readers, both men and women, across all generations. Whose author’s readers would it appeal to? Paulo Coelho, “The Alchemist”. For readers that enjoy fiction (Metaphysical & Visionary) with inspirational life lessons.

Thank you very much for your help! Much appreciated.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000446_00069]

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000446_00069]

Nathan says:

I have no complaints about the artwork.  (Well, the cobra isn’t obviously a cobra at first glance, but aside from that…)  So let’s work on bringing the type up to the level of the illustration.

I think the biggest problem is that you have the byline where the title should be and vice versa.  The top of the illustration is render in more consistently dark tones, which means that the title will stand out better.  And even if you end up obscuring the cat and bluejay, it’s still a better choice than trying to squeeze the text across her collarbone.

I also think you need to reconsider the font and type treatment.  Spaced type can sometimes work well, but usually when, again, it’s in front of a background with which it contrasts strongly.  Where you’ve got it, you realized that you needed an extra element to help the type distinguish itself from the background so you added the drop shadow, but the end result of spacing and drop shadow is that the letters look too disassociated from each other.  (A slightly — slightly — more ornate typeface on the title wouldn’t hurt either.)

I would also suggest that, as your name is very unlike most names in the English-speaking world, it’s not immediately recognizable as a byline.  Adding “A Fantasy Novel by” just over it will eliminate that confusion.

Since you’ve given us the back cover too, I’ll say that the same drop shadow problem exists here.  My solution would be to put a solid or mostly solid square behind the type, which would allow you to get rid of the drop shadow and tighten up the line spacing, so that your solid square doesn’t overlap onto the peacock.  (There’s a sentence I couldn’t ever predict I would type.)  And of course, put something in that big blank spot at the bottom of the back cover.

I feel like I’m missing something, but that’s what I can depend on the other commenters for.  Ideas?


  1. I agree with Nathan about the font. The illustration is very artistic, but the font is the exact opposite, especially in white. It’s very un-artistic, so to say, and it clashes. Drop shadow doesn’t help. Maybe a more swirly font will look better? Something similar to the swirls of the girl’s hair. Instead of white, a bright yellow-green or pale blue would actually fit in with the color scheme of the illustration while still being visible. Or perhaps a complementary orange, like the clocks of the peacock.

    I don’t think the title should go to the top, but it could go a bit lower, to fit inside of the girl, instead of going over her lines.

    I do like the idea of putting a semi-transparent square under the text on the back cover, I’d just suggest you either center the text or justify it, it looks off with one side being straight and the other uneven.

    1. Yeah, that illustration is simply fabulous.

      Now…I think that the primary issue is the font. Without having the illo to play with, I can’t tell if it needs a simpler font (say, something like Arquitecta Book or Cera), or something foofier. If the need is for foofier…that may take some doing. I don’t mean to make it sound harder than it is, but you may wish to “bracket navigate.” In other words, pick 4 different “foofy” fonts, that are distinctly different, with varying font characteristics. Try each. Try to narrow down what you like in each, or winnow some out. Then find other fonts similar to those that you liked, or thought were heading in the right direction, and lather-rinse-repeat, until you have just the right one.

      I hate to see this cover less than it could be, just because the font is wrong. And right now, it simply is. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but Mighty Heart…might work. (Really…I can’t imagine it, but…this is one of those covers where you want to try crazy fonts, just in case it suddenly clicks and you go…”WOW.”) You might try Blend Script, possibly. (Has a lovely ampersand…)

      Oh…and change the font for the byline. Keep it simple, particularly if you do end up going ornate for the title. The more ornate the title, the more the byline should most likely be some type of sans serif or block. OR, simply, yes, an all-caps font like maybe…Classic Roman? Something that’s easy on the eyes, classic and, importantly, readable.

      And, as someone else here said–perhaps my one twoo wuv, Waffs–please, by all that’s holy in bookmaking, please, justify that rear cover text block. Between the colored background and the drop-cap, it’s too difficult to read, and adding in the ragged-right makes it look unprofessional. Sorry to say it, but it’s true. Go with something simple–either a dark background box with white text, or a white-ish background box with simple BLACK text. Keep the font choice for the rear cover simple–a nice block of your basic Garamond, or TNR, Georgia, etc. Readability above all things, for a block of text like that.

      I hope that helps. Positively GAWJUS artwork; now you just need to tweak the fonts a bit, and you should be all the way there. I don’t know if you drew the illo (if so, yowza at you!), or were smart enough to find someone with that talent (ditto), but well done, that.

      1. Oh God, I hate picking out fonts, just reading this comment covers me with cold sweat… I can never pick just one. I usually end up with 20 candidates and can’t decide which one to use.

        I just wanted to add that there are lots of free fonts out there, but not all of them are good. Watch out for two things: kerning (the space between letters–make sure it doesn’t look off) and most important, it has to be readable. Especially since you have a name in the title that is not a common word and could be easily misread for something else if the font is too out there.

          1. Hey, Catie, Waffs: lovely to see you. Catie, when it comes to font selections, the FAST way to emulate it is to slap the cover image into Word (yes, I know, everyone scream now), and then play with the font. Select, click, look. Lather-rinse-repeat. It’s very quick.

            I just did a cover–no claims to design wonderfulness, at all–to write an article about it for my blog. The tool I used, I mean. Regardless, here’s the thing. The cover was NOT great, not at all. It just lacked zip. At some point, I took a flier on a foofy font and damned if it didn’t suddenly just WORK. I mean, no: won’t win any design awards. But it went from crappy to zappy in one fell swoop. Readable at any size, light, color-gradient color (a creamy banana-pink, yeah, I know, it sounds ghastly, but…this is WHY you gotta do the tryouts), and the damn thing came together.

            So, fonts can make or break a cover. Sure, the layout, the imagery–that’s a huge, huge portion of it. But fonts, no matter how fundamental they seem, actually play a larger role than we all initially think.

            Waffs: Yeah, I remember when Bleeding Cowboys came out, and sure, like everyone else, I loved it…but now, it’s like the dreaded Papyrus. Too, too, tooooo much.

          2. Some years ago I picked up from Corel a nice little app called Bitstream Font Navigator. Its primary purpose was to handle easy installing and uninstalling of fonts on older versions of Windows that could only handle some 400 fonts, but the app is great for going through the fonts easily. You just enter the text you’re working on and scroll through your library. Plus you can sort and group your fonts. Unfortunately, you can’t download the app on its own, but it does come with a Corel Draw trial and doesn’t expire with it. l’ve found it really irreplaceable when working with fonts. You still eventually need to see how it looks on the actual cover, but it helps to narrow the choice down, especially if you have trouble deciding, like I usually do.

  2. I am going to agree and provide ideas.

    Justify the back text. Much as it pains me to say this, but you need to make that easier to read. A square would go a long way. The drop shadow is just too much.

    It is a terrible shame that peacock isn’t an inch lower, that would also help.

    As for the drop shadows… drop them. There are better ways to make text stand out. If other colours just don’t do it, then ‘outer glow’ set to multiply and a dark blue (for this image) will do far more than a drop shadow can!

    I also think that the base artwork could be brightened up a tad (shift the middle of the levels to whiter). It is a touch too dark.

  3. That artwork is friggin’ gorgeous. You (or your artist) obviously know your way around a colored pencil, and so few people do. The texture is a little strong at full size, so I’d be inclined to do a selective blur to smooth it out, but that’s personal preference.

    I agree about putting a box behind the back cover copy. I’d make it semitransparent white and then use black typography. (Note: There shouldn’t be a comma between “shy” and “young.”) I also agree with everyone else’s comments about the typography.

  4. I wouldn’t necessarily put “a fantasy novel by” in front of your name, but certainly a simple “by” would help. As it stands, “Gizem Mut” sounds like it might be this surreal fantasy world’s name, and placing it at the top merely cements the false impression that this is part of a series of fantasy novels set in the world of Gizem Mut. Here in North America, everyone typically reads from left to right and top to bottom, and the title should always come before the byline, so put your title up closer to the top and the byline down at the bottom as Nathan says.

    As to the artwork, no complaints here, but am I right in assuming this surreal world is underwater, or at least feels like it’s underwater? The blue-and-green “cool” color scheme and the vague streaks of light shining down through the dark blue suggest as much. If you’re going for more of a “cosmic” surreality, I’d use more black with star field speckling, and if this is more a “drug trip” kind of surreality, I’d diversify and use all the colors of the rainbow. Otherwise, leave it as is.

    Yes, the font could stand to be a little more exciting too; maybe something a little swishier or swirlier, or at least with more irregular angles than the cut-and-dried straight-angled font you’ve got now. Also, to help the letters stand out from the background while fitting in with the general art style, something metallic-looking would be good: either ornate and golden like sunken treasure, or iron and bladed like a sunken weapons cache. Your cover’s artwork is both pleasing to the eye and gloriously intricate; now make the font the same way.

  5. Wow! Thank you so much for everyone’s incredibly helpful feedback! I truly appreciate it! I went through all of your suggestions and played around with some swirly fonts, different font colors, title placements, blurb designs . . . and voila! This is the end result. It looks a thousand times better! I hope you guys like it!

    1. Yup. MUCH better. It looks terrific. I like everything you’ve done with it–it just SCREAMS that you’ve put real time and effort into it. I like how clever you were with the Descender on the “A” in Arenia now encircling and framing the wee mermaid. 🙂


  6. This cover is gorgeous with a strong pop-surrealist vibe. It’s captivating, in part because of the beautiful colour harmony! The changes to the font notwithstanding, (the earlier font is easier for me, as a dyslexic, to read) the final product is beautiful. It can’t hurt to have a work of art on your book!

  7. I know I’m late to the party and you’re already reached a solution, but I thought you might be interested to see this.

    I was interested in this as a design problem-solving exercise because the illustration is so lovely and deserves good design to frame it – but it’s a difficult one to solve. One of the things about creating book jacket artwork/poster/etc artwork is remembering to leave plenty of space for elements that will be added later. But it’s really easy to forget. I was watching a documentary and the great Drew Struzan the other day and he forgot to leave space for the title on his original Star Wars poster!

    My approach here would be to embrace the busy-ness of the cover. It’s tempting to worry about the type covering up bits of the design and trying to cram the title in between details, but I feel that’s always going to look to some extent what it is – an afterthought.

    My solution would be to incooperate the type, having it interact confidently with the illustrated elements. It might seen counter-intuitive to cover up so much of a beautiful piece of illustration, but I think placed right this treatment can enhance and highlight details.

    It’s not an easy or quick approach as this kind of lettering has to be hand-drawn. My quick pass was done on Illustrator but it could equally be done on paper, then scanned and layered on the computer.

    OThers above have noted the pop surrealist/psychadelic vibe of the art, and I agree. You may or may not want to play that angle up depending on whether you think it;s appropriate to the book, but psychadelic posters are work checking out in any case for examples of how designers have managed to handle incredibly busy artwork and still have the type look strong – again, by having the words interact with the drawn elements.

    One book jacket that springs to mind here is Kensignton Garden by Rodrigo Fresan:

    The designer got away with an incredibly busy cover image by having an equally bold and attractive title treatment.

    On a side note, your treatment of the blurb is great on your second pass. Like everyone else, I HATE drop-shadows (and I’m extremely wary of Outer Glow too). They’re too often used to cover up bad design (not something you’re guilt of, but I know a couple of professional artworkers who do it all the time. The design should work without one having to stick a load of effects in grrr).

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