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Time Traveler Chronicles

The author says:

Evelyn Carter is a struggling video news stringer, who stumbles into the biggest story of her life. After she records and reveals to the world the arrival of a time machine, she is recruited to become a member of an elite government time travel team. She and her team travel through time, with the public goal of recording historical events on video for the world to see. Along the way she learns of a hidden agenda that must be kept secret from the public at all costs. Buried deep in the past is a potential solution to stop the unstoppable. The team must journey farther through time and space than anyone has ever gone or thought possible, in order to put the pieces of the puzzle together. However they are blocked at every turn in their efforts, and the stakes couldn’t be higher.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000040_00013]

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000040_00013]

Nathan says:

Hmm. There are a lot of choices that seem almost-right here, but they’re cumulatively less than the sum of their parts.  I’ll try to pick them apart.

First, I’ve got real problems with your font choices.  The title font is too plain to be enticing, but too innocuous to be urgent.  The back cover font is an impediment to reading the text.  And while I have no problems with the byline font itself, it doesn’t mesh well with the other fonts at all.

The color-transparency of the silhouetted figures is also annoying.  But more than that, they seem to be indicating that whatever is worth looking at is happening somewhere off the cover.

And then you’ve got an egg-shaped moon on the back cover. Definite demerits there.

To tweak this cover, I would move the sun to behind the couple and crop it like this:

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000040_00013]

Since the other detail in the image doesn’t actually convey any additional information, it can be excised in favor of focus.

Anyone think differently?


  1. This is one of those covers that looks good at first glance, but looks progressively worse the longer I look at it. The aspect ratio of the cover font is wrong, the same figures are copied on the front and back covers, and more than half of the back cover is taken up by a black box way bigger than it needs to be to hold the blurb text. (This is supposed to be a wraparound cover, but where’s the spine?) I also don’t like that the front has a totally different color scheme from the back.

    But my biggest objection is that nothing about this cover says “time travel.” It really just suggests space travel.

  2. As katz says, it might look good from a distance, but the cover looks less and less likeable the closer I look at it. Nothing other than the title really says “time travel” to me initially; at first glance, I was thinking this would involve some kind of desert intrigue, and I still think it might. Luna on the back cover is not only stretched to look like an egg (a common feature of numerous bad covers featured on Lousy Book Covers), but stretched diagonally; it looks like a glowing piece of paper artificially plastered against the sky.

    The more I gaze at those silhouettes, the more my perspective keeps flipping back and forth between everybody walking away from the fourth wall and everyone walking toward the fourth wall. Such an optical effect may or may not be helpful in combination with other elements, but by itself is just confusing. The tree, on a closer glance, appears to be translucent; maybe your way of hinting at the tree’s fading in or out due to the time travelers making changes in the time stream? If so, it’s too little and too late to draw your prospective reader’s eye to this vital element of the story.

    In short, your cover may catch your target audience’s eyes initially, but it won’t be able to keep very many browsers’ focus long enough to make the sale. The “desert intrigue” spy novel element of the front cover’s imagery may be drawing some of the crowd you want, particularly if you’re hoping to pick up some of Tom Clancy’s audience, but the time travel element needs something much stronger to suggest it. (Incidentally, viewing your cover and synopsis together, my guess is that this “unstoppable” thing the team is trying to stop is a nuclear war up in the near future that’s going to turn the vast majority of the world’s lands into that Fallout-like desert wasteland they’re shown traversing under a bright and yet dusted-clouded Sun on your front cover; am I hitting close to the mark?)

    As I’ve suggested for another time travel story’s cover, your best bet for letting everyone know there’s going to be some time travel from the start is to have some glaring anachronism on it. That camera your protagonist is carrying might be appropriate to the present or the near future, but what if she were carrying it back in, say, the middle of World War II? Filming a death camp or a bombing raid or the nuclear mushroom cloud at Hiroshima or Nagasaki with the latest high-resolution news camera? You could do worse.

    Of course, that’s just one example. The point is, give us something obvious. Let us see something that screams “time travel” while dropping a big not-too-specific hint at the story’s other plot elements. If this is a spy novel and a time travel story, show us that it’s both on the cover. Keep us guessing about which turns your story will take, rather than what the genre(s) and target audience are.

  3. I’m going to let others discuss the front cover (which is the most important aspect to get right before anything else because the front cover is what will attract and or interest your intended audience to your book), and I don’t have the higher knowledge to assist you work towards getting the best front cover design.

    What I am going to discuss is how you should and can resolve some problems on the back cover, once you have improved the front (because I agree fully that it isn’t ‘there’ yet. For the back cover:

    1. The book description text frame is too wide. This will make the text too hard to read for those that browse from the shelf or online. As a general rule, text should not have more than 70 characters in a line or it can cause the reader to repeat or jump a line when they go from reading one line to the next. So the aim is to make it easier by making lines shorter. And yes, that means that it will be longer down the page.

    2. You haven’t allowed for a Barcode. Because you have a back cover, I can only assume that your intention is to offer a print version. If that is the case, then you need to allow for common back cover elements like barcodes, so check your intended distributors specification guidelines for things like this, (even Createspace requires barcodes).

    3. Where is your spine? Unless your book is under (I think it is) 48 pages, you need to include a spine for a print book. Again, check distributor specification guidelines, or they’ll reject your cover.

    4. You don’t need to have a small picture and block of solid colour with which to house your book description. The book description text can be placed in a slightly transparent frame so that the imagery is viewable beneath the text – but care would need to be taken not to interfere with any key part of the graphic.

    I think you would benefit from going to and or other online bookstores, and having a look at some covers of other books with Time Travel, to look for the titles that are selling front covers convey time travel; the types of fonts that are used, and how the front and back covers are laid out etc. And then once you are armed with some knowledge, then start making some changes.

    Good luck, hope that helps.

  4. Others have said wonderful things already, I will just add one thought:

    The text on the back in the blurb should probably be ‘justified’ to make it look more finished.

          1. The one I put on your facebook page is even more current. It fixes that color bleed on the character silhouettes.

        1. The title font is certainly better in that cover. I still don’t think it’s doing your story justice, mind you, but it’s better. nonetheless, it’s kerned rather oddly. Is that a foundry font?

  5. I have some additional comments. Some of this is not really “cover,” per se, but as the description is on the rear cover, I guess it counts. You have several misuses of the comma in the description. “…video news stringer,” and “…travel through time,” and “or thought possible,” are all unnecessary commas and should be removed. They create small mental obstacles in those sentences, which you neither want nor need.

    To iterate what everyone else said, this just does not say time-travel to me. Or sci-fi, or horror. To me, this looks like a romance. Nothing else. The hand-holding (sorta) silhouettes on the cover say “romance.” (As a reader of various genres, generally speaking, the moment the romance is more emphasized on the cover/description than real PLOT, I won’t pick up the book, FWIW.)

    I’d also note that the silhouette hand-holding seems clumsily done. Is that an actual single silhouette? The two of them? I think it’s a bit weird that she’s obviously in pushed-up sleeves (in the desert), while he’s obviously wearing some type of loose pullover sweater, or sweatshirt? (Why is the pointing person’s arm cut off on the reversed rear cover?)

    Fonts: the byline font spaces weirdly surrounding the R and the D. I’m going to guess it’s not a smallcaps or titling font, or someone would have addresses that (the designer, I mean). I’d recommend that you try to find a better all-caps titling font for that. Requiem, IIRC, has a nice font for this, and the ubiquitous Felix Titling, of course. A thought–you could manually kern the D closer to the R, and have the R’s leading leg trail over the D. That would solve the weird spacing, AND make it more visually interesting. A twofer!

    For the title, you need more BANG. A lot more. You can try some that SCREAM sci-fi upfront…like Sui Generis, Space Age (that one is too-too, for my taste, but…) Roddenberry, Omnibus Ova, Red Rocket…there are many. If you have something like Suitcase Fusion, you can pop your cover image into Word (or something similar) and use Suitcase Fusion to try them out in rapid succession. But look for a bit more ZAP. If you don’t want to do the same-old, same-old, cruise places like Creative Market and you can view THOUSANDS of fonts that aren’t well-known, but are fresh. You might like that.

    I assume that the holes/lumps on the ground are supposed to be graves?? I’m not sure that they’re working, given the usual viewing size of an eBook cover.

    Did you have other cover candidates that you set aside? Any that you’d like to share, perhaps? Sorry I don’t have more for you, in the way of specific suggestions, but this particular cover, for that story/genre, simply isn’t blowing my skirt up. Sorry.

    1. Lots of great advice.
      I fixed the extra commas.
      Now on the big issue. Screaming time travel and science fiction is something I have been attempting to remedy. I am building the cover elements in various 3d modeling programs. So I still have some elements I am working on. I was thinking of adding to the background on behind the characters some elements from the story. Starting with the time machine (still building the 3d model of that). Also references to some of the scenes in the book where they travel to. They go to Egypt so I was thinking of a pyramid in the distance. They also go to the old west, so maybe a frontiersman on a horse. Maybe a collage of images in the scene that demonstrates some of the times they visit would make the hand holding not as much to draw your eye to.

      The hand hold it self is an interlaced fingers hold. Once again I will try and insert a link to an image to show a non silhouetted version of the 3 characters. If it doesnt show, hopefully Nathan can fix it again.

      The byline is Felix Titling, so I’ll try and tweak the spacing, it has been bothering me as well.

      For the main title, I am looking for a really great font. I will continue to try different ones.

      The lumps on the ground were dry tufts of grass. You are right, they didn’t look good, I got rid of them, and just left the arid soil.

      I’ll work some more on it and show what I come up with.

    1. Yeah, that hand-holding isn’t working. Have you tried any of the stock image joints? I can’t believe that you wouldn’t be able to find a better option at iStockphoto, Dreamstime, or one of those. Silhouettes are always problematic, of course, but…I am well aware that iStockphoto has become stupidly expensive, but after all: this is the cover for your baby.

      Here’s the thing with covers–in my biz (making books for folks), I see author-wishes like yours–trying to add things to the cover that are “related” to the story.

      I was thinking of adding to the background on behind the characters some elements from the story. Starting with the time machine (still building the 3d model of that). Also references to some of the scenes in the book where they travel to. They go to Egypt so I was thinking of a pyramid in the distance. They also go to the old west, so maybe a frontiersman on a horse. Maybe a collage of images in the scene that demonstrates some of the times they visit

      One of the standard talks that I give our clients is this: stop thinking of your cover like an IMAX screen. Every author starts out thinking that their massive IMAX cover screen should somehow tell the story–they envision the story of their book scrolling across this massive cover. BUT: that cover isn’t massive. At its largest, it will be viewed at 3.5″ x 3.75″, or thereabouts. Usually, it won’t even be 1″ wide in searches. Never forget that.

      What about a different silhouette? I don’t know if this could be done. I don’t know your budget, your sketching talent, if any (I have ZERO), etc. What about something simple, like…a couple racing from one scene to another? Using big single aspects, like your pyramid on the left, and…I dunno, a dinosaur on the right? (Yes, I get it–no dinos, but…). Or…a racing stagecoach? Something that gives movement to the cover. Right now, it just looks like a travelogue (sorry).

      So…I dunno, a couple racing from left to right..say, a pyramid (static) on the left, a racing (toward them? Toward opening the book?) stagecoach on the right? You could stage a portion of the pyramid around the spine, even…just enough on the front to impart “pyramid,” which would give you more space for the other scene, on the front. (And for the wraparound, you could carry the theme around the spine/rear cover, which could be cool, if you think of a third era that can be represented by a SINGLE object, on the back…)

      That may well be too busy, too. And it might be a crap idea. I don’t claim to be a design genius, as my fellow Cover Critics will certainly tell you.

      A last comment: what about just calling it the Time Chronicles? Time Traveller Chronicles seems awfully long. Or Travel, I guess you used. I do think that using the word “travel” or even “traveller” has issues, coupled with your current image, in conveying the idea of a travelogue–romance.

      Or (here I go again)…could you just kill off the silhouette, and put a pyramid in the background, with a stagecoach (I’m not married to these elements–I’m just spitballing here based on what you’ve said) in the foreground, going hell bent for leather? That would convey an element of time-travel related issues, I should think.

      I noted the “tunnel of ?” on the rear cover. I’m assuming that some time of time-travel related catastrophe is nigh? Maybe you could make that the third element on the cover…one big static thing, like your pyramid, the tunnel (amazing how some things just stick in the collective consciousness; that stupid show has been off the air for nearly 50 years, but people still think of a tunnel, vis-a-vis time travel), and some OTHER element that is clearly out of place near a pyramid.

      Sorry…this isn’t really what CC is for. People are supposed to give you constructive, specific critique and help, and I don’t think I’m helping. I think I’m probably confusing you. This is sort of the back-forth spitballing that I do with clients and designers in conferences. You’re further along than that.

      You still need to use a MUCH better font.If I see anything in my travels (ha!) in the next few days, for the title, I’ll revert back here and post it, if it helps. I don’t think it HAS to be sci-fi; but it needs to really GRAB ’em, if you don’t develop a “grabs ’em by the short hairs” graphic background.


      1. I totally get where you are coming from. The elements in the images are all 3d models, so I’m not using stock photos at all. The characters are posed in the software and rendered to an image. The only reason I made them in silhouette is because I was told people prefer to imagine the faces as they read the story. Otherwise I would just render them lit from the front. If I am wrong in hiding the faces, I can change that. I would actually prefer to let the reader see the faces, because I want to show more images inside the book. Like on the blank pages between chapters.

        Obviously this is a scifi story, but there is also a romance involved. I wanted to make the imagery eluding to romance as subtle as possible. So no Harlequin Fabio poses. You are right though, the image on the cover needs to say scifi or time travel before people notice the romance aspect. Not sure if I should remove the hint to the romance since my protagonist is female and the romance aspect is the subplot.

        Your idea of running gave me a vision that might allow for the hand holding to be more subtle. If they are all running in the scene, then the hand hold could remain but would be dual meaning. What about that as a idea?

        So in my thinking when I designed the images I had the idea of the front cover being the beginning and the back being the end.
        I really didn’t want to clutter it, but the whole “It doesnt scream time travel” prompted me adding more elements. I am almost done with the 3d model of the time machine, so I should probably add that, but I completely agree with your IMAX statement.

        Still looking for that amazing font to jump out at me.

        1. I think you’ll find that pretty much everyone here will make the warding sign (you know, the sign of the cross you hold in front of you to find off the devil or a vampire?) about the idea of protohumans, and I have to admit, that would be an INSTANT “do not buy” for me. If you’re using protohumans, stick to silhouettes.

          Also–and this is both professional and personal–since you asked, I see no reason for the “hand-holding” bit on the cover. You have romance, great. Why put it on the cover? The whole thing is set as a time-travel action/adventure, so, let that carry the cover. The romance will hopefully creep up on the reader as s/he reads it. I have seen exceedingly few covers with hand-holding that didn’t sit in the Romance aisles. Some here will no doubt disagree with me, but it’s so hard to do two figures on a cover well to begin with, (never mind a third) adding the “holding hands” requirement, to me, is just adding a level of kluge that isn’t helping.

          Also: Time Machine. Unless it’s a Tardis, I don’t think I know how anyone will look at the cover and say “time machine!” When we spoke earlier about “clutter,” to me, that sounds like it. Can’t speak for the others.

          Do you think you can do a female silhouette leaping across something? Maybe you could put the two contrasting things/places/times on the cover, with her running through/jumping/leaping from one to the other. Readers won’t give too craps if there’s really a time-travel device/machine/tunnel. Remember: NOT TOO LITERAL. That’s the mistake that most new authors make.

          Did I mention or link to (?Senility is so ugly), the article by Derek Murphy about book covers? This one?: ?

          If I didn’t, and you haven’t read it, stop everything and read it now. Before you do another thing. I’ve said this before (watch as my fellow Cover Critics run from the room screaming, they’re so bored with this), but its the single best thing on cover design I’ve ever read. Instead of simply opinions (“That looks good, that doesn’t”), Derek distills what works down into real information that you can USE. (Also, he has a series of fonts set out in…um…crap, oh, right, 300 Foolproof Fonts you can use…something. If you scroll down after reading the cover article stem-to-stern, you’ll see it on the lower-left. Check that out, too.)

          Forget literal, and you ought probably forget hand-holding, and I fear for the time-travel device. Happy to see it, when it’s done, of course. For all I know, it SCREAMS “time machine.” 😮

          Sorry for all this. You must want to shoot me by now.

          1. Sorry, sorry, one more thing: we had another time-travel book here, some time back (ha, yes, awful pun..) that used a silhouette. I really didn’t like it–it looked odd–and I scrounged around and posted this image here: , which I thought was MUCH more the thing. And, it kinda conveys somebody being dematerialized, y’know.

            I don’t know if this guy has a female version you could snag, OH! Hey! I looked and he does (or she does? I don’t know), here:

            See, now, if I saw THAT on a bookcover, with somebody jumping between (to continue our pyramid, yadda discussion) say, the Pyramid on the left, stagecoach on the right, or whatever…THAT would scream “time-traveller!” to me. I think. Gang? Anyone still with us, here?

            Someday, if nobody grabs those up, I’m going to find a client or a book for those. That person’s eye is really GREAT. Very cool, IMHO.

            I digress and babble when it gets late. Back tomorrow.

    2. It’s true that using “pseudohumans” on a cover is a big no-no on here (courtesy of all the abominations we critics have seen arising from it on Lousy Book Covers), but only because it’s just about impossible for anyone to do it right with the existing indie-grade software. Considering the rather low quality of the human simulations in whatever program you’re using, keeping them blacked out as silhouettes is definitely the right way to go if you ever try actually try to use them on a final cover. You might do better, though, to try using your simulations only on very preliminary rough drafts until you can find a proper pose for everyone, and then hire an artist to draw your characters as you’ve posed them or a professional photographer and some models to pose the same way for a live photo shoot.

      From all this conversation so far, you seem a little attached to having the characters hold hands to hint at the romantic subplot subtly so it doesn’t take over the cover. Your motive is reasonable, but has it occurred to you there are lots of ways to hint subtly at romance besides having the potential couple holding hands? Merely having a man and a woman together on the cover at all immediately hints at the possibility of romance in just about any ordinary reader’s mind. If one is touching the other in any way, a lot of readers will be expecting them to be filling out their application for a wedding license at some point in the story.

      If anything, you may actually have to throw them off the scent a bit by trying to find a more ambiguous pose. If a guy is carrying an unconscious gal in his arms, for instance, that will leave them asking: rescue romance, or just a rescue? The same goes for either one carrying the other with an arm draped over his/her shoulders: battle romance, or just doing your duty to carry a wounded comrade to safety?

      So your characters will be visiting the old West and ancient Egypt? The trouble with either of those places is that with all the tourist traps and theme parks built around each place and time, a lot of readers will simply assume any anachronism appearing on the cover is because the characters are modern tourists visiting such a Western or Egyptian-themed amusement park. You might have to try showing us something from the future as the anachronism instead: “Hey, what’s a guy with a laser pistol doing in the old West?”

      I’m not sure much of anything will automatically look like a time machine to anyone browsing the science fiction section of Amazon or a local bookstore. Even the time travel sled from the first movie adaptation of H.G. Wells’ Time Machine wouldn’t automatically make anyone think of time travel who’d never seen it before. If you can make it look anachronistic and out of place against a Western or ancient Egyptian or even wholly modern background, though, you might have a working clue to your reader that screams “Hey, this a time travel story!” We’ll have to see it for ourselves before we can make that determination, however.

      1. Yeah. What he said. As I said, vis-a-vis the time machine, if it ain’t a Tardis, I don’t think anyone will recognize it.

        RK: He said pyramids, and I think I threw in the Old West stagecoach. I was trying to think of two things that shouldn’t appear together. You’re right, of course, about theme parks. Hmph. Good point. But if you put a laser-pistol in the Old West, isn’t that just as likely to cause a “oh, Westworld!” reaction?

        It’s an interesting question.

  6. Your tweaks have corrected some of the little problems, but I think you need to think bigger if you want to move this cover from “looks good until you stare at it for a minute” to “looks good.” I just think you may have to abandon the 3D software and look for another approach.

    1. I have some more tweaks I am working on. I’ll post some updates when I finish. As far as 3d software, I don’t really have a choice as it is all I know how to use.

      1. Rob: I gotta ask: what’s wrong with using stock imagery? There are lots of stock images, quite good, that are free, and more that are QUITE good, that you can license pretty darn affordably. I buy illustration work for my company at a few bucks a pop. If you’re composing the image yourself, why not look for some background images or even a couple (hand-holding) on a background that you want?

        Just an idea.

        1. Simple, I have more creative control if I generate the images my self. I get that lots of people use stock photos, but I have also seen lots of covers done by an artist. So to me, using stock photos is for people who don’t have the ability to create the art them selves. My job is, I am a professional prop maker. I work with 3d software for a living, so naturally my instinct it to use what I know. If it doesn’t pan out, I can seek another avenue.

          I also prefer to have completely custom art, and I plan on generating the same type of art on the interior of the book. So for me to generate interior illustrations, but use stock photos on the cover would be weird.

    1. I like the woman better without the group, but I am afraid that a) the byline is being badly washed out, and b) still not getting “time traveller” from this. Font mucho better, in my opinion. At least the font says “sci fi.” Let’s see what some of the others say. Nathan? Gang?

    2. It’s a better cover, but still not a better time travel cover. I’m still just seeing “gal with a camera in a possibly post-nuclear desert” here.

      Maybe it would work better if there were some kind of portal or window into another time behind her?

    1. IMO, you’re treading water at this point, and if you’re only willing to make these kinds of minor tweaks, you may as well pick any of the previous three revisions and call it a day.

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