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Rock the Boat

The author says:

ROCK THE BOAT is an erotic romance set in current day America. A simple love affair becomes complicated when a soldier shares his new wife with his best friend. Parental disapproval escalates to lies and manipulation. A man with an obsession, a kidnapped spouse, and a murder, change a happy home into a nightmare. One that might be fixed by choosing the right man.

RTB good cover.JPG

RTB good cover.JPG

Nathan says:

I will readily admit that I’m not the target audience, but in my perusal of book covers in all genres, I’d noticed this distinction:

  • Soft romances usually have soft color schemes, airy or pastel.
  • Erotic romances usually have deeper color schemes — darker shadows, more saturated colors.

Your description says “erotic romance,” but the color scheme doesn’t support that.  That’s the first change I’d make.

But then: I don’t think the transparent overlay of the soldiers works, I don’t think the placement of the title works, and I DEFINITELY don’t think the “Word Art” warping of the title works.

I’ll give you the advice I give often: Look up the books on Amazon that you would expect to see in the same armload of books as yours.  Look at their covers.  Taylor yours so that all the signifiers are there to tell your potential readers that, if they liked those other books, they’d like yours.

Good luck.


  1. I don’t have much to add to Nathan’s note. He’s correct on all fronts. The font and font-manipulation are both all wrong for the genre.

    (Psssst, Nathan: Tailor, not Taylor. I know it’s just a typo, as I’ve seen you spell it correctly–my fingers screw with me like that, too.)

    I think that his comment about the colors is particularly apt. I realize that you want to show the beach–presumably, it’s part of your story–but the coloration is soft and to me, misleading. In a million years, I’d never have thought this was a wife-sharing, erotic-tinged thriller/murder mystery. (Not quite sure from the description). It looks a lot more like a typical romance novel–one girl, two guys, beachy stuff with soft everywhere, even down to the combed-out long-stem banana curls on the model. I’d also note, FWIW, that the creamy-white skin seems discordant with a beach chick. Probably, most folks won’t notice, but…just in case you have the opportunity to change models, I’d look for one that’s bronzed.

    Although I tend to be font-wonky, as I don’t read this genre, I don’t know what fonts suit. I know that one doesn’t–it’s practically the opposite of romance, erotica, or even thriller. So, yes, as Nathan said–scour your competition, see what fonts they use, what feel they convey, and copy whatever is selling.


  2. Totally agree with Nathan and Hitch. Not a whole lot to add, but one thing I did notice that has not been mentioned is the contrast between your title and background. There are times when a low contrast works…. maybe…. but not many. In most cases, low contrast=low readability. If your background is light, your title should be dark and vice-versa.

    As a side note: If the beach is important to the story, and it has to be daytime… perhaps a stormy beach might give a bit more mood to it.

  3. I was stopped by the synoposis. Its confusing and didn’t interest me enough to want to figure it out.

  4. In addition to what the others have already pointed out, the problem I’m seeing here is that you’re trying to do too much all at once. To an almost adequate stock photo of a reasonably attractive gal on a beach, you’ve added a completely unnecessary layer showing… the two guys who’ll be competing for the gal’s affections, I suppose? To make matters worse, that layer’s aspect ratio has pretty obviously been stretched vertically/squished horizontally, always a big no-no for book covers which is sure to land them on this site’s sister site Lousy Book Covers.

    No, the word art isn’t helping, and neither is the setting. If you strip out the superfluous layer with the soldiers and the needlessly fancy lettering, you’ve got the right cover for a decent light-hearted bodice-ripper, but not much more. To be the kind of darkly erotic tale of adultery and betrayal and bloody revenge your synopsis is making this out to be, you need something more substantial and immediate in the picture of the gal hinting at the imminent sex and violence; the gal being nearly topless hints at the sex, but nothing–not even that layer with the soldiers, which was probably your way of trying to provide that element–even begins to suggest how violent the situation is about to get.

    Aside from the obvious air-brushing of the gal failing to conceal your cut-and-paste job, the background against which you’ve set her is also far too serene. You might do better with stormier seas or a night scene instead as others have suggested, but I suspect what would work best of all is no background scenery at all, just a night shot of the gal against a stark black background with maybe someone holding a weapon on her or (depending on how the plot of this story goes) her holding a weapon on someone else. Having both of the guys competing for her affections in the frame may help, but may also clutter the cover too much, so consider carefully how many people to show.

    One source of my advice, by the way, is a little-known similar erotic thriller your synopsis brought to mind. It’s a movie I’ve only seen on VHS called Mortal Passions, which is about a recently married gal going adulterous when she rekindles a previous romantic relationship with her new husband’s older brother. While I can’t find a very good high-resolution version of the cover online, the one shot I did find should give you some idea of how your book’s cover ought to look.

    Notice how the jagged tearing down the middle of the frame (which just barely covers the gal’s naughty bits) hints figuratively at both the shredding of her wedding vows and the violence this introduces to her situation. Notice also the snub-nosed pistol in her hand, which is about as blatant a clue as you can offer of what she’s either done or is about to do. Then notice that no one else is in the frame, though her pose certainly suggests that someone has to be holding her up; in fact, only about half of the gal herself and absolutely no one else is in view, yet this set-up is more than enough to tell you everything you need to know about what kind of story you’re about to see if you watch the movie.

    In fact, that cover’s so good that on the whole, I think your best bet might just be to plagiarize everything but the picture itself for the cover of your book. Just find a night shot of a sufficiently treacherous-looking floozy to pose on your cover, run a jagged tear line roughly down the middle, and add someone’s hand (her own, or another person’s) holding a bloody knife or a pistol or a noose or some such depending on what fits the plot of your story. Add the title and byline (and maybe a tagline if you can make it sound sufficiently ominous without being too cheesy) in the appropriate places as shown on the Mortal Passions cover using similar action fonts, and have your image editor darken it and boost the contrast if necessary. Bang! Instant erotic thriller book cover!

    1. Here’s one that is 100% free, that is practically ready-made for RK’s suggestions–you’ll need to do a little creative darkening, over the left breast, but other than that, this would work. Natch, you’ll want a swath of red on it–perhaps, as RK suggested, the edge of the torn “page” could be blood red, limned with light, perhaps? Something to scream blood as well as sex?

      Now, I know that this one is a bit–different. But not knowing your plotline, this might be freaking awesome, done right: After all, your heroine is being “shared” by her husband and his BFF, right? Hell, I’d feel like a woman strung up, an inverted symbolic puppet, were that my situation.

      Offered FWIW. I do very much like the idea, cover and concept that RK’s put forth. It seems so much more suitable for your novel than what you have now.

      1. Again, it all depends on who’s doing what to whom in the plot. That first picture might be good if one of the guys is kidnapping the gal; just tear a jagged edge out over her exposed top, and have someone’s hand threatening her with a weapon from just out of the frame. The second one works the same way, except with no exposed breasts to cover.

        If she is actually the hostage-taking troublemaker (or there’s some kind of kinky mutual hostage-taking deal going on between her and her men), you can also find plenty of stock photos showing the gal holding the weapon. This military-themed photo has a gal holding a pistol, and in this one, a gal uses a military rifle rather creatively to cover herself. An image search with various different keywords likewise reveals any number of stock images of sexy gals either threatening someone else or being threatened with knives and nooses and other weapons.

        1. These suggestions would be great for an erotic thriller, but this is described as an erotic romance (although the synopsis sounds thrillery). So how well your suggestion would work depends a lot on how the book actually reads and what specific audience it’s going for, which isn’t clear from the information given.

          1. Hi, katz: agreed. The description, which includes things as trite as” parental disapproval” but as enticing as murder, “a man with an obsession, a kidnapped spouse,” all changing a happy home into a nightmare, sounds pretty thriller-y to me.

            However, you may well be completely right; perhaps it’s just an “erotic romance,” whatever THAT may be when you introduce wife-sharing. .

            Regardless, this cover needs a major injection of sex appeal, sexiness, a heavy dose of sultry, before it’s going anywhere, IMHO.

          2. I’m redoing the cover again with Hitches advice in mind. I really appreciate the helpful advice and effort your putting in for this. Before I post it here I’ll wait to see what’s said on the font choice for my third submission. This picture was my first one and my second wont be any better. I submitted it after reading Nathan’s advice to others, but before he critiqued mine. He could safely skip it with no loss although it does show a learning curve so maybe it could help others.

  5. This falls into the “kitchen sink category of book cover design, where the author tries to include everything he thinks is important. This is usually made worse when everything is giving more or less equal prominence. By the same token, this cover also suffers from the author being too familiar with his own story, so images are included that are meaningful to him but are only puzzling to the uninitiated.

    Aside from not conveying anything meaningful, the ghosted soldiers simply confuse and clutter the cover…and disappear into grey blobs at thumbnail size.

    Simply because you have the ability to warp type doesn’t mean you should. It adds absolutely nothing to the cover. The color choice for the title is bad, too. It is not differentiated enough from the background so the title tends to merge into it. Again, this is worse at thumbnail size.

    I frankly think that the cover needs to be redone from scratch. Try to choose your images more objectively. The cover should convey something about the book or its theme…and do so without requiring anyone having already read the book.

  6. Lydia, we’re discussing covers here, not the story. Try to keep your comments on topic. Thanks.

    On that note, I don’t like this cover at all. It screams “unprofessional!” to me. Nathan’s suggestions are good, especially the part about copying color usage. I say copy success. Study the covers of books in the genre that have done well on the market. There is nothing wrong with stealing good ideas. That doesn’t mean plagiarize, it means get inspired by what works in the genre.

    Nathan may or may not agree with me when I say book covers are not the best place for experimentation. The art world rewards experimentation — sometimes. The business of selling books? Not so much. Book cover art is closer to packaging than it is to art for aesthetic purposes.

    Do your homework by studying covers that work and imitating the look or a blend of looks. If you look at cover art in the genre and the composition or skill required to produce it is out of your league, then get help from a professional artist.

    The cover is your hook. I recommend it be sharp.

    1. The synopsis is given at the top for a reason. If I don’t go on to look at the cover because the description bothers me too much, it might be a clue to the author to rewrite it before adding it to the back of a paperback, or to their amazon page. To me as a reader, what the author has to say about the book is just as important as the cover in making a decision to buy.

    2. I entirely agree with you, Adrian. Book covers are first and foremost a marketing tool, not a place for artistic expression. The purpose is to sell the book. Period.

      1. Actually, I’d say book covers are a place for artistic expression; it’s just that the only message the art ever needs to express is “Hey there, target audience, buy this book! You know you want to!” In my opinion, art and art criticism classes in liberal arts colleges these days have criminally neglected teaching the theory, practice, and cultural significance of commercial mass-produced art to their students. Creating experimental highbrow stuff to razz your critics for not appreciating what an artistic genius you are is fine if all you want is to produce artworks that overpaid pretentious snobs will buy for ridiculous sums of money someday decades and centuries after you’ve starved to death, but everyone else seeking a career in art really needs to learn the theory and practice of producing good lowbrow art: identifying your target audience, learning how to get its attention, and making the sale.

        Wanting to make great art in addition to making money with your art is fine, but learning how to make money with your art really ought to come first.

        1. Let me clarify: A Book cover can be a venue for artistic expression, as any human activity can be. However, a book cover’s primary ROLE is not to be venue for the designer’s artistic expression, but to market the book. In the same way, one can be an artistic plumber, but the #1 job of plumbing is to get the crap to the sewer.

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