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Gift of the Master

The author says:

Tommy Travers is a teenaged recluse who dreams of entering a book and never coming back. When he turns 15 his wish is granted but unlike reading, the consequences are real. YA/Adult novel

Book 1 new background

Book 1 new background


Nathan says:

The artwork’s terrific.  The type treatment, not so much.

As you can see from the thumbnail, the title retreats into the background, and the byline is practically invisible.  It’s even worse on a black-and-white ereader device:

Book 1 new background bw

The bottom half of the image, under not-Godzilla and the ship, has no essential detail in there.  Rather than try to crowd the title over not-Godzilla’s head, I would leave the series title up there (with a larger and clearer icon of an open book worked into it), then put the title below, in clear bold letters on two lines:


I’d probably try putting the text in a white or cream with a dark border or outline.  And then I’d extend the byline across the width of the image. For both of these, you’d want a wide font, rather than the current tall one.

Other suggestions?


  1. I hope you bought rights to that illustration from Chinese artist Guicaimumu. They do concept art for Blizzard and stuff, so I’m a touch skeptical that they’re selling their art for ebook covers. And that they’d let you trim their signature.

    Looking at the original, I think you’ve cropped it too far. Taking off the prow if the ship makes it less clear what’s going on; it looks like a monster head, a mast, and then…a bunch of stuff. (Especially in thumbnail and grayscale.) It might be worth finding a portrait-orientation picture so you can include more of it.

    As for the treatment, your font and colors really look like old 70’s fantasy. Modern fantasy does a lot of white or silver Trajan-style serif fonts. It should also be antialiased. And if you’re going to include that series logo, make it big enough to see. It’s just a smudge right now.

    1. I did buy what I thought was full rights to this picture but after reading these comments I went back and made sure and found that it isn’t licensed for this type of commercial use, so I am back to the drawing board. I have uploaded a more vanilla cover onto Amazon but it takes forever to pull the image off. Thanks again to all for your help. When I get the new cover done I’ll give it another try.

  2. The artwork is great. The problem is that it was not designed to be a book cover. Professional cover artists, knowing that the title and author of a book need to be eventually included, will leave room in the artwork—usually around the upper third. You can see that here, where artist Stephen Hickman left room for the eventual placement of the book’s title

    In this case, you have a painting with no obvious space for the title. Nathan’s suggestion is probably the best solution.

    I see via Katz’s link that you cropped the original image pretty tightly. I think you could recrop it, allowing for more room above the dragon. This might give you a little more latitude in type placement.

    I think you may have also fallen for something that traps a lot of authors: you like the artwork too much. Consequently, you try everything you can to avoid covering up any more of the art than you have to. This usually results (as it did here) in the title and author’s name being relegated to the margins.

    (By the way, I will have to second Katz’s concern: Did you obtain the rights to use this artwork?)

  3. Not much to add to the other comments here, except to say that if you’ve actually purchased the rights to this painting, you must have paid quite a pretty penny. This is definitely the quality of artwork you want for your cover, but if you’ve just swiped this piece off an image search, you can expect that the artist’s lawyers will be on their way to sue you blind if you ever publish a book with this cover. If you do have the rights to it, what I’ve seen on image search indicates you should have more room over the dragon’s head for your title than your current crop of it allows; I would definitely shift your cropping frame upward to capture some of that.

    Even if you do that, though, I should mention the picture’s a little difficult to comprehend in thumbnail. All the chaotic spray and fire and wreckage combined with the muted colors make the dragon and the ship difficult to distinguish from everything else. For better results, I also recommend boosting the saturation to make the reds, greens, and blues more distinguishable from each other.

    If you don’t have the rights and need to find something within your price range, Deviant Art surely has some Dungeons & Dragons enthusiasts and the like who might be willing to sell you a really cool-looking cover like this at a reasonable price. Also, while this cover definitely indicates a fantasy, it doesn’t seem to point to your specific kind of fantasy: your synopsis makes the plot sound a little like something out of The Neverending Story or The Pagemaster for a slightly older target audience (as in teenagers instead of prepubescents). You could do worse than to look at some of the posters for those movies for further ideas on how to lay out your book’s cover.

  4. If you didn’t obtain the rights, then all this is pointless, but I’ll give my 2 cents anyway.

    I agree with Katz, you’ve cropped it too close. It’s all a blur and I need to really focus to figure out what’s going on. If you had zoomed out and cropped it to include most of the sea and sky, and to put the dragon at the center instead to the top, like this, the dragon and the ship would’ve been much easier to identify, plus you’d have enough place for both the title and the byline.

    While this is a fantasy cover, it is not a YA fantasy cover. Look at, for example, the covers for Percy Jackson (Harry Potter is another good example). You can notice three things. One, the style of the drawing is more towards the art for children than the very realistic painting you have here is. Second, they all have a boy (character) on the cover. If you don’t have the rights to use this one, getting an artist to draw you something more stylized with a character on it would be the way to go. Thirdly, they have a slightly playful, but readable font that takes a good deal of the cover. I think you realize yourself the font you have here isn’t very visible, or you wouldn’t have tried to make it stick out with a shadow. The shadow doesn’t always bring the best results. And your font definitely doesn’t say YA (Four, they use gold for the font color, the code of which is rgb(218,165,32)).

    Also, the font is very pixely. When you work on a cover, you should raise your resolution from 72 pixels per inch to at least 300, 600 for best results, otherwise, it’s going to look jerky like it does now.

  5. I’ll leave all the fundamental comments to the others–they’ve covered it all fairily thoroughly.

    With regard to the fonts: yes, as someone else noted, this font is quite old-looking. When I first looked at your cover, the first thing I thought was that it was a Bantam 1970’s-80’s book cover, complete with the little black logo at the top. There are fresher fantasy fonts to consider.

    There’s a font called (you can’t make this stuff up) “Storybook,” which might actually work for this. You do need a heftier font, for it to hold up against the blue and the busy-ness of the image. There are “modern” Gothic fonts that might work nicely–there’s one called God of War that I rather like, given the right background. Knight’s Quest might work–or may not. Eternal Night–again, a “might.” Harker might do–particularly if you need some condensing, with the length of the title.

    The thing about Fantasy, and book with a busy background is, you need stout enough lettering that it can be seen in thumbnail, and typically, fantasy-appearing fonts are slender and elfin, rather than stout. You need to sit down and spend TIME. Put the image in something like InDD or Illustrator, Photoshop, fire up your font manager, and start swapping in fonts. Take your time to do this, until something makes you go “HEY!,” as opposed to “okay, good enough.”

    Now, font colors: Because of the “busy,” I think you might want to try a very pale orange creamsicle color, almost more white than it is orange tinted. Try the same with a pinkish-white. You can try a bluish-white; that may work as well. I think you’re probably out of luck on the typical colors, because they’ll either blend into or contrast in the wrong way with the ocean background or the sky, or.. wherever you put it. Using base whites or yellows, and blending white or something else into it, until you get enough oomph to stand out on the cover, is the way to go. Use a simple font to nail the color–something like Arial bold–and then work your way through your font list. Also try Duel and Razorclaw. At a large enough size, they may just do the trick. Not Mary Kate may also work, depending on the book’s content–you would be a better judge than I, about that. It skews a bit younger. If that’s not quite right, War Priest may fly for you.

    You can also try hefty-enough lettering, and see if a gradient color wouldn’t fly. It’s possible. But as I said, it’s tricky to find just the right fantasy font that isn’t too light, in weight, for your purposes. That happens. Sometimes, it’s hard to find just the right font, or a font that meets your vision. OR, you see a font that you just LOVE, but can’t find the right use for.

    Lastly–don’t get sucked into those fonts that you cannot READ. You help neither yourself, your book or your sales with those. No matter how cool a font looks on the screen–if your prospective audience can’t read it, all the cool just dissolves. So, if you type in your preview text, and you cannot READ it when you are reviewing–don’t download that font, period. Discard it entirely from consideration.

    Good luck, and like the others–image licensing, please. Everyone here is very attuned to the protection of IP.


  6. So my first comment was really focused on working with what you’ve already got, but looking at the description, this does seem all wrong (and way too generic) for a YA fall-into-a-book story. (And for the millionth time, there’s no such thing as a YA/Adult novel.) It’s a fun and appealing premise and you really want to show that off with a nice picture of a boy falling into a giant book or something similar, rather than a generic fantasy image.

  7. (If you do indeed have rights to this artwork) You might consider just having it centered, with the text on a solid-colored background below and above.

  8. Many thanks for all the suggestions and comments, as they are greatly appreciated!

    A few explanations:

    Yes, I will review the back text closely as I did the centering myself due to how the template set the text.

    The Bleeding Cowboy font is a font that I’ve found fits well with my books. As tired some may be of it, with all due apologies, I like it.

    As for the “big head” artwork, as many have come to call it; yes, I do have permission of the original artist to use it (along with the other artwork as well from others) and if you knew at what lengths that I had to go to just to find the artist of the mage (not zombie) just to ask, you might appreciate why I use it even as I have 8) I suspect that he’s had it used in several posters that he may not have been entirely aware of, but who knows. I followed proper due diligence where others may not have.

    In truth I have gone with covers on all four books that are character driven and hence the use of her face as I have here. In this case she acts as a hook of sorts to draw some who see her to the cover and spark an interest. She also represents a Witch that plays a very important role throughout the this book and the rest of the series.

    As for the badge, I’ve shaded it a bit different now but it also remains as it represents something that is referred to in the story, also acting as a hook of sorts. Within the story, I reference it and if people question its existence, all they have to do is look at the cover 8)

    I fully realize that there will be many who are far more artistically inclined that look at this and shrug it off, while in the end it gives me exactly what I was looking for and in the end that is what is probably the most important, at least to me.

    Down the road should it be picked up by a real publisher, undoubtedly they may choose to have a professional do a new cover and if that were to happen I’ll be happy to share what they came up with.

    Again many thanks for all the suggestions and comments, they were greatly appreciated!


  9. (The above comment was, of course, supposed to be posted under Blood-Lines.)

    I fully realize that there will be many who are far more artistically inclined that look at this and shrug it off, while in the end it gives me exactly what I was looking for

    …To be shrugged off?

    You submitted this book to be looked at by the artistically inclined; if you don’t care what we think because you’ve already decided the cover is exactly what you want, I really don’t know what you were expecting to get out of this.

      1. I don’t know about the contributors to this and/or many other threads, but I for one always look forward to your responses Hitch. Never think that they are in vane. If memory serves, I think you posted that you are not a designer (??) which surprised me. But if not, you have an uncanny eye for fontology. I always enjoy your font references and totally appreciate your spidey font sense.

        So thanks for taking the time.

        Never give up! Never surrender! 🙂

        1. Hi, Tamian:

          Well, thanks. I appreciate that, I do. I’m not a designer, and I don’t make covers. I have an eBook conversion & formatting biz, and so, of course, we deal in fonts left, right and center. We also do some interior layout work, for print (for simple-ish books), so again: fontyliciousness. I’ve developed a fontness for them. (Sorry, couldn’t resist).

          As I’m not like the rest of the kids–don’t know that XX is wrong, or that the contrast should b XX, or that–I stick to what I do know, fairly well, which is font use. Anyone who has ever seen the interior of my house knows not to turn me loose on design-y stuff. (Example? I once (ages ago) had an aunt, that was a designy person. After we’d purchased a new house, she kept calling and nagging me for my “accent colors,” so she could send me towels and stuff, as a housewarming gift. I finally told her that our matching complement color was “Dust Bunny.”) So, yeah…stick with those fonts, mon!

          Honestly, for this thread, I feel bad for everyone else. They contributed a LOT about how to make this cover much, much better. Heck, I freely admit, I loved Bleeding Cowboys, and still do–but I know that it can’t be used nowadays due to over-saturation. (Hint: that guy has another font out, that I also love, and I’m going to find a book that it suits, sometime soon. Now, HE, that guy–he’s got a real eye for making scrumptious fonts.)

          I wish that this book had a custom design budget. I’ll bet that someone could really BLAST this sucker into High-Earth Orbit. Zombies and cowboys? Such fun!

  10. Why isn’t the author’s comment showing?

    Anyway… I’ve dug up a few images from deviantArt that might give you some inspiration about how to go about the new cover:

    If you like some of these, maybe you could even comission the artist who made it to do something similar for you.

    1. Oooooooooooh, Catie!

      Those are really excellent. The first one really blows my skirt up. “Book of imagination.” I dunno…I’d definitely put out feelers, to see what Tina might charge, for your book, Robb. That’s some damn fine artwork, not merely technically competent, but spirited, as well.

      (Nice job finding those, Catie!).

  11. These are all really good. I have reworked an original piece of art and have submitted it. I also did find a good artist at DeviantArt to do my second novel cover. Thanks for that tip. I’ll wait to see what suggestions I get on my reworked cover before commissioning the same artist to rework this cover. Again, thanks for the great feedback.

  12. Katz, I have resubmitted this cover here and am planning on having an artist help me fix it per suggestions I get here and elsewhere. The cover you saw isn’t the final piece. I rather liked the wolf, especially as it pertains to the story, but if the feedback is negative I am not married to it. As always on this site, I appreciate any comments and will wait for the review of my revised.

    1. The concept is good, even with the wolf (we see it too often on bad covers so we’re a little weary of it, but that doesn’t mean it should be completely avoided on all covers), but the current execution is too static. That’s why my first inspiration suggestion was , it’s basically the same scene, with the same elements, but where yours is static, this one looks like it has captured a very dynamic moment in the story. This is what you need to go for–dynamic and exciting, not stiff and static. The elements could stay the same, just change the presentation.

      1. Thanks Catie, that image is incredible. If the boy was 15 it would be perfect. I have an artist from Devianart who is working on my second cover so I am planning on having him redo my first. I didn’t realize the wolf was such a cliche, but I have one in my first and second books and they play major roles.

        1. There could be A wolf, but this poor beastie has been used on more covers than, eh, cannot think of a simile. A dust cover? I does not fit with the artwork anyhow… though, to put it bluntly, that does not strictly fit the word. It is quite bad.

          1. More than Fabio? 😉

            Don’t worry about the wolf. If it fits the book, put it there. Not everyone has seen as many bad werewolf novels as we have.

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