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Blood-Lines [resubmit]

The author says:

This is a freshly minted resubmit of an earlier cover for Blood-Lines, Book I of my Tales of the Weird Wild West series that I will be self-publishing at some point in the near future. Although admittedly I’m still very much using a pre-made template (for a newbie at this, it’s also just that much easier for someone of my artistic level to accomplish what they can 8)), this version seems to have a much better look and feel to it for what I wanted the cover to tell someone at first glance. Hopefully just the right mix of a little bit of hook, some line and a sinker as it were 8)

cover_bloodlines9

cover_bloodlines9

[original submission and comments here]

Nathan says:

It’s true that someone can tell the genre much easier from this cover. Unfortunately — and this sounds a lot crueler than it really is — someone can also tell that you have limited skill/experience in cover design, and that this book is self-published, by which I mean the cover isn’t up to professional levels.  And given that you’re releasing your book to compete against the Big Boys, you can’t afford giving any indication from the get-go that your book isn’t as worthy of a customer’s money as a traditionally published novel.

Indicator #1: The Bleeding Cowboys font.  Yes, I told you previously to find a distressed Western font. But don’t use this one.  It’s been so overused and overexposed in the past decade, on all sorts of inappropriate projects, that no one with any familiarity with book cover design would touch it.  A pity, because this is the kind of book it would have been good for before it became a punchline.

Indicator #2: The floating zombie girl head.  Over at LousyBookCovers.com, this would fall into the running gag of “Photobombing [something]!” — where an element that’s obviously extraneous to the main image has been added.  In this case, you’ve taken an otherwise non-weird Western scene, and added an element that is unrelated to the rest of the image in both style and layout.  Yes, a zombie head is a good indication that this isn’t a typical Western, but again, it’s also an indication that a non-professional put this cover together.

I know that indie writers like the “do-it-yourself” ethic, but remember that you’re not just the writer, you’re the publisher. That means that you need to do the best you can to make sure that the book has a chance on the open market. And I know the budgetary strictures that self-pubbers can be under, but the slogan for this site is true: “In self-publishing, there’s nothing more expensive than a bad cover.” Because a bad cover will cost you sales, and you can’t afford that.

Other comments?

Comments

  1. This cover is what will get your book read. Your writing will determine whether your next book gets read. For now, the cover of this book had better shine and this one doesn’t even flicker as far as I’m concerned.

    In short, invest in your work hire an artist to create a cover you can be proud of. It will be money very well spent. As it stands, if you try to pull it off with your confessed limited artistic ability you will shoot yourself in the foot from the get go.

    Good luck!

  2. Not a bad cover at all. It’s obviously a western, which is what the author, I’m certain, wants to convey. The only critical comment is the painting portrays everyone from directly behind or from the side. These are angles most professional artists avoid. However, it is used by American Primitive Art all the time. So, depending on what the artist wants to convey, it’s either a poorly done painting or an example of a classic American Art Form.

  3. Okay, let’s work on getting this polished!

    Here are my thoughts on the Back:
    Red on black has very little contrast. It is also super hard to read. It looks like blood, I’ll give you that, but I can’t read any of it, and I have good vision.

    The writing is also far too small for the space available. The back cover is prime real estate, and there is nothing in half of it. Increase that font size. Use the title font at least once back there as well, for that tag line most likely.

    Justify the text. That jagged left justified line is not doing you any favours and is one of the biggest indicators out there of do-it-yourself!

    The stark black is a bit dull. Some very faint texture could add a lot to the feel of the boot. Maybe rattlesnake?

    Thoughts on the spine:
    Same thoughts about black/red.
    Same idea about using the title font here. As the title is a good bet.
    Same idea, this is so small! make the font bigger.

    Thoughts on the front:
    Bleeding Cowboy was already mentioned, so I don’t need to.

    Is the picture right for your book? That’s a question you need to ask. Without zombies added, is it actually right for your book? I don’t think it is. It is just a nice ideal scene, it just doesn’t fit into weird without something weird in it. Either it needs to have a legitimate zombie eating someone in it that no one notices, or it needs to be strange, maybe with colours?

    If you are going to spend any money on this cover, then I suggest spending it on art. Find a picture that is perfect for it on Deviant Art or something and get it. 🙂

  4. I’m afraid Nathan is right. MUCH better, but still not there.

    Too bad about the Bleeding Cowboys font, it works great here, but unfortunately it is ruined by misuse. Maybe something that would match the ‘GUNS’ font in the illustration instead?

    I’m trying to come up with an idea how to make it more ‘weird’ without the floating head, but I can’t think of anything useful. I thought that changing the hue to red or purplish might help, but that would just make the illustration look awful without adding to the atmosphere. Maybe someone has a better idea?

    I’m wondering where you got the illustration from? If you just found it on google and don’t have the artist’s permission to use it, you could get into lot of trouble. If you don’t have the permission, I suggest you drop it and get something more paranormal looking.

    As for the rest of it, your name is barelly visible. You should’ve used the space in the sky for the book title, and put the byline in bigger letters at the bottom. You don’t need the ‘by’, or the black square under the title.

    1. I’ve identified the font on that GUNS sign as Coffee Tin. This might work if one can get a graphics program to color the various letters of the font with a red-on-white look (like the playing cards it brings to mind) while maintaining the black shadowing on it. Getting it to do that looks like a tricky proposition, however.

  5. You’re using the real estate better this time; I’ll give you that. Though the apparently analogue painted background’s a bit low-res by today’s digital standards, it does suit the setting of the story. The complaints the other critics have lodged against the floating head and the overused Bleeding Cowboy font remain valid, however.

    When I remarked on your previous submission that having something wildly out of place in your picture would help sell your story, I meant that the whatever-it-is should be there in the middle of the street among the people. Your vampire/sorceress/whatever shouldn’t have her head up floating over the town like some kind of ghost or deity; she should be down there walking among everybody casting a shadow (unless whatever-she-is happens to be incapable of casting one) and anti-aliased with the background to avoid a “cut and paste” tag on Lousy Book Covers. That way, she can be both obviously familiar to those people (as they take no particular notice of her) and yet out of place (because who walks around a dusty old Western town looking like that?) to us.

    As to the title font, if I hadn’t seen Bleeding Cowboy at Lousy Book Covers so often, I might indeed think it a decent selection for your cover. As with such fonts as Impact (used to great effect for movie posters in the 1970s, such as The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane starring Jodie Foster) and Trajan however, familiarity (due to overuse) has bred contempt. Mostly, you just need to find something like Bleeding Cowboy that doesn’t happen to be Bleeding Cowboy; our resident font expert Hitch will likely have some suggestions to help you there.

    As to the back cover and spine, you can get away with being a little “boring” there since these aren’t the first parts of your book any prospective readers will see. Since their purpose is more to convey information than impress people, you mainly just need to keep the font(s) legible and evenly spaced to look professional. As Waffles points out, red-on-black is nigh-impossible to see, especially on printed covers: decorating your titles and information fonts with a touch of red on the bottom to suggest bloodshed is fine, but make all the upper portions of your letters white so that they’ll show up better.

    On a mildly related note, while you’re busy justifying your text to the margins on the back to make it look more professional (as Waffles told you to do), try rewriting the synopsis a few times to see if you can make the wording sound a little more dramatic and focused. What you’ve got right now sounds a bit intriguing, but I’m not really getting what kind of central conflict is supposed to be driving this story. Who’s struggling with whom over what? What’s at stake if one side or the other (or another yet; nobody ever said conflicts had to be limited to two combatants) loses or prevails?

    Don’t be afraid to be a little cliched if that’s what it takes to sound dramatic. “In a world where…” or “There’s a certain time and place heretofore unknown to us, in which…” or “They live among us…” keep getting used in movie trailers and on the back covers of books because these formulaic statements work more often than not. If your characters are struggling to avoid some kind of fantastic race war (as seems likely from your current synopsis), something philosophical-sounding might work, e.g. “Peace is a glorious achievement, but not a natural state… [Explanation of how a certain peaceful arrangement between the story’s characters has lately been reverting to a Hobbesian natural state follows.]”

    One final note: if your synopsis leaves you as much blank space on the back as you’ve got now, you can also give your readers a one-paragraph “about the author” description down around the bar code area. There, in the third person, you can either boast about some of your relevant achievements and qualifications (if you have any), drop some broad hints about the circumstances in your life that inspired this story, or simply tell your prospective readers what kinds of stories you typically write so that they’ll know a little more about what to expect from this one; every extra fine detail like that can potentially win you a few extra readers, you know.

  6. For me, the key point is this:

    Although admittedly I’m still very much using a pre-made template (for a newbie at this, it’s also just that much easier for someone of my artistic level to accomplish what they can 8))

    You’re admitting that you designed the cover this way because that’s what was within your skill set, not because that’s what looks best on the cover. Nobody’s good at everything; don’t let your weak points be your book’s limiting factor. Hire a professional.

  7. our resident font expert Hitch will likely have some suggestions to help you there.

    Yup…just like Bloody Mary, say my name, and I’m summoned. 😉 If you say it 3 times, I appear out of the screen and slice your head off.

    Alrighty, something like Bleeding Cowboys, but not. I’m going to confess something here–I like Bleeding Cowboys. I wish dolts had kept their hands off of it, so that now the rest of us wouldn’t be unable to use it, for the already-mentioned reasons. (Gross overuse on about 20% of all DIY covers, projects, brochures, etc. for some time now, second only to Comic Sans and the dreaded Papyrus.)

    OK, right off the top, I like Texas Tango Extra Roth (dafont) by Billy Argel. Distressed, strong, sized nicely for headlines and titles. Cowboy Movie, (dafont) by Imagex; be warned, that has a limited character set, but it compresses decently, if you need to save character space. Christopher Means’ CM Old Western and CM Old Western Shadow (dafont). I’ve been looking for a project to use that font on; if you use it, please let us know. Country Fang, which kerns nicely, 1 face only, from Baseline fonts on Fonts.com. Tom Kolter’s 1873 Winchester, dafont again. That one also has some more-sophisticated letter spacing, so that it gives off a better overall look.

    I don’t think that Cowboy Would would work for your book, but, you know…it just might. I have some concerns about its readability, but I’d at least take it out for a spin, for this book. There are a couple of others, but if you can’t find one from those listed, I’ll be surprised.

    I have another comment–that badge? I wouldn’t use that. Unfortunately, it looks like one of those instant “winner winner chicken dinner” awards that every Tom, Dick, and Harriet wins and slaps on their book. If you decide to use one, use an old-fashioned star kind, that will be instantly recognizable.

    I hate to say this next bit, I do: but you really need to lose the main drawing, and start over. It’s just too blase. It’s a nothing image, that only conveys “western street scene,” and it’s not very good at that. The imagery is soft, almost blurry. It doesn’t have strong attributes, in terms of color or contrast. I don’t know how you’ll stick with this image, and still manage to convey what you want to convey. Sorry, but…it needs saying and reinforcing.

    Good luck to you. I mean it, and I hope we’ll see a new cover from you soon.

  8. I just looked up the source for this cover’s background using a few reverse-image searches, and from what I’m getting, the sketch from which this cover is constructed was only ever preliminary “concept” art; hence its blurriness and overall low-res quality. It’s not bad for what it was meant to be, but it’s not really big or refined enough for a full-sized cover. Try going back to this picture’s source and looking around: you might find a bigger and better-looking more refined version of the kind of imagery you want for your cover there.

    1. Yeah, the artist who made it is a concept artist: http://www.jsl-art.de/galerien/environments . Which again makes me think this is used without the artist’s permission. I’d lose it because it just doesn’t do the job for this book.

      I think a custom illustration of an obviously paranormal girl dressed in typical Western outfit would work much better. Or a wanted poster with her face on it–the other day I ran across an interesting video tutorial how to do it https://youtu.be/Ngr5y-16QHQ including links to all the resources needed. It just might make a good cover, albeit a bit cliche, if done right.

  9. Nope.

    It’s become a kitchen sink cover: everything that seems relevant to the book has been tossed in, regardless of how well they might work together—or not. Everything has been placed randomly, with little apparent thought as to relationship or design. The styles of the different elements are mix-and-match and the title has been shoved down into the bottom space as an apparent afterthought.

    I do think you have given this your best shot, and you certainly deserve full credit for that, but I think that Katz has given you the best advice: find a professional to help you with your cover.

  10. Nathan wisely said: “I know that indie writers like the “do-it-yourself” ethic, but remember that you’re not just the writer, you’re the publisher. That means that you need to do the best you can to make sure that the book has a chance on the open market. And I know the budgetary strictures that self-pubbers can be under, but the slogan for this site is true: “In self-publishing, there’s nothing more expensive than a bad cover.” Because a bad cover will cost you sales, and you can’t afford that.”

    It goes beyond this. You cannot ask a potential reader to forgive you for not providing a professional-level product simply because you are either incapable of producing one or cannot afford to. Your readers will be paying as much for your book as they would one created by a traditional publisher: you owe them a product of equal quality.

    I will often ask self-published authors if they would buy a chair from a craftsman who told them, “I know my chair has loose joints and the legs are uneven and there are lots of splinters and the glue never really set and the paint dripped…but it’s the best I was able to do, so please buy it anyway even if I am asking as much for it as a professional would.” If their answer is “no” I hope that gives them something to think about.

  11. >>I will often ask self-published authors if they would buy a chair from a craftsman who told them, “I know my chair has loose joints and the legs are uneven and there are lots of splinters and the glue never really set and the paint dripped…but it’s the best I was able to do, so please buy it anyway even if I am asking as much for it as a professional would.” If their answer is “no” I hope that gives them something to think about.<<

    YIKES! Harsh. But effectively demonstrated.

    Re: Bleeding Cowboys… so sad. It at least had some potential in it's early life, like Scriptina and Papayrus. But alas, they became the laughing stock of kitchy-ness. I too do a cover critique blog, and that is the hardest thing I have to do is convince DIY'ers that their font choice is KILLING THEM. But they hang on like GRIM death. Not knowing that it is the thing (or at least a big part of it) that gives them away.

    I know this was not helpful at all, 'cause I think it had all been said before. But I still like sticking my nose in. 🙂

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