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Hallowed Souls [resubmit]

The author says:

I had forgotten to mention this in my prior submission, but the title is a reference to a major schism ongoing in the first book, as the book series is primarily focused on religion and its flaws. I had taken most of the suggestions into account, such as a more fantasy-esque art style and bigger characters. I did make a font for this that was somewhat Asiatic, but I decided to abandon it as it did not fit the art style.

War rages on as various kingdoms struggle to gain power and maintain their freedom. From the shores of the Grey Sea to the mountains of Cosca, chaos reigns. It is a tale of murder, rape and war. Here a peasant girl masquerades as a princess; a deposed king schemes to regain his throne; and fierce pagans strive to regain their freedom. As opposing forces scheme and plot to gain power, a strange sickness blows in from the mysterious east and ravages the land. Not even Spenta can save them as everyone, from fools to sages, realize that even the most hallowed of souls can do nothing in the end.

hallowed-souls-book-cover-draft-1

hallowed-souls-book-cover-draft-1

[original submission and comments here]

Nathan says:

You’re not going to like this: I think the first submission was better.

Why? Because this kind of semi-cartoonish illustration looks like a chapter book or middle-grade book, which is absolutely not your target audience. The readership for an epic political-historical fantasy is not going to pick up something that looks like a volume of The Magic Tree House, and vice versa.  The original cover told us nothing about genre etc., but at least it seemed aimed at adults.

There are other issues with the focal event of the illustration and the placement and readability of text, but those would be rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

The advice I’ll give you is advice that I give often: Look at the covers of the books that you expect your target readers to have read and liked.  See how that audience is used to being told, “These are books for you.”

Other comments? Am I wrong?

Comments

  1. Oh my god, it does look like a Magic Tree House book. I think it’s the frame. Modern covers practically never have frames.

    I hate to say this because you obviously spent a million hours on all that detail, but the artwork isn’t cover quality. I mean, you should be proud of it, but the lighting, the perspective, the water drops, the stiff poses…it’s not professional quality.

    I also thought this series was Asian-inspired, so I was surprised to see a bunch of white people on the cover.

    But yeah, the main thing is that this doesn’t say “fantasy like Game of Thrones” at all. Looking at epic fantasy new releases, I mostly see soft and atmospheric, photorealism, big typography (your font styling is fine, btw), most often a large central figure, sometimes a landscape or object. That’s what you should be going for.

    1. Not exactly Asian inspired. The cultures are taken from various sources, primarily Pre-Columbian North America. It’s basically an alternate history scenario where Laurasia never broke up and North America has Medieval levels of technology.

      I used white people on the cover because I think that would be realistic for that area had Laurasia not broken up. I have since decided to forego that decision and use Native Americans instead.

      1. Ah, ok. It has those Japanese monsters and that Asian-looking board game (or am I wrong?). Either way, though, I look at that cover and see Europe, except for the guy on the left, who looks like a Jewish priest.

        This kind of mix-and-match universe can be a unique and interesting selling point, but it’s hard to convey it visually because readers will automatically try to match what they’re seeing to an existing iconography. Your best bet is to go with an element from the most unusual aspect of your setting (in your case, something Native American) to signal that readers are getting something unexpected.

  2. Man I get sick of agreeing with Nathan, but once again he’s spot on. The first iteration was far superior, albeit possibly the bluest thing I’ve ever seen. As for this version, you might as well just put the words “A self-published book by a teenager who got a C in art” on the cover. I’m sorry if that sounds harsh, but the truth often is. Your cover is what is going to sell your book, at least until the quality of your writing takes over, and that remains to be seen.

    My suggestion is to throw it all away and think about some of the more dynamic scenes in the book and let them inspire your imagery. I don’t believe a book cover’s job is to tell the story, but rather to tease the potential audience and entice them to purchase the book and read it. After that, it doesn’t matter how superb your cover art is. If your writing can’t hold them, then some fancy art isn’t going to do much.

    What stands out above all else in the story? What is the overarching theme? These are the things to capture, not only with images, but we feelings. These are the things to capture in your artwork IMHO.

    Good luck!

  3. I did think the artwork was a little childish when I made it. I’ll probably take art classes or have a professional do the cover. Thanks for the input!

    1. The art, especially the two characters in the front and the statues around the frame, isn’t bad at all. In fact, I would think that those are indeed cover quality despite what others have said. Just, probably not for this cover, it really doesn’t match your description at all.

      The middle scene just looks out of place with the rest. They don’t really fit together. So, while I think you should be proud of what is here, I think that you should also separate the scenes. The front looks like gods having a good game, the inside, well, is clashing.

      Now, given the characters shown here, I am pretty sure you can do justice to this cover! The story is dark, brooding, murder filled. You can take a character like the ones you have done, and make it dark. You can give lots of shadow, you can make it dramatic with lighting effects, you can make it look less cartoony. Make the pose extra damatic, heck, even bring us a sketch first to save time!

      You just need to believe that you can, and start to get dark! Get brooding. Feel the blood in your book. Live it.

      Final note:
      I really, really, really, like the face of the woman there. That is top notch by the way.

    2. Your welcome, and based on your ability to take criticism on board and your flexibility, I’d say your future is assured, assuming your writing skill is up to the task.

      I look forward to seeing your future iterations.

      Good luck!

  4. Aside from the quality of the art itself, there is simply far too much going on. I have often used the phrase “kitchen sink cover art” to describe book covers where the author felt it necessary to include absolutely everything he or she felt was important. The result is a visual jigsaw puzzle.

    You need to simplify your cover, reducing it to just one or two visual elements, focusing on those that best get across the nature or subject of the book in a single glance. Get rid of everything else.

  5. Actually, while these other criticisms are generally on the mark, the stylized art isn’t bad at all; it just looks more like something I’d see on the cover of a book of mythology for children in middle school (or, as it’s known in some locales, junior high). While the mix-and-match symbols all over the background aren’t helping your case (most people will probably instantly recognize at least the sketch of Venus in the background from the painting it resembles, for one), the greatest problem is simply that your art will have people thinking your book is for a much younger target audience. As I said about your last cover, photo-realistic is more the way to go; even with the line drawings in Japanese manga and Korean manhua breaking down the barriers of the cartoon ghetto these days, people still think of line drawings in general as being for children, and are leery of using them to advertise products for more mature consumers.

    Moreover, while some people might actually appreciate the “visual jigsaw puzzle” Ron Miller is seeing here if this were the book of mythology for children it appears to be, it’s far too cluttered for any kind of book for adults. If you look at the covers of other Game of Thrones-style “grim & gritty” adult fantasy novels, you’ll notice they usually focus on just one (photo-realistic) person or object. You need to do the same thing for your cover.

    While none of the other people and situations on the cover mean very much to me, I couldn’t help noticing the unspecified board game the two characters in the foreground were playing and thinking it was the one element that might actually be relevant to what your synopsis indicates is within. Chess, after all, is kind of like a symbolic portrayal of medieval warfare; if your readers were to be shown a chess-like game from up close with very pagan-looking idols in place of the Christianized symbols, don’t you think that might symbolize the situation at hand a whole lot better? Where Game of Thrones is primarily about a political struggle (in which, as Honest Trailers‘ narrator puts it, “everyone fights to sit on the world’s most uncomfortable chair”), pieces shaped like idols on a gaming board might suggest this is about a religious struggle that might be semi-affectionately nicknamed Game of Idols or Game of Heathens or the like.

    As a bonus, such a pagan board game would also serve as a kind of punchline to a historical literary in-joke: where Stephenie Meyer (of all people) used a cover with chess pieces on it to symbolize a struggle over sexual purity and chastity and the sanctity of life, you’d be using a similar cover to symbolize a struggle against a lot of these things. (Presumably, doesn’t the “freedom” the fierce pagans in your synopsis are struggling to regain include some kind of sexual liberation, along with a casually callous disregard for the lives of children conceived by their religious sexual rituals?) A few hideously grandiose idols reminiscent of such horrific deities as Baal and Chthulu and Dagon and the like would convey pretty much everything your readers need to know about your story without cluttering the cover too much.

  6. Actually, while these other criticisms are generally on the mark, the stylized art isn’t bad at all; it just looks more like something I’d see on the cover of a book of mythology for children in middle school (or, as it’s known in some locales, junior high). While the mix-and-match symbols all over the background aren’t helping your case (most people will probably instantly recognize at least the sketch of Venus in the background from the painting it resembles, for one), the greatest problem is simply that your art will have people thinking your book is for a much younger target audience. As I said about your last cover, photo-realistic is more the way to go; even with the line drawings in Japanese manga and Korean manhua breaking down the barriers of the cartoon ghetto these days, people still think of line drawings in general as being for children, and are leery of using them to advertise products for more mature consumers.

    Moreover, while some people might actually appreciate the “visual jigsaw puzzle” Ron Miller is seeing here if this were the book of mythology for children it appears to be, it’s far too cluttered for any kind of book for adults. If you look at the covers of other Game of Thrones-style “grim & gritty” adult fantasy novels, you’ll notice they usually focus on just one (photo-realistic) person or object. You need to do the same thing for your cover.

    While none of the other people and situations on the cover mean very much to me, I couldn’t help noticing the unspecified board game the two characters in the foreground were playing and thinking it was the one element that might actually be relevant to what your synopsis indicates is within. Chess, after all, is kind of like a symbolic portrayal of medieval warfare; if your readers were to be shown a chess-like game from up close with very pagan-looking idols in place of the Christianized symbols, don’t you think that might symbolize the situation at hand a whole lot better? Where Game of Thrones is primarily about a political struggle (in which, as Honest Trailers‘ narrator puts it, “everyone fights to sit on the world’s most uncomfortable chair”), pieces shaped like idols on a gaming board might suggest this is about a religious struggle that might be semi-affectionately nicknamed Game of Idols or Game of Heathens or the like.

    As a bonus, such a pagan board game would also serve as a kind of punchline to a historical literary in-joke: where Stephenie Meyer (of all people) used a cover with chess pieces on it to symbolize a struggle over sexual purity and chastity and the sanctity of life, you’d be using a similar cover to symbolize a struggle against a lot of these things. (Presumably, doesn’t the “freedom” the fierce pagans in your synopsis are struggling to regain include some kind of sexual liberation, along with a casually callous disregard for the lives of children conceived by their religious sexual rituals?) A few hideously grandiose idols reminiscent of such horrific deities as Baal and Chthulu and Dagon and the like would convey pretty much everything your readers need to know about your story without cluttering the cover too much.

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