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The author says:

Historical Romance. The year 895. Slayde’s job as an top military leader of Kent is to rid England of the last of the Viking raiders. But Llyrica is no ordinary Viking. She’s a beauty with a mysterious past … and a talent for weaving song spells. Even as Slayde saves her from drowning, he knows Llyrica will be a dangerous distraction. Llyrica is now a stranger in a strange land on a mission to fulfill a deathbed promise. But she must also find her missing brother. This man, Slayde, known as The StoneHeart in his country, seems determined to block her at every turn. And yet she can’t help but be drawn to the affectionate, loving side of him that awakens when he sleeps – The sleepwalker. Unknown to both Llyrica and Slayde, each will use the other to accomplish their quests. Both will also fall under the song spell that she wove into the braid of his tunic. Will her Lovespell ensure a happily ever after for them? Or condemn them to a love that was never meant to be?

Nathan says:

It’s a fair-to-middling example of its kind: A historical romance cover which, while not terrible, screams “self-published.”  Why?

  • First thing I noticed: That male model.  He’s almost as overexposed in indie covers as Jimmy Thomas.
  • The edges of every element composited into the cover are distractingly crisp: It’s obvious at first glance that the man, the woman, and the landscape are separate images, that the sword isn’t really in the man’s hand, that there’s something funky about the man’s right arm and his tunic…  My suggestion would be to try out a very subtle colored texture layer and see if it helps tie all the elements together.
  • The type placement seems to be determined by desperation more than design.  I appreciate the gray bars you used, especially beneath the title where it overlaps both dark and light backgrounds, but it still seems shoved toward the bottom.  And is there a reason that it’s not larger?  I think adjusting the size upward might take care of that “wedged out of the way” look.
  • The font for the byline is not only hard to read at anything less than full size, it’s awfully twee for a historical romance.

Other comments?


  1. It would be hard to improve on Nathan’s comments so I will mainly just second them.

    One too many typefaces…and the one chosen for the blurb is unreadable.

    The figures are all too obviously cut-and-paste. The edges are hard and the lighting is inconsistent.

    The title could easily be 150% its current size.

  2. Thank you so much for the very helpful critique on my cover for Loveweaver. (You should see my first cover. Yikes!)

    I may just take the blurb out all together. Then there’d be absolutely no excuse not to enlarge the title and move it higher.

    I was actually thinking the other day that it would benefit from a subtle color overlay. Glad to hear you’ve confirmed that.


    Tracy Ann Miller

  3. It’s not a terrible photoshop job, but it’s not cover-worthy. Nathan pointed out the main technical things, except for that boat in the background. Wow, does that stick out.

    But aside from the technical issues, this just isn’t a very well composed image. Especially against that background, the palette is mostly midtones, the poses are stiff, and the figures aren’t interacting in any way. My eye isn’t drawn to a focal point.

    So, sorry, but I’d recommend starting over. Filters and stuff would just look like you were deliberately obscuring something that you knew wasn’t as good as it could be. There are tons of stock images of old-timey couples that would look much more dynamic and romantic than two people cut and pasted into the same image.

    If you want to work with what you’ve got, I’d lose the guy altogether and just work with the girl (against a much higher-contrast, more dramatic background). Also, if there’s an element of magic in the book, it can’t hurt to put some indication on the cover.

    Regarding fonts, I have a personal rule that if I can identify a font at a glance, it’s too common. So I’d lose the Black Chancery, in addition to the handwriting font, in favor of something similar but less easily identifiable.

      1. Thanks! I’ll check them out.

        I’ve been using Dreamstime, but maybe Shutterstock has got a better selection.

  4. Don’t get us wrong: there’s no reason for you to be ashamed of being self-published; it’s just that you want to make sure you stand out from the rest of the self-publishers out there, a great many of whom end up landing their covers on our companion site Lousy Book Covers. In a genre as crowded with amateur self-publishers as vaguely-paranormal Medieval Romance, this need to be contrastingly competitive is especially pronounced. You also face massive competition from traditional publishing houses which have been cranking out novels in just about every conceivable sub-genre of Romance by the thousands for decades now; say what you will about how by-the-numbers the content of the books from these traditional publishers is, it remains that very nearly all of them (even the ones that make people snicker) have beautiful and expensive-looking covers drawn by in-house professional artists.

    In other words, you need an edge over your competitors that this barely competent effort isn’t giving you; though your design pretty effectively identifies this as a romance novel in thumbnail, the flaws start leaping out at the prospective reader just as soon as she gets a closer look at it. If something being just plain off about the lighting on the characters doesn’t immediately give away that this is a cut-and-paste job, the far-too-crisp contrast between them and the background will. This isn’t bad as a rough draft for the general concept, but it’s never going to pass muster as an actual book cover.

    If you want a cover good enough to help your book stand out from all the rest, you basically need to have either a professional photograph of actors from a Renaissance fair doing a fairly convincing medieval reenactment pose of an English warrior and Viking shield-maiden against an appropriately medieval-looking background, or a professional painting showing some such characters in some such situation. Either way, you’re likely going to have to spend quite a chunk of change to get something good enough. Personally, I’d recommend going for the painting; not just because a lot of starving artists on Deviant Art might be able and willing to provide you with good cover art relatively inexpensively, but because it’s always easier to incorporate magical “special effects” into a picture while painting it than to splice them into a photograph convincingly in post-production.

    Then again, your description suggests that the magic in this novel plays only a very minimal role; the story seems to be primarily about a love-and-hate relationship between a guy and a gal on opposite sides of a conflict, with the magic merely serving as some kind of MacGuffin to amplify the situation. This in mind, why not go for a somewhat more aggressive pose? The old “man and woman standing face-to-face with defiant expressions” pose may be a bit of a cliche by now, but it works, thanks to how deliberately narrow and porous a distinction it draws between two people wanting either to kiss or to kill each other.

    Concerning fonts, that Black Chancery look-alike Catweazle is fine and legible in thumbnail, whereas whatever font you’re using for your byline is not. While it’s acceptable to use something different for the taglines (since they’re only meant to be read once your prospective reader takes a closer look at the cover), I recommend always sticking to just one font for the title and byline; “font overload” is another all-too-common phenomenon seen on Lousy Book Covers. Besides, the vast majority of the old traditionally published romance novels have used just one font for both the byline and the title, so why change what’s worked for them?

    Finally, forget about darkening the areas behind your byline and title, which is a rather amateurish technique. Instead, focus on making them both nice and big (with outlines if necessary) and legible in the thumbnail, filling up to a third of the cover each. Again, making the byline and title big and bold has worked just fine for traditional publishers, and should work fine for you too.

    1. Addendum: as an example of the “kiss me or kill me” aggressive pose, here’s a shot of Selina Kyle and Bruce Wayne from Batman Returns that illustrates it pretty well in my opinion. In this scene, as I recall, the two have a dance and each one starts figuring out who the other one really is; then she shows him a gun she’s planning on using to assassinate her former employer. “…and don’t tell me this won’t solve anything, Bruce, because it will!” They do end up kissing… and very nearly killing each other as well, since Selina Kyle is more than a little loopy.

  5. The other comments are all solid.

    My kibitz is about the title font. I freely confess that by and large, I don’t love Blackletter, but, for a limited amount of text, it’s not dreadful. However: Blackletter is medieval lettering. Your story is far from set in medieval times; it’s set in the Dark Ages. A Viking runic font would be far more appropriate.

    I’d consider trying to find an AMAZING “L” in a Viking-runic-ish font. Channel the History Channel show, “Vikings.” (It never, ever hurts to invoke a positive feeling about something else that is successful, as long as you don’t overtly thieve from them, which in this case you couldn’t, anyway.)

    When searching (assuming you decide to go this route), pay very close attention to the kerning–spacing between letters and how letters fit together. Most crap fonts will look clunky when you put pairs together, like…an L and an a. Try a few things out, to make sure that it will work nicely on your cover.

    For what it’s worth.

  6. Thank you, Hitch, for your additional suggestions. I’m in the process now of redesigning, and I will also be considering new fonts.

    1. Hi, Tracy:

      Oh, heck, fonts are almost my job here. I’m not a professional (or ammy) designer; my company makes eBooks, and I’ve seen more than 4K (four thousand) covers go through my shop. You develop a feel for what works, and what doesn’t. You’ve probably already read Derek Murphy’s Kick-ass article, “* Cover Design Secrets that Publishers use to Manipulate You Into Buying Their Books,” but if you haven’t, go thither: and read it. It is, bar none, the single best blog article on the planet about what works in Cover design, and what doesn’t. Wish I’d written it.

      Bear in mind, if you’re not writing an historical romance, (which you’re obviously not) you have leeway that those authors and cover designers do NOT have. You can play with your font choices and you can use things that wouldn’t exist, historically. I still think, after mulling it about a bit, that if you can find an “L” for the title, that can channel the Vikings “V” for that show, that might have legs. Now, I don’t _think_ you’ll necessarily find a font for that, so cruise Pinterest boards,etc., seeking a graphic L.

      Good luck to you. It’s smart of you to come here and get feedback, before launching. I wish all of my clients would do so.

  7. I have already launched but there’s not much at stake since I don’t write for a living.

    Great article, you’re right.

    I personally have at least 2K fonts, but do try not to go crazy with them.

    1. It is a pity, but fortunately you can still redesign the cover at least for ebook – many times they get changed after initial publication.

      As katzh pointed out, it is not a bad photoshop (but it is not good) – but I think these two people pasted together-jobbies almost never work; I cannot remember seeing a good one ever, unless the people are not even meant to be in the same place at the same time – even when done well the two people just do not relate to each other, even if you somehow polevault over the non-matching lighting issues. It would be preferable to start with one photo, either of a couple, or just one character if suitable pic is not found. And never mind the background, does not need to be completely period-setting-accurate landscape: dark empty space is enough, as long as there is not like a train or a mall there.

      The link someone else provided for Shutterstock did produce this, after a 3 min search: so there must be some out there that could be workable. Apparently better to search for “viking” than “medieval” as that produced a mound of pics of people in Baroque or later outfits…

  8. Thank you, Tuula, for your comments. I’m making some good headway with my new cover using just the girl.

    The image you found at Shutterstock is a good example of the limitations when you can’t spend big bucks. I’m sure the couple in the photo are wonderful, attractive people, but in romance the hero and heroine are gorgeous, not average folks in costumes.

    I’ve spend many, many hours searching for images. And seen some things I wish I hadn’t seen. 🙂

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