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Son of Ruin

The author says:

There are beings who walk unseen through the world, demons with evil in their dark, twisted souls. The young demon Succubus, summoned to the prison world of rock and fire, is learning to curse, using the dark lore of his kind. Talented and reckless, he desires to enter the world of humans. Meanwhile two brothers, Jonathan and Solomon, live in suburban Chicago with their parents. Solomon’s clear blue eyes see things others don’t and he helps his older brother navigate childhood. The talented demon and the two brothers are on a collision course, one that could alter the order of things.

Nathan says:

This cover has several problems; some are apparent at thumbnail size, and some at full size.

From the thumbnail:  We have a perfect storm here — the artwork makes the text unreadable, and the text makes the art incomprehensible.  There is literally nothing here that a casual browser, encountering the thumbnail on Amazon, can identify or find attractive in the three seconds or less that they’ll give this thumbnail before glancing to the one on the left or right.

From the full size: The title font is still almost unreadable.  At least I can make out the artwork now, but that’s a mixed blessing, because the artwork is simply not of professional grade.  One glance at the top demon’s misaligned face screams “amateur.”  To add to that, the stone background behind the (I assume) series title only serves to make that text harder to read (and to remind viewers of the design aesthetic on display at Geocities).  Top that off with a total of four fonts, and damn.

And on top of that (yes, I’m piling on, I know), the cover makes it look like the book’s about two demons fighting.  That doesn’t match well with the description you gave.

The advice I’ll give your is common advice around here:  Look up those books that you would expect to be popular among readers who would enjoy your book, and see how those readers expect to be marketed to.

Other comments?


  1. Actually, the artwork’s not too shabby; it might have made a decent cover for a comic book back around the turn of the millennium. The main trouble as I see it is that this does indeed look like a comic book or graphic novel cover, and from looking this up on Amazon, I know it to be nothing of the sort. All of our host’s other criticisms are on target: encasing the artwork in the title lettering is causing both the comprehensibility of the artwork and the legibility of the title to suffer, and a shot of two demons in what looks to be some kind of magical duel offers the prospective readers no clues whatsoever that any humans are going to be in this story, let alone the two fairly important-sounding human children mentioned in the description.

    By the look of things, you’re basically running with the concept of cliche demons with red skin and horns on their heads (based more on embellished medieval legends than anything in actual Christian doctrine and writings) as if they were just another fantastic race like fairies or elves or mermaids. So all right, I guess there might be some material for a story in that concept; but it remains that this fantastic race is going to be interacting with humans, and that this interaction is at the heart of the story. Isn’t some kind of meeting (and likely clash) of humans with demons the kind of imagery you ought to display on this cover?

    My recommendation: for your imagery, go for a full-cover painting rather than the line-drawings you’ve got now, and have the image be of some moment in the story that sets the tone concerning how the main characters (the talented young demon and the two human brothers) deal with each other. Leave some dead space on the illustration where you can place your title and byline and any other necessary captions, and stick to using just one or two fonts for everything. Above all, you want your target audience to see this as the cover to a Fantasy novel, not a comic book; so don’t enclose your image, but let it bleed off the edges.

    Basically, you need an establishing shot. Unless this story really is entirely about the main demon character’s rise to power with the human brothers merely being peripheral characters (hardly the impression I was getting from your description), your current image isn’t it. Go get yourself a more relevant image, and then we can consider how to format the titles and byline and the like.

  2. A full cover bit of art and one, or at most two, carefully chosen fonts is definitely the wisest choice. I posted my own covers on here some time back and was ultimately led to that exact conclusion. It can seem bland, but standards forms exist for pretty solid reasons.
    However, despite its difficulties I am a bit enamored with the idea of the title’s letters functioning as a window onto the scene in the art. Think of it as a title composed entirely of illuminated capitol letters from old manuscripts. It could work, I think I’ve seen it work, but it would be tricky.
    The font chosen would need a great deal more black space in the voids of the letters to improve readability, this font is smashed together in order to show more of the art. That would need to be sacrificed.
    The art would need to be drastically different as well. It would need to contrast well with the backdrop and, I think, be comprised of bright but blending colors such that the thumbnail reduces it to a mere texture on the letters. This should make the title very readable. At full size the art would need sufficient detail to draw the reader in despite being visibly limited by the edges of the letters.
    Since all a viewer would be able to do from the thumbnail is read the title this idea would probably set the initial hook less well than most. But, rewarding the viewer with an interesting sight after they have clicked to see it full size may serve to reel them in better.
    It’s a gamble at best, and it would require both stellar artwork for the full size and a fantastic title for the thumbnail. The title you have might be evocative enough, particularly if you drop “The Demon Curse”. I am not certain if I have ever seen artwork up to the task on this site.

    Best of luck.

  3. You know what this really looks like? An old-school video game box. (I swear there were games with that artwork-through-the-letters aesthetic.) And the artwork reminds me of an old-school AD&D demon.

    But the bar for professionalism has risen a lot since then, so I agree that neither the artwork nor the text rendering (particularly of the series name) is up to par. There are also a lot of technical problems: Aliasing on the title text, kerning and letter weighting on the byline (though I appreciate you having a go at making your own lettering), focus on the series title, artifacts around the artwork, white lines on three sides and a little white speck on the upper left, etc.

    More subjectively, “demon blasting another demon” was a great image for a fantasy cover in the 70s or 80s, but conventions have just drifted away from that direction. Modern urban fantasy has very consistent branding: It’s virtually always a badass-looking person with a weapon standing in front of a night scene in a stark, monochrome palette.

    I genuinely don’t know why “person standing dramatically” is considered more of a draw than “demons fighting,” but if you want those same readers to know this book is for them, you probably want to adhere to convention.

    1. Yes indeed, although I’d note that many a video game box cover from back then could work just as well if it were reused as a book cover today. Pose the two brothers from this story something like Shamino (guy with the magic arrow in his chest) and the Avatar (guy standing between him and the bad guys with the sword) on the box cover of Ultima V, and have the demon facing them down something like those three Shadow Lords (the Darth Vader wannabes), and you might have a decent cover for this book. Of course, the brothers’ clothing and their setting should be a lot more modern than Ultima V‘s perpetually medieval world, but the general positioning of the story’s main characters as seen on that box would work well in just about any kind of fantasy setting.

    2. “Person Standing Dramatically” was never done better than James Bama’s painting for “The Man of Bronze,” the first paperback in the DOC SAVAGE reprint series. The cover should have broken the mold, but instead inspired thousands of imitators.

      Frankly, I think “Person Standing Dramatically” is easier for illustrators to reference, and stock photos of this nature abound online. “Demons Fighting” is a great draw when rendered by the likes of Frank Frazetta or Boris Vallejo, but I honestly believe the result would be a horrible cover if rendered by me.

  4. As a fan of your basic paranormal novel, I really, really wanted to love this cover. But I don’t. I liked the idea behind the layout, but the execution doesn’t get to where it needs to, in my opinion.

    As one of our regular posters says: if you changed your title, into some language you did not speak, would you instantly know what the story is about? In your instance, sure, someone would see little devils (to me, not the same as demons, but, hey, creative license). That’s it. Not a great and earth-shattering, apocalyptic battle; fighting devils. (Humorously, that was the moniker for my High School football/baseball, etc., teams)

    I had a really hard time discerning the title. Still do, for that matter. Moreover, to this moment, I still am not sure if the title is “Son of Ruin,” and the subtitle is “The Demon Curse,” or vice-versa. That’s not good. Or, at least, not optimal.

    Lastly, I feel that the cover is lacking contrast. Before everyone leaps on me, I know, it’s red and yellow and black–all kinds of contrasty-ness! But it’s everywhere. There’s no focal point, with a big screaming contrast point, that draws the eyes. I can’t speak for everyone else, but my eyes come to rest on the upper devil boy. Just…not a satisfactory first experience.

    The Demon curse title/ST block is not great. It doesn’t convey the stone feeling that I think you were going for. (I’d have liked to see that with the letters of carved stone, I think…or maybe even carved into stone, with the stone having actually cracked, with one part barely hanging on…that might have been cool, if you can get the right brush or ??? for the text in Phsp/AI).

    I wish I had something more for you. I suspect you paid a pretty penny for the artwork, so, natch, you’re attached to it. If that’s the case, then hang on to that, and rework the layout of the cover so that you’re not doing the Stencil thing. I do agree with the others, that no matter how cool the art, it’s not cueing the prospective reader as to the real story.

    I usually kibitz about fonts, but in this case, I think you need to step away from the fonts or faux-fonts, and look at a different way to get there from here. Good luck to you.

  5. Too much and too little is the problem with this cover.

    Too many typefaces and too many pictorial elements (what is the purpose of the stone-textured panel?).

    With its lack of contrast and floating bits and pieces of figures, the art simply blends into an overall mass of color even when seen in a large size—it is indecipherable in the thumbnail image.

    Finally, using type as a kind of window is fine…but the title still needs to be readable.

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