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Mended Wings

The author says:

Mended Wings is a Young Adult novel that tells the inspirational story of a young woman’s recovery from a traumatic brain injury. Her name is Flicker, and she is a survivor. Her journey celebrates the dignity involved in making choices, and taking risks to achieve one’s goals. Readers cheer as they watch Flicker take flight.

Nathan says:

This isn’t a bad cover, but it inspires me to use one of the running gags from “Photobombing woodpecker!”

I think there are some suboptimal decisions here.

  1. There are definitely covers which succeed with minimal spots of color in a largely monochromatic image, but they use the color as a focal point wihin the image. Here, the upper two-thirds of the cover is monochrome — then you suddenly have color with the title and with an image element which is entirely separate, in layout and content, than the main image.
  2. I would suspect that very, very few potential readers will be able to identify the bird as a red-shafted Northern Flicker (I had to google it), and without knowing that the bird is a flicker, the subtitle “A Flicker’s Tale” will make no sense — especially if they have read your description.  It will seems as nonsensical as “A William’s Tale.”
  3. Not as big a problem, but I think that the subtitle font clashes with the title and byline font; not similar enough to complement, but not a good contrast either.

So my main recommendation would be to work both the bird imagery and the spare use of color into the main body of the layout, instead of having them confined to one area as an afterthought.

Other comments?


  1. A suggestion for integrating the bird imagery. If the black and white photo were just a bit wider than what we see here the woman’s gaze will follow the line of her leg and be directed toward some empty spot on the ground. A color image of the standing bird, with skill and care, could be made to stand on that spot and possibly be looking back at her. If you have a wider original of the woman and a full body of the bird, along with the photo editing talent to seamlessly scale and blend the two images, it could provide the color accented focal point that Nathan mentions.

    I notice you do no use capitol letters on the cover. I think it might add a sense of vulnerability to the scene, but I could also be getting that from any number of other design elements. Was that the intent? If not, does anyone else get the same vibe? This might represent a useful trick.

    1. Thanks for your comments. The font did not have capital letters. We used that font on the author’s first book, so we decided to use it again to start building consistency and style.

  2. I am no expert. This looks like an adult book to me though,(not in a sexual way, more in a dark and depressing sort of story way) not a story intended for young teens.

    1. Thanks for your comment. It was not easy to find an economical photo of a trouble young woman with short blond hair.

  3. Well, to your credit, I did immediately have this pegged from looking at the thumbnail to be one of those “Up From Poverty/Abuse/Disease/Repression/My Horrendous Accident” kind of books. “Up From Brain Damage” certainly fits in that category, so you’re off to a good start. Also, its general gray-scale aesthetic is highly reminiscent of that of the music video for “Broken Wings” by Mr. Mister, which is definitely in your favor.

    The trouble lies not in your deciding to add a splash of color, but in how divided your cover is between the upper two-thirds or so of gray-scale and the brightly colored lower third. The girl clearly isn’t looking at the bird, and the bird clearly isn’t a part of her world. For your kind of book, two covers in one is not a winning formula.

    One way or another, you need to integrate the pictures. Whether the bird has color or not, it needs to be at the girl’s feet where she’s looking, or else not in the picture at all. If you’re having trouble concealing a cut-and-paste job (as a lot of aspiring cover artists do), a mere vaguely wing-shaped shadow might do the job just as well; the symbolic association of birds and other winged things with “flying free” is common and well-known in the vast majority of your target audience.

    As to the subtitle, well… it’s what TV Tropes calls a Genius Bonus: other than dedicated ornithologists, the vast majority of your target audience is not going to have any idea what a Northern Flicker is. That doesn’t necessarily mean there’s anything wrong with having that subtitle, just that you can’t expect it to have any effect on the vast majority of your target audience until after they read your book. In other words, it might be good for your reviews once they’ve bought your book, but it’s not going to do much to persuade them to buy it in the first place.

    A splash of color does help with identifying this as being for a slightly younger audience; just don’t forget that Schindler’s List had a splash of color in it as well, and that certainly didn’t make it any more marketable to youngsters. For best results, you might try modeling your cover on Lois Lowry’s Number the Stars: gray-scale converted into single-color-scale with opposite-color highlights, or something similar.

    1. thanks very much for your comments. I have the opportunity to tweak the cover and will consider your considerations. The author’s first book used a black & white photo with a splash of color. We decided to do that with this cover too, so the books would have design style consistency.

  4. Oh man, that font. I forget its name, but I had it installed on my computer when I was a kid. Good times. So yeah, change it.

    I’d like to see the bird motif worked into the type treatment; say, by putting the words inside the outline of a bird or a feather, putting a bird inside one of the closed letterforms, etc. I think that would be the neatest way to integrate the bird. Although I like Kristopher’s suggestion, too. (I did identify the flicker, btw, but I actually am a birder, so there you go.)

    “Grayscale sad girl” is a fine motif for a YA cover (see Naked by Stacey Trombley) and I like your general layout. But the filter is undermining it (I’m pretty strongly of the “no filters, ever” camp). Her hands and feet are also awfully veiny for a teenager. So for me this is a case of “it’s good, just change everything.”

  5. The woman appears too old for a YA. Even if the model’s age is below 20, she does not appear to be so.

    I work in a book shop and have an entire wall devoted to YA. This book would not be faced out simply because the main character looks too old. Even though people of all ages read YA, the main audience IS age 13+.

    If you do want an image of a person then I suggest something like the following:

    ** Wonder – RJ Palacio – It’s a stylised cartoon face, but readers are instantly drawn into why the drawing only has one eye. This is an extremely popular book with YA readers even though it’s categorised as Middle Grade at my store.

    ** Blindsided – Priscilla Cummings – This cover is gorgeous. Right away I know that she is blind because of the Braille. Also the blurred out portion lets me know that something is wrong, something will have to be overcome, and there may just be angst in this story. Catnip for a YA reader.

    If you’re willing to not use a person on the cover, there are many bestsellers in this genre that use either stylised text:

    ** Me Before You – was a massive bestseller amongst YA and regular fiction)

    ** The Fault in Our Stars – Flies off the shelf and did so even before the movie.

    My choice? Go with the bird. It’s the obvious and cliche choice, but it really works. An illustration would be good here and there are artists that will do the artwork for a cover for a price. Even try Fiverr.

    1. Thanks for your suggestions. I agree, “Blindsided” is a gorgeous cover.
      The author’s first book cover (not YA) had a b&w cover and it was not easy to find an economical photo of a trouble young woman with short blond hair. We wanted to have consistent design styles: b&w photo with a splash of color and same font treatments.

  6. Nice cover, but I think you succumbed to the need to include more pictorial elements than are necessary. The bird is simply inexplicable—apparently there for no other reason than that
    “wings” is mentioned in the title and “flicker” in the subtitle (I presume the bird is a flicker). But there is, evidently, no actual bird taking part in the story. “Flicker” is the nickname of the girl…which makes the image of the bird not only pointless but confusing…especially when you say “a” flicker’s tale, which sounds as the book is about an anthropomorphic bird.

    You have overthought the cover. Simplify it. The image of the girl, the title and your name is all that is necessary.

  7. I have a comment about the image. Any others I’d have had have been mentioned already and therefore would be redundant at best.

    I suspect that it’s only me, but: is anyone else’s eye drawn to the girl’s extended foot, and her hand? Both are heavily wrinkled. The foot just keeps bugging me, as it’s inexplicable. Even anorexic ballerinas don’t have their feet wrinkle like that; it’s as though her skin is hanging off the footbones.

    Dotto the hand and wrist. I’m older than this girl by more decades than I want to admit, and my hand, wrist, etc., don’t have protuding veins like that girl. I’d have to do 20 minutes of lifting to get that veined.

    It’s bloody weird on a girl that’s supposed to be a teen. And I just can’t unsee it.

    Offered FWIW.

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