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Sax Club

The author says:

Historical fiction of the tough times in Detroit in the 1970s. A poker group meets once a month at the Sax Club and always stops for a dink and view before heading up to the poker room. Members of the group including a police sargeant, are key players in confronting the mafia’s strong hold on the city. They are the “Thorn Birds of Detroit.”

Nathan says:

So is it a crime novel? A buddy novel? I can’t tell from the description whether the main story takes place inside or outside the club (the cover definitely wants me to believe “inside”).

And is the title “Sax Club”?  Or is it “Sax Club: Thorn Birds of Detroit Confront Mafia”?  I would strongly advise the first, and then just dropping (or at least both downplaying and rewriting) the subtitle, as it confuses more than it elucidates.

It’s obvious, and thus detracting, that the neon font has been “squished” to fit in the space… and it’s then confusing that the “Thorn Birds of Detroit” logo also glows just like the neon.

I think that, with a stripper photo, your cover will get a lot of second glances. But then your potential customers will come away without knowing what story you’re telling, and move on to the next book instead of reading the back cover copy.  You need to remember the most essential part of designing a cover: Remember who your target audience is, and concentrate on letting that target audience know that this is a book aimed at them.

(This is a side note, but I don’t know if a ’70s setting qualifies as “historical.” “Period,” yes, but most people don’t consider living memory to be “historical.”)

Other comments?



  1. The cover has a bit of a movie cover feel to it somehow, which isn’t a bad thing. With slightly brighter colors though it would look like one of those raunchy comedies.

    The neon title is definitely a cool idea, but I would, as Nathan seemed to suggest, remove the glowing logo, mostly because it looks like a blob from a distance and doesn’t seem to add much to the cover. It would have to be integrated a bit more into the cover if it is really “needed” on there.

    One thing I would certainly recommend is choosing different pictures for the characters: all of the guys are looking in different directions, and their facial expressions are a bit hit and miss for me: the third guy is looking at the ceiling, and the last guy on the right is looking into the horizon with a peculiar, dreamy look. The second guy is definitely the most believable one and has more personality. Keep that guy in, lol.

    If eroticism comes up a lot in the book, the stripper pic might work but I also think aspects of the main story/genre are deeply needed. The subtitle does tell about the story (confronting the mafia) but doesn’t hint at the tone at all. Maybe the subtitle could be used to clarify the tone?

    So, while I find it very far from bad design-wise, rethinking the choice of pictures for the characters would in my opinion really help sell it.

  2. The cover is just too confusing. As Nathan rightly pointed out, it is hard to tell if “Thorn Birds of Detroit Confront Mafia” is a blurb or subtitle. Either way, it is meaningless to anyone who doesn’t know who or what the Thorn Birds are. Likewise the Thorn Birds logo is irrelevant to all but the initiated.

    The artwork looks as though it were chosen at random…and the various elements that make it up are all too obviously cut-and-pasted. All in all, the overall effect of the cover is that of many disparate elements none of which work together cohesively. The type is separated by placing it onto blocks of solid color, the image is separate from the text and the “Thorn Birds” logo is tacked onto all of that. All to say nothing of the unnecessary fillip of making “confront mafia” a different color from the rest of the sentence.

    You need to simplify this cover, make it more cohesive and make absolutely certain that it conveys the essence of your book to someone who has never before heard of it.

    Oh, and it shouldn’t be “confront mafia” but “confront the mafia.”

  3. The comments so far are pretty solid. I have one other, which may have some value–The Thornbirds is the name of a very, very famous saga novel and miniseries in the 70’s, as it happens (starring Richard Chamberlain). I couldn’t help but see/hear that in my head, when I looked at your cover. I daresay I’m not the only person who would think it. Somehow, some saga about a priest who breaks his vows to be with the girl he loves, crossing lanes with this, seems like a bad idea.

    I assume that your use of The Thornbirds was deliberate–same era and all that–but unless it’s an obvious joke, I’m not sure it will help you.

    The Neon/Font title is really good. The logo should definitely go. It’s confusing and unless this is book 3 of X, it won’t get you much. The subtitle is very confusing and the sentence fragment is ungrammatical, too, in two places. I’d leave it off altogether.

    (I confess, I do not understand this phenomenon on Amazon of people using descriptive setences or fragments as their subtitles. A subtitle is not supposed to be metadata, not like that. “The Thorn Birds, Book 1” would likely work better, on a buyer like me, than that lengthy descriptive. For what it’s worth–and I say this to be helpful–to me, seeing a so-called subtitle like that always makes me think that I’m looking at a book from a very inexperienced self-publisher.)

    And I’d rethink the font, for the non-neon text, once you have the new cover designed.

    Good luck.

    1. Maybe the Amazon fragments are a way to hack additional metadata for the book onto the sales site. I know Amazon limits what is allowed and the number of metadata options, but do they have a ‘subtitle’ field less rigorously policed? If their only requirement is that it appear on the cover the sacrifice could give a leg up in the search engine.

      1. Kristopher: That’s an excellent question, and my answer is, I don’t know. I cannot but believe that obviously, Amazon isn’t rigorously checking those, because these “descriptions as subtitles” trend seems to be growing, unfortunately, not diminishing. I also must assume that to some extent, it works. Right? Otherwise, would people do that, really? (Heck, if that’s the point, why not just name the book with the description, instead of the title?).

        I suspect though that once readers start complaining, we’ll see the ubiquitous Amazon crackdown thereupon. I’ve been watching this for just up on 9 years now (wow…) and it seems to occur over and over.

      2. Amazon limits each book to seven keywords, so authors will add a bunch of keywords as a subtitle to place their book in more searches. I know that for the kindle edition, it is not necessary to include the subtitle on the cover.

  4. Yes, this definitely reminds me of a certain kind of movie poster, specifically the kind used for Coyote Ugly. It definitely brings to mind “raunchy” or at least a rather risque kind of comedy about some regular patrons of a nightclub (which might very well also be a strip club by the look of things). If that’s the focus of this novel, if your story is mainly about the somewhat comical adventures of a bunch of scruffy-looking guys with the whole struggle-with-the-Mafia situation as a background framing device to help unify the various vignettes into a single story, this picture should probably work pretty well; if not, if this is some kind of crime drama and that struggle with the Mafia is going to be taking center stage for most of the book, then you’re not really striking the right tone with your target audience from the start here.

    As for the captioning on your cover, the “squishing” our host mentions isn’t too obvious to me, but Hitch has a point: your descriptive line (if you need it at all) really ought to be a tagline instead of a subtitle, and ought to be located on the picture itself somewhere away from the title. It also ought to say something fitting the story’s overall tone rather than being a mere bland description: if comical, something goofy (“Staring down the Mafia… whenever their eyeballs have got the time!”); if dramatic, something ponderous or menacing (“What can these four guys at a nightclub possibly do against the mobsters who own Detroit?”). If you’re going to design your cover like a movie poster, you definitely want it to have a tagline just like a movie poster’s.

    In short, it’s not a bad start on a cover, but do help clarify to us what kind of mood you want to set with your readers from the start. Right now, this cover suggests your story is a comedy while your description suggests it’s a drama. Pick out which one it is and then set the mood on your cover accordingly.

  5. My initial impression was the guys were looking up the stripper’s skirt as the black title band across the top manages to imply skirt without actually being one, but yes, the earlier comment about them looking in different directions – when I looked more closely they are focused on different things.
    The faces all look faintly familiar – especially the bearded guy on the left – are they actors?
    I’m not up on 70s hairstyles and clothes, but to me they all look quite modern – just a sanity check – have you checked their style against pictures from the 70s? My “feel” would be you’d want to pick the low key end of what was worn in the 70s, so they don’t look too dated to a modern audience. But maybe you’ve already done that and what I am seeing as quite modern, is the low key end of the 70s. Other than that, eye catching and glossy overall. I do agree with people on Thornbirds comments.

  6. Nope. I sort of like the cover image but what it conveys is four sleazebags staring at a woman’s crotch – which would be fine for a book, probably comical, about the sexcapades of four strip club patrons. People go to stripper bars, people also get drunk and pass out on the street, and are perhaps nice responsible people the rest of the time. But if the first we see of our hero is passed out in a puddle of piss, we will then presume he is an alcoholic.
    Also, this does not look 70’s. There is a hipster on the left and some other modern types, and in the middle a guy who saw Scarface too many times (he is the only one who nearly fits – Scarface came out in 1983 though) and the neon font also brings to mind the 80’s. So all in all, the cover is OK – or would be with some minor fixes – but it does not seem to be for this book.
    And thirdly, what are Thorn Birds? I know my mom liked a book called that but I do not remember what it was about. Is Thorn Birds some sort of slang I would know if I was from Detroit? I am merely confused – perhaps this element should not be so prominent on the cover, if it were to attract other non-Thorn Bird aficionados.

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