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Joe Coffin: Season One

The author says:

Setting: Birmingham UK, the present.

Genre: Horror/Crime

Target Audience: Fans of Stephen King and TV show Dexter

On the day that Joe Coffin, hitman for Birmingham gang The Slaughterhouse Mob, is released from jail he has nothing but murder on his mind. While inside his wife and young son were killed, and now he is out for bloody revenge. The problem is, Coffin’s enemies are circling, and his wife might not be quite as dead as she should be. Joe Coffin is a vampire horror story and a gritty gangster thriller, written TV style in episodes and seasons. If you liked Breaking Bad and Dexter, and if you prefer your vampires bloody and brutal, then you will love Joe Coffin. With a fast paced, multi character storyline, smart dialogue and great characters, the Joe Coffin books are written to be binge consumed, just like those TV shows you love.

Nathan says:

Know what the first thing that leapt out at my was? You’ve got an unattributed Amazon review front and center on your cover. GET RID OF IT. Pullquotes are only valuable if they carry authority with the reader, and “some random reviewer on Amazon” does not have authority.  While we’re at it, if you can’t put an actual name to the second pullquote, at least attribute it to the website instead of just the site name; that way, readers feel that they could actually check on the review if they wanted.

Second: Aside from the fact that two nameless people liked it, I can tell very little about the book from the cover. Yes, I get that it’s violent, but aside from that, nothing. Now, it’s not necessary to convey setting or storyline on the cover, but there’s got to be something that draws the interest of the potential reader — something to catch the eye.  Especially when your book is going to be first seen by most potential readers at thumbnail size, there needs to be something that registers on their consciousness as a thing of interest.  As it is, the only things that register instantly at thumbnail size are “Coffin” and “Season One” (even “Joe” takes a second to register, as it’s smaller and against a deeper red of the blotch).

I’m not talking about cutting and pasting an extraneous object into the layout.  What could be a part of the bloody background? A shoeprint? Pocketknife? Cigarette butt? Broken crucifix?  Something that relates to your story, sure, but also — and more importantly — something that the right brain (the non-verbal side) can focus on.

So: Lost the first pullquote (and maybe even the second one), increases the size and contrast of “Joe,” give a little bit of space so that “Joe Coffin” and “Season One” can be read as discrete phrases, and use the space between the byline and title to add a feature of visual interest.

Other suggestions?


  1. Looks like I’m part of the target audience, since I like horror and non-sparkly vampires… The colors would catch my eye, but likely not enough to make me click for more info, sadly.

    While I love the heavy red and black, it really does need something either related to the crime element or the vampire element. Ideally both. Vampires are easy to convey: canines, crosses, capes, blood, coffins (and the guy’s name is Coffin, too). A coffin might look great on there.

    I feel there is too much text, and even at full-size I have to focus a bit more than I would like to read the smaller text. Maybe the quotes could be switched for a tagline? The quotes just don’t add a whole lot. The Amazon one is better, it at least informs of the genre, but the other one is too vague.

    So, great work on the grungy aspect which conveys the mood well, but certainly needs the addition of something to hint at the story.

  2. Here’s my problem with distressed fonts: Every instance of the same letter has the exact same grungy marks surrounding it. It’s REALLY noticeable when there’s a double letter, as in “coffin.” The idea of the type treatment is just fine, but find a font without all those extra marks, download some grunge brushes, and pain the marks in yourself so they look truly random.

    Additional thoughts on the type treatment: The aspect ratio on “coffin” is too narrow, and “Joe” is too small. Smaller is fine, but right now it kind of gets lost. Also, if you keep the quotes, put them in a simpler typeface–the grunge font is way too hard to read at that size. (I agree with Blue that a nice tagline would work better, though.)

    As for imagery, Nathan’s right that you need SOMETHING, and I really want something that says “vampire,” because that’s not communicated at all by the type or colors.

  3. I agree with the others: the cover needs some more context. And I think that would probably take the form of either a graphic (such as Tracy suggested) or an object of some sort that gives the reader some suggestion of place or subject matter. At the moment, there is nothing at all that would tell the reader that vampires play an important role in the book.

    Katz’ suggestion regarding the distressed typeface is an excellent one.

    And, yes, do lose the pull quotes.

  4. I thought Tracy’s bat was really clever – a bit like wrought iron. However with all the grunge on the cover, and with it being made up of curlicues rather than solid, I think it got a bit lost. It also didn’t say vampire to me, partially because it is quite pretty.

    What would say “vampire” to me would be a wooden stake hammered in, with blood running down from it. No idea how to add that. 😀

    1. That would be great, but, there’s no decent way to do that right now with the distressing everywhere. At least…maybe. If a dark line could be drawn, from yon bat, down the cover, into a puddle at the bottom (below the “SO” in Season, perhaps?), that might work. People assume, on a cover like this, that a puddle is a puddle of blood, right?

      I get the grunge, and the violence (the red does all that), but I concur that the lack of context is a huge issue. The pull quotes, as they are, would turn me off as a prospective buyer. I mean, that reviewer isn’t random–s/he has at least some type of tag/name/login, whatever. Even “Amazon Reviewer” woudl be better than Random…

      So, I’m with the other guys–need some type of graphic, a cross, coffin (the coffin might not work, too much of the play on the guy’s name, or vice-versa), the wooden stake approach is strong. It’s easy, it’s immediately visual and visceral. I’d try for that, if possible. In fact, a stake right where those pull quotes are now would work well.

      You might see if you can fade the red, just a bit, so that there’s more distinguishability between the text and the background color. Not sure–but you should play with it.

      For once, I have zero font suggestions. This works well for me. I agree with Katz’s suggestion that you eliminate the duped distressing or redo this with the base font, and add your own. That’s a really super idea.

      Good luck.

  5. I think you’ve actually done a very good job with a typographic approach, but I agree that it’s not quite enough to sell this particular book. If I had to guess from looking at your cover I’d have pegged it for a brutal gangland thug type of narrative, which it obviously partly is, but I didn’t get a supernatural vibe at all. So you’re halfway there!

    I am totally with Katz that you need to adjust letters individually so letters don’t look identical (most noticeable in the two ‘f’s next to each other). That’s always important with textured fonts, but here more than ever since you really are focusing attention on the text and going for a roughly-printed look.

    I personally would try playing around with the angles of the text a bit, perhaps taking the whole block of text and twisting it a few degrees anti-clockwise to enhance that – rough-and-ready look and make it that bit more eyes catching.

    It needs another colour and more contrast to come alive. Black doesn’t leap out from red. Maybe you should try making all the text but the title white?

    OK I’ve done what I always end up doing, which is that I meant to grab the image and demonstrate a particular suggestion but I’ve ended up completely reworking the cover! See what I did with it here:

    Excuse the quick and dirty cloning job! The different version demonstrate some different approaches to enhancing the cover without losing the basic macho look. The last one on the post is where I bring it together to form a cover which I think does something more like the job you’re after.

    To break it down this is what I have done:

    Added to the visual interest and in-your-face vibe by having the blocks of text skewed and out of line with each other.

    Added a graphic element that speaks to the vampire ide of the plot while in keeping with the hardened crim vibe.

    Made the cover more vibrant by playing with the contrast and saturation and adding a second clashing spot colour.

    Made the title lock-up more attention grabbing (and the visual hierarchy of the cover clearer) by enlarging it, twisting it and knocking out the red background to white a bit.

    Played with some overlays and transparency layers to add a bit more interest to the texturing.

    It’s only a quick pass with a designer’s eye. But I think I’ve provided a model for the kind of thing you can do yourself if you can’t afford a designer – nothing I did is exactly advanced photoshoppery, it’s just playing with angels, transparencies, colour balances and saturations ,and spending a bit of time finding an appropriate-feeling stock image to drop in.

    I haven’t fixed your grunge/font issue mentioned by Katz, or changed the review text which – I agree with Nathan – needs to go. I do however like the look of having some text there and think you benefit from a few words contextualising your book as the title doesn’t give much away. But I agree with Nathan that the chosen quotes are no good. Consider instead having a brief tagline-style precis, maybe? The first line of your blurb will work: “On the day that Joe Coffin is released from jail he has nothing but murder on his mind”.

    It’s just one direction and others here might disagree that this is the right approach, or that this sells the vampire thing hard enough… I also liked Tracy’s tattoo-type bat a lot, but I wonder if bats even gothically rendered are just too connected to funny/Universal Monsters vampires to work tonally? On the other hand it IS imagery that everyone will immediately recognise. No one is going to be in any oubt that is a vampire book. Whereas at thumbnail, maybe the fangs and supernatural eyes of my graphic are too subtle to sell the book to the vampire crowd.

  6. Hello everyone, and sorry for the late reply. To be honest, I completely forgot I had posted this book cover here, and suddenly remembered today.
    I really want to thank everyone for their insightful comments, and to Tracy Ann Miller for working up an added element to the design.
    All your comments and critiques have been fantastic, and I’m sorry I took so long to reply.
    I’m going to have another look at all your suggestions and take them on board.
    Cheers, everyone. 🙂

  7. Oh, and thank you also to Kata, just noticed your hyperlink in your post and looked at your cover variations. I need to work my way through these comments again, as I have speed read them!!

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