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The Worst Man on Mars [resubmit]

The author says:

This is a resubmission for ‘The Worst Man on Mars’

[original submission and comments]

Nathan says:

I like the concept of this one a lot more — there’s both humor and action in the image.

Here’s what I’d do to tweak it:

  • Reduce the size of the main astronaut a little, and the background astronauts more.
  • Move the Mars horizon further up.
  • Find a taller font (or a taller version of the font) for the title, so that the title is more discernible in the thumbnail. Ditto for the byline, which is unreadable at thumbnail and still not easily read at full size. (That’s one of the reasons for moving the horizon up — you’ll have more room for bigger letters.)
  • Reduce the beveling on the text, and instead work on contrast with the background.
  • Find better places for the pullquote and subtitle; as it is, they look like they were crammed in there as an afterthought.

Other suggestions?

Comments

  1. as a book buyer, i would want more context on that blurb – is it from a book review of this book? and isn’t HarperCollins a book publisher?

    1. I had exactly the same question. Because HarperCollins is a book publisher, it made me think that this was a made-up blurb, intended to be funny–or not. The first idea would be humorous, but the “or not” made me wonder, for a moment, if someone was trying to put something over. After all, if that’s what HarperCollins said–they’d publish it themselves, wouldn’t they?

      I ditto the font comments. I also think that the gold/yellow needs to be a bit brighter. To stand out more.

      Other comments coming later.

  2. Nathan – Thanks. Very useful. I’ll work with your suggestions and give the text more punch.

    Hitch & Ed – Maybe I should remove the HarperCollins quote. HarperCollins used to have an imprint called Authonomy and the comment comes from a manuscript review by the editor. Unfortunately they closed Authonomy shortly after reading the book. I rather like the editor’s turn of phrase but perhaps it doesn’t belong on the cover.

    Thanks for your comments.

    1. A review from a publisher is somewhat of a grey area as to if it would be a saleable point. It sends kind of a mixed message though. they know their business but they also aren’t publishing this book.
      Since the quote wasn’t itself published the statement can’t be verified and might appear as a baseless claim. I’d leave it out because of that.

    2. Comments from editors and agents can be extremely flattering, and it’s SUPER tempting to quote them. But by convention you don’t use those comments as blurbs, because they ultimately decided to pass on it and therefore must not have thought it was THAT good. (Particularly with self-pub, you want to give the impression that you chose that route because it was the best option for your book rather than because you ran through every trad pub editor and none of them wanted it.)

    3. Given that Authonomy was the HC “open slush pile,” I would definitely not use that quote, unless you can reach out to the specific editor that said it, and get his/her permission, and then I’d tag it with his/her name. John Doe may not know who s/he is, but at least it would be attributed.

      I mostly really like this cover. I think that with some tweakage, it could be really good. Unlike RK, I don’t think that the tagline is so shopworn; it made me smile. Overall, it conveys the comedic and dark aspects pretty well (the overall cover).

      I’m tempted to echo Blue’s comment, and say that a horrified, “oops” looking face, in the guy’s suit, might work, but, if you can’t do that or have it done, I think it’s okay as-is. We sometimes forget here that we’re critiquing click-bait–not the actual story. 🙂

      The title font, as I said before, needs….something. It needs more pop, and I dislike that font. Your byline absolutely has to be redone. The other fonts, to me, are fine. Not amazing, but fine.

      If you need some help with new font-ing, just reply here and I’ll be happy to spend a few minutes rummaging through my stockpiles, see if I can spot something that might work for you.

      1. “If you need some help with new font-ing, just reply here and I’ll be happy to spend a few minutes rummaging through my stockpiles, see if I can spot something that might work for you.” – Ooh, yes please. That would be much appreciated, Hitch. I’ve discovered that the font-selecting part of my brain doesn’t work properly.

        Thanks for the comments. I’m feeling a bit more confident about this one.

        1. Hi, Corben:

          Well, I’m pretty sure that everyone here, who’s been here for more than 30 seconds, knows what I’m going to say, first. And I don’t know how will you feel about this, but I’m a firm believer in, er, homaging the best. Plus, say what you will–it would instantly, immediately shriek “Humorous space stuff here!” It’s the very first thing that popped into my head, when I saw the cover–in fact, I expected to see it, as I scrolled down, and was surprised when I didn’t.

          Harlow Standard. In screaming goldish/yellow, with a bright red glow around it. And yes, folks, if that sounds familiar, it ought to. That’s the font and coloring for The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and to me, this cover is screaming for it. Sans the underscore, although you could do that, too, but it’s much, much harder on a curve. I tested the Harlow, on a curve, very quickly, just to be sure that a newbie to cover design could make it work, on Mars, there, and you can. As I said, though, don’t get ambitious enough to try to do the HHGTTG underscore, and you’d be fine.

          If you want to make the homage less obvious, then use the same font, in Standard Solid, and make it a bright-ish yellow–a bit brighter than that Yello-Gold color you have there, w/o the red glow. OR, again, make it a completely different color altogether…but honestly, with that background image, I’m struggling a bit with what could work. Baby-blue, maybe???? I’d have to have the drawing to play with, to know what precise color would fly.

          As it’s been decades since Hitchhiker was everywhere, I really think it’s a safe thing to do–and effective. No doubt that someone here will be horrified at the suggestion and argue with me, but, hey, that’s what design Charrettes are for.

          Now, if you don’t want to homage Douglas, I can respect that, and I’ll go find you other space-y fonts. Or, comic fonts. Not laugh-out-loud, slapstick fonts, but something that rings a bell, in someone’s head.

          I’ll give the font situation some more thought over the 3-day weekend that we have here in the States.

          1. Thanks, Hitch. Thanks for taking the time to look at this for me. The question is, am I brave enough to invoke the ghost of Sir Douglas?
            I do like your suggestion. The only thing that worries me is whether HHG fans will accept an upstart daring to make comparisons with the god of SF Comedy. It’s been 38 years since HHG was published and none have come anywhere near matching its success.
            Fortunately I have a co-author to help with the decision. We’ll work up a cover based on the Harlow Standard font and see how it looks and how brave we’re feeling. As you say, it’s better to use a comic font to go with the genre. Monty Python’s Flying Circus was another British comedy that used powerful title fonts although I’m not sure enough people remember Python.
            Anyway, thanks again for your help. I’d better get cracking on the revised cover.

            1. Hi, Corben:

              Yes, indeed, that thought occurred to me. If you are really concerned–dare we?–for which I don’t blame you, not a jot–and you really do want to homage, rather than blatantly use the same exact font, try Marketing Script, from Dafont. You can use the solid, in the yellow color, with a red limn, to get there in a more-homaging way. (n.b.: I don’t think anybody kvetched about the fact that Futurama “stole” the yellow/red limn idea, etc., did they? You could consider that font, as well–Futurama, by Darrell Johnson).

              I get the concern. I do. There are other fonts that I would consider, b/c at least they would channel “sci-fi” instantly–although, again, your cover does that rather well. What abotu something that might convey the same feel, but a bit less obviously?

              How about SF Theramin Gothic–from Galaxy Quest? Use the HHGTTG coloration, and that might be a winner–conveying comedy, subconsciously, and HHTTG at the same time. I’d certainly do a mockup with it.

              Or, for comedy, but not “sci-fi” in the way we’re discussing it, what about Ghostbusters font? It does have a plain “O” character. 🙂 I doubt that anyone–or most anyones–would recognize the font, without the infamous “o” with the ghost, but they might subconsciously–achieving the feeling you want. Same thing–use the HHGTTG coloration, when you use it.

              Now, back to “normal” sci-fi-ish fonts.

              Roddenberry or Sui Generis (both invoke, well, ST, right?);
              Steelfish, which is a fave of mine for a lot of things;
              American Captain (yes, yes, it’s what it sounds like);
              Squada One;
              Rainfall (not sure that this has lc characters);
              Back to the Future 2002 font. What I like about it is that it’s slanted/curved a bit, like the original, original HHGTTG, and only the most hardcore fans of HHGTTG will “get it.” It’s a bit obvious, though, in terms of “what font is that?”;
              ROBO–very traditional sci-fi font, nicely heavy for the title.
              REVOLUTION–ditto;
              Spin Cycle, which might be a dark horse winner, for this cover;
              And, of course, NO list of “sci-fi fonts” is complete without at least a passing mention of Space Marine, which is a sort of ubiquitous, instantly recognizable Sci-Fi font.

              I’m not the kind of person who can look at a cover and instantly know, OMG, this needs font X! I can feel my way around it, but I usually end up trying 5-10 fonts, from a culled list, to get to the design that works. So, without sitting here with the background drawing/artwork, and playing around with the font, I can’t say “oh, yeah, use that one,” other than HHGTTG, which to me, really is screaming to be used.

              As you say, it’s been nearly 40 years, and not everyone will remember–although, yes, many shall. I think you have to assume that people absolutely will say to themselves, oh, that’s HHGTTG. Don’t assume that they won’t. You might be happier, and feel a bit safer, using Marketing Script, with the same coloration (or invert it–go the way Futurama did, in their homaging), which would invoke HHGTTG, without outright saying “we’re good enough to deserve to use Harlow.”

              I’d have to see them all, but I think almost all of these would work, some much better than others. And we haven’t discussed the byline font, but that needs addressing, too. 😉

              1. Wowee, Hitch, you have the knowledge of all fonts! This is great. Hopefully I’ll find them all and then have fun trying them out.

                If I were to change the book cover every 6 months or so I could try out different ideas and hopefully get better at cover design.

                Thanks, Hitch. Hmmm … is ‘Hitch’ short for Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy? That’s it isn’t it? You’re the best SF Comedy book ever written … no wonder you know what you’re talking about.

                1. is ‘Hitch’ short for Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy?

                  LOL, OMG, no. It’s a coincidence. It’s actually part of my last name. My “real” name is longish, so years ago–back even before the GUI web–I shortened it to “Hitch” to use online. It’s stuck, and I’ve used it ever since. ( http://www.booknook.biz/booknook-services/about-us ).

                  But thanks! I agree that HHGTTG is a terrific book, and really, I think it says a LOT about your proposed cover that I immediately felt so strongly that it was ripe for that font. Well done, that!

                  Good luck. When you finalize it, please do post back here and let us know it’s up; I will certainly be interested to see how it looks in final. 🙂

  3. It certainly conveys the genre well. I agree the title could be bigger and more readable.

    As for the picture, it might just be me but I feel like it could be tweaked a tad. What bugs me is that the main guy is just holding onto the other astronauts – who I presume are dead – but it doesn’t strike me as it being the result of his clumsiness or incompetence. Maybe I’m totally wrong on this assumption but judging by the title I figure he generally causes the funny mayhem? And why is he holding onto them at all? I think if he (the main character) showed a bit of a silly “aw crap I messed up” feel in his posing it could sell it more. It’s kind of a detail I guess but his current body position makes me think he’s smiling for the camera under that helmet.

    On the plus side, I love that tagline.

  4. I couldn’t think of anything to say about your first cover. For this one, only three things come to mind:

    1. Yes, the title font could stand to be taller and a bit thicker to improve legibility in the thumbnail.

    2. That tagline’s a little funny, but a bit shopworn. Maybe try a few alternate lines on your friends and see which one pulls the biggest laugh? (About the funniest line the scenario on this cover brings to mind for me is the old “Where will you be when your diarrhea comes back?” slogan from old Immodium print ads.)

    3. I’m catching a hint of the intended humor (black comedy, I presume?) in this picture, thanks to the tagline, but it could be a lot more obvious. Since this is a line drawing, maybe you should add some emotional expression to the picture using typical symbols from the funny pages? While sweat drops wouldn’t quite fit the setting, maybe you could add exclamation points over the heads of the other astronauts, or stress lines from their heads to indicate that they’re freaking out over realizing the chuckle-head protagonist is holding their lives (along with their tethers) in his hands.

      1. Thanks for taking the time to look at the tagline, RK. Much appreciated, amigo. Your suggestion is certainly funny but doesn’t quite fit with the story. I’ll work on it. The cover depicts a scene from the book and the 3 astronauts are supposed to look like they’re dead … which is what they are.

        1. In that case, you just put the exclamation point or stress lines over the protagonist’s head; and have the tagline be some joke about his making a lame apology for getting everyone killed, or how the victims really should have known better than to leave the protagonist in charge of anything so important as their lives.

  5. The artwork is decent enough but the typography is all over the place…added to the problem of trying to get too fancy with the title. Legibility is always of prime importance: after all, what is gained if a potential reader cannot make out the title of the book? They should be able to read that in the brief glance that most covers will get before the reader’s eye moves on to the next book. The problem is exacerbated in the thumbnail where only the word “Mars” is clear.

    I also have to add a comment to the reply you gave RK: “The cover depicts a scene from the book and the 3 astronauts are supposed to look like they’re dead … which is what they are.”

    This is perhaps so…but someone has to have already had some knowledge of the book to understand that. Which is putting the cart before the horse. YOU know that the astronauts are supposed to be dead—but you wrote the book. Someone seeing the book for the first time won’t have that information. For instance, I hadn’t the slightest clue that the astronauts were supposed to be dead until I read your explanation.

    I am always reminded of a cover that appeared in the Lulu forums some years ago. It was supposed to be a fantasy adventure but the cover image was a peaceful, pastoral photograph of a stone bridge over a gently flowing brook. It looked like nothing else but the cover of a traveler’s guidebook. When asked how this was supposed to be relevant, the author replied, “The main character is a troll. That’s the bridge he lives under.”

    1. Thanks Ron. I’m on it. A bigger and bolder title is on its way.

      You’re right, there’s no point me trying to explain the scene. I’m happy that the image conveys the general idea that it’s a Sci-Fi Comedy book, unlike my previous cover which Nathan took to be a motorcross story.

      Thanks for your help.

  6. First off, like it a lot more than the last one. It is glossy, and funny and eye catching.

    Couple of comments – RK’s revision – using the word screwed on the cover. It is funny, but it might cause a complaint and you might fall foul of Amazon’s rules on this kind of thing.

    I was under the sort of general knowledge impression that NASA type astronauts have air containers on their backs and if they go outside the vehicle they have tether lines. Your picture looks like air hoses and no tether lines. So being a detail person I wondered why – it seems rather backwards for a Mars expedition. Not that I am someone who has deeply studied astronauts, just a general sf reader.

    1. I’m not sure exactly what Amazon’s policies toward indecorous language are, but considering people are allowed to publish things like this on there, I doubt Amazon would take any complaints about using the word “screwed” all that seriously.

  7. HUGE improvement! The concept and layout are just bang-on, and I like the typography too.

    Unfortunately, at full res, the execution problems show. The Mars photo is way too low-res; the sky is way too obviously just white dots and star brushes drawn on a black background. There are artifacts around the title (it looks like it was rendered on a white background and then cut and pasted). The art is okay but not cover quality; up close the linework is very rough and there are a lot of smudges and white jaggies. There’s no shading on the hoses or the flag.

    So I’d say I really like the concept, but it’s worth getting a pro to draw it. A pro can really bring a lot more character to the scene so we get a real sense of the humor you’re trying to communicate.

  8. Just a sf reader here, not a pro designer like Katz. I don’t have a problem with the way the stars are done. To me the whole cover has a slightly cartoon style, which conveys “not serious” in itself and the stars are part of that.
    I can see what she means about the flag – it doesn’t look quite as bent round as the arm it is on.

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