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Watch It Turn

The author says:

The Amazon Book Description:

“The job of this world is to turn and you must learn to just watch it turn.” Before Gautam Singh could hear and understand those words, he had to live a whole life. A life whose focus shifts from friendship and love to success and ambition. A life which culminates in a spiritual quest, undertaken in the most unlikely place with the most unlikely teacher. “Watch It Turn” is an Indian novel, set in the backdrop of the rise of the Indian IT industry, with characters that captivate and events that bring you face to face with your own self.

Length – 284 pages (in 12pt print)
Genre – Literary fiction

My Questions
– Is the photo too complex?
– Are the colours striking enough?
– Are the fonts and sizes of the text ok?
– Any other criticism/suggestion which the good folk here can give will be appreciated.

Nathan says:

I’ve snarkily commented elsewhere that the covers of literary novels try mightily to make the book look like it’s “about nothing.”  I fear that might have been taken as advice here; your cover — while it certainly has no major technical flaws — doesn’t actually tell us anything about the book.  Or, as I usually put it, it doesn’t tell the target audience for this book that it’s meant for them.

The problem is that a dirt road in a forest, while picturesque, is awfully generic.  There’s nothing here to give a hint about setting or genre — if it weren’t for your byline, there wouldn’t even be a hint of an Indian angle.

If it’s set in India, how about a sunset shot of the urban Mumbai skyline?  If it’s about a spiritual quest against the backdrop of the IT industry, how about a spiritually resonant image of some sort, contrasted with a typeface with the kind of high-tech edge that companies like to give their logos?

There’s nothing wrong with this cover, but there’s nothing really right with it.  Imagine the thumbnail with several other thumbnail-sized covers on either side of it — since that’s how most potential readers will first encounter it — and say to yourself, “What can I do to make this more attractive and click-worthy?”

Other comments?


  1. You ask:
    – Is the photo too complex?
    No. The problem with the photo is that it is apparently irrelevant to the book you have described. If, as you say, the story is “set in the backdrop of the rise of the Indian IT industry” there is nothing to suggest this.
    I suspect that you may simply be too close to the book to be objective. The road might symbolize your hero’s quest, but that is only because you already know what the book is about. Someone seeing the cover for the first time would have no idea what the image symbolizes.

    – Are the colours striking enough?
    The colors are not striking at all. The cover is essentially monochromatic.

    – Are the fonts and sizes of the text ok?
    The size is fine, but your line spacing is much too large.

    – Any other criticism/suggestion which the good folk here can give will be appreciate
    You really need to start from scratch and rethink the cover…especially the imagery you have chosen to use. A casual browser would have no idea what sort of book it is or what it might be about. In fact, from the title and imagery alone, someone would be justified in thinking it might be spiritual or religious non fiction. It certainly doesn’t look or sound like a novel, just based on the image and title alone. I realize that a “spiritual quest” is apparently an important part of the book, but you need to get a tighter focus. It would help a lot to include a figure or two in the cover, especially if one of them might suggest the “unlikely teacher” you mention.

  2. I would have pegged it as inspirational religious fiction, based on the picture. For that genre, it would be fine except maybe the font. But for literary fiction, it’s all wrong.

    I differ with Nathan slightly in that I think non-indicative covers are OK for lit fic because that IS indicative for that genre; if the cover has, say, a photo of a single button, lit fic readers pretty well know it’s for them. But this particular photo is not doing that job.

    You’re right that a plainer photo would help. A landscape is OK, but lit fic usually goes for something really minimal with a lot of open space. SOME kind of indication of India wouldn’t hurt, either.

    As for the font, I’m not in love. I think lighter serif fonts work better for lit fic.

  3. My first reaction was it was a logging road through a commercial forestry plantation in the UK.
    I particularly didn’t like the font for the author name, but am not sure why.
    Nothing else to add to the above comments.

  4. One reason I don’t like dealing with “lit-fic” on here is precisely the reason our host gives: why would anyone be interested in what the cover apparently indicates to be a book about nothing? Even Seinfeld, the show that was supposedly about nothing, was a comedy intended to entertain people. Trying to make a cover seem to be about nothing strikes me only as an exercise in self-defeating futility.

    Your cover as it stands would earn you the “instamatic” and “mystery meat” tags over on Lousy Book Covers because it’s basically nothing but a barely-in-color shot of a dirt road through a forest. What this has to do with an Indian programmer on a spiritual quest, neither we nor any of your prospective readers can guess. Moreover, it’s a fair bet that almost nobody here in America has ever heard that expression about watching the world turn.

    My recommendation? Rather than take the tired and pretentious (and horribly intellectually overwrought) common approach so many “lit-fic” cover designers are taking these days of trying to fill the cover with some kind of obscure and incomprehensible “true art” that’s supposed to be all symbolic and sub-textual and all that snooty nonsense, why not take a more literal-minded approach? Since the one unique aspect of your novel would appear to be that expression about watching the world turn, try illustrating the lesson literally with a shot of the Indian protagonist in his office (or cubicle, or whatever) staring at a globe perched on his desk while maybe giving it a spin with his fingers.

    See, the literal approach immediately establishes that this book is about a guy from India (since most people in corporate America have met at least one or two Indian programmers by now and know what they look like), that he works with computers (as pretty much everyone in an office setting does these days), and that the “it” the title tells us to watch is the globe (and by implication the world). For added nuance, the expression on his face as he watches (skepticism? bright optimism? confusion? stoic indifference?) can indicate what exactly he thinks of the expression to which the title refers. That’s far better than expecting even the most obsessively over-analytic “lit-fic” readers in your target audience to figure out for themselves what a dirt road through a forest is supposed to imply about the book’s contents.

    Really, symbolic abstraction is badly overrated these days. No matter how abstract the subject of your story may be, always try to express it with some kind of concrete imagery on your cover. Leave any of the more intellectually challenging abstract stuff to your book’s interior, where readers are far more likely to take their time analyzing it in order to get full value for the money they just spent on your book.

  5. I typically comment, on almost every book, unless they’re so good that my comment is unnecessary. And usually, my contribution is around fonts. In this instance, I really do think that you need to find a completely different image, and then I’d be delighted to add my $.02, on the fonts.

    As one kibitz, though: even this image: would be a more interesting background, for a portion of that image. (Not a crapload, but some). Or this: . I didn’t even spend 5 minutes, and I could make either of those images into a more interesting cover than what you’ve done.

    I concur with RK’s comment about symbolism being grossly overrated. Yeah, if you’re a well-known author, and you have the marketing muscle of Random House behind you, you can put a picture of a mouse on your cover, and glory in it. But NOT as a new author. You need to make sure that your potential readers can find YOUR BOOK.

    When you resubmit, I’ll be happy to contribute on fonts. 🙂

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