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The Psychic and the Priest

The author says:

Hidden truths and new found strength have brought this unlikely pair together, and together Annie and Asha are a powerful duo. But will their magic be enough to take on an evil seeking vengeance, willing to do anything to get what they want, even if it means making a deal with the devil himself. Even with new revelations unfolding and new alliances being formed, going up against the powerful demon, Damarcus won’t be easy. Sacrifices will need to be made, lines will be crossed and loved ones will meet their demise as they take on evil in hopes of saving their kind and each other. Will they win or will they meet their demise?

Nathan says:

You’ve got the basics down, but the execution has some problems.

  1. While the byline is clearly readable in thumbnail, only the main words of the title are; I think just about anybody who saw the thumbnail first would conclude the title is “Psychic Priest.”
  2. The overlapping faces are confusing; the male face is cut off at his left cheek, as if the female face were in in the foreground — but the male face is so much bigger, the brain says, “Wait a sec, that can’t be right…”  The demon merely becomes “image noise” at thumbnail, and the other unidentifiable lays just make it murkier.
  3. Neither your cover nor your description give me any idea of setting.  Is this contemporary urban fantasy?  Second-world fantasy?  Historical fantasy?  Is this a pastoral or an urban setting?  A large part of the appeal of fantasy is the milieu against which the magical events take place — somewhere, you gotta give that to the potential reader.  (And there’s a lot of other text in your description which basically means, “Stuff happens, but I’m not gonna tell you about it here” — you could excise that to make room for some concrete details.)

Other comments?


  1. The thumbnail kind of tells it all: the general murkiness of the art combined with the monochromatic color tends to make the cover disappear into a kind of morass.

    Even if this were not the case, I think you are probably trying to get across too much with the artwork…and too little at the same time. The “beast” of the title is invisible at thumbnail size and barely discernible at full size. This is made even worse by what appears to be nothing but a mass of random, abstract shapes behind the title.

    You mention only two characters in the title…the psychic and the beast…but there are three depicted on the cover. Two of these, the man and woman, are prominent, while the third is diminished to the point of —as I suggested—near invisibility. Perhaps someone familiar with the story will understand who the two human characters are and immediately realize the significance of the demon…but that is putting the cart before the horse. I realize that you mention “Annie and Asha” in the blurb but, once again, no one really knows who these names refer to until they read the story. Until then, all they have to go by is the cover art.

    The real bottom line is that there is really nothing in the cover that suggests the story you have described.

    I would strongly suggest rethinking the art from scratch. Emphasize the conflicts you are talking about in the blurb and absolutely make the demon more prominent. You would certainly be well advised to not depict your main characters as looking blandly out at the potential reader…this reduces them to nothing more than generic faces. Make them interact with the demon so that you get across some of the dynamism and interaction your story seems to be about.

  2. that cover is more in tone with a urban fantasy or a scifi novel than a heroic fantasy or epic fantasy and I Fully to agree with Nathan on this one. This needs a heavy rework and for your elevator pitch you might want to put who the target audience is (including what authors’ readers it would appeal to).

    Also what is a Second-world fantasy?

    1. Ian asked:

      Also what is a Second-world fantasy?

      It means a wholly-created fantasy world, not ours with a twist. So, for example, HP is not a second world fantasy; it’s our world with a twist, a hidden part of the world. LOTR is a second world fantasy–that’s a world that isn’t ours. A completely different plant/solar system/universe/etc.

      About the cover: I’m sorry, but I agree that it needs reworking to the point where I’d think that a fresh, completely new start is warranted. The visual displacement/confusion, between the two faces is certainly a problem, and the woman looks like she’s stoned, or half-asleep, with those lidded eyes with puffed eye bags, slack facial muscles, etc. That’s hardly the look you want on a kick-ass action/adventure Fantasy, right?

      The male face looks like it was chosen because the cover designer thought he was hot–not because it’s a good face for this cover. He also is just…there. He’s not doing anything, looking at anything, etc.

      The demon, by the way, is great. I wish I could actually see him. I’d use him as the focal point, assuming he’s as good in full-size as he seems to be, sort of relegated to a second-tier background pic.

      I haven’t looked at new Fantasy novels lately, so I don’t know if the mauve-y/purple color theme is appropriate or not. If this is urban fantasy, which I’m inferring, I get that you’re trying to convey night, and all that, with the purple, but, it just all blends together into an amorphous purply blob. A great cover has contrast. (For example: look at the cover immediately before yours, here, the White Raven. Stunning, eye-catching, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it not only wins design awards, but sells a lot of copies of that book, just because it’s that good. See the contrast? That’s essential. Just like a great meal will have all the various textures (Chewy, Creamy, Crunchy, Crispy and I forget the last one, at the moment), so too a cover has elements it must have, and one of those is at least one element with sharp contrast. You don’t have any.

      I like the idea behind the fonts–the tall, condensed sans serif for the title, and the slighter serif, for the byline, but I’m not wild about the title font itself, that you’ve chosen. I’ve seen a few lately that are similar in feel to that, but stronger. Look for some. Also, as Nathan pointed out, it’s not easy to see.

      Lastly, the werewolves are being given short shrift. They are utterly lost, where they are. (They are wolves, right? Or…?). I had to zoom the hell out of the cover, to figure out WHAT they are.

      You know, the demon, the wolves, they look to be really great. Give them a chance to shine! Let them sell your cover. Sure, you need a heroine/hero, etc., but you’re wasting those other characters.

      I wish you luck, and I know we’d all love to see the rework, when you have that ready. Good luck!

  3. If there’s one mistake novice cover designers most commonly fall into when selecting their cover imagery, it;s what you have done: repeating visually information the title is already giving the audience.

    Chip Kidd explained the problem very well in his TED Talk:

    If the word ‘apple’ is in the title, don’t put an apple on the cover. It’s redundant and it makes it look like your book is flat and boring.

    Now admittedly there are pitfalls in other directions – sometimes imagery that strays too FAR from the title – and Kidd is generally a designer of high-end literary stuff and the rules are a bit different for mass-market genre fiction. Genre fiction covers need to be more literal and more clear about what what tradition they belong too. But the same rule applies across the board: don’t simply repeat in imagery what your title already tells an audience.

    What I’m saying is that I think the faces, though not badly handled in themselves, are completely pointless on your cover. Your title already implies these characters. Picturing two photographs of quite bland looking people doesn’t add anything. Meanwhile the werewolf/demon, the far more interesting graphic element, is consigned to be almost hidden under the text.

    (What’s more I think the mix of styles for these images looks odd, even through all the heavy photoshop filters. The people are photos and the demon is an illustration)

    I would certainly get rid of the faces. Because your title IS good and informative and intriguing, I’d be tempted to suggest a cover dominated by the title with just a few other visual elements to support it. However, managing a typography-led cover does require some pretty honed design skills to get it pitch perfect.

    But really, the cover direction I would suggest depends entirely on something that isn’t clear here – the genre this book belongs to. I mean, the fantasy part is clear but like Nathan says, fantasy is a broad church and the covers for second-world/high fantasy stuff looks very different from urban fantasy/paranormal romance stuff as well as all those other genres Nathan mentioned,, and more, each using its cover to signal its particular genre.

    So I think we’d need to know more about where this book fits genre wise to give more concrete advice. After all, the cover is a device for communicating to the right potential readers why they might enjoy the book and to feel that they need to be clear on what kind of book it is. A book cover should always work hard to signal its tone and genre. Ambiguity has its place, but the place to be ambiguous is over plot details, not genre.

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