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Rabbit Girl

The author says:

Would you abandon your best friend to save your sanity?

“Have I gone mad?”

“I’m afraid so. You’re entirely bonkers. But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are…”

Lissie has long had more than her fair share of problems. For one, her only friend is a six-foot white rabbit called Lewis. Add to that a childhood traumatised by schizophrenia and Lissie generates enough material to keep a whole team of psychiatrists busy for years. If she is to recover, Lissie must be prepared to give up the only friend she has ever known. However, getting rid of Lewis is no easy matter…

Nathan says:

I think what we’re seeing is a common problem when an author designs her own cover: She tries to represent the whole book up front, instead of narrowing it down to a single engaging image designed to appeal to her target audience.

Some specific problems:

  • The font Papyrus has been so overused and misused over the years that it makes readers instinctively recoil.
  • You misspelled “Lewis Carroll.”
  • You have a center to your image, but then you mar it by putting the title right across it — the words and image war for attention.
  • The silhouettes in the lower left are not only in a distinctly different style from the rest of the image, but the impression of adults embracing (with one wearing rabbit ears) unfortunately connotes all of those head-scratching paraphilia-porn novels of the last couple of years.  Sad, but true.
  • The description makes it seem like a darker version of the Jimmy Stewart movie Harvey; the cover instead paints it as an Alice in Wonderland fanfic (of which the world has far too many).  The readers who would enjoy the first won’t be attracted by a cover that promises the second; the readers attracted by the promise of the second will be annoyed at receiving the first instead.

Other comments?

 

Comments

  1. Even at full size it took me a while to understand what the silhouette was. A thumbnail it’s pretty much a shadow.

    I find there are too many elements. I would pick one, maybe two but one has to be more in focus than the other (for example, keeping the face, focused and centered, and using a pocket watch as an extra element).

    As stated, there are too many Alice elements and not enough imaginary-friend-rabbit-schizophrenia elements. All a potential reader sees is Alice imagery on top of Alice imagery. Alice is popular, but there are tons of things Alice-related so it probably has to stand out more.

    I really like the very blue tones with white text, though. Perhaps using only the girl face image + something to represent the imaginary friend in a way that matched the tone of the book (either a bit silly, or downright scary, I’m not sure which one it is) would be sufficient.

    The book & pocket watches element is nice but I’m not sure I like how it gives the impression that the girl has no body, by cutting right at the neck. If kept, I would definitely rethink its placement.

    The quote could be removed to have the title at the top, clearing the face.

    The idea sounds pretty interesting though, I hope we’ll get to see the reworked/final cover.

  2. So… basically an Alice in Wonderland themed version of Drop Dead Fred? I can get a pretty good understanding of the general concept of your story from your description, but I’m not really seeing any of it on this cover. Aside from the horrendously overused Papyrus font in your titles, this draft just has a mishmash of way too much stuff to be very comprehensible at full size, let alone in thumbnail.

    To make a cover for this kind of story work, you need to make it a lot simpler than this. As it happens, you have a great advantage the author of last week’s Snow White themed book didn’t, in that just about anything readily identifiable as being from Lewis Carroll’s famous Alice in Wonderland books can serve as a kind of cultural shorthand for disordered thinking. (For just one example: Jervis Tetch, a.k.a. The Mad Hatter from DC’s Batman, as crazy a character in turn as the Joker has ever been.) A live-action shot of your protagonist “Lissie” (which sounds like a variant of “Alice”) in Alice’s Victorian-style clothing should be quite sufficient to establish the theme, while any other single element, such as that rabbit Lewis (who carries a pocket watch, I presume) should help close the deal.

    Incidentally, one bit of visual shorthand very commonly used to indicate madness in graphic novels and on movie posters and the like is to isolate the character one wishes to indicate is insane against a completely blank background with nothing but a shadow to keep him or her company. Depending on the artist’s aesthetic preferences and the manner of insanity being portrayed, the shadow may recede forever toward some invisible horizon, stand up against the wall next to the character, or be reshaped to look like some subject that dominates the character’s thoughts. While this isn’t the only way to do such things (Bill Seinkiewicz with his deranged abstractions was very effective at doing the deranged animation for the Pink Floyd movie The Wall, for example) this minimalist approach should go easier on your limited budget for cover design (not to mention your prospective readers’ eyes) than any other method.

    My recommendations for a revised cover, therefore: see if you can’t whip up something like a live-action version of Lewis Carroll’s Alice against a blank background, with her shadow being recognizably shaped like the White Rabbit (pocket watch and all) looming over her. (At least, I presume this rabbit “Lewis” looms over her; not many girls ever reach an adult height of six feet.) Then use some suitably subtly deranged-looking font from one of the Alice in Wonderland novels (but not from either of Disney’s movies; you don’t want people to get too distracted from your unique take on the subject by relating it to mainstream works) for your title and byline. Put the title over Lewis’ head, the byline under Lissie’s feet, and the tagline quote (as Ian has already suggested) on the back of your cover along with your synopsis.

    Do that, and you’ll have a more instantly recognizable cover for an Alice in Wonderland themed psycho-thriller to grab and hold your target audience’s attention right from the start; which is all you can really ask of any truly effective cover these days.

    1. Hmmm, RK. I’m thinking that maybe she could come up with the Lissie/Alice figure, as you suggested, isolated…but what if she used the existing silhouette, as the shadow? So, you have Lissie, in Victorian dress, but skew the silhouette of the girl, in the romantic pose, with the rabbit/Lewis, as the shadow. Would that do it? The shadow, then, being the subject that dominates her thoughts?

      If you use the suggested white or solid background, the pocket watch or the illo of Hatter could take up a corner. I’m not sure that this gets us to conveying quite that this is a psychothriller, but maybe it gets us closer.

      One last design/layout/composition comment: Although I love the colors, I fear it’s missing contrast. Or, I should say, enough contrast. I’d recommend that you add a splash of color, somehow. Perhaps you can find a way to add some?

      Oh, and yes: lose the Papyrus. Not a great idea. Ironically, there’s a font called “Beyond Wonderland” that’s a bit gritty/grungy, and that might–or might not–work for this.

      I’d also use a “regular” font–something sans-serif, for your byline. (I can’t decide if you mean “Write On!” or “Right On!”). A nice tall condensed sans serif will go nicely with a gaudier title font. Something like Quicksand, but heavier. Cinematografica Light (heavier than you would think) might be perfect. If you just cannot bring yourself to give up a wee bit of flair, for the byline, you might really like Montecatini. (I’ve recently acquired that, and I’m trying to find just the right project to use that for.) Ditto Winston, a very nice, tasty, just-enough-flair-to-be-different display font.

      Hope some of that helps.

      1. Well, if that silhouette of the guy in the rabbit ears embracing the gal is what’s on the protagonist’s mind, then yes; it probably does make sense to use that for her shadow. As our esteemed host points out, however, that silhouette looks exactly like something you’d see on the cover of one of “those head-scratching paraphilia-porn novels” on Amazon. I get the impression from the author’s description that this psycho-thriller is supposed to be almost the direct opposite of such niche-erotica weirdness, as the gal is evidently trying to break free from any kinky perversity involving emotional attachments to her imaginary friend, not embrace it.

        Then too, the perverse implications of anything involving Lewis Carroll’s famous works are even more extreme than the stuff we were seeing in Snow White previously: real-life author Charles Lutwidge Dodgson’s apparent obsession with his real-life inspiration little Alice Liddell and his bizarre habit of occasionally photographing little girls (including Alice) naked has had generations of scholarly critics right up to the present speculating about the more cryptic parts of his sexuality and what effect they might have had on his works. In this context, having “Lissie” (a variant on “Alice” as noted) struggling with her emotional attachment to a rabbit named “Lewis” (presumably named after Lewis Carroll, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson’s pen name) already sounds a bit like the premises of a perspective-flipped retelling of Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita from Dolores Haze’s point of view. Ramping up the potential perversity further by using a silhouette of Lissie romantically embracing Lewis as her shadow might have a tendency to attract a few of the wrong kinds of readers while driving away the author’s much larger intended target audience.

        Having Lewis be Lissie’s shadow works just fine, but the emphasis ought to be on his domination and the influence he exerts over her as her imaginary “friend” and maybe-something-more-than-friend. If the author goes the “madness portrayed as isolation” route, Lewis ought to be standing alone as her shadow, and towering over her to emphasize his strength and her weakness and why breaking free of him is not going to be so easy. If this is to be a psycho-thriller, even if the story itself contains a lot of erotically charged situations and themes, the emotional emphasis of the cover’s imagery necessarily requires less romance and more menace.

        1. Yes–you’re right. Believe it or not, I actually forget that there are paraphilia-porn books on Amazon. Or, anywhere, for that matter. I thought, given the girl’s apparent attachment to the Harvey-esque bunny, that the silhouette might work…but you’re correct. It would send the wrong signal. (Although, hell, it’s already on the existing design…)

          Perhaps just a silhouette of the Bunny, behind her (encompassing/overshadowing her?), or, as you say, as her shadow, e.g., a second personality/imaginary playmate.

          I’m going to be interested to see how this one shakes out. I really am.

          1. Eh, well, it’s actually pretty easy to forget Amazon’s selling stuff like The BBW & The Space Lord and Taken by the T-Rex when you’re not the target audience for it. Also, it’s likely that the people who are the target audience for those books aren’t doing much breeding, which makes them a market likely to bleed away over time. Sometimes I get this slightly paranoid notion that those books are actually meant to be a stealthy form of population control; contraception via social engineering.

            I’m eager to see the next draft of this cover too; with a little imagination, it could be another brilliantly off-beat concept cover rather like the one on Who Censored Roger Rabbit? (Bet you didn’t even know that was a book, eh?)

  3. You’ve managed the montage skillfully but like Nathan says, you’ve fallen into the classic mistake of trying to represent on the cover as much of the books as you can. Covers only need to communicate a broad theme, tone and genre. Your plot elements are for discovery as readers read! Trying to put everything up front is not only unecessary, it is off-putting. Covers are meant to intrigue, not explain.

    And this goes doubly for ‘literary’ fiction which it sounds like your book falls into by dint of being a physchological exploration of a character and a situation rather than a plot-led genre piece.

    In your case the idea you want to communicate is that this book is a dark literary riff on the Alice in Wonderland story.

    As ever, my primary advice in choosing imagery is to think about what work your title is already doing and how potential imagery will interact with it. You never need to duplicate what the title is already saying, so firstly: don’t put a rabbit on the cover!

    My advice would be to use an image that is obvious Alice-y but has a touch of the off-kilter.

    When designing a cover, particularly if you are not a designer by trade with all the experience and reference points that provides, the best thing you can do is look at existing imagery rather than attempting to work from first principles. You may or may not end up using an image you find wholesale, but you’ll certainly get better inspiration seeing what ways professional designers and illustrators have found to play with the Alice tropes.

    Browse some stock sites and search terms like ‘Alice in wonderland’ ‘Alice poster’ etc. You will immediately get much more interesting imagery than working from scratch. E.g.

    https://www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/lviv-ukraine-dec-04-2013-graffiti-374726977?src=yuLT_jfzY0YMgbz17ucy2Q-3-37

    https://www.shutterstock.com/image-vector/alice-silhouette-on-wonderland-play-card-364277372?src=0GOVLkNSNdWS5sn80i9OQQ-1-19

    https://www.shutterstock.com/image-vector/alice-wonderland-growing-tall-illustration-book-71245714?src=yuLT_jfzY0YMgbz17ucy2Q-4-20

    https://www.shutterstock.com/image-illustration/beautiful-green-background-roses-cards-keyhole-388023154?src=yuLT_jfzY0YMgbz17ucy2Q-1-2

    https://www.shutterstock.com/image-vector/alice-wonderland-backgroundalice-looks-key-potion-484518280?src=0GOVLkNSNdWS5sn80i9OQQ-1-74

    Any of these could be turned into a cover that both conveys a sense of ‘twisted alice’ and looks classy and confident too.

    As for fonts REALLY don’t use Papyrus. It’s not far off Comic Sans in terms of overused fonts that just automatically looks amateurish. Probably steer clear of pre-loaded system fonts altogether. You can find plenty of free fonts to download somehwere like Dafonts.com (make sure you choose ones which are free for commercial use).

    Fonts say an awful lot about the tone and genre of your book so pick carefully. For instance here’s a quick mockup I’ve done to show how two different fonts can change a design:

    https://www.kathrynrosamiller.com/single-post/2017/06/29/Rabbit-Girl-by-Karen-Wrighton

    And of course, though it may go without saying, pick a font that is readable and make sure it stands out clearly against the background.

    Another piece of advice I think is universal is: make sure your design works first without any effects (drop shadows, outer glows). Those can be applied later to enhance a good design but they shouldn’t be masking a basically badly-composed cover. If your type isn’t readable against a background without having a glow on it, you need to change the design not up the glow!

  4. PAPYRUS!!! *impotent fist shake*

    I agree that the palette is nice, but you need to pick stronger imagery. It’s hard to say more without a better sense of the genre. Offbeat comedy? Psychological horror? Contemporary fantasy?

    Also watch your aspect ratio. The typography and nearly all the images on this cover have incorrect aspect ratios.

    1. Hey, katz:

      You know, to be fair, guys, we all ought to admit that Papyrus, like Comic Sans, is only universally despised by designers, who are sick of being asked for it and seeing it everyplace, like the ubiquitous-for-a-while-there Bleeding Cowboys, which, BTW, overused or not–I still love. I won’t use it–but I’m not going to lie and say I loathe it, either.

      The average guy on the street? NO idea that Papyrus, Comic Sans, or Bleeding Cowboys (or Kirsten or Algerian or 90 bajillion other overused fonts) are, in fact, overused. So, we oughtn’t to subject author-designers to the Cone of Shame for using any of those. Ya know what I mean?

  5. Hi, everyone – Thank you so much for all of your comments, which I found EXTREMELY helpful. I will certainly be putting some of your ideas into effect. I really appreciate and value your help.

    I’ll post up a picture of the redesigned cover as soon as it’s completed. I had no idea about Papyrus by the way – I just liked the font!

    Karen Wrighton (Author)

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