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Riven Calyx

The author says:

Mordrak has been commissioned to find a wizard to enlist his help. The wizard he finds is not quite as expected and has his own agendas which cross over with the personal ambitions of Mordrak. The tower here is the abode of the wizard he finds. Thank you for your time!

Nathan says:

Oh, dear.

I hope you want me to be brutally honest, because that’s the only flavor I come in:  This looks completely amateurish.

The painting itself, while adequate in a “My aunt Bernice did it and I’m hanging it in my living room” sense, lacks the technical skill to appear on the front of a book.  On top of that, you’ve missed every opportunity to make the tower — the only distinguishable feature in the painting — eye-catching or dramatic. (See any of these covers for how to do it right.)

You also having a boring typeface that doesn’t communicate “fantasy setting” or stand out in any way from the background.

And to top it off, the square proportions don’t look like a book cover.  CD cover? Audiobook? Maybe.

Listen: THIS IS IMPORTANT. Readers will see this and not only think, “The author obviously isn’t much of an artist”; they’ll also think, “The author is completely unaware of his inadequacies and shortcomings, and that probably applies to the book itself.” YOU WILL HURT YOURSELF IF YOU USE THIS COVER.

There are plenty of accomplished semi-professional artists out there, and fantasy towers are common subject matter.  Do a search on DeviantArt, pay the artist $25 or $50 to license his/her artwork, and throw in some extra to have him/her design your type.

Don’t give potential readers any reason to skip over you and concentrate on the next book on the page or in their feed.



  1. I don’t hate the art. The colors are both pleasing and eye catching. I think it could work if the tower itself were a hair more warped (hiding the flaws in the execution, making them appear purpuseful)or was made more otherwise science fictiony. Maybe some magical looking clouds or something boiling around it, or maybe some explosions, bricks flying off, magical creatures swarming, or something. recentering the picture and fading to dark might be enough to give a nice dangerous journey vibe but it still needs something that says magic. You need something that says fantasy magic, not pastoral landscape art. Not sure how you would match the tone and texture of the original with that though. The font, font placement, proportions as Ethan says, all need help. It would likely be easier to start fresh.
    you can download a free template there to size a book cover correctly. Posting in a site like Scribophile could help fix the errors in the blurb itself.

    1. Very nice and encouraging, but I have to disagree – I think this art is unsalvageable, and just the fact that the author thought this cover might be okay gives me no confidence that they themself could do anything to improve it.

      Fortunately, as Nathan points out, it should be super-easy to find and license an awesome, professional piece of art featuring a fantasy tower.

  2. The story sounds like my kind of thing, but the cover is… I’m sorry it’s too “safe” and ends up looking boring ): The color scheme and font made me think of illustrated history books for young teens rather than exciting fiction.

    I also recommend checking deviantArt, since it has a lot of great fantasy art and most artists won’t charge as much as a professional cover artist. Depending on the budget, many do commissions for around $60~$100. The quality of the current painting is pleasing, especially the mountains and the rocks, but the tower itself seems too underwhelming, and lacks refinement to really look like a book cover.

    The wizard character sounds like an important one so the cover could show both the setting and the wizard. The synopsis says the wizard has “his own agendas” but I’m not sure exactly how dark the story is. A night scene or dusk scene could be more interesting, and showing some actual magic or hint at magical elements would also be a big plus!

    But focusing strictly on the tower, more like Nathan’s various examples, would also be ok. If that is what is decided upon, I’d suggest either making it a night scene with a sky that has a magical look to it, or using a font that has an unmistakable “magical fantasy” look.

  3. There are several problems with this cover. Let me get to the most obvious one first…and that is the fact that someone looking at the cover needs to have already read the book in order to appreciate the significance of the artwork.

    Your explanation that “The tower here is the abode of the wizard he finds,” reminds me of one of my favorite Lulu stories. Someone posted the cover of their new book, which was supposedly an epic fantasy adventure. But the only thing on the cover was an image of a picturesque, rustic stone bridge over a stream in a lovely woods. It looked like the cover for a travelogue of rural England. When asked how in the world this had anything to do with his book, the author replied, “My main character is a troll. See that bridge? That’s the one he lives under.”

    The second problem is the quality of the art itself, which—I am afraid to say—is very amateurish. You should probably find someone to help you with this.

    And when they do, try to remember that a potential reader won’t have the advantage you do of already knowing what the story is about. To this end, you might want to focus on the characters themselves.

  4. Yeah, unfortunately, there’s no saving the art. I looked up “wizard’s tower” on DeviantArt and these were all in the first page of results. As I learned making mock covers, even if you can draw acceptably well, a pro can create something much higher-quality that will do a far better job selling your book.

  5. Pretty much what Nathan said, but I’m going to cut you some slack on your art. It’s not as bad a our fearless leader suggests. It IS, however, NOT good for this purpose. Book covers are not the place to experiment or to practice your art. They are the packaging to your book and must sell your book with a glance. Therefore, don’t take Nathan’s advice personally, but do take it.

    Best of luck.

  6. Well, I’d have to say the art looked better in thumbnail than it does at full size. Actually, this wouldn’t be bad at all for a child’s storybook, which I rather thought this might be while looking at it in thumbnail. (The quality and ratio is similar to that of other children’s literature one sees on Amazon.) While nothing in your description suggests otherwise, however, I get the distinct impression this book is not targeted at the six-and-under crowd for which such rough-hewn art might be sufficient.

    Even if it were for the six-and-under crowd, I would still suggest it needs further refinement. While the background and peripheral scenery is actually rather nicely done, the tower which is supposed to be the central element of this cover is extremely crude and badly misshapen. Basically, the art looks like a zoomed-in “detail” from a much bigger landscape painting in which the tower is nothing more than some background scenery that the artist didn’t feel the need to draw very carefully; if it’s as central to the story as you say, this rough bit of architecture is falling down on the job.

    As the others have already said, take a cue from the covers of other books in the same and similar genres: one of my favorite books I read as a child, which–on subsequent analysis after I grew to adulthood–turned out to be some rather heavy-handed environmentalist propaganda, is still one of my fondest memories due to its beautiful rough-and-yet-lovingly-detailed drawings of a bucolic rural planet as some vaguely humanoid extraterrestrial settlers proceed to tear up the land and fill its skies with smog and pave it over with the concrete and steel of their cities. As for your wizard and his tower, while it might actually be good for drawings of them not to be as sophisticated as some of the art on the covers others here have shown you–particularly if this is targeted at a somewhat younger audience–that’s still no excuse for not drawing them well. The cover to John White’s The Tower of Geburah (some wholesome Christian fantasy written for a tweens-to-early-teens audience) demonstrates the manner in which cover art can be both appropriately rough-hewn and highly detailed.

    As others have noted, you probably should also want to show us the wizard himself and maybe this Mordrak fellow as well, with the tower more in the background. I mean, it’s a building; who cares about the architecture in a fantasy novel? Fuhgeddaboutit! Let’s see some people on this cover.

    Finally, while the font for your title and byline is about as good as any, you definitely will want to shunt these captions more toward the top and bottom to make way for the artwork, and it would be good to have some space on the top and the bottom to which they can be shunted. As such, it would be good to have the cover be at least a little taller than it is wide, even if only by a 4:5 or 3:4 ratio. Covers with wider-than-they-are-tall television ratios are almost exclusively intended for children’s books for the six-and-under crowd; for every older target audience, turn that television screen on its side.

  7. In the interests of full disclosure, this publisher had posted some questions about his marketing program, at a self-publisher’s forum, and I’d recommended that he post his cover here for helpful feedback. I don’t think he mentioned, to Nathan (or..?) that he did, in fact, pay someone to create this artwork. I think that covers all my prior knowledge surrounding the cover.

    I disagree pretty strongly with RK about the fonts. Of course, that tends to be something I focus on, because I have some expertise in that area. Some of the urban fantasy series use sans serif, but mostly, fantasy gets a serif, or a decorative serif. But not any old serif. I mean, using Times New Roman is worse than using a sans for a book that wants a serif.

    I’d suggest that once you have some SMOKIN’ artwork–and there are artists out there that can deliver that, without bankrupting you–you can focus on the text. But I strongly recommen that you start looking around at other books in your genre. This one, for example, shows a style of decorative serif that is increasingly popular in fantasy.

    Anyway, the other thing that is sorely missing from this cover is the all-important contrast. I tell about half the good folks who come through here to go here: and read that article, paying particular attention to the section on CONTRAST–not to say that you shouldn’t pay close attention to everything that Derek says. This isn’t because Derek’s the end-all and be-all of cover design–he’s not. But in my opinion, it’s the single best article about cover design I’ve seen in the last decade, and given how many I read, that’s saying a lot. Read it, digest it, and then, when you find an artist, or a piece of art that you love, make sure that you have the contrast that it needs. Look at the first two images–Brave and Batman–and look at what is grabbing you by the ghoolies. THAT SELLS. Bland artwork won’t.

    Good luck to you. And well done, bringing your cover here. When you are making improvements, you can bring your resubmit back here, for further feedback from all the really excellent designers that donate their time here. I’m not a designer–I know a little something about fonts, and, of course, I see many covers come through my shop–but the guys and gals here do know their stuff, and the free assistance you get here is worth many hundreds of dollars, if not more. I mention this only because I know you are on a very tight publishing budget. 🙂

    1. Wow. If the author paid someone for that art, and that person is an adult and not related to them, they need to get their money back.

  8. Thanks all. I never paid for the artwork itself. It was drawn by am amateur friend. I paid someone to tidy the picture up with the text settings. Your feedback has been very helpful and I will look at hiring from Deviant as you suggest. It’s a shame the current picture isn’t up to the job. The book is for young adults and upwards.

    Thanks for filling in the background Hitch, and yes I am on a limited budget.

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