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How I Survive a Brain Tumor

The author says:

It’s an autobiography on how I survived a brain tumor in the year of 2014. Would love to get some feed back on my cover. I already know that the Paragraph that is on the back needs work on.

Nathan says:

Congratulations on your victory!  Book publishing and any other activity pales next to that.

I think the biggest question for you is who your audience is.  If you expect that most of your readers will be family, friends and acquaintances that already know you, then the cover is fine.  If, however, you expect it to be read outside that circle, you need to look at it like a marketer.  An advertiser.  A filthy capitalist. 🙂

Think of someone who doesn’t know anything about you coming across this cover in a bookstore or on Amazon.  What do they see? A generic picture of someone they don’t know.  Where’s the appeal?  Where’s the hook?  What catches their eye?  Answer: nothing.  They would already have to know you and your story to be interested in the cover, which is opposite to the way it needs to work.

The generic but dramatic images you see on motivational posters (the real ones, not the snarky “demotivational” posters) are actually what you want here.  Sunlight peaking through heavy cloud over mountains, flowers springing from a log in an old-growth forest…  These images are common but popular because they portray the universal theme of blessings through adversity.  There are plenty of those images available for free (try or for starters).  Remember, your cover needs to appeal to readers before it can inform readers.

Good luck.


  1. I’m guessing that English is a second language in this case. This isn’t a problem for the book, since the point is giving help to a reader who is terrified because they are going through cancer treatment. An authentic voice could help. However, I would recommend having someone polish the English for the title and cover text to avoid turning off browsing readers. It won’t do the patient much good if it doesn’t get into their hands, and there are good odds a loved one would be the one to actually buy and give the book.

  2. Yeah, if this is something you wrote to share with friends and family, which is fine, then don’t change a thing.

    If it’s meant to be a commercial book, then you have to think about marketing. Surviving cancer is a huge landmark in your life! But to a complete stranger, you need to show why they should care about your life, in particular. Most likely, you’re going the “inspirational” route. So how can you make this look inspiring?

    Take the title. Grammatically it should be “How I SURVIVED a Brain Tumor,” but more than that, this is just the plainest, most factual title imaginable. Look at some cancer memoirs. They have titles like “The Bright Hour” and “Chasing Daylight.” You need a title that will tell people that this is an inspiring story about overcoming difficulty.

    Same with the image. I think Nathan’s spot on: You want an inspirational-poster type of image with bright highlights and a light, vibrant palette, like the ones on that Amazon page. Make this look like something you’d grab if you were feeling down and browsing a display of inspirational stories.

  3. “How I Survive a Brain Tumor”?

    Is the title intended to sound like it was written by someone for whom English is a second language? Or perhaps it’s meant to mimic the speech of someone who had to learn to speak again after brain surgery? I hope that it’s one of these and not a result of deficient writing skills. In any case, it’s a problem in my opinion and likely to be a turnoff to anyone who likes the authors they read to be able to us proper tenses, etc.

    I kind of stopped analyzing the cover at the title since unless that’s corrected the cover design is moot. I hope I don’t sound harsh, but I feel pretty strongly about using proper English unless it’s dialogue.

  4. Maybe it isn’t a mistake. Maye she meant how she survives day-to-day, not that she had survived it. (First person present)

  5. From following the link on the back cover, I see the lack of a “d” in the title was a typo. I also see that you’ve already designed another cover for this book which, in my opinion, is far superior to this one. If you haven’t already, I’d certainly recommend submitting that revision here as soon as you can.

    The title being an important part of the book cover, I should probably mention that I agree with Katz: your title’s being so bluntly cut-and-dried factual makes it look like it ought to be the tagline instead. Such on-the-nose descriptions as title tend to make a book in any genre sound too generic; imagine how lackluster the sales for our host Nathan Shumate’s book The Golden Age of Crap might have been, for instance, if he’d simply named it Entertaining Reviews of Bad Movies. As long as you’re rewriting captions and text like the paragraph on the back, I’d recommend getting a new title too.

    For best results, your title should be closely linked to the subject at hand, but not a direct description of it; surviving a brain tumor is no mean feat, to be sure, but simply stating that on the cover won’t make your book stand out from any of the numerous other memoirs by survivors of various potentially fatal conditions. You need something uniquely dramatic or inspirational or ponderous-sounding to get your prospective readers’ attention.

    What makes your title unique should be something that makes your specific experience unique as well. Did having a brain tumor while newly pregnant with your son inspire you to contemplate your mortality in some philosophical/religious/spiritual manner? Did you commit yourself to a heroic struggle to survive against the odds?

    Whatever manner of insight your survival inspired, that should decide your title for you as well. A few examples (not for your specific use, but to give you some idea how to proceed):

    * Defiant: Not So Fast! or Doctor, Arrest That Tumor! or Not My Son Too.
    * Philosophical/Religious/Spiritual: Thank God I Have Cancer or Through the Valley of the Shadow of Death or To Number My Days.
    * Darkly Humorous: Heaven Can Wait or Take a Number & Get In Line, Grim or We’re Not There Yet Either (punchline to an old Russian joke about a patient learning from the nurse that she’s taking him to the morgue, and protesting that he’s not dead yet).
    * Triumphant: Death, Where Is Thy Sting? or I’m Still Here or Nothing Lives Like Life.

    Get the picture? Now see if you can’t think of some uniquely catchy way to describe what your experience surviving a brain tumor means to you.

  6. I too looked at the new cover, and it’s much better. Please do submit that one here, too, as RK mentioned.

    I wanted to second his suggestion to you that you significantly change the title. If it were me, I’d be funny (“Not Yet, God!”), but that’s just me. You may be more spiritual, or…any number of alternatives. I think that changing the title, and using “How I Survived a Brain Tumor” as a subtitle/tagline would be a super-smart move. I agree with his thought that a catchy title will do your book much, much better service.

    I hope we can see a new version soon!

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