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The Sacrifice

The author says:

Eira was conceived for one purpose – as a sacrifice for her narcissist mother’s plans. As the time approaches, can she overcome her conditioning and escape to the freedom she desires? Can she then return and put paid to the mother that has kept a land in misery and thrall? Genre: fantasy/horror

Nathan says:

I can’t tell from your synopsis what the setting or milieu is supposed to be… but that’s okay, I guess, because I can’t tell it from your cover, either.  Is this high or second-world fantasy?  Urban fantasy-horror in a modern setting?  I dunno.  There’s certainly nothing that indicates magic or the paranormal in your cover.

The other main problem is that nothing is readable from thumbnail, not even the title.  Glancing at the thumbnail (which is the way most people will first encounter the novel) just gives a monochromatic impression of snow.  It could be suspense, police procedural, or even a slice-of-life or coming-of-age literary novel.  There’s simply nothing there to grab the attention of the target audience and tell them, “This novel is for you!”


  1. I think it’s a nice photo, but it could be used better in my opinion if the window (?) effect was removed. Using an image that has a vast amount of bright yellowish white has the advantage that putting the title in the same contrasting dark blue as the trees over a white area will make it pop really, really well. So I’d personally remove the whole blue border/window, assuming the rest of the photo is mostly white and covers the whole thing. Then I’d use a bold, easy to read font and place it at the bottom center. The “The” could even be smaller and on another line, to have the whole space for the word “Sacrifice”.

    But making it more readable and eye-catching might not be enough because the image does not inform the viewer about the genre nor the setting. If I was to make a guess based on the photo alone, I would think nostalgia or drama/thriller that takes place in a snowy setting. It doesn’t feel like fantasy, nor like horror, sadly.

  2. I don’t get it. I mean… I just don’t get it. There is no focal point. And WHAT is that blob on the left? If it’s something meaningful, it’s unrecognizable. If it’s not anything meaningful, it’s HUGELY distracting because my eye needs SOMETHING to focus on.

    If the vertical lines are supposed to be prison bars, we need a couple more of them, and some shading to give them roundness.

    The title font is … not horrible, IF you are going to use it at almost-the-width-of-the-book size (and I agree, make “The” smaller and holding it’s own space) The sub title font just doesn’t work with the title font. It comes off very DIY(?). Perhaps something more classic like Garamond italic or Bodoni italic.

    It’s really not necessary to use “By.” It’s kind of a given that it’s “By” the author. And, boy I wish I had a buck for every time I’ve said this, don’t be shy! Beef up your author name so we can see it.

    But we’re back to the original problem. Even if all that was resolved, it still does not read fantasy/horror (though it could pretty easily slip to horror with some tweeking.)

  3. To me, this screams Literary Fiction. Or even poetry. It most certainly does not say Fantasy/Horror, not even close. It doesn’t say genre fiction at all. Thus, there’s a pretty big problem from the jump. If the bars are window edges, that needs to be clearer, (or omit them, which I’d vote for). If they are prison bars, see Tamian’s advice, above. She’s right.

    Fantasy almost always has a font that connotes FANTASY. Especially and crucially if you don’t have any fantasy elements, on the cover–fantastical beings, dragons, wizards, lords, ladies, elves, space opera-fantasy stuff (like light sabers) and so on. (I can’t tell if this is YA Dystopian? Does anyone else think it might be?). If it’s YA Dystopian, then this is way off the patch–those all have a very defined appearance. See the Allegiant series, et al. You need dark colors/dim colors, or something that screams DYSTOPIA. A simple winter’s scene…doesn’t do that. Sure, winter, discontent (for those that even recognize that quote) and all that, but, not necessarily dystopia, or horror, etc. Just…wet and cold.

    I normally tear into some font recs, but…I think that’s really premature for this cover. If you’d retweak it and return with the revised cover, I’d love to throw some fonts at it. But I’d like a bit more info, to narrow the genre/target audience (for example, YA horror is a lot different, cover-wise, than adult horror) and to see what the underlying image and colors will be. With fonts, a lot of times, how the shape of that particular font works in with the shapes of the images, on a specific cover, is the decider.

    Oh, and yeah–that thing, the whatever it is, poking up through the snow? That’s gotta go. Everybody here instantly looked at that first, and as near as I can tell, it’s not an intentional thing on your cover. That’s not good. You want to control and direct where the prospective buyer’s eyes go, precisely. Not accidentally sending him/her over to a blob.

    Good luck–love to see this back when it’s revised!

  4. There simply seems to be no point to the cover. It says nothing about the book, nothing about its subject, themes or even its general genre. There seems to be no point to the triad/bars and the eye tends to go immediately to the small shape on the left…which so far as I can tell is meaningless. Even a good literary fiction cover (all too often reviled in these discussions) conveys something about the nature of the book it is on.

    Perhaps all of these things are significant to someone already familiar with the story…but that is putting the cart before the horse.

    You should go back to square one and rethink the cover entirely from scratch. I would not even worry about the typefaces until you figure out a better image.

  5. If anything, my guess from looking at the thumbnail first was that this was going to be some kind of “inspirational” (i.e. religious and usually Christian) novel with some kind of nostalgic theme about a Winter’s homecoming and someone’s Christ-like self-sacrifice having made it all possible. Now I get to the main image and description, and you’re talking about a fantastic horror story concerning a protagonist intended to be a human sacrifice. Even assuming the “fantasy” in question is urban fantasy (which I rather assume it is, since a closer look at that object in the distance reveals it to be some kind of toll booth surrounded by modern street lights), this cover is absolutely wrong for the genre.

    So yes, basically you’re going to have to “take it from the top” on this cover. For the kind of story you’re trying to tell, I’d recommend an image of some kind of ancient-looking blood-stained pagan altar in some kind of otherwise modern and secular-looking kind of setting: a kitchen with an electric stove and microwave, for instance, or a suburban living room with an entertainment center stocked with a television and video game console among other electronic amusements. A picture portraying something so seemingly anachronistically barbaric in the midst of our sanitized (and allegedly enlightened) civilization would immediately spell out everything your target audience needs to know before they even read your title, let alone the tagline or the “look in the book” preview.

    Try something like that for your next revision, and then we can get to the rather secondary business of helping you pick out the font and work out an optimal arrangement for the title, byline, and tagline.

  6. I understand where you are coming from with the tag line “Eira’s only purpose in life was to die”. But I am afraid with my kind of literal mind (with a side order of snark) my immediate reaction to that was thoughts along the lines of “well, she can achieve that any time she likes” and “well that could be a really short book”.
    But if you do move to say having an altar in a kitchen or the like on the cover as the previous post suggested, maybe your tag would work better though I am not sure.
    Perhaps “born to be killed” would be punchier and gets away from any suggestion that the dieing is under her control.

  7. I would probably add more kerning (space between the letters) in the title and your name to fill more of the empty space and to balance the image

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