Before commenting, PLEASE read the commenting rules. It will make us both happier, you and me. Especially me.

Digital Tart [resubmit]

The author says:

Title: Digital Tart Resubmit – started again from scratch. I re-wrote the description as well.

Genre: Science Fiction/Adventure

Setting: Near future

Clare Farral is in a cushy job, out of her stinking subsistence apartment, coaching the fledgling artificial intelligence of the DigiTart chat service. When she gets a psycho-caller laying the groundwork for the next cyberwar, new opportunities arise – a promotion to troubleshooter, a dodgy employee to check out, the chance at the latest in digital implants, and more trouble than she could have imagined, with only her wits to keep her one step ahead of getting killed. Lianne Medway, an enhanced police officer, investigating the murder of her old partner, is gunned down in what should have been the safety of a police barracks. On light duties, bereft of her powered armour, she pursues a lead and comes up against the ruthless Digital Tart. She knows she’s on the right track – people keep trying to kill her with ever-heavier weapons. The two women converge on the same target, unaware that he is a brutal mercenary employed by the Digital Tart. Their only chance is to decipher the puzzle, avoid getting shot and outsmart a trained killer.

[original submissions and comments here]

Nathan says:

While the specifics of any critique of this cover are different from those on the previous iteration, your reach still exceeds your grasp by a significant degree.  There are things here that are so wrong that an experienced designer would have trouble explaining why they’re wrong, because he would have internalized it to the degree that it becomes unconscious instinct:  the busyness of the background, the way the silhouette becomes absorbed into the skyline at thumbnail size, the too-small font sizes and the type treatment (especially on the byline) that is an impediment to reading…

I think you need to realize that cover design is a specific skill beyond the ability to operate PhotoShop, and that your book will be better off if someone with that specific skill creates your cover.  This is not an admission of failure, but an awareness of the role of expertise.  Just as you would not expect a cover designer to be able to write a compelling novel because of his track record in cover design, you should not expect to be able to design a good cover for your novel just because you wrote the novel.

Sorry, but it’s the truth.


  1. The author’s description suggests that there is a comedy/parody element to this book and it’s possible that the intent of the cover design was to be slightly ironic/tongue in cheek or a pastiche of 1980’s “futuristic” design.

    Unfortunately the execution here is poor and the cover fails on composition, colour and typography. There is little contrast between the silhouette of the woman and the background particularly where the figure touches the dark part of the building image. Circuit boards are not very futuristic and it’s placement in the sky area seems arbitrary.

    The typeface and chrome colour treatment are also very unattractive and the fact that the book title and author name are in the same font and colour treatment fails to emphasise either.

  2. OK. I have to say, this is better than the last one. But, it’s still a long way from what you need, for a marketable cover.

    I’d urge you to move away from that color scheme. It’s not doing the job of contrast that you (and all publishers) need.

    I don’t remember if I mentioned the article on CreativIndie or not, but I strongly recommend that you read this: . Then read it a second time, and apply the precepts to your cover design. I think you’ll see that you’re missing the boat.

    I can’t speak to your technical skills. I mostly don’t have those, myself. I couldn’t do what you’ve done here–not a chance. But I’ve got 3500 books’ worth of production experience, so I’ve developed a solid eye for a cover that shrieks “self-published!” and one that doesn’t. You’re still not in the latter category.

    I think that Nathan and Liam have given you solid advice–I think it’s time to shop for a professional cover designer. A lot of those who are starting out aren’t back-breakingly expensive, and can do a much stronger job for your novel.

    I really am dying to see the final result. As I said, this is a MUCH MUCH better cover than you started with, so you are definitely trending in the right direction. (Although, yeah, the chrome color for those fonts, and that typeface aren’t helping. The typeface might be doable, if you can get it a solid underpinning of design and find a color that works for it. Fonts are “my thing,” as you’d see here on, and I think you really CAN do a ton better. I get what you’re going for, but that one is both too cutesy and hard to read, at the same time. Not a winning combination, typically.)

  3. Closer…but, alas, still no cigar.

    The background does do a better job of theme-setting, but the enormous silhouette is not only off-putting but is uninformative…and difficult to make out since much of the figure is against a very dark background into which it blends…especially at thumbnail size.

    There really isn’t too much point in discussing the typography, since the image itself still doesn’t hit the mark.

    Like the others, I give you full credit for your efforts—which, frankly, are above average—but I also have to agree with the others that you might want to consult a professional designer.

  4. It is a lot, lot less awful than the last one – but it is still bad. So I simply second the other commentators, save your time and effort and give the job to a professional. I will just add that she seems to be falling backwards, besides the problems of bleeding to the background. Which seems to be a hodgepodge of photos and drawings? Or. looks like it is, which comes to the same effect for the person looking at it.

    1. And…that rough-up is a lot, lot, better. Yes, it’s rough, but it’s eye-catching and effectively intriguing, IMHO. I really hope the Submitter takes a look at it. 😉

    2. Thank you for taking the time to put that together.

      It is certainly eye-catching, but to me it says ‘The Matrix’ and worlds of virtual reality, which I think would disappoint potential readers expecting that sub-genre.

      1. If that’s a major concern for you, you might want to rethink the title. Lots of people here have come away with the idea that it has something to do with VR.

  5. Just a rough ten minute example of tone change. This is less science fictiony and more thriller. I don’t love this font, it’s a bit too busy but there are some really great ones that are bold and chunky with a hint of visual interest. I also think the buildings should be a bit bigger and more distinct but those are tweaks. This is meant to be an inspiration.
    changing the background and girl to set the tone but keeping the colors complimentary and simple. Any background could be used. This picture was free from pixabay with just a hue change. The digital print was also from there. The girl was from depositphoto and I just downloaded the thumbnail and enlarged it so she looks like crap but her pose is good. If you buy the pic it would be nice and crisp and only cost a few bucks. Pick a pretty girl doing something interesting and then colorize to match.
    I wish there was a way to whisper messages here… I feel like I’m spamming this thread.

    1. Well, I’m not Nathan (nor do I play him on TV…), but I find your mashups and mockups, etc., to be really helpful. You’ve done a couple that I thought were just what the submitter needed, so…if anyone’s interested in my “vote,” I don’t think you’re spamming. You or any of the others that take something and tweak it. It’s a hell of a lot more than I can do!

  6. You’ve got the basic elements we want to see (girls, buildings, something digital), but yeah, composition is everything. To me, silhouettes always scream “I couldn’t find a cover model who looked right.”

  7. My first impression is that the font choice is all wrong, and its colouring and effect do not fit in with the background, the text is competing with the background instead of standing out from it, due to similar colours and a weak font.
    A bold modern sans serif font for the author name would be better, in white, and more so for the title, with a bigger font, probably a condensed font.

  8. Wanted to say thank you to all of you. The CreativeIndie link is leading to lots of reading thanks Hitch. Thank you to SM Savoy for the mock-ups and it is interesting to see what can be done by re-colouring like that.

    I have heard the people saying I should go shopping for a professional designer – but there is a bigger “but” on cost than one book. I don’t know how familiar you all are with the sff markets – but there is a long history of some authors not completing series, or taking a very long time to do so – and that is traditionally published authors. So there is a section of sff fans who will not start buying a series traditionally or self-published until it is completed or at least well under way. Digital Tart is the first in a series. At the point the series is completed, what the market expects on the covers of this sub-genre may have changed – so the whole series might sell better if given a second run of covers to match the new market. If my own covers are still at the above average but below pro-designer, the best point economically to hire a designer is to re-cover all the books in the completed series. And then do more extensive marketing using those cover images and also be able to say “series completed”. (And, since the downsizing choice some years back, I am significantly richer in time than money!)

    I have been considering an alternative title. At present, “The Snark Hunters” is the front-runner, with ‘Digital Tart’ becoming the series banner.

    1. I like Snark Hunters. I concur with Hitch that if you’re going to change the title you should get rid of the original title altogether, as it will have the same issues whether it’s the main title or the series title.

  9. Well, I’ll leave commentary on the quality of the cover to the real designers here.

    However, I’d strongly vote for Snark Hunters over DT. Honestly, I’d probably urge you to reconsider Digital Tart even as a banner. I realize that the general belief is that SF is for boys, not girls–although I’d take exception to that idea–but “Tart” really may cause you more grief than it gets you readers. Offered solely FWIW.

    Believe me, I know well the reality of SFF and authors not completing series. OR taking forever. However, you may find that investing in your first cover is a worthwhile thing to do, or the reality of a series may never really take off. I cannot emphasize to you enough how important covers have become in this day and age. Don’t think that the strength of your story will overcome a poor cover–it won’t. Or that people will look past it–they won’t do that either. It’s kind of sucky, but it’s true.

    Good luck. BIG yes on TSH over DT, for what it’s worth. 🙂

  10. Mark,
    If you’re looking to bounce ideas on titles around, Scribophile has a group for that. You can get beta readers there, basically all things book related
    they also have a cover group were they help each other build a good cover. If you know you’re aiming for a series, it can be smart to plan out the next book cover even if the book itself isn’t finished yet to make sure you’re working with an idea with series potential. You don’t need a finished product but a solid rough draft will save you trouble later.

    I think you could make a great cover. Your first one was much better then my first…lol I like to think I’ve learned a lot, and I can thank the generous help of the people here for that. Like anything else, practice will make you better. Reading the older posts here can also teach you a lot.
    Nathan says this all the time but it’s worth repeating. The idea of the cover is to sell the book, so you have to know what sells in your genre.

    Don’t get caught up in the ‘art’ of it or try to tell the story.

  11. As several others have said, this is definitely an improvement over your first draft, but you’ve still got a long way to go. This cover’s much clearer than your previous effort, but the clarity simply shows up how you’ve mixed a lot of things that don’t match: the building on the left appears to be rendered, the one in the middle to be drawn, and the one on the right to be photographed, while the silhouetted protagonist is pretty obviously a photographed model run through a filter. As a rule, whatever else you do, try to have some consistency; cut and paste and photobombing are tags on Lousy Book Covers that we see come up on a hefty percentage of the covers there.

    Your description’s a bit more informative this time around, though it still leaves me a little uncertain of the genre; cyberpunk thriller with a touch of humor, perhaps? At least from your further comments, I can gather this isn’t a tale of virtual reality, though it does involve a fair amount of artificial intelligence and computing in general. That said, I still think you ought to change the title to reflect that this series is about a corporation and an artificial intelligence program rather than a virtual hooker or a flesh-and-blood prostitute operating in cyberspace; DigiTart Inc. would give prospective readers a far more accurate first impression of the subject matter in my opinion.

    As for what imagery to use, something more abstract probably would suit a cyberpunk thriller better than just another model with a gun and a pretty face, but try to keep it simple. Don’t layer random and vaguely computer-related images on top of each other like in your previous draft, and don’t try to mix different kinds of imagery the way you’ve done here. Any person or thing you put in the foreground should be fully integrated into whatever’s in the background, and done in the same style: if the one is drawn or rendered or photo-realistic, make sure the other is too.

    For a story such as this one, the abstraction I’d pick would probably be a shot of a maze with your protagonist(s) running through it. Either the walls of the maze would be made of rows of servers, or the various passages of the maze would be arranged in a pattern something like the circuits in a computer chip. For extra intrigue, you could show other things in the maze with the protagonist(s), such as blind ends in the maze containing various symbols of the potentially deadly dangers the protagonist(s) will have to face (e.g. a “bomb” emoticon or a shadowy profile of the villain holding a gun).

    In any case, try to make the cover match the mood of the story inside: if this is a tale of a tech gal who works at a phone sex operation being in deadly danger from having bitten off a bit more than she can chew with one of her latest clients, make sure she looks as desperate and frantic as we might expect any character to be in such a situation. Give the cover imagery the same level of energy as the story within. If your target audience is people who read thrillers, their best response (i.e. buying your book) is likely to be to a cover that looks… well… thrilling, you know?

  12. As a layman, I don’t think this cover is terrible – elements I like are the computer chip design in the sky, and the silhouette of the girl, which lends some mystery. I agree the colour contrast of the buildings is poor – and makes me wonder what role these sleek buildings play, when the author’s description talks about a dumpy apartment. Maybe keep the silhouette (and the gun) and replace the buildings with the circuit-board motif?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <blockquote> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong> <img src="">

Contact Form Powered By :