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Venia Online

The author says:

It’s in the Cyberpunk/ LitRPG genre, the setting is in the medieval times. Already published, but something feels missing.

Full Summary: What would you do if you woke up in a strange world which has three moons? What if you had no memory of how you got there? And what would you do, upon realizing that you are in a world manifests itself to you in the form of a videogame? The World of Venia promises action, adventure, mystery, intrigue, and danger at every turn. With the Dread King rising, the knights tired of fighting, the rogues resorting to kidnapping, and the mages rapidly declining, it is up to a modern day young man to navigate through this mad world of magic and beasts and deception – whether he wants to or not.

Nathan says:

I will admit, the LitRPG genre bewilders me — but apparently I’m not alone, as the story you describe sounds in all particulars like straight-up fantasy, with nary a whiff of the cyberpunk you cite.

My comments assume that the fantasy setting you describe really is the main flavor of the book; if the cyberpunk elements are stronger than they appear from your description, I disclaim what comes after.

We’ve seen several “here’s a weapon” fantasy covers at, but their problem lies not in the weapon itself, but that the presentation is so boring.  You, at least, have a weapon integrated into the background, and not just at a straight-up-and-down angle. The problem is that the image doesn’t “pop” — there’s not much contrast; everything is overwhelmingly gray.

How about put the sword hilt against a background of rich maroon velvet or brocaded cloth? For a bonus, I’d put spatters of blood or grime across the cloth toward the bottom.  The final result with have more color and more dynamic contrast to help it grab the eye of the Amazon shopper.

Other comments?


  1. Matrix-style columns of characters might take the place of the white leather in the background, possibly gold brocade letters on maroon velvet in keeping with Nathan’s suggestions, thereby injecting a cyberpunk element while also helping the sword to pop more. I am unsure how difficult it would be to actually produce such a background, it sounds hard, but it would look interesting. If you did manage this, you might need a higher resolution image of the sword to layer on top of it.

    A second suggestion, and rather an old school one, but instead of doing this through digital editing you could compose an actual photo. Get some maroon velvet cloth and perhaps a game controller, take them to local museum or hobby sword collector, and just arrange everything with one of their swords laid out on top of it. Bring a tripod and a bunch of white foam-core to make an impromptu shooting box, take dozens of duplicate shots, and one of them is likely to end up looking perfect. It probably wouldn’t cost you more than the price of the fabric from a local Jo-Anns.

    1. Necessary caveat: YOU MUST BE A GOOD PHOTOGRAPHER. There are too many covers at LBC in which the author photographed random objects with poor lighting, haphazard layout, etc.

  2. Kristopher’s suggestion about employing matrix-like columns of numerals and characters would go a long way towards alleviating the cover’s main problem: it is impossible to tell from the title and cover image what this book is about. There is absolutely nothing whatsoever that suggests anything at all like what you describe in the blurb. This cover, in fact, would be a good candidate for a test I have often suggested: if you were to see this book with its title in a foreign language, would you be able to deduce what it might be about?

    I would suggest that you start again from scratch with an entire different image.

  3. So far as I can see, what’s missing is anything to distinguish this book from any other book in both its own genre and many other related ones. As with many other submitted covers here that were otherwise decent, its problem is that it’s simply too generic: while a nice big broadsword on the cover certainly calls to mind medieval knights and all the romanticized views of medieval times associated with them, that’s pretty much all it calls to mind. Beyond that, lacking your description, the genre for this book might be anything from an airy medieval romance to a Game of Thrones-style dark fantasy.

    As an overwhelming number of RPGs throughout the decades have typically been set in medieval times or something resembling medieval times (thanks in large part to the popularity of Dungeons & Dragons in its various incarnations), a cover that simply says “Hey, this is set in something like medieval times!” isn’t going to draw much interest. You need to show prospective readers what makes your story so different from all the others. To this end, even a much more colorful and detailed picture of a sword surrounded by more medieval trappings as my colleagues are suggesting here won’t help you much; basically, it’s already been done to death.

    From your description, what’s evidently unique about this story is that the player from our time apparently knows he’s in a video game, and is not too happy to be there. How to portray that on a cover? Well, depending on how sophisticated this game is, why not simply give us a photograph of said player with modern clothing and equipment (e.g. a T-shirt and jeans and a cell phone) standing smack-dab in the middle of an obviously rendered simulation of the quasi-medieval world?

    To play up the contrast between the real and the simulated, maybe you could also show him holding one of the video game world’s simulated swords and giving it a skeptical look as if to say “I’m supposed to use this thing? You’re kidding, right?” Stories about people from our world getting caught up in cartoons, movies, television shows, or games are nothing new (The Last Action Hero, Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and Jumanji come immediately to mind), but I can’t (so far) recall ever hearing about any in which a guy who doesn’t like to play RPGs ends up being forced to play an RPG from the inside. In other words, you’ve got at least one fairly original premise to your credit; so play to your strength by portraying that particular premise on your cover.

  4. I am also baffled by litRPG, but hey, this isn’t Genre Critics.

    The challenge with litRPG is that, like Choose Your Own Adventure, the main novelty is the format, not the content. Even a cover that clearly communicates “guy trapped in a computer game” doesn’t quite do it, because that just suggests something like Ready Player One, and not the all-important fact that there are die rolls and character stats written on the page–something that your audience will be seeking out, but is a dealbreaker to everyone else.

    I don’t really have a better solution than “slap a banner on it that says ‘A LitRPG Adventure’ or similar, with some kind of MMO-looking branding.”

    As for the actual imagery, I can imagine two routes. One is some variant on “modern guy in a fantasy computer world” (I was envisioning a realistic fantasy landscape dissolving into 8-bit pixels). Just take care that any combination of real man/rendered landscape doesn’t look like a bad photoplasty.

    The other is just to do what everyone else in your genre does, go on DeviantArt, and pay a few bucks for someone’s “knight fighting evil king” picture. That seems to be the convention for litRPG: Stock fantasy art plus a prominent label saying “litRPG”. So that’s what your fans will be looking for.

  5. I do somewhat disagree with katz on the ‘convention of litRPG’ – like fantasy, there are a lot of moody magic people, but the moodily lit item on dark background is not unheard of. See Also I believe that readers of the genre are capable at looking it up – a lot of covers seem to be like fantasy covers in any case. Perhaps a bit behind the curve, as a lot of fantasy now tries to not look like generic fantasy.
    I do like the picture but I note that the resolution is quite low. As such I am not sure how good it is on full resolution – now the white just bleeds out the background in places. So that in mind, here is my quick fix solution: add colour. The background could have a slight blue tint, and the text could be blood red, for example, making it more readable at the same time – and the litRPG would also be more visible. You could also place that on a banner or to the left of the sword, there are now 2 sort of empty niches there. The text is OK, but you might try a more ‘exiting’ font as well, for the title – the placing is slightly off. The byline has no margin below it, while there is a lot of space above the title, and again no margin to the right of it.

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