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Rumpelstiltskin’s Child

rumple coverkindle

rumple coverkindle

Nathan says:

I know I’m going to hurt some feelings here, but it has to be said: The art doesn’t meet the standards for a professional cover. It just doesn’t.

On top of that, the Verdana font used for everything except the initial “R” in “Rumpelstiltskin” is leaden and unexciting, and the plain brassy border and dark navy background are just boring. ย This is a book about a fairytale world — it should be lively and visually exciting and magical.

Everything could be fixed except that artwork. There’s just no recourse for it except to start over again — either with a different artist, or with the same artist after three to five years of hard practice and the commensurate increase in skill.

Anyone think differently?


  1. I have to concur with Nathan, and again neither of us mean offense. We have all had attempts at designs we later found flaws with and had to start over. At least I know I have. Sadly this current design screams amateur in every way. I would suggest that you go to a bookstore or Google book covers for works in your genre. Find something you like and use it as a guide (don’t copy it). They say that imitation is the most sincere for of flattery, so imitate those you find to be great. It will be harder work, but I think you will find the outcome worth it. If at the end of the day, if all else fails, there is absolutely no shame in seeking the services of someone who does this sort of thing professionally. I think you should give it at least a few more tries yourself before going that route though. Best of luck. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Yup; more agreement here. The art is just amateurish and ugly, especially in the mother’s face. Her expression is a nasty scowl, but I get the impression that the artist isn’t aware that that is what her expression looks like.

  3. Please do your book justice: don’t use that art. If you can’t afford better art, your book will be better served by a really great font on a textured background, no borders. Maybe add a beautiful stock art of a lock of hair or something that is a relevant to your story. But no hand drawing, please.

    A book cover does not have to be literal, but it has to intrigue, attract and give a hint of the genre.

    Go for something like these instead: (without the AIA horror)

  4. FWIW, I think the concept here is fine (I’ve always preferred covers with real illustrations to covers with an Evocative Single Object), but yes, pretty much all the elements need to be improved significantly.

  5. Ugh. That is some ugly artwork. Sorry.

    For something old timey like this can you use old artwork like museum collections, monet, stuff like that (assuming you take the pic yourself.) Can you legally use old paintings a hundred years old or is there a copyright issue?

    1. You can legally use any painting created before 1928. If it’s a painting hanging in a museum, you would have to take the photo yourself since a photo of a painting can be copyrighted even if the painting itself is in the public domain. But be careful even doing that since many museums have specific rules about photography.

      Even if you do choose to use a classic painting, it should have some conceptual connection with the book.

      Rumpelstiltskin is a story that’s been illustrated by artists for a very long time. Perhaps you can find an appropriate existing image that is old enough to be free to use.

      1. While the idea is fine, I would be cautious about using an illustration that would appear dated today. The covers with the objects and textures posted by Lucie are much more modern and will probably hold more appeal to a modern audience.

        1. You still need to be careful. If the photographer did any significant work in enhancing the photo, changing it markedly in some way or in correcting problems in the artwork (for instance, eliminating tears, cracks, scratches, missing sections or other flaws), it’s possible that it may not come under the exception that “a photograph which is no more than a copy of a work of another as exact as science and technology permits lacks originality [and is therefore in the public domain]” since an exact reproduction would have contained all the flaws.

          And unless you are intimately familiar with the original work, you probably won’t know whether the photo of it is an “exact copy” or not.

          It is also important to point out that this is not law…it is based on a court decision that is not binding on other court. Though most have followed it, it would probably not be the most prudent thing in the world to count on that. There is also Schiffer Publishing v. Chronicle Books, I should point out, which was declared in favor of the photographer when the court decided he had added enough to the artwork he had been photographing to make a significant difference, thereby making his photos copyrightable.

          The point is that unless the photo of a work of art is specifically labeled as being in the public domain you may be running a risk in using it. In other words, don’t make assumptions.

          The sage advice of the US Copyright Office is that whenever you plan to use any image that you did not create yourself, it is always safest to make absolutely certain that you either have permission or that the work is clearly in the public domain. It is never a good idea to simply assume that it is.

          This is all worth making a point of because copyright infringement can bring some pretty severe penalties. I’ve been on the happy side of such a suit and can vouch for that.

          There are many sources for photos and art that are meticulous about making certain the work they display and make available is in the public domain—Wikpedia Commons is one of these. The Library of Congress is another and I am sure there are any number of my colleagues in CoverCritics who can probably point you toward additional legitimate sources. Just be careful to not jump to the conclusion that something is free to use simply because it was online and there was no copyright attached.

          1. It’s also important to remember that a “faithful reproduction of 2D art” is only in the public domain if the copyright on the original art has expired. And you can only be certain of that if the original art was created before 1923.

  6. This looks really familiar. Was it featured in the other side – the dark side so to speak? It truly is a bad picture, at least the faces. Well, the only part that is OK is the mother’s hair. I do wonder what people have said when you showed this to them? If they said it is fine, I would not accept any advice from them in the future. There’s no shame in not being good at everything: I would find someone else to do the cover for you.

  7. I was really surprised when I saw the interior art. A beautiful combination of medieval illumination and modern design. Perhaps the author should consider carrying some of that sensibility onto the cover.

        1. Thanks. Those are mine. I’ve tried to make the full page pictures better. The criticism I received from Canadian Review of Materials was that the full colour pages don’t match the text pages in quality. I’ve never been great a drawing people and now that I’m learning how do use photoshop it’s a pretty steep learning curve. I used to paint with acrylics but can’t keep my hand steady enough because of a Parkinson’s tremor in my right hand. With digital painting I can anchor my hand on the tablet. I’m torn between spending my time learning to effective use digital illustration and getting all the books I want to do out there before the tremors becomes to difficult to control at all. I foolishly waiting until I retired from teaching (early for medical reasons) to begin writing full time and the clock is ticking. At the moment, I’m madly going through all the “Digital Tutor” on line classes on using Photoshop, illustration and digital painting. They’re incredibly helpful but take hours to watch. The current book I’m working on is Monkey Counts to 100. No people! (I can’t afford to hire an artist as I don’t have a full pension. If I win the lottery…)

          I redid the cover without people. I hope this one is better. I’m a little leery of the fancy script as very young children won’t be able to read it.

          1. Dang. Excuse the typos. I should have checked before posting. Parkinson’s is turning my typing into jibberish. Tremor and my brain typing different words than I’m thinking. ๐Ÿ™

          2. You really should just hire an artist if you can. Your writing is charming and the layout is really interesting, but even the interior art is just not professional quality, and teaching yourself to paint in Photoshop at a professional level is going to be extremely difficult and will involve a long stint where you’re really good for an amateur but still not good enough to illustrate your own book. I know because that’s where I am.

  8. Katz, I’m 61 with Parkinson’s so I’ll probably be dead before I can put in my 10,000 hours to reach a decent level of skill, but I hope you don’t say that to everyone. Everyone is different. If you’ve given up, that’s fine but it doesn’t mean you should tell others to give up. I’m not trying to be a professional artist. I’m illustrating my own children’s picture books and, so far, parents, teachers, and children really like them. There’s a difference between being an illustrator and an artist. I have no illusions of becoming an artist but I do believe I can be a competent illustrator. I’m not saying children don’t deserve good art, but not all books are at the same level.

    I think I’m going to try cartoonish characters for a while.

    After conflicting advice from here, facebook, linkedin, and goodreads, I’ve come up with three possibities. They’re here


  9. “Thereโ€™s a difference between being an illustrator and an artist.”

    Actually, no, there isn’t. There has never been a good illustrator who has not also been an good artist.

    In its original sense, an illustration was a picture that helped make a story easier to understand: it “illuminated” it (“illustration” and “illumination” evolved from the same root words). Eventually, illustration came to mean any artwork that told a story–which includes about 90 percent of all art history. Norman Rockwell did this brilliantly as a commercial artist…but so did Michelangelo, who was doing nothing more than illustrating the Bible. So there is, in fact, a very, very broad grey area separating “fine art”–which might be said to be art created for its own sake–and “illustration”–which is art that is meant to “illuminate” or convey a story.

    The point, of course, is that it takes an artist to create either one.

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