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Rumpelstiltskin’s Child [resubmit]

rumpel cover 5

rumpel cover 5

Nathan says:

I think you’re just exchanging your old problems for new ones.  Is there any reason that the white rectangle isn’t centered inside the borders? Of that the title is confined in that white space? Expand it out! The flowers on the right aren’t going to feel bad if you cover them up.  The title’s important; the flowers are background.

I understand what you’re trying to do with the gold ornamentation and gold flax, but this “gold” looks like dull brass, especially against that white background — not the impression you want to make.  In fact, the flowers on the border are a lot more eye-catching than the brassy flax-blob (which is what it ends up as in the thumbnail).

My first inclination would be to start over from scratch, but if I were to work from these elements, I’d:

  • eliminate the white rectangle entirely and fill the background with the flowers;
  • enlarge the title to fill the cover almost from edge to edge, and put it in white with a darker border to help it stand out from the border;
  • enlarge the byline and put it in a better font;
  • turn the flax bundle on its side and make it really stand out as golden — I might even experiment with it becoming more golden from left to right, with a full glow on the  right instead of random sparkles.

Other opinions?


  1. The flowers are pretty, as is the design on the left. the thing in the middle is not, and hard to make out what it is meant to be. So, what Nathan said: the title is now too small, set it free from its pen.

    You really like rectangular borders for some reason? Very plain, and very rectangular… the cover reminders me a little of some old, illuminated books, except that in those, even square borders would have some life, a crenellated edge, a bit of shading or something. Or they could be eliminated altogether?

  2. Seeing this version and comparing it with your first attempt, I was at first feeling inclined to say something peevish, like “for heaven’s sake just hire a *real* cover artist!” Then I read over some of the later comments in the first submission, and followed the link to some of your interior illustrations. That interior artwork is indeed charming, as someone else said. And it would be a shame for this book to end up with a cover that had no connection to the interior art.

    Ideally, I think it would be best if you could find a good cover artist you could collaborate with. There’s a big gap between the sort of interior artwork you do and what will “work” as a book cover, and I think a competent professional cover artist who sees your interior artwork would be able to work with you to bridge that gap.

    But if you positively can’t find a good collaborator that you can afford, then what you most need to do, in my opinion, is to study book cover design. Read what professional cover artists and critics have to say about good covers and what makes them good. Look at every quality cover you can find (children’s books and others) and analyze it to death. Read books about graphic design. Stare at covers until your eyeballs hurt. You talk in another comment about the time you’re putting into learning graphics software, which is great. But if that software is going to do you any good, you need to also be putting time into learning design.

  3. I agree with Nathan’s suggestion of starting over. I definitely think you would benefit googling Rumpelstiltskin images for some inspiration or brainstorm with friends. I feel your design is disconnected from the subject. You need to make that connection.

  4. Wait a minute. (1) This is a children’s picture book, and you’re the illustrator? Did I read that comment right in the first submission? (2) I searched on Amazon, after seeing you mention that you’re publishing your children’s books, and was surprised to see that this book was already published. I had previously been under the impression that you were searching for comments for a book yet-to-be released.

    If so, I still appreciate that you’re looking for feedback to grow as an artist, especially if you illustrate these books. But this background would certainly change my advice.

    Assuming that this is a picture book that you illustrated, really, I think you ought to stick with your original cover. Even if you paid good $$$ to put a fantastic cover on this book, it’s not going to be worth it because the illustrations inside the cover wouldn’t reflect a professional graphic design, right? It would be misleading, frustrating shoppers, and especially buyers who didn’t look inside first.

    What you need to do is ‘own’ your own style of illustrations, since that’s what’s inside the book. You just have to go with that, since that’s what you have. You want the cover to reflect what customers can expect on the inside. You will attract those customers who appreciate your style, and you’ll avoid most of the customers who wouldn’t (you don’t want them as customers in that case, so this is better than attracting the wrong audience by making a cover that’s different from what’s typical of your book). I’d go with your first attempt, as it shows people, and readers will find people inside the book, so it provides an indication of the style of people that will be found in the book.

    If you have multiple children’s books out, one thing you might do is create your own visual brand by making all the covers feature a signature style, so your fans will easily recognize all of your similar books.

  5. The off-center block within the decorative border emulates a medieval illuminated page layout. I think it looks very nice and gets across the period of the story very well. The problem lies with the rest of the cover.

    I would replace the bundle of flowers with something more immediately meaningful. I believe I understand the connection you’re going after, but that requires a pre-knowledge of the story and you don’t want to count on potential readers being already familiar with Rumpelstiltskin.

    If the image in the block were more interesting and involving, the border would attract less attention and consequently work better. At the moment, the eye is attracted to the border since it’s the most interesting thing on the cover.

    Since the title of the book is “Rumpelstiltskin’s Child” why not focus on just those two, and eliminate the woman? A tight closeup of R’s gnomish, bearded face and that of the baby he’s holding might be very striking. You could have the title itself spread across the full width of the page, overlapping the border of the central rectangle (since the word “Rumpelstiltskin” is so long, you need to give it as much room as you can).

    The initial “R” is a little too difficult to read. Decorative initials look nice inside the book, but you may want to abandon them on the cover. And while you are working on fonts, I would select one a little more appropriate for your name.

  6. Ok, Bonnie, I had about half an hour to kill so a took a shot at an example cover for your book. Perhaps it will offer some inspiration or advise you as to whether you feel up to the task or whether this is a case where you would be best served by hiring someone. It’s that important that your cover pops, Bonnie.

    Also, did you ever provide a synopsis of the book? If you did I must be going blind because I missed it.

    Anyway, best of luck to you.

  7. This is a way better idea–conceptually, the only thing I’d change is the wheat sheaf for something more eye-catching–but it’s still just not technically up to par. The edges of the gold parts are aliased, the borders are different widths on each side, and there are little jags and defects all around the inner gold border.

    And a number 39 in the corner.

  8. I really like the flowers. I like the gold thing on the side in principle, but it looks too flat. Can you colour it in (and the border as well) so it is stylistically similar to the flowers?

    Since the book is illustrated, I very much agree that the illustration in the cover must be in keeping with the illustrations inside. I would move the title up out of the white box and put it in a colour with a contrasting outline as Nathan suggested. I would move the author name to the bottom and do likewise, and fill the box with an illustration (get rid of the white)

    And TBH, I’m going to be harsh and say that the interior illustrations need some more work doing on them. I know they aren’t part of the cover, but since they are art I think this ought to be said, as some more work and care will make the difference between a charming book with quirky illustrations and something with potential that doesn’t work because it was rushed together with a cheap graphics program. The twiddly borders and flowery bits and illuminated letters are really stylised and individual, which is great, but the pictures of the people are poor and would benefit from being redrawn. For example, using the ‘look inside’ feature on Amazon on page 2 the rose border is nice, but the character is badly drawn and stinks of Microsoft Paint. On Page 3, that brown thing on the top left doesn’t look very nice, and what I think it looks like probably isn’t what you intended it to be. Page 4 the proportions of the people are better, but the image still looks like it was drawn with MS Paint with all those flat, blank blocks of computer colour. The woman on page 5 is much better, although the colouring could do with some tidying up to make her look less 8-bit. Page 8, really anatomically not correct (I get he’s meant to be an unattractive person, but he still needs to look realistic), and colour use is again uncreative.

    If you are using the paint program that came with your OS, try some alternatives. If you don’t want to shell out on Photoshop, try GIMP, which I believe is free and I’m told works well. Play with the different tools and practice to get more professional results.

  9. I really like your take on the cover, Adrian! The cover evidently needed a half hour’s thought as opposed to the fifteen minutes I gave it! I think we are both trying to steer Bonnie in the same direction: focusing on the two characters mentioned in the title. You were probably more helpful to her in finding a solution that required depicting no figures at all.

    So far as the interior art is concerned, I have only seen the wholly decorative pages. I didn’t know there were any illustrative ones. I’ll have to go back and see those.

    1. Ron, don’t look. I will be posting the improved (I hope) book on my website. I put complete copies of my picture books (with do not copy written on the pages) so that parents can read it before buying.

  10. Ditch the font at the top; Cezanne is well overused and will harm you more than help. Look at sites like My Fonts for something that would look well; don’t be afraid to ask on the forums. And don’t be afraid to buy a font, either – that $100 you might spend on a particular font may be easily made back if your book is a success.

    If you want my suggestion on a preferred font, if you’re looking at the brush script look, I would recommend Kolker Brush: If you’re going for the Blackletter look as hinted by the title’s drop cap, I’d recommend Dark Angel with the Dark Angel Underlight for the drop cap.

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