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Stumbling Aboard

The author says:

This is the true story of a first mate who agrees to a two-year voyage aboard a 44-foot, schooner to impress her new boy friend. She lacks basic sailing, seamanship, and swimming skills while he is competent but sometimes difficult. Their trip begins in California, continues down the west coast of Mexico and Central America, through the Panama Canal, to Colombia, Venezuela and through the Caribbean to Florida. Experienced blue water sailors will love the adventures. Travel readers will enjoy a book that uses sailing terminology sparingly.



Nathan says:

You’ve got a good cover photo — it’s obviously a sailboat, but not just a sailboat, and focuses as much on interesting landscape at the horizon as on the boat itself. So let’s change the type around so that it supports the photo instead of fights against it.

First: Take a look at the nonfiction books you know. 99 times out of 100*, the title and subtitle are separated not with a colon, but with a different line, a different type size, and often a different typeface. The title is more important that the subtitle, so make it look more important.

Second: The Verdana-esque font is too common and unremarkable to add anything to the cover. If the two-word title were large enough to extend from side to side, it would be large enough that a more ornate or complex font wouldn’t limit the readability (don’t go overboard, though). How about something strongly classical or historic-looking? Maybe something hand written? You can then render the subtitle in a font that’s clearly readable, but more interesting than Verdana.

Third: The way the subtitle slops down into the bottom half of the photo makes it look like the type was placed without knowing what image would go behind it. Don’t let the type fight against the photo; place it all in the top half of the cover so it doesn’t get lost against the mountains.

Fourth: “By” is unnecessary for identifying the author, and the added room gained by deleting it would allow the author’s name to be larger and more easily readable. (Placing a slight halo around the name will keep it from getting lost against the photo.)

Here’s a five-minute mockup of the kind of fonts and type placement you could use (I didn’t have access to the original image, so just imagine this on top of the sailboat photo).  These are probably not the fonts I would decide one, but they were the closest ones to hand that approximated what I’m talking about.


Other ideas?

*And the other one is an accounting report to the board of directors that’s supposed to look boring.


  1. Nathan’s right about use of the image, and the layout. I’d go with a more upright script font and make it smaller to harmonize with the sub-title. And yes, use that open space in the middle for the main focus of the sailing image.

    Since the main action in the image is at the bottom, you could consider putting the author up with the title as well instead of it getting lost in the noise at the bottom.

  2. This goes off of what has already been said.

    The black font is nigh unreadable. The problem being that it travels all over the photo like it owns the place, crossing all sorts of colours and it gets lost in-between. In the Brown and the blue water, you can barely see it, which makes it jarring.

    When changing around the font, be sure and avoid crossing any colours, unless you take measures to improve readability, such using a lighter colour as the font with a black border. That will help with your visibility.

    The book description sounds fun, and I feel that perhaps the cover doesn’t express the fun involved. Bumbling around being a horrible first mate with elements of love involved certainly sounds more fun that a picture off a boat, sorry.

    An idea maybe with a little heart added? (Finding sailor girls was harder than I thought)
    Something cute maybe, if the story is cute!

    Lastly, I am not a big fan of that Tagline. It also doesn’t feel ‘fun’ and may be a bit long. I think something like this may flow better: The Tale of the Reluctant First Mate

    Just some thoughts! 🙂

  3. I agree with Nathan about the text treatment. Using what he did would vastly improve the design, but I’d move the subtitle over to the right where there is some dead space.

    My problem with the cover is the photo. It’s too static. Take a look at these covers, similar topic:

    There’s movement, and a person in the photo.

  4. The font and the picture are fighting for sure. Do you really need the subtitle? I think fewer words would help to make the photo clearer and stronger and follow the above suggestions as well.

  5. It is very common in nonfiction for the title to be very large so as to be easily readable in the thumbnail, but with this image, it’s important to maintain easy readability of key words in the title without drowning out the image. On the other side, the author’s name is drowning in the image. The image and text need to work better together.

  6. The cover is simply too complicated, as everyone has already pointed out.

    The title and subtitle should not be the same size: the title takes precedence. You could make the subtitle half the size it is now or smaller. Which would also mean you wouldn’t need the colon.

    The typeface is too anonymous: try to find something that better conveys the sense and feeling of the book.

    Try to avoid placing type over complex areas of the art. If you want to keep the photo, place the title in the upper right area, over the sky. (The asymmetry would balance the mass in the lower left of the photo.) You could then reduce the effect of the boat’s rigging by placing a soft “glow” around the type that matches the color of the sky. This all goes for your name as well: it is completely lost against the background. You could also enhance the contrast between the title and the background by making the type a color other than black. Even white would be better.

    If you follow the advice above, there should be plenty of room for you to put your name in the same area as the title (and, by the way, lose the “by” in the process: it is unnecessary).

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