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From Leya’s Eyes

The author says:

It’s a young adult fantasy. Leya has two different coloured eyes and is chosen to attend the Sphere of Vision, even though one eye may be too weak to fulfill her potential. She develops power over both water (blue) and plant (green). THIS IS NOT MY BLURB. It needs work.



Nathan says:

The face is a good, striking image. Is there any reason that the top and sides of her head aren’t there?

Neither the title font or the byline font really strike me as being right. I want to see the title be bigger and less “hesitant”; you can reduce the size of the series title to make room if you want.  And adding a lighter highlight to the title will make it pop with more contrast.

The thin letters of the byline get lost against the energetic shape of the flower.  I’d find a way to separate those two elements so they’re not competing directly against each other.

More ideas?



  1. I would remove that blue ‘water?’ background completely. It is not working in her hair anyways, and I can see the pixels in it.

    Just use a full picture of the face. No fade outs. Just the face. To the edge. It would be more striking.

    What is the flower there for? That is a question that must be asked. Why is it even needed. It is distracting from the face and the fonts. If you want to keep in on there, make is much smaller, and have it as a break from the image and your name.

    Otherwise I agree, that font colour isn’t doing this any favours, nor is that font, nor is that heavy drop shadow. If there must be something to help the font stand out, I suggest either an outline, or have black bars at the top and bottom, to put the text in, to keep it off her face.

    The eyes are striking and not overworked. So that is good. Maybe change the glow on each to match the eye slightly, not too much, stay subtle! This would suggest they are glowing that colour and magic.

    Certainly a great start!

    1. What font would you suggest for the title? I want a feminine fantasy hand-written chronicle feel but not hard to read. The name stays as it is part of my brand. All my YA, NA, and adult books have the same name style. It does look better without the water or flower. Making the eyes glow in color is tricky.

      1. It isn’t even the font necessarily that needs to change. It is the treatment of the font.
        The colour is just too rich. The drop shadows are unnecessary. It looks stamped on her forehead.
        You may not need to change the font at all, just how it is treated.

        It is a little weak though. Look how much room your name takes up. The Title should take up just as much, and I don’t really even think it looks particularly feminine, just pink.

        If you want a chronicle look then maybe a Script font would be better. Look online, there are great examples of people that can really lay out some nice script. 🙂 I don’t often enough to be an expert.
        Here is a nice font though maybe?

        Good luck!

  2. I was feeling ‘writey’ today. This may give you a start! 🙂

    Blessed with powers over both the blue magic of water, and the green magic of plants thanks to her Heterochromia, a colour difference between the irises, Leya has amazing untapped potential never before seen in the world of Eyesmagica(?).

    When she is chosen to attend the Sphere of Vision, a school that trains young mages in the mystical colour magics(?), she is forced to contend with both sides of herself.

    Will Leya learn control over both types of magic and become a unique mage of unequal measure, or will the dueling elemental forces inside her tear her apart?

  3. Yeah, lose the water and probably the flower.

    Soften the edges of her irises and the highlights on the pupils to make the picture look more naturalistic. If you keep the flower, erase those dark edges to get rid of the cut-and-pasted look.

  4. Yeah, the face being “excised” from the rest of her head gives me a creepy vibe — and not creepy in a good way. And the water is pixelated anyway. If you lose the water background and don’t do the fuzzy-edged copy-paste of just her face, you might be able to zoom in a little more on her eyes, which would increase the impact.

    Other than that I think it’s a pretty good cover!

  5. Thanks for the great suggestions. I got rid of the water and plant. Added some colour to the eye glow. Expanded her face to the sides of the cover. Used cream for the outline of the title. But am still looking for a font that works – fantasy, feminine, powerful, chronicle.

    I’d post the cover here but I don’t know how to include a picture in the comments.

    1. Do a “resubmit” request (submit the new cover and note that it’s a resubmit). Nathan’s great about posting it as a new thread with links to the original for comparison.

    2. I think the author name font could work if it’s used sympathetically. Use it for the author name and the title, and use something very plain and simple for the series title.

  6. Working, as I do, with covers for commercial traditional publishers, I am all too often astonished at the impatience of self-published authors. A cover for a traditionally published book may go through many stages from sketch to rough to finish, with each step refining the cover ever further…while all too many self-published authors will throw in the towel after only one or two changes…as though they cannot possibly be bothered with any further.

  7. Actually, Ron, it’s gone through more changes than I can count. I didn’t share them all here.

    The book is supposed to be an old journal that’s why I chose the texture. I don’t like the photograph look for this novel. It’s too modern, glossy, modelish. That’s why I didn’t use a photo for the first two designs (several versions of water and fire, then several versions of the red water frothing.)

    I made several dozen versions with eight different girls for this version. I put in at 40-50 hours on this last version.

  8. You ran squarely up against a problem that faces most authors trying to design their own book covers: the lack of objectivity. It is far too easy to forget that the reader hasn’t the intimate knowledge of the book you possess. The result is that visual elements get included that make perfect sense to you…but which may puzzle or confuse the uninformed reader. The background texture on your present cover is a good case in point. You know that it is supposed to represent the page of an old journal, so to your eye it does. Unfortunately, it looks like neither old paper or parchment. In fact, the first thing I thought was “canvas,” and assumed you were trying to emulate the look of a painting.

    I would, first of all, choose a texture that is more obviously old paper or parchment–tears, stains and all. Secondly, if you are trying to avoid the appearance of a photograph in the face of the girl, I would not use a full-color photo. Making it a sepia tone would help alleviate that and it would also integrate the image into the background better. Leaving the eyes in color (with a broad, soft edge, to avoid a cut-and-paste look), would enhance their effect significantly. If I were doing the cover, I would make the text look as though it were part of the page as well, but that is probably more surgery than you’re willing to undergo at this stage.

    Let me reiterate my original point. Objectivity is at one and the same time one of the most important qualities a cover designer needs and one of the most difficult to achieve–especially if the author and cover designer are one and the same. A cover needs to attract and inform, not mystify or confuse. To do this, visual elements need to be selected carefully: they need to get across the idea or character of the book without requiring any special or prior knowledge of the book by the potential reader. This can be a delicate balance to achieve in the best of circumstances.

    There is also the need to keep a book cover simple: no more should be included than is absolutely necessary to get across the idea of the book in a brief glance. “Less,” as Mies van der Rohe said, “is more.”

    Both of these things are understandably difficult for the self-publishing author to achieve. It can be hard to resist the temptation to include things that seem of vital importance, or even to include everything that seems important. It can also be very hard to remember that what may seem crystal clear to the author may leave the potential reader scratching their head.

    I very much appreciate how much time and effort you may have already put into your cover. I make a good part of my living creating covers for traditionally published books and magazines, so I understand all too well how many steps it can take in fine-tuning a cover. However, the difference is that I am working with editors and art directors who don’t have a personal interest in the book. They are not trying to please the author–which is not the goal of any good cover (though everyone does hope the author will be happy)–but rather to create something that does the book justice and help sell it to readers. Which, of course, is the primary, indeed sole, goal of any book cover.

    The difference between what I will go through in creating a cover and in the 40-50 hours (!) you spent on yours before posting it here is that you had only yourself to please. I suspect you may have had only your own subjective eye to judge the results by. No one here saw any of these prior efforts: only the one version you posted for criticism before declaring the next one final and locked. And those versions are the only ones we can comment on. It’s entirely possible that had you had objective input much earlier on you may have saved a great deal of time and effort.

    1. I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s “objectivity” that makes the difference so much as simply an outside perspective. As the editor Charles Sheffield noted in his introduction to the Science Fiction compilation How To Save The World, the reason a bunch of space aliens might be able to give us better advice on how to save our world than any of our fellow humans could is not that they would necessarily be any more intelligent than we are, but that they would be sympathetic outsiders who aren’t emotionally invested in our situation. As he summarizes, “And what am I doing that will later prove disastrous? I don’t know. I need a sincere friend, emotionally sympathetic but not directly involved, to warn me and to guide me.”

      That’s how it is with books and their covers too. We readers aren’t exactly objective, but we are potentially sympathetic to the author and artist’s situation while not being directly involved. We can tell her where the picture is grabbing at our guts or our heartstrings and where it’s punching us in the stomach and spitting in our eyes. When I saw those heterochromatic eyes on this cover, they immediately got my attention; I’ll bet that’s the first part you noticed too. The more negative aspects of the cover only became apparent as I looked around and noticed all the obnoxiously hard edges between pasted-in elements that betrayed the artist’s lack of experience with layering and merging, and then read others’ complaints about the pixellated water and the way the various elements and their placement clashed with each other.

      What the author and artist knows is what effect she intended each part of the cover to have on us. What we know is how we actually received it. We’re no more objective about this than she is, but we know something important that she doesn’t, which is what this cover makes people who aren’t the author and artist think and feel when they see it. That’s why a professional artist and/or writer should always get an outside opinion before putting his or her works on the market: professional or not, the critic who isn’t directly involved with the work’s production is almost certain to spot aspects of it that its producer(s) didn’t, and give warning if any of them might prove to be a fatal flaw.

  9. Of course, even if you’ve finalized your book cover now, there’s always the possibility, if you succeed at selling it, that you’ll do another edition someday, especially if you get around to writing a long series of them. In any case, if you do bring out a second edition, I have a few recommendations for that cover.

    First, whatever else you do, keep those blue-and-green eyes. Leya’s heterochromatic eyes are obviously an important element to the story, they do make for a striking image, and factoring these appeals together makes them a strong selling point for this book for any potential reader browsing through fantasy titles.

    Second, you don’t necessarily need to keep anything else from this first cover for the second edition, and by anything I mean anything. Don’t get me wrong: Leya as portrayed on this cover is a beautiful woman; she reminds me more than a little of Milla Jovavich as she appeared in The Fifth Element, in fact. Speaking of beautiful actresses, however, there’s a reason you might want to leave your characters’ appearances, however striking, to your readers’ imaginations: should your book ever be adapted into a movie (a remote possibility, I know, but quite real if you go on to have any success), leaving characters’ faces to the readers’ imagination also makes it easier for the people adapting it into a movie to do the casting.

    As such, you might want to show only Leya’s eyes on the covers of future printings. Thanks to tinted contacts and hair dye, virtually any pretty girl can play Leya as a redhead with blue and green eyes in a movie. Milla Jovavich, however, is already getting rather advanced in years, and there aren’t that many up-and-coming actresses available who have a face resembling hers. Take a lesson from the cover of Stephen King’s Firestarter, which originally showed just a pair of eyes in the darkness gazing through a flame. When that book got made into a movie, virtually any little tow-headed girl could have played little Charlene McGee, the titular character with the pyrokinetic powers. Back when he wrote that novel, however, neither Stephen King nor anyone else knew that young Drew Barrymore was going to be that actress.

    Third, if a pair of eyes on the cover seems rather lonely by itself, you certainly might want to add other elements from the story. You refer to this as Book One in the “Sphere of Vision” series. Maybe you could show us this Sphere of Vision with the eyes hovering over it? (Unlike actresses with a distinctive look, props for a fantasy movie are cheap and easy to customize.)

    Also, while the flower and the water on this cover didn’t mesh well with the girl’s face, I can understand why you were trying to slip in a couple of subtle symbols about how Leya’s eyes give her power over both the ancient “elements” of earth and water. If this Sphere of Vision is anything like a crystal ball, an obvious way to work both of these elements into the cover would be to portray a forest or jungle landscape with a lake (symbolizing the water) below the horizon and all the flowers and greenery (symbolizing the earth) above the horizon, all appearing within that Sphere of Vision. That way, you’ve got all the story’s major elements appearing in one place and the reader will have some idea what to expect even before turning the book over to read the blurb on the back cover.

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