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Tokyo Black

The author says:

I am the author of this book. It was published in 2016, but I am considering a cover redesign for the series.

Tokyo Black introduces readers to Thomas Caine, a former CIA assassin. Betrayed and left for dead, he has put his past behind him. Now he lives off the grid, in the seedy underworld of Pattaya, Thailand. But when local gangsters set him up for a crime he didn’t commit, his old CIA masters make him an offer he can’t refuse: rot in a hellish Thai prison, or accept a dangerous mission in Tokyo, Japan.

The book is a spy action thriller. There are three other books in the series, which all follow a similar design treatment. Readers compare the style of the books to Vince Flynn, Ian Fleming, Barry Eisler, etc. It has a cinematic, high action feel, with a mysterious streak, and a heavy emphasis on Tokyo and the Yakuza.

Nathan says:

It’s very well put together, but I can also understand the impulse to redesign, especially if it’s been a few years and your sales are leveling off — it’s time to attract some new eyeballs!

I don’t think this cover is too busy (the elements of the background blend into a good backdrop for the main character silhouette), but when doing a periodic redesign, I always think, “What can I flip to catch the attention of those it didn’t hook the first time around?” So instead of blue, I’m thinking red. Instead of a full background, I’m thinking a few strings of half-toned brush-written kanji, at an angle to the edges of the cover.  Instead of a silhouette from the back, I’m thinking a posterized view of a man with a gun from the front.  Sort of like this:

Note: Do NOT use that stock model photo. It was on the first page of search results of “man with a gun” on Shutterstock, which means that it’ll be overused and overexposed.  But this at least illustrates my idea.

Other comments?


Catslay [resubmit]

The author says:

Basically, this is a novel about a boy who gets turned into a cat and then eventually takes up a career in killing evil people. For further details, see the description on my earlier submission when this was called Catslash. (I changed the title because for all of the slaying taking place in this story, none of it is actually done with bladed weapons or claws as a literal reading of that title would have suggested.) While it’s a bit more sophisticated than my first cover, this is still just a scratch cover. I’d much prefer to show the protagonist standing over an actual corpse rather than a chalk outline (especially since that’s a television cop show cliche; real police don’t actually do that), but so far haven’t been able to find a suitable stock photo of such.

Genre: Suburban Horror-Fantasy, which is basically the same thing as its Urban counterpart, but with the setting being mainly in various relatively affluent and wholesome-seeming suburban neighborhoods rather than gritty inner-city ghettos.

[original submission and comments here]


Nathan says:

The cover’s completely different, but the same criticisms hold true:  Your book doesn’t look like any variety of urban fantasy.  When readers who like urban fantasy are look for their next read, this is what they expect to see:


Protagonists. Dramatic colors, with lots of highlights and shadows. Nimbuses (nimbi?) and glows and arcs of energy.

If you are trying to appeal to that audience, you need to market your book in the manner in which your potential readers will instantly know that this book is for them.

You’ll either need to (a) break down and hire a cover artist, or (b) at the very least, brows and similar sights for finished artwork which you can license.  Note that the cover does not need to be a literal interpretation of an event or setting from the novel; it needs to say, THIS IS AN URBAN FANTASY AND YOU WILL ENJOY IT.

Other comments?

High and Low

The author says:

Hi, I am the author of this book. This is not ready for publishing cover, but the design is (hopefully) complete.

About the book: This is a non-fiction memoir about a 600 mile hike whilst coming to terms with depression. The hike took place in 2015 in Scotland. Target audience both male and female, ages between 20 to 60, those who enjoy outdoor adventures, and those seeking help with depression.

Nathan says:

I don’t really have any complaints as far as the technical aspects; a thin gray border would keep the white of the cover from bleeding continuously onto the webpage background, and I’m not a fan of the mottled toning around the figure, but neither of those is a big concern.

The bigger problem is the mood — something about the whole layout and color scheme leans more toward “comedy” than “depression memoir.”  Obviously, since that’s a photograph of you at the time, you’re hampered in how much you can switch it around; my instinct would be to have a figure seen from the back, with a Scottish landscape in front of him fading into muted tones, and the words showing up white.

But maybe there’s more wry humor in here than you let on.  Or maybe the other commenters will have opinions at odds with mine.

(When I read your description, I turned to my wife and said, “I’m not sure that Scotland is what I’d hike across to battle depression, unless I was trying to replace it with poignant melancholy.”)

Other opinions?

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?

Stax Encyclopedia

The author says:

A non faction book that is something of a companion volume to The Motown Encyclopedia, this book contains 650 entries connected to Stax Records. These range from the label imprints (Stax, Volt, Enterprise, Hip etc), the artists (Isaac Hayes, Otis Redding, Staple Singers, William Bell etc), key musicians (Steve Cropper, Booker T Jones, Wayne Jackson), executives (Al Bell, Jim Stewart) and background stories to every record to have reached at least the Top 20 of the R&B chart. The cover attached is pretty much the finished thing.

Nathan says:

I have a technical comment, and a genre-specific comment:

Technical: The letters of “Encyclopedia” need to lean slightly to the left so that the upright strokes are parallel to the vertical gridlines on the marquee.

Genre-specific: Readers expect a non-fiction book to have more explanation on the cover, telling them exactly what the book is about.  You have that wonderful open space above the marquee that’s just begging for something like “The Definitive 40-Year Story of the Legendary Label That Brought Us Isaac Hayes, Otis Redding, and the Staple Singers.”

Other comments?

Waiting in the Tears of the Moon

The author says:

After waking up in a past life, Kara Walker must find the Moon Princess and prevent her murder.

Nathan says:

I have absolutely no complaints about the technical aspects. Well done.

So the setting is… sometime in the vague past?  Unless what you’ve got here is a so-far-into-prehistory-it-counts-as-fantasy setting, it’s probably going to appeal to the time-travel drama crowd (Outlander and such), but only if you give some indication of setting.  Different people are drawn to different eras, and those people need a “flag” on the cover to attract their attention, whether it’s a tartan, hieroglyphics, a toga, etc.  Otherwise, it’s a very generic cover, with a slight “magical” vibe, suitable for use with any low-intensity urban fantasy or paranormal romance.

Other comments?

Emotions Over Time

The author says:

Not too sure yet but it’s something like a coming-of-age adult drama thriller thingy, mostly the first part of what I said. I thought the people in the picture represents someone growing older in just a short while. Idk, thoughts?

Nathan says:

It sounds like it’s still a novel in process, and you’re not too sure what it’ll end up being. Aside from any problems that may present in novel-writing itself, it makes it almost impossible to put on your marketer-hat and figure out the audience you’re trying to attract — you don’t know what your product is yet.

As far as the cover image simply as a concept, I like it, although I would recommend a number of changes (change the top photo to something in color, make the three words in the title all the same size, move the interstitial byline to a single line at the bottom, and give the author a REAL name), but it’s hard to focus on the number one purpose of a cover — attracting the attention of the readers who would like the novel — before we know who those readers are, and we can only know that once we know what the novel is.

Conflicted Heart

The author says:

The story is a Urban Romance Fiction which targets Females 25-35. The story is about a female and her longtime boyfriend. Secrets are revealed that rips their relationship apart. As a possible knee jerk reaction she winds up falling in love with a new man. She has to try and resolve her conflicted feelings and decide who she is love with and wants to be with.

Nathan says:

From my perusal of the genre online (since I’m doubly not the target audience), I’ve seen that the covers of urban or African-American romance are generally more color-crowded than for Caucasian audiences.  That’s fine, but even within that framework, I think there are things that you could do to make the image “pop” more.

  1. The figures don’t have enough contrast with the background — the poor fellow on the right gets lost in the wallpaper. Dimming the background, even just immediately behind the heads, would help the people stand out.
  2. In the same vein, the title lacks contrast from the background, especially the word “Conflicted.”  Yes, they are different colors, but the values (light and dark) aren’t contrasting enough; in fact, the variations in color tend to camouflage the word instead of helping it stand out. You can see that more clearly if you see it in monochrome:

    I would lose the gradients in the title, and darken the image ever-so-slightly from the woman’s shoulder on down to let the title stand out.

  3. The other problem you can see in the title, especially in the word “Conflicted,” is that the letters aren’t quite linked. This is a cursive font; the tails of each letter should run into the next letter completely, instead of having those itty-bitty breaks.

Other comments?

Endless Realms

The author says:

Endless Realms is a Pen & Paper RPG system built from the ground up. We built a system that was easily accessible to newbies, but had that deep complexity longtime gamers enjoy. Our world does not fall into typical fantasy, even though we are a high fantasy game. We created everything from the ground up, and that means our races, classes worlds are all built from scratch. We did away with all the typical fantasy tropes and did something new and different. In terms of lore, our universe is rich and diverse, and expands far beyond the traditional RPG tropes of the genre. It borrows from real-world science, as well as mythology and history from all across the globe.

Nathan says:

I think the cover has the right mix of D&D-style design with original elements to signal to a browser that this is an RPG book.  My only beefs are with the type.

As you can see in the thumbnail, even the large words of the title get lost, because the partial band behind them aren’t enough to separate them from the background.  I would try putting them title in a white font with a dark border, not unlike how you’ve got “Core Rulebook” now.  You might still want the light band as a design element, but at least it won’t be the only thing separating the title from the background.

Apart from that, you’ve got three distinct ornate fonts — that’s at least one too many.  My rule of thumb is “the smaller the type, the simpler the font”; I’d put “Roleplaying Game” in something readable like a Garamond or Roman-influenced font.  “Core Rulebook” is also too pretty for its own readability.

Other comments?


The author says:

This is a sci-fi novel targeted for adults. The cover presented here is a layout concept. The story begins 50 years in the future as the protagonist and her husband travel to an exclusive resort on the Moon. A bioterrorist attack leaves most of the guests and staff infected with only days to live. The heroine goes into stasis to try and survive long enough until a cure can be found. She’s in and out of stasis for the next 200 years until the day arrives when she can take matters into her her hands.


What I see here is you’re trying to represent all of the story elements on the cover. Earth from the moon — check! Statis chamber — check!  Heroine and her husband — check!

However, do so means that your cover doesn’t have one central element on which to focus the eye.  Look at the thumbnail: The only thing clearly visible is the Earth, which is both generic and undramatic.

Find an image which will appeal to the readers who would appreciate the book. Maybe a skeleton, half-buried in moondust, with the earth behind it?

My first visual idea when I read your description, before I even say your cover, was this:

That’s the protagonist’s face front and center, and each of the vertical stripes is a section of a different color (present, though not as intense, on her face) with a different background, giving the visual message of one person in different times or places.

I’d have to play with it to see if it would work, but it does have the following things going for it:

  1. A focal point to the image.
  2. Structure.
  3. Color.

You want your cover to have the appeal of a movie poster, as opposed to the “Well, it’s in space” impression of your mockup.

Any other comments?

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