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message 1: by Richard (new)

Richard Schiver | 23 comments Hi:

Found your group while looking for places to get honest feedback on my cover designs. I'm an indie author and I also design my own covers. I'm not the greatest at it, but I do it, not because I can't afford to hire someone else to, but because I actually enjoy doing it. Here's the second version of a current work in progress. Would greatly appreciate any honest feedback, good, bad, indifferent. Thanks.




message 2: by Harald, The Swimmer (new)

Harald | 398 comments Mod
Hi Richard! Welcome to the group.

You want honest? :) For "not being the greatest," you're not bad!

Some thoughts…

* Overall concept is good (Q: this is YA, yes?), although it looks a bit too "clean" to me. Can you distress everything more? = teddy bear more worn out/torn up, wall more aged, and the "…k off" more faded and/or dark (just play around with it).

* Main title is great. Wonderful contrast with background. And the font even has a "hopeful" feel to me.

* You know how to use dark outer glows, which helps your author name. Although I would probably add some letter-spacing ("tracking") to separate the letters more. They all kinda run together when viewed small (as most will view it).

* I would suggest you change the tagline font. It's really unreadable at small size. Just go with a basic sans-serif font like Arial, Helvetica, etc.

Hope that helps! (+ show us your next version!)


message 3: by Richard (new)

Richard Schiver | 23 comments Thanks for your feedback Harald. I didn't know about dark outer glow, see I've learned something all ready. It still needs some work on Teddy, but what do you think of this version?






message 4: by Harald, The Swimmer (new)

Harald | 398 comments Mod
Richard wrote: "Thanks for your feedback Harald. I didn't know about dark outer glow, see I've learned something all ready. It still needs some work on Teddy, but what do you think of this version?"

Hi Richard. I like the graffiti much better :). Background seems a bit too dark. Maybe find a middle ground?

Tagline still pretty unreadable. You don't like plain sans-serif fonts, eh?

Now rough up that teddy bear! ;-)

P.S. Thanks for adding the x150 thumbnail. Helps to see.


message 5: by Richard (new)

Richard Schiver | 23 comments Hi Harald:

Thanks so much for taking the time to do this.

Here's the latest version. I'm using PS7 any suggestions on tutorials that will teach me how to create stuffing coming out of the bear?






message 6: by C.B. (new)

C.B. Archer | 46 comments This is much better than version 2. Version 2 was just way too dark.

The best way to get stuffing out of a teddy bear is... to find a teddy bear that already has stuffing out of it. Honestly, cut & paste techniques can quickly be the end of new designers and a cut job is pretty easy to spot. I recommend that you avoid it completely if possible.

I can tell that bear isn't part of the original photo. The shadow does not match what the weeds and I find it distracting.

I think you may get a better product by going to a thrift store, buying the worst looking teddy bear there, giving it to a dog for a few days, rolling it in the mud, taking it to a brick wall, and taking a picture of it. (With a real camera)


message 7: by Harald, The Swimmer (new)

Harald | 398 comments Mod
Hey Richard… Going 3D on the main title! Interesting. And still very readable. I'm not much of a fan of bevelled/3D titles, but that's just me. Do what feels right.

Background image much more visible now. And graffiti blends in naturally.

And the tagline is much easier to read. (style point: one doesn't normally capitalize the articles in titles, e.g., it's "the Past" not "The Past" - but keep the first one as is)

RE: the Bear… I hear what CB is saying (and he's right about a lot of things), but it doesn't bother me as much. A "photo construction" is just that: a fiction. Like your story :) Of course, setting up a new photo with a teddy bear already dog-eaten and guts spilling out and all that is a good strategy, if you want to do it. Do you? If not, I bet you could transfer some stock photo bear guts to your current bear (depends a lot on your PS skills). Just search for "damaged teddy bear" or similar.

Keep at it — I think you're close.


message 8: by C.B. (new)

C.B. Archer | 46 comments true. I am a graphic designer. most people wouldn't notice. :D it is a really cover btw.


message 9: by Richard (last edited Aug 12, 2015 02:41AM) (new)

Richard Schiver | 23 comments Here's the latest version. Interesting idea C.B. Will get out today to see if I can find a used teddy anywhere. It also gave me another idea to add a bit more depth. I'm hesitant to tear the bear up as I want to show that it had been well cared for by a loving owner who for reasons unknown forgot the bear one day. It sits waiting for its owners return. If I find one I'll get it good and dirty, and wrap one arm in a sling, remember the owner truly loved this bear. I believe it will also strengthen the theme of lost innocence in a changing world.






message 10: by Harald, The Swimmer (new)

Harald | 398 comments Mod
Ah… now we learn more about the bear! Didn't realize is was well-cared for. Maybe not so many guts spilling out.

Some interesting changes here: huge/bold title, much bigger author name, and bigger/cleaner tagline (and not sure why you mowed the weeds). All of those help the readability at small size, but now you're covering up a lot of the bear, which seems a pretty important element. Currently, it's hard to tell there's a bear there (at small size). Something to consider.

Also, quick nit-pick: you've now got the tagline as a sentence. But no period. You need to choose: (A) headline format (upper-and-lower case, no period), or (B) sentence format (with a period). Check your Chicago Manual of Style if you don't believe me! :)


message 11: by Richard (new)

Richard Schiver | 23 comments I'm going to re-shoot the picture for the cover. I picked up a teddy bear the other day from Goodwill, he stands prepared to sacrifice his good looks for the advancement of my art. In exchange he'll retire to a spot on my bookcase, where he will spend his time idly watching the days pass.

I truly appreciate all of the honest feedback I have gotten here. When the new cover is ready this will be one of the first places I share it.

Right now I'm tightening up the opening of the story as I edit the manuscript. There are several more passes I want to make before I send it back to my editor for a final pass. My plan is to release at the end of the Halloween Horror Author countdown I do every year on my blog in October.

If you don't hear from me for a bit it doesn't mean I've given up. Just busy.

Thanks Harald and C.B.


message 12: by C.B. (new)

C.B. Archer | 46 comments I like that you are deciding to go all out and stage your own photo. I think it will make the cover just that much better.

Everything really came together on the cover, and I think the realistic touch is going to make this a real winner! Can't wait to see the final product!

:D


message 13: by Harald, The Swimmer (new)

Harald | 398 comments Mod
Glad we were able to help and be a part of your creative process, Richard.

Good luck with the reshoot. And hope you share your next version with us.

¡Adelante!


message 14: by Richard (new)

Richard Schiver | 23 comments Harald wrote: "Glad we were able to help and be a part of your creative process, Richard.

Good luck with the reshoot. And hope you share your next version with us.

¡Adelante!"


Thank you for taking the time to review and respond to my work.


message 15: by Richard (new)

Richard Schiver | 23 comments When one subs to a publisher and is accepted a team of editors and designers descends upon your work to poke prod and polish the manuscript into its final format. In many cases the end product bears little resemblance to the initial draft. My editor has on several occasions suggested that I look at expanding upon one of the plot lines in the original manuscript and create a whole new work that more closely follows the vision I had originally.

This new work would benefit more from the cover with the abandoned teddy bear than what I’m currently working on. Which places me firmly back to square one with the cover, and even the title of my current project.

The initial spark that started this journey was the idea of the children of the apocalypse, and how they would respond and survive in a world turned upside down. Where Lord of the Flies meets The Walking Dead.

At the end of my current project, four boys who were born during or shortly after a Zombie Apocalypse come face to face with a savage cult of boys who worship a creature that feeds upon the fear infused tears of children. A psychic vampire similar to the one which has appeared in some of Stephen Kings work.

In this cult no child is allowed to mature beyond fifteen, and they rely on kidnapping children from surrounding survivor compounds to expand their ranks, and provide fresh victims to the god they worship. This served as the catalyst that prompted the four boys in the original work to set out on a mission to rescue the kidnapped children.

Now I’m faced with coming up with a new cover. My heartfelt apologies for being such a pest but I find the feedback here to be quite illuminating.

So what do you think of this?




message 16: by Phillip (new)

Phillip Gessert (phillipgessert) It looks as though you've disproportionately stretched your type. This is generally not a good idea, and in this case it has made the italics angle inconsistent. The slope of the letterforms for your name doesn't match the slope in the title, for example.

I wouldn't recommend setting all the type on your cover in italics like this, because italics is typically used for emphasis or differentiation, but when everything is italicized then the italics aren't indicating anything in particular.

I am not really a fan of this type of font, it has a low-quality or sloppy-trace look about it. And the fact that all the Es all the As (and others) are 'damaged' in the exact same way makes the distressed / grungy effect a bit toothless.

Something about the tag line makes me think of non-fiction, but perhaps that's just me.

I think the overall look is a bit drab, though I think the core idea is pretty strong.


message 17: by Harald, The Swimmer (last edited Aug 24, 2015 01:04PM) (new)

Harald | 398 comments Mod
Don't worry, Richard — you're not a pest. I find your situation interesting. And here's what I'm wondering: If you have a publisher (with designers), why are you creating the cover designs? Wouldn't they do that (maybe with your input)? That's been my experience with my trad-pubbed (non-fiction) books. Your answer might be valuable to others.

Back to your cover draft :) …

Agreeing with Phillip on most points. Also…

* Everyone likes to use blood red for main text elements, but that can be tricky especially when red text sits on blues or other mid- to darkish- tones in background. You might want to consider making your red text even darker to really separate more. And then lighten your shadows at the same time.
(if I haven't already mentioned it, make sure to look at the Grayscale post I have here:
https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/...

* One other tiny point: you have this cool light explosion happening from the center. Yet, your bottom dropshadows mismatch the center explosion idea. Try having your author name shadows going down, not up, and see how that looks.

EDIT: Phillip makes a good point about "drabness." I think the choice of colors is a part of that. Maybe play around with bringing UP the background color (the light explosion going more blue), but then you really need to fine-tune the text colors to separate well. EDIT EDIT: or completely change all colors! :)


message 18: by Richard (new)

Richard Schiver | 23 comments Harald wrote: "Don't worry, Richard — you're not a pest. I find your situation interesting. And here's what I'm wondering: If you have a publisher (with designers), why are you creating the cover designs? Wouldn'..."

I self publish under my own imprint. As a proud member of the working poor, I live in an economically depressed area with double digit unemployment so I'm lucky to have a job, and at 56 years old my options are severely limited. Not looking for sympathy, just explaining myself. The money I am able to put into my publishing efforts goes to editing. To me that's more important than cover design. Editing is something no writer should try to do themselves.

I'm slowly learning how to do this, expanding my horizons so to speak, and the feedback I get from everyone here at Goodreads is as good as gold, so thank you for taking the time from your busy schedule to offer honest input on my work. I truly appreciate that and if I ever make it to a convention where you or any of the others who have offered feedback find yourselves I'll gladly buy you a beer or two or three.

I noticed that about the drop shadow after I posted it and went back to PS where I turned off the global light option. I'm working now on bringing out the colors of the background and the hand to really make them pop. Dropping the opacity of the mists as well.

Good point on the red color. I only chose it as it worked better against the background than any other color. Hadn't even given any though to the fact it was like a blood red.

Phillip: The fonts I used don't offer an italics option so there's no way to turn it off other than skewing each line independently to stand the letters up. Good point about stretching the type, will look at my options with other fonts.

Thanks again everyone for your honest feedback.


message 19: by Richard (new)

Richard Schiver | 23 comments After some tweaking. Dropped the mist completely and brought up the colors more. Added a white drop shadow to pull the text from the color.




message 20: by Harald, The Swimmer (last edited Aug 25, 2015 07:33PM) (new)

Harald | 398 comments Mod
"I self publish under my own imprint. …"

Ah, didn't realize that. OK. And yeah, getting pro editing is super important.

And payment in beer sounds perfect!

To your revised cover…

Gotta be blunt here… while there's a lot more background impact with the boosted colors, the text elements are just not working (from a contrast/readability POV). Here: take a look at it in grayscale and you can see the problem immediately.

   

With this background, the author name can be solved easily by just using white or a very light color. But the title is challenging because you have a range of tones in that background (from almost white to very dark). Maybe try muting that? I know I suggested bringing up the colors, but I wasn't expecting it to be this dramatic. You've got to get that title to pop and really stand out.


message 21: by C.B. (new)

C.B. Archer | 46 comments *Cracks knuckles*

Okay, let's get into this bad boy. Sorry if I tear it open too much, but this is all in the sake of helping. Honest!

(It is certainly different from the Teddy bear, though it is a different book, so that makes sense.)

Okay, I am agreeing with Harold for a lot of this, but am adding some more input.

Fonts, never stretch them, never mess with them, never faux them. If they don't have an italics, or bold version, just don't use them. Faux italics and faux bold, Usually from Word, just does not stack up compared to a professionally designed italic or bold font. :)

Just change the font to something that has that, and it will look just a little percent better. (But that is why we are refining, every little bit can help!)

Harold nailed it. Red is the hardest colour to work with when it comes to text. All your contrast got lost. Contrast is the single most important design element for covers. If the background isn't light don't use red. Red is like black. People think it is bright and light... it isn't. It is red. It is dark, it has terrible contrast with dark colours, but great contrast with light colours. You can see that in your covers better than anything I can say - just look at the difference!

Okay, fonts again. I dislike the font in version 2. It lacks character compared to version one. Honestly, it doesn't fit the mood I would expect.

Okay, italics again. Why is everything in italics? There is really no reason for anything to be in italics now that I look at this. Remove all those italics, they are not needed.

I think that maybe the mist was too toned down in version two. Now you can see that the starburst is coming unnaturally from that hand and all the mystery that was once there is lost. It was too strong before, but too weak now, I can't even see mist anymore. Perhaps a compromise, keep the outside more misty than the inside. If possible change the layering so that the hand is above the background effects.

Lastly, silhouettes. They seem easy to use. Trust me here, They are not. They are actually one of the trickiest things to work with, despite what people think. Mixing them with anything else besides other silhouettes is very hard to pull off. They don't work here, if I am to be blunt... blunter... :) Why are the characters in silhouette? We can clearly see the hand, and it is well lit. Meaning the characters should not be in shadow! Also, the shadows of the characters do not work with the shadows of the hand. If they fit together the hand would all be in shadow and the characters wouldn't be visible at all due to the hand's shadow. Honestly, I think you should just ditch them. They are not really needed to set the mood, the giant hand is more than enough to sell creepy.

I hope this helps!


message 22: by Richard (last edited Aug 29, 2015 02:56AM) (new)

Richard Schiver | 23 comments Thank you Harald and C.B for the honesty. Here's my latest using two different fonts.

Graffiti paintbrush color

:;

Graffiti paintbrush BW



Impact color



Impact BW



Just keep in mind C.B. that always cracking your knuckles will eventually lead to arthritis. I don't want to be responsible for that.

Once again I appreciate your honesty.


message 23: by Harald, The Swimmer (new)

Harald | 398 comments Mod
Yo Richard. Been busy, huh? :)

* removing the other background stuff (silhouettes, road, etc.) really cleans it up. Good.

* of the two revisions, Impact clearly has more impact (ha ha!).

* while the dark red can work (have you tried plain black?), the yellow drop shadows are creating havoc with my eyes. Have you tried NO shadows? Or maybe use White instead of Yellow?

P.S. Little tip on displaying the covers: add a space between the two sizes to separate them. Use this code BETWEEN the two IMGs tags:   (includes the semi-colon and the ampersand; and you can have 2-3 of them in a row if you want for more space).


message 24: by C.B. (new)

C.B. Archer | 46 comments Impact is the winner in this case. Impactful!

I think you may have gone too far with the fog, sort of a middle area between the two would probably work the best? Try it out. You can leave the top more foggy, so the ttle stands out!

Personally, I didn't mind the road. It gave scale to the hand. Made it look gigantic! Also, road is in the title, and the road on the cover lead to terror.


message 25: by Richard (new)

Richard Schiver | 23 comments I really appreciate the feedback I've received, here is the final version.




message 26: by Harald, The Swimmer (new)

Harald | 398 comments Mod
Hi Richard. Good to hear and see back from you. So you've come back around to the Teddy Bear! :).

So is this final final, or are you seeking comments?


message 27: by Richard (new)

Richard Schiver | 23 comments Is anything ever really final? It's currently available for pre-order until 12-15 when it will go live, so there's always room for minor tweaking.

I also understand that not everyone is going to look at it without finding something they don't like, or feel could be improved upon. With that in mind honest, constructive feedback, which I've always gotten here, is much appreciated.


message 28: by Harald, The Swimmer (new)

Harald | 398 comments Mod
Yeah, “final final” is a bit off on my part. Especially when one can change covers at any time with e-books. But here are a few thoughts...

   

It’s hard to evaluate a large cover image, so I’ve added some smaller versions above. It’s the small ones (which what most people will see online) that are more important.

* In general, it’s always harder to read ALL CAPS text, especially with multi or long words. That’s partly why “DREADLAND CHRONICLES” basically disappears as sizes get smaller. Personally, I would make that line NOT be Impact font but something easier to read, and probably spread the letters out more (“tracking”).

* Same idea sort of applies to the main title (all caps), but it’s pretty readable. You could play with something like reducing the “leading” (line spacing), and make the point size larger, which make the title even more powerful and noticeable. And similar to “Chronicles,” the “Coming of age...” subtitle becomes unreadable pretty quickly. Maybe a different font (like “Chronicles”)?

* The desaturated background image is a nice touch, but the bear really starts to disappear at smaller sizes. SUGGESTION: Since you’re using selective color (see the green weeds), how about making the bear also more colorful? He seems like a key visual component, and it’s hard to pick him out from the similarly toned background wall/ground. Whatcha think?

Hope this helps you, Richard.


message 29: by Richard (new)

Richard Schiver | 23 comments I've played around a bit with the fonts for the titles and worked to bring the bear out a bit. Can't make the subtitle any larger without going to two lines which I don't want to do. I can live with the sub title vanishing as a thumbnail as long as the main title and bear remain visible. Will work at bringing the subtitle up stronger in larger images.

::


message 30: by Harald, The Swimmer (new)

Harald | 398 comments Mod
Cool. …
* Chronicles line much easier to read at thumbnail size.
* Main title is bigger but you changed the font! Now you've got smaller "openings" in the closed letters ("o" "a" "d" "a" "e"), which makes the title actually harder to read than before. Have you tried using the font version you have in your author name (but in this upper-lower and not all-caps style)?
* NITPICK: In headline-style titles, the "To" is not capitalized (most prepositions are not capitalized). Try un-capping it.
* The new bear is definitely better. But I was hoping for a little more color on him. I guess you really don't want to do that, eh?

One more round? :)


message 31: by Mary (new)

Mary Ogle | 9 comments If you don't want to color the bear how about putting more of a shadow behind him so that he stands out from the wall? Harald is right - he really blends in at the thumbnail size and is very hard to see.


message 32: by C.B. (new)

C.B. Archer | 46 comments I love how bleak that bear is now! You can miss it if you look fast, and that makes it so subtle and powerful. Like he is lost, and damaged, but once loved.

Emotional!


message 33: by C.B. (new)

C.B. Archer | 46 comments Miles ahead of version one! Amazing!


message 34: by Richard (new)

Richard Schiver | 23 comments Thanks C.B, Mary, and Harald. Working right now but this weekend I'll add some shadow to try and bring out the bear and see how that looks.


Kira's NetGalley Book Blog | 1 comments I love what you've done so far Richard! I agree with Mary, somehow the bear needs to stand out more as he does blend with the wall. Maybe either make the wall *slightly* more of a yellow tone near the bear?


message 36: by Richard (last edited Nov 06, 2015 05:27AM) (new)

Richard Schiver | 23 comments Here is the final image. I'm content with it. As C.B. expressed so eloquently I'm striving for that lost, but once loved look, and I believe I nailed it.

::

I tried the title with "TO" in lowercase and it made it look lopsided do I switched back to all caps.

Also worked on getting shadow behind the bear and all I succeeded in accomplishing was making the bear look like it didn't belong against that background.

I may revisit the cover in the future, but for now I have several very important deadlines looming for my writing so I'm going to have to accept what I've accomplished with everyone's help here.

I truly appreciate the honest and helpful feedback I've received here and if any of you would like a free copy of the e-book please don't hesitate to drop me a line at rschiver@gmail.com just remind me of who you are and I'll get a copy out to you in my reply.

Thanks everyone for your help, I've learned so much from all of you.


message 37: by C.B. (new)

C.B. Archer | 46 comments I agree. You have now nailed it. Great job!


message 38: by Harald, The Swimmer (new)

Harald | 398 comments Mod
Good job, Richard, and thanks for the nice words about us here. And for your kind free-book offer.

Good luck with the "Dreadland Chronicles"!


message 39: by Drea (new)

Drea Damara (dreadamara) Richard wrote: "Here is the final image. I'm content with it. As C.B. expressed so eloquently I'm striving for that lost, but once loved look, and I believe I nailed it.

::

I tried the title with "TO" in lowe..."

great cover, the damaged bear really imparts a lot of feeling. Just a suggestion - author name is very dark against the black gravel and difficult to discern clearly


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