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Covers, Blurbs, 1st Line, Query > Fantasy/Sci-Fi Trilogy Covers and Blurb

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message 1: by Maureen (last edited Jun 08, 2017 10:41PM) (new)

Maureen Thayer | 5 comments Here are all three front covers for my fantasy/sci-fi trilogy, Half-Blood, as well as the blurb for Book 1. I have not included the blurbs for the second and third books since they contain spoilers. At the bottom of the page is a blurb for the trilogy as a whole.

Being a graphic artist, I did the covers myself. Any comments and questions are welcome and appreciated. I am not 100% satisfied with the cover for Book 3, so I'd especially like comments for it.

Link deleted by OP.


message 2: by Keith (new)

Keith Oxenrider (mitakeet) | 1166 comments My impression is the boy looks very feminine, so book 2 either looks like a romance or a gay novel to me.

Also, it took me a number of moments to discern the difference between the covers, probably not what you are looking for. I feel the covers should be distinct, yet have similarities, you've gone the other way (e.g., appear identical, but have subtle differences).

Regarding your blurb, first it is 'too long' in that the supposed sweet spot is 100-150 words (yours is 338). Second this:

"he was imprisoned by a magician within a gemstone"

is written that the magician is inside the gemstone, likely the opposite of what you're intending. It also reads like pure fantasy to me, I'm not getting the scifi angle at all.

Because you have to hook the reader as fast as possible, you might want to experiment with introducing Da’arn first, even though it appears Benarin is the MC. I'm not set on that, just a suggestion you can try out.

Good luck!


message 3: by Maureen (last edited Jun 08, 2017 10:42PM) (new)

Maureen Thayer | 5 comments I did wonder if Benarin’s face was a bit too feminine, so hearing it from someone else convinced me to change it. I made some alterations to the nose, lips, jawline, and chin. I have to be careful not to go too far. The more masculinity that I add to the face, the older it looks. As it is, the changes that I did make added at least a year to his appearance. The one thing I will not do is change the eyes. Benarin’s big, beautiful green eyes are the signature feature of his appearance, just as Elijah Wood’s big, beautiful blue eyes are his.

You can take a look at the changes to Benarin’s face on the Book 1 cover here:

Link deleted by OP.

I have the old version and the new one side by side for comparison. I don’t know what others will think, but, to me, Benarin doesn’t look at all like a girl now.

I have to say that your next statement really took me by surprise. Because the face of a male child looks somewhat feminine, it gives you the impression that Book 2 has a gay romance? Wow. I guess you see things through very different “eyes” than I do, perhaps, in part, because you’re male. I have no way to look at my artwork from the perspective of a man.

On the matter of a gay romance between the two leads, Benarin is an eleven-year-old child (turning twelve in the latter half of Book 1), and Da’arn is a grown man. That wouldn’t be a gay romance; it would be child molestation.

I’m also surprised that you had to look so hard to see the differences in the three covers. The only things that are the same on all three is Benarin’s face, the fonts used for the text, and the effect used for Da’arn’s “energy form.” Book 3 in particular is quite different in that it has the fire on the right side and lower left corner. Book 1 is distinctive from 2 and 3 in that Da’arn is mostly a silhouette. You can’t see his face. There are other differences as well, but those are the biggest.

If I was to publish the trilogy through a real publisher, they’d likely have artwork done for it, but since it will probably be self-published, I have to consider how much of my limited free time I can afford to spend on doing the covers. In order for the three covers to have only small similarities, I’d have to all but throw out the ones for 2 and 3 and start over. I simply do not have the time, nor, for that matter, the desire to do that, and I don’t have the money to hire someone else to do it. I will go over them and see what I can do to lessen the similarities, but I can’t make so many changes that I’d almost be starting from scratch on 2 and 3. But thanks for your opinion. I appreciate your honesty.

As for the blurb, I should have specified that that’s the long version, what you’d see on sites like Amazon.com, where a lot of book descriptions are longer than 150 words. There would be shorter versions for places where such is needed. I shouldn’t have called that a blurb. That was my mistake. I did spend some time on it, however, and managed to trim it by over 50 words. I might be able to get it down a bit more.

To be honest, one of the things that frustrates me while shopping for books is the brevity of many of the descriptions. Too many times, they don’t say enough to suit me. But then, I have a great deal more than the attention span of a goldfish. Actually, that’s a myth. Goldfish probably have a longer attention span than some humans.

Yep, you’re totally right about that line with the magician. I didn’t see it before. It’s been changed. Thanks.

Though the first two books are mostly fantasy, partway into Book 3, it takes a turn into sci-fi. Even in Books 1 and 2, there are things that take it out of the realm of what I’d call pure fantasy. For instance, the science of some of the things done with “magic” is explained, how atoms and molecules are altered and used. Later in the story, genes and genetics are gotten into. Regardless, I won’t be listing the novels under the science fiction category, just fantasy.

In regards to your last comment, I tried putting Da’arn’s paragraph first, but I just didn’t like it that way. Benarin is introduced first in the book, which matches the description. Also, the book is entitled Half-Blood, which is Benarin. I supposed you could say that he is the MC since the story is, more than anything else, about the changes and transformations that happen to him and his life. The story is, however, told from the POV of both him and Da’arn. I haven’t counted, of course, but if I totaled up the words from each of their POVs, I think they would come out close to being the same.

Thanks for your comments and insights.


message 4: by Keith (new)

Keith Oxenrider (mitakeet) | 1166 comments I tried to give you my first impressions, since I figure that's all you're going to get from a lot of readers. I generally don't study the cover of books that often. Historically, covers have been produced by artists that haven't read the book, so I find the cover often has nothing to do with the story anyway. I've found that with blurbs as well and sometimes only read something because I like the author.

With the caveat that I have sometimes had difficulty recognizing my girlfriends after a long day, I don't see the difference between the new and old version. (I've often said, I'd make a dead spy.)

I believe you could easily make changes to the three covers by simply moving the MC's face to a different location of the cover. If you've used a computer to generate the face, perhaps you can change the aspect to partial profile. How many years does the series cover? Does the MC age at all?

On books 2 and 3, by having Da’arn appear as what could easily be construed as nude, I feel you completely change the tone of the cover. Further, his pose is one I often see on steamy romances, his face is 'too perfect' and he's got a washboard belly. All of this may be true in the book, but in the book there is context, the cover all you have is comparisons to other covers. I would expect someone just looking at those two covers would think they are romances. It would be nice if others would chime in so you would have more opinions to work from.

I like 'scientific' magic, but I'm not sure how to convey that in a blurb. Anne McCaffrey's "Dragonriders of Pern" started out, in my mind, as pure fantasy, yet the series evolved into almost hard scifi. That may have been deliberate on the author's part, but reading the first novel I had no reason to think it was anything but fantasy (fire breathing dragons!).


message 5: by Alex (new)

Alex Buchanan (msbananananner) | 17 comments Speaking as a graphic designer and illustrator myself, I'd say the main issue with the covers looking so similar is the fact that the composition is almost identical. If a reader is browsing a bookshelf (even digitally) they aren't generally going to be looking closely enough to distinguish the differences. Perhaps using different angles, expressions, sizes, etc. of the boy's face on each one would help with this. Even changing the color scheme would do wonders for making them each unique. (and by this I mean the entire cover as a whole. Backgrounds and everything, not just the title text.)

I agree with Keith as well, books 2 and 3 are giving me a romance-book vibe. Shirtless men showing off their toned arms and stomachs are the hallmark of romance covers, and regardless of how the character is in your book, (being shirtless and flexing his guns could be his trademark, what do I know) that is how it will be interpreted by an inquisitive reader.

Lastly, a smaller point, but I wonder if rethinking the typographic hierarchy would help? In my opinion, the title of each book should be biggest, then the series title below it (you could say something such as "The second book in the Half-Blood Series" so that it flows smoother).

Most of these changes could be done relatively easily, the only thing that would eat up a lot of time would be making new illustrations--namely the boy, as he is the most detailed part of the composition. But even without that I don't think it would be too difficult to give them better contrast when sat next to each other.


message 6: by Maureen (last edited Jun 06, 2017 11:43PM) (new)

Maureen Thayer | 5 comments @Keith
Girlfriends? As in plural? Do you sometimes get them mixed up? ;-) I can understand why you might not notice the differences in the nose, since all I did was broaden it a little. As for the lips, I just reduced the pink cast. But for you not to see the changes in the jaw and chin makes me wonder if you really even looked. The lower jaw is wider, and the chin is bigger and squared. If you're looking at it on a really small screen, you probably couldn't see the cleft that I also added to the chin, but it's there.

I'm done making changes to the face. If you still think it looks like a girl, so be it. I'll just hope that you are in the minority.

No, I did not generate the face in a computer. To my knowledge, there doesn't exist an application available to the public that will create a complete human face. Even if such a thing does exist, I doubt that I could afford it. The head was created from combining five different photographs, most of which I then heavily edited. For example, the upper face, including the eyes and nose, came from a sepia tone (not color) photo of a blond child of around six years old. I colored the eyes, darkened the upper lashes, added the lower lashes, narrowed and added definition to the nose, and added the eyebrows. So, the angle of the face can't be changed. It is fixed.

As explained, Da'arn's natural form is pure energy. His physical form is created by him. If you could create from scratch an entire face and body for yourself, wouldn't you give yourself a handsome face and a great bod? That being said, how do you know that he has washboard abs? His entire lower body is hidden. He actually does have them, but you can't see them. The images of Da'arn were also made from photos. I did some major changes to the face, but the muscles and the pose were courtesy of the model.

@Alex
As mentioned above, I did not draw all of Benarin's face. It was mostly created from several photo, not all of the same person. So, it really wouldn't be possible for me to do the face at other angles.

"Flexing his guns"? In Book 2 and 3, he's just standing there, his arms hanging at rest at his sides. I'm sorry, but I think you're exaggerating his appearance. Yes, he has muscles. Da'arn is an immortal being who can create any physical form he pleases. Of course he's going to make for himself a good body. He's not going to make a skinny little body with a homely face.

The problem with changing the background color is that would also change the color of many of the other elements, most importantly Da'arn's "energy." It has a transparent background, so any background color behind it would bleed through. The color of the fire in Book 3 would also be affected, as would the "nebulas" in Book 1 and 2.

I'm surprised that you suggested making the title bigger. I was concerned that it was too big. As for adding "The ------ Book in the Half-Blood Series," wouldn't that be redundant? The title is Half-Blood and, the subtitle includes the number of the book. I supposed that I could eliminate the Book One, etc. part of the subtitles and make the rest much bigger. If I did that, then I would need to add some statement about which book in the series that each one is.

My artist skills are very limited. I have no schooling or formal training, neither in graphic art nor traditional. I'm completely self-taught. I work with photos more than anything else and do mostly Web sites, as well as promotional items and product packaging for businesses.

I think I'm going to pull down the artwork for Book 2 and 3 since it appears that the main comment I'm going to get is that they look like romance novels. I don't need to hear that from yet another person. If I could, I'd add a shirt to Da'arn, but that's beyond my ability, at least making one that looks real, and there's no way that I could find a photo of someone wearing a white shirt that would match the body angles. But then, considering that, when Da'arn creates his physical form, it would be naked until he also creates clothing, I'm not sure if adding a shirt would make sense. The image is supposed to be Da'arn in the midst of the transformation, part energy and part solid.

At this point, I really don't know what I'm going to do.


message 7: by Keith (new)

Keith Oxenrider (mitakeet) | 1166 comments You wanted comments, you got comments...

There is open source (e.g., free) software called "MakeHuman" (http://www.makehuman.org/) that I have not personally used, but have seen the results of in many places and they feel extremely authentic to me. MakeHuman is essentially only about creating the face and body, but the animation tool Blender (https://www.blender.org/) an also create humans (and anything else you want). Most of the stuff I've seen created through Blender doesn't come anywhere close to photo-realistic, but I believe that depends on the amount of patience you have.

Obviously there is the PITA of going through the learning curve (what has kept me from my animation goals), but since you weren't aware of them, I felt I should point them out.


message 8: by Alex (new)

Alex Buchanan (msbananananner) | 17 comments I'm going to preface this by stating that this is neither a rant, nor directed at you as a person. This is purely an art critique.

"Half Blood" is your series title.
"Inheritance of Power" is your book title.

Book title needs to be biggest, it isn't treated as a subtitle, and the book series is much smaller. The Hunger Games series is a perfect example of this, and it certainly isn't the only series to use this formatting--in fact it is the norm.

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_LW-DmX5yMTs...

(I apologize in advance if the link doesn't work, I'm not sure how Goodreads comments handle those types of things)

There are no applications for creating a human face? False. Very very false. There are countless, and many are free! Though I suspect you aren't meaning programs such as Photoshop or Gimp, or Sketchbook. It sounds like you want a program that you can input characteristics into and it creates a character based on those--like a more sophisticated Sims. I don't know if I can stress this enough, but you don't actually want that. (and yes those kind of programs exist, they just don't give good results.) The reason you don't want that? They are templates, generic, and look amateurish. Good art doesn't come from clicking a button and letting it generate it for you. Even Photoshop, regardless of whether you are illustrating from scratch or doing a photomanipulation (more on that in a second), the program is not "creating" anything for you. It is all being done by the user.

Now, photo editing. I can't say that anything in y our composition actually reads as photorealistic to me, except possibly the man in the corner. The face looks like several illustrations or 3D models put together, so I was surprised to see you say that they were all taken from photos. For one, there is no texture, except a slight bit on the lips and on his hair. The anatomy is slightly off (the bottom of ears line up with the nose, and the tops with the eyebrows), but considering this is SF, I can overlook things like that because who knows, maybe that's just how he is? It's little things though, like the perfect symmetry, the lack of depth, that make it impossible for me to believe it is a professional work. But really, who cares. I'm likely not your target audience anyway. But, ask for comments you did, so dish them out I shall.

As for the edits to the face, I'll admit I couldn't spot a difference either. Once you pointed them out, I could see the cleft on the chin--though it is ever so slight, but everything else looks entirely the same. And I'm a professional designer with art school training. But trust me, I understand that to you it might look radically different, because that happens to me with my artwork ALL THE TIME. It's just part of being an artist. We stare at our own work so long that we notice tiny things that no one else would, and miss giant things that everyone else notices. I think what you need is a bit of time away from it. Let it sit for a week, or longer if you can manage it. Don't look at, don't even peek. Just let it simmer. Then look at it with fresh eyes, and be as objective as possible. Don't even look at it with the thought of "I want my protagonist's face, and my other MC going through transition." Force yourself to think of completely different ideas, ones that look nothing like what you have now. This doesn't mean you have to actually create them, but just consider them. There are dozens upon dozens of ways a book can be translated to cover art. Don't limit yourself to just one, you'll kill your creativity before it gets to spread its wings.

If after all this you're still not sure what to do, or if you know what you want to do, but don't know how to actually execute it, then maybe it's worth considering commissioning someone to do it. Some artists are expensive, yes, but some are not. You just have to look in the right places. There are thousands and thousands of art students trying to build up their portfolios, and as long as you do your research you can get one who is REALLY talented and willing to work for cheap.

You may not want to have to pay someone else to do it, and that's fine. You're self publishing (I assume, since you are creating covers), so you can do whatever you want. But a book is still an investment, regardless of how it's published. The better the product, the better the success.

Anyway, that wound up being a bit longer than I intended. Hopefully something in there helps. Don't lose motivation. The art world is tough--especially when you are both writing and designing. (hence why I do not design covers for my own books. It's too hard to be objective about my own work. Not to mention it is exhausting and frustrating.)


message 9: by Maureen (new)

Maureen Thayer | 5 comments @Keith
Thanks! I'll check it out sometime.

@Alex
First, I will say that I only just now read your comments. I decided to work on the Book 2 cover before reading any replies to my last post. One of the things I did was what you talked about in your first paragraphs. I made the "subtitle" the main title and put Book Two of the Half-Blood Trilogy in smaller type.

Did I insult you in some way? Some of your reply radiated hostility to me. I suggest that you go back and read my previous reply to Keith. I said that, as far as I know, there wasn't any software for generating faces. I did NOT say that absolutely no such software exists, yet you act like that's what I said. I didn't know, okay?

I will take under advisement some of the points you made, but I will not be posting any revisions here.


message 10: by Maureen (new)

Maureen Thayer | 5 comments @Alex
I wasn't going to post any more comments here, but I changed my mind. One of your criticisms was the position of the ears. The link below is to the original photo that I used for the upper half of Benarin's face. This is a photo of a real human being. The photographer later put up a color version and a black and white version of the photo, but this is the only one that was available at the time I was searching. As you can see, the ears appear further up on the head. In fact, they're even higher than I have in my artwork, the bottom of the ears being in line with the bottom of the eyes.

https://us.fotolia.com/id/56150139

Now, I'm done.


message 11: by Alex (new)

Alex Buchanan (msbananananner) | 17 comments I'm not sure how more clear I could be in stating that none of my comments were intended to be taken personally or in a hostile manner. Even made a disclaimer and everything.

Anyway, I wish you good luck in your endeavors!


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