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Cover Reviews > Redesign/Tweaking Suggestions

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message 1: by Kelly (new)

Kelly Cheek | 3 comments I'm working with a business guru and publicist, and she got some (very basic) critique on my book covers from some publishing experts at her alma mater. Unfortunately, they weren't terribly specific. They said, "[All We Hold Dear] and [Trial By Fire] need to be slightly refreshed and the others redesigned. There were no specific directions other than not compelling and no hint of the story within." I'd love to get some more specific thoughts to make these covers more effective.

My book covers can be seen at

Thank you.

message 2: by Harald, The Swimmer (new)

Harald | 409 comments Mod
Hi Kelly - thanks for posting. And it was good for you to give your AMZN Author Page link - that shows all the covers in easy comparison.

Quick thoughts:

1. Phantom Fury is very slick (professional) but has a totally different look from the others. PF seems like a Fantasy/TimeSlip type genre? Are the others the same? My main problem with PF is that it's hard to see the words when small (zoom out your browser and you'll see what I mean). Covers really need to be clear and easy to read when thumbnail size. Just look at the small "Sponsored Books" covers to the right of this comment.

2. Lost Colony has a good, simple design, although it's a little heavy on the drop shadow of the main title (easy to fix). It's easy to see small, and the premise is great.

3. All We Hold Dear and Trail by Fire both look like they were designed a few decades ago. Hard to read, too complex, needing much more contrast between the elements. These two are my least favorite covers by far.

Does this help?

message 3: by Kelly (new)

Kelly Cheek | 3 comments Thanks for your comments. It's interesting that you say basically the opposite of the "experts." They thought AWHD and TBF were basically on track but just need a little tweaking, while the others need to be redesigned.

Yes, there are a couple of different genres reflected here. AWHD and TBF are historical fiction, alternating with modern-day tie-ins. The Lost Colony is a modern story, but still with a historical basis. JackSimile is a sci-fi story, but like the first two, with alternating modern and historical narratives.

The Lost Colony is one of my favourite designs of these covers. I like the simplicity of it and was discouraged when the experts included it in the ones they thought should be redesigned.

message 4: by OldBird (new)

OldBird | 13 comments I agree that AWHD and TBF are very complex and not very clear. Simplified imagery and more color/light and dark contrast would help readability and add some drama. I think AWHD would work better without the girl behind the title, leaving the trio at the top.

Phantom Fury is a bit confusing with the imagery of the road, the moon and the writing (zooming in reveals it's mathematical nature). All I get from it is that it's something "retro" from the type. I agree again that the type should be bigger as such a stylised font can be hard to read at the best of times (and thumbnails are just so small). I'd look to increase the light-dark contrast just to boost it a bit.

The Lost Colony is good in that it's simple, but at a glance at the thumbnail I wasn't sure what the image was or how it related to the content. The title type's also a little hard to read at the bottom.

Just my two cents for what it's worth. I hope it's helpful somehow.

message 5: by Paul (new)

Paul | 76 comments Kelly –

Great job getting 4 books out. And you are absolutely correct that the feedback you received earlier wasn't very specific. Hopefully Emma and Harald's comments have helped fill the gap—I agree with everything they said.

To put my own take on it, and to add a few more specific items, PF is certainly the most engaging cover of the four. I love the colors.

In addition to the earlier comments, I'd mention my concerns about the strong central vertical symmetry. Pushing the moon to the right, perhaps, would offer more energy, and engage with the formulas.

All that said, there is still a lot going on here. Moon, cloudy sky, low-angle road, out of context formulas, reflective metallic logo (where is the light coming from to create the reflection? the reader's "headlights?"), script chrome lettering, … Busy-ness is a danger in covers.

That is why I think the LC cover is the strongest—because it is the simplest. Slightly off center composition, good dynamic balance. But a good rule of thumb I try to use in designs: if I have to use a drop shadow or outline to make the title visible, then something is still wrong with the design. (Mind you, I will occasionally break this rule. But I try not to, and if I do it is very subtle). Perhaps a heavier weight of your font, or a different font choice, could solve this problem.

Alternatively, you might consider the relative size and placement of your name and the title—swapping their position, lowering the image to give the title more room, and reducing the size of your name may use solve the problem.

Finally AWHD and TBF. Yep, both are too busy, both rely on drop shadows, and both are using very dated fonts.

Compositing things together, it helps if it is still believable—even if it isn't plausible. Its funny how the mind works, but we latch onto things that are incongruous, such as incorrect lighting or color balance, even in an obviously fictional composition—even in type. This is a problem in PF, as well as these two. (Of course, sometimes this is desirable; but I don't think this is the sort of tension you are trying to create here).

In TBF, the three portraits all seem to have been taken with different color lighting. I suppose this could work for the woman in the foreground, but the guys are going to need to look like they are in a front-lit mountain scene to pull this off. And the fire… feels very fake. I mean, obviously, because someone cannot stand in flames like that. But emphasizing the fake-ness doesn't help this cover.

Color aside, it feels like you have two covers going on here. I'd suggest pick one, and simplify… simpler font, larger, bolder image placement.

In AWHD, you discovered that photoshop trimming around hair is really hard… adding drop shadow makes it worse. In addition, positioning relative to the line work, inconsistent line weight, and overlapping shadows all unnecessarily complicate this cover.

If you want to stick with this complex font for AWHD, it will need to be a lot larger, probably with no image at all. Or use the image (I agree the trio is more interesting, but I expect the other is more important to you) and a simpler font. And in either case, I'd recommend backing off on the linework—perhaps use some of these details on the interior?

Anyhow, that is my thoughts looking over your covers. You've clearly put some thought into these already, and I can tell that you are trying. But simplifying, picking just one of the two or three ideas you're trying to convey in each cover, I think you'll get more mileage.

Good luck!


message 6: by Harald, The Swimmer (last edited Jul 05, 2018 04:33PM) (new)

Harald | 409 comments Mod
Great comments by Emma and Paul. And especially agree with this one from Paul: "Alternatively, you might consider the relative size and placement of your name and the title—swapping their position, lowering the image to give the title more room, and reducing the size of your name may use solve the problem."

Not sure how much headroom you have at top of image, but doing this kind of swapping could really work.

BTW, I have no idea what those "spikey" things are in the TLC image (the island?), but they intrigue the heck out of me, which is a very good thing. Of the 4 covers, and for me personally (as a history buff), "The Lost Colony" has the most potential for easiest fixing and max reader interest.

Keep at it.


message 7: by Kelly (new)

Kelly Cheek | 3 comments I appreciate all these thoughts. Being both the author and the designer is probably a blessing and a curse. It's helpful knowing as much as I do about the stories, but it makes me want to put more in the covers than might be necessary. At least now I have a little more direction for redesign.

Thank you.

message 8: by Harald, The Swimmer (new)

Harald | 409 comments Mod
Kelly wrote: "...Being both the author and the designer is probably a blessing and a curse. It's helpful knowing as much as I do about the stories, but it makes me want to put more ..."

Yeah, that's a common trap for author/cover designers. Remember to keep it simple and focused on the 3 main elements: Title, Image, Author Name. The rest is fluff and usually distracting/ineffectual.

Good luck, Kelly.

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