Free book cover critique and kindle book cover display problems

Today I’m reviewing Lois Nicholls “Aussie, Actually.”  First impressions: I like it! I like the font and placement, I like the simple white with drop shadow. The subtitle “Landing on foreign soil” is a little light but fine and in the right place. I love the picture and the dogs, and the trail. The only thing I might change is to drop shadow the author’s name, which gets a little lost. So – would I fix it? Probably not… this cover is good enough to keep

(Although, it doesn’t really let me know what the book is about – so the author will need a good description and some good marketing so that people can find the book. Is it a travel memoir? A novel? A little byline adding some clarity would probably help sales, like “a personal memoir of travel, adventure and romance in Australia” or something like that…)

ABOVE: standard cover. BELOW: S. African cover. Actually I think I prefer the colors on the S. African cover – not sure yet about the big “A” in actually. My instinct is that small “a” is better, but maybe that’s just because it’s what I saw first and got used to.

Kindle book cover display problems

The author also mentioned that the book cover doesn’t look right on amazon: in the listing, the kindle book doesn’t look so good, but the paperback does. Maybe this is because amazon used the paperback to generate the kindle? Instead, author’s need to upload their own copy for the kindle cover, which can be done through KDP (kindle direct publishing) or by logging into amazon’s ‘author advantage’ (I think that’s what it’s called).

To test, I uploaded a copy of the cover on the kindle page under ‘customer submitted images’ – it looks fine.

Is your book cover good enough?

A book cover redesign may be a good idea, but you need to measure whether or not it’s ‘good enough’ first. A book cover overhaul may not be what you need to sell more books. If the cover is crisp, clear and conveys emotion, and you can read the text clearly, it’ll probably work. As mentioned it should also clearly position itself in a genre, so that readers know what kind of book it is and what to expect. If it does all that, and most people say they like it, focus your attentions on getting the book in front of people (advertising or networking with related blogs or sites).

Free book cover critique: Quintspinner

New book cover critique! Quintspinner is a pirate book. Originally published with iUniverse and the following cover, which I quite like:

A little boring, but pleasant and not bad.

But the author migrated to Createspace and had to get a new cover (below, with the silhouette and the skull and crossbones). This cover is not terrible, but it isn’t doing a very good job of selling the book. (All I know so far is that it’s a pirate book – I can’t tell if the character is male or female, how old they are, if they are attractive, if they are confident, scared or tragic…. I don’t know if it’s romance or adventure, etc.)

Mostly, it’s just drab. Here’s what I dislike/would do differently:

1) Lose the awards. This is probably an excellent book, it’s won over a dozen awards. But putting them on the cover isn’t helping sell – the awards are the brightest, most colorful part of the cover so that’s what you see first, but they are unattractive. You can’t read them from thumbnail size, they don’t grab attention – they just seem out of place. On a print book I would put these on the back. But for online sales, I’d just list some of the awards in the description. The cover is not about information, it’s about emotion – you have to get viewers to feel something immediately; not be persuaded by award stickers. (However, I probably would remake the most reputable award into an awesome looking shiny gold sticker, and put it on….it can help boost sales, but it has to look good and fit the design.)

2) More Color. I’ve got nothing against the sky taking up most of the cover space – if it were an amazing, awesome sunset. But this sky is boring.

3) Needs a face. Readers can’t like or care about a character they can’t see; it’s a nice pirate outline… it could work, but a face/body would work better.

4) Change the font. It’s very pirate-y; but not bold enough and a little unclear. It could work with a color gradient and more contrast… but white on gray, it already disappears. All the text should be much bigger and bolder.

5) Action! This is a picture of a pirate standing on a rock. What’s he/she doing, posing? I would put a pirate ship in a storm, fighting a monster, a battle… some kind of movement/danger.

At any rate, I think this is probably an excellent book being held back by a mediocre cover.


Free book cover critique: Style Clarity

Bianca Chesimard asked me to review her book cover for Style Clarity: A simple plan to transform your wardrobe by looking within.

First Impressions: Nicely done. You can tell that the cover was done by someone who knows what they’re doing, it looks professional. I like the colors and the layout. I like the small font a lot (I can almost place it… but can’t quite). Familiar, but new.

Suggestions to Improve

1. The ghostly, body-less clothes are a little off-putting for me. Looking within, you disappear? Did this picture used to have a person in it? The text going through where the person’s head should be enhances the strangeness – it  looks like they were decapitated or their head exploded into the bold yellow text.

2. For a book called “Simple Clarity” (minimalism, simplicity, etc) the fashion seems pretty complex. Green brown, gray, white, accessories… stacks of colored shirts – 4 identical shirts in different colors? Not a big deal though, like I said it’s clean and appealing.

3. Don’t love the bulky font for the title, looks to balloonish. Probably could find another bold font that’s more stylish. Also don’t love the beveled look, but it works. On the same note…. a little too much yellow? Title+background?

4. I may also change the font of workbook

5. I don’t like how “the style” extends over the title. Not sure exactly why, as this can work sometimes. I think it’s the darker color going over the lighter. Could also be the flat going over the bevel, 3D look of the title.

Despite all that, it’s a very strong cover as far as covers go these days. Could be improved a little but it’ll probably do just fine.


What do you think?

Tales of Aurduin: Fantasy-Mystical Novel Book Cover Makeover

I first discovered Martin W. Ball’s “The Fate of Miraanni” in a second hand bookstore in Taiwan, and bought it despite the cover, which I disliked (I’ll tell you why in a minute). However, it was the best book I’ve read in a long time, and that’s saying something since I major in literature. Martin does a whole lot of awesome things, and like me is from Oregon. The book is kind of a Buddhist-mysticism meets fantasy RPG meets clash of cultures (nomads vs. aliens/high and low technology), but also a sharp and penetrating commentary on religion, with plenty of action, intrigue, and damn good writing. It’s a pity that not too many people are reading this book – so I decided to do a cover makeover for it.

First of all, what do I dislike about the current cover?

1) I don’t like the flat green boxes, the blurry green background. Wasted space.

2) I can recognize all the fonts used immediately as very basic windows fonts.

3) the gradient (blue to gold) is one of the standard gradients with basic photoshop; it also makes the text harder to read.

4) I don’t like the lens flare in the title. Seems out of place.

Altogether, this is a very home-made cover, which unfortunately will hurt book sales.

Below are my attempts to redo the cover. The book has so much to offer, it’s hard to know where to start – and there’s definitely the risk of adding too much and making it too busy. But at the same time, readers need to know what the book is about enough to build intrigue. I started with a landscape because the book involves a lot of travel through wide open spaces, mountain battles, etc. I added the UFO – the book has a mysterious race of beings with higher technology. They may not really be “aliens” but they seem to use something like flying saucers. I added a kite – the prominent feature on the original cover, and the young girl (the plot surrounds a young divine child).


Then I started in with a snake image; Miraanni meets a spiritual snake guide and needs to decide to abandon herself into oblivion or return to help the living.


Getting a little busy, so I took some back out:

The sword is optional, but helps establish the genre. There is a wicked awesome sword involved but I don’t have the exact description with me. There’s also a cool place in the mountains, an ancient place of power with carved faces and 3 women arriving to a collected gathering; that would make an amazing cover if I had time to create it. Obviously I would need to get hi-res images and clean it up a lot, and it may not be ideal, but I still think it’s an improvement over the original. What do you think?

If you’re looking for an exciting and powerful series of novels to lose yourself in, please check out the Tales of Aurduin!



Book cover critique and makeover: Cancer Sacked

Blake Eccles is thinking about redoing his cover “cancer sacked” – a true story about how Don Martin defeated terminal cancer in 4 months. This is his current cover:

The blue, bold text works OK with the football motif, but the cover is too busy. I understand the ‘surprised doctor’ picture but I’d get rid of it anyway; and the football player looks angry and determined but also too comical. I’d focus on the Title (the metaphor about sacking cancer) although to really explode sales I’d change it to “Tackling Cancer: How Don Martin Defeated Cancer in 4 months and you can too!

Although it’s not clear for the cover, the author’s website mentions an ancient cure for cancer – that should be the main selling feature of this book.

At any rate, I searched for a picture of “tackling” and found this one. With some new text, it’s not bad.

The obvious problem with this cover is that it’s biographical, and I don’t know enough about football to find a picture with the right color uniforms/number – if this book is being marketed to football fans, they’ll probably be upset that I used a totally different team than the right one. If, however, it’s being marketed for cancer patients, they may not care who’s on the cover if it looks good.

Book cover critique and makeover: what it takes

Terri Thompson asked me to critique her cover for “What it Takes”:

I’m not a fan of the flat pink color outline framing the picture, or the sparkle frame – so my first move would be to get rid of those. I get what she’s trying to do with the two pictures, as the story seems to be about a ‘bad girl’ who gets mysteriously reborn into a nice good girl lifestyle and has to figure out the mystery. But the pictures used are washed out and unprofessional, and the wooden frame which is askew doesn’t work at all.

Also, the book’s description on the author’s website says she has a nose piercing, in the picture it’s a lip ring; not sure if that’s a contradiction or what.

I like the font, although I’m not sure if it fits with the style this cover should aim for. I also see that the text has been outlined with a color a little darker than the background; that’s a pro move.

As I very quick fix, I made this:

Not great, but I little better – I just zoomed in on the important part of the picture, and used a ‘watercolor’ effect (this doesn’t always work, but if you’re dealing with bad quality images, using an art/paint brush effect may result in something usable.

However the cover still fails – mostly because we can’t tell what type of book this is. (Romance, intrigue, adventure, paranormal?)

I think the best market for readers will be “bad girls” who identify with the main character (or good girls who would like to!), so I did a quick search for bad girls – this is the first pic I liked. Intense stare makes this a powerful photo. I fixed it up a bit – if I know more about the character I could add a lip ring or nose piercing.

Then come fonts: I couldn’t decide to use a powerful, strong clean font like ITC Avant Garde Gothic, or a cool scrolly font (like the original, but more bad-ass). I love the beautiful “Angelic War” font and haven’t found a place to use it yet. I ended up using both; it’s not ideal – the styles don’t match… but the first font gives the impression that there is some fantasy/magic involved, that this is ‘paranormal’, and the 2nd font is exciting and powerful – eye catching. The text is also much bigger and clearer, which is important for an ebook cover.

What do you think? Better? Worse?

Free book cover design critique and makeover for indie authors

I’ve started a section of book cover critiques and makeover; if you have a cover already but aren’t sure if it’s good enough, or are thinking of getting a new one or fixing the old one, please send it to me to critique. I’ll do a “makeover”, which may include a free book cover that you can use if you like it.

The advantages for you: I’ll post your cover in a blog post along with comments on what I like/dislike about it, as well as some suggestions for improving it or possible cover ideas. Besides the obviously tangible benefit of free advice from a book designer, you also get the priceless ensuing free publicity. (There is no such thing as bad press – Your goal should be to get your name and the name of your book into people’s minds as many ways as possible).

Book cover critiques will not reflect on the actual book or writing – only on its superficial (but powerful) face. You can send me the cover in an attachment or give me the link to your blog/amazon page. I’d like to do a few every week, so if I get tons of requests, I may not have time to post them all.

Don’t let the review hurt your feelings. Knowing graphic design doesn’t make you a better person (as opposed to being a good writer – which makes you totally awesome.) A harsh critique about your writing may demand tissues and alcohol. After all if your writing sucks, there’s very little you can do about it (except for years and years of tooth-gritting practice). If your book cover sucks, however, just buy a new one.

On the other hand, if your book cover is totally awesome and you want to share it, here’s your chance.

Why I would give away free book covers

It’s actually pretty fun to be able to redesign a cover without having to please the client (since you’re not paying, I won’t need to take your opinion into account). I’ll just “play” and do whatever I think “feels right” – this freedom usually lets me make an awesome cover very quickly, so I get some more practice and might add the cover to my portfolio if I like it. If you like it, you’re free to use it.

Book cover makeover CONDITIONS:

1. I’m not able to makeover every cover request, I try to do a few every week but if I’m swamped with work or getting tons of request, I may not be able to do a makeover. However I’ll still post a critique with suggestions.

2. I’m very sorry if you don’t like what I come up with. Try to keep in mind that I’m doing this for free, and I try not to spend more than 30 minutes on makeovers; makeover covers will almost certainly not be as good as the covers in my portfolio. Also, since I’m just guessing based on the original cover, there’s a good chance I may not capture the reality of your book.

3. These are not meant to be totally redone from scratch designs – but simple fixes anybody could do to quickly improve a cover. This will help others learn to identify (and practice) better book cover design.

4. If you like the new cover but you want to make changes, then I’ll have to charge something – probably about half price of my normal book cover design fee. (But this offer is limited to making simple  changes in color, font, placement or maybe background image – not starting from scratch with something totally different!)


Check out past book cover critiques and makeovers HERE.

Use the form below to submit your cover

You can attach an image, or send a link to your cover. PS) if you have the original photo/designed you used for the background, without text, please send it too. (Or attach the photo and link to the current cover… also please include the title, author name, and a tagline.)

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