Free book cover critique: “Marked”, a paranormal werewolf book cover

Suzanne Cox sent me her book cover design for “Marked”. Nice idea, done in Gimp. I tried to recreate it in photoshop.

What I changed: I like the pale/whiteness, as it makes the red stand out, but the background pictures of trees is unclear and uncompelling (emotionless). I didn’t see a reason to fade around the top of the head so I just left it all wolf on the top half, then blended in some other tree pics that I thought were more mysterious.

The original cover had a border (stroke) around it – this is fine but I prefer covers that are all photo, so I left it off. Suzanne liked the title font (“Seans Other Hand”) so I left it. The original had some kind of bevel+shadow. I’m almost always anti-bevel, but I changed it to an inner shadow plus a red gradient for the text. Not a huge difference but I like it. I also made the text a lot bigger. Text can be small if it fits into the design, but with this much white space, there was no reason to keep the text so small.

It is entirely possible that the author will still prefer the original, which has more of a mysterious, sad and lonely vibe – I haven’t read the book yet so there may be elements in the original that I didn’t capture in these updates; however, since the book cover has to grab attention and sell the book, the cover matters more than the story. These new versions are bolder, with stronger contrast between light and dark, clearer images, more emotion and bigger text that’s easier to read… so while it may not as adequately capture the mood of the story, it will probably at least get more people to buy the book and begin reading.







Debt Guide: Get out of Debt Fast free book cover review and makeover

Fiona asked me to critique this book cover for “Kick-ass debt guide: an irreverent and revolutionary new guide to debt and how to get rid of it FAST!”

Book cover design critique: the bold text and red and black layout is not bad, but there’s NO REASON for the title text to be that small, within all that empty white space. So this cover needs two fixes: At least some kind of picture – any picture, and bigger text.

I put together these two; a clever, interesting picture is always better (even if the meaning is not totally obvious), so I like this mousetrap/money pic – which can mean that debt is like a trap… or that you need to set a trap to make more money, or whatever.

I redid the text in Rockwell (which I think was used on the original) with bigger black/red banners.

If that cover is a little too strange, I made a simple one with jars of coins, which can mean just about anything to do with saving, spending, debt or money.

What do you think?




Stalking Carlos Castaneda; a memoir book cover makeover

I’m finishing up a remake of “stalking Carlos Castaneda, a memoir by Joan Wulfohn. The original book cover design and final fixed cover are below:

At first, I thought I could just go with the old fashioned style, so I found these amazing pictures (which I hope I can still use for something):

There were some of my early attempts:





But then we found out we needed to use a real picture of Joan; we dug around and found some good ones, either of these below would have been great:

The final cover looks like this: very soft and interesting.


Free book cover critique and feedback: 23 days

Ty Gray submitted this book cover for a review and critique. The memoir, “23 Days,” is a book with the theme of persistence, hope, and redemption. It’s about a police career. “How I transformed. The redemption of my resigning.”

First impressions: Too bold and busy. The text is too blocky/square for my tastes. The USA flag-behind-text could work, but with the bevel AND the background image, I think it’s got too much going on. The darkened out picture makes my eyes hurt, trying to focus in on it behind the bright text. If I were doing it, I’d probably center on the uniform, probably closer, maybe just the middle with the head/lower arms cut off, then put the “23 Days” directly over his chest. Still pretty big. Maybe still with the flag (if so, I’d desaturate the background image, change it to black/white or very simple colors). I’d probably also make the red white and blue more dirty/faded, softer.

I don’t mind the subtitle – it’s nice to have a subtitle to let readers know what the book is about (although this one could be edited a bit).

One of the main changes I’d make is the Author Name – it should be a lot bigger. Doesn’t matter if you aren’t a famous writer – putting your name small signals lack of confidence. If you want people to read your book, you need to be bold and at least appear to be a very confident author – this can easily be done with a big fat Author name.

Quick Fixes:

I contacted the author and got the background image. First I tried to recreate the original, but the plain guy/close up cop uniform was too boring for me, so I decided to use more of the picture. I think having this faded snapshot of a group of policemen is more interesting. I tried to get the 23-flag background to work but it doesn’t. The dark blue vs. white means it’s not going to look very good on either a light or black background. This can be fixed a little bit by a stroke, drop shadow or outer glow, but only so much. Ihis blue-green makes it pop out a bit more, but still not great.

So I got rid of the flag, changed to another font (Mangal) for some bold white typography. Overall much better, cleaner, easier to read. I used some gradient overlays to change the colors, get a darker effect with deeper blues. I like it – simple but nice enough to catch attention, let the reader know a little bit of what to expect. I like the contrast between the happy scene, but the dark and vivid colors….

I got rid

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.


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?