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?




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 simpleĀ  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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