View Full Version : Designing a book cover

04-27-2016, 04:32 PM
Hey all,

Designing a book cover. I'm finally happy with where it is, which I've learned in generally when I'm in a spot where I benefit most from other people's eyes.

So if you have any thoughts about how to improve this, or whether you'd pick it up to browse through it in a book store, or anything at all, I'd love to hear it.


04-27-2016, 05:18 PM
Ooh! I like!

The only thing I'd say is your line at the bottom confuses me. This cover looks solidly middle grade, but you're saying it's a YA book. Is it really a YA book? Because if that's the case then I think you have some problems with your cover looking too young. If it's meant for 8-12 (middle grade), it's pretty fantastic, but I'd just change that line :) .

04-27-2016, 06:29 PM
I had no idea the designations were different, so thank you very much! I'm going to go snoop on other MG fantasy covers and see how they labeled it.

04-27-2016, 06:56 PM
Very exciting, Bartholomew! Did you design it yourself? I agree with Toothpaste about the bottom line. Do you think you even need to say "for Young Adults" (or "Middle Grade")? That might immediately turn off someone who's looking for "middle grade". My thinking is the cover's so cool, if I were looking for a novel for a young 'un, I would only care about that whether it's a great story. Removing it would allow the person perusing your [ETA: book] to decide if it's a good fit.

Dennis E. Taylor
04-27-2016, 07:00 PM
With the caveat that Toothpaste supplied, that's a damned fine cover!

04-27-2016, 07:08 PM
Thirding the "good except for the last line", here. I don't often see books outright label themselves on the cover as a MG or YA book; they let the design and shelving and marketing do that. (The ones that are labeled, from what I see, tend to be either nonfiction or books for younger readers... very young, as in the "Step Into Reading"-type books that rate the difficulty.) The design, as others said, looks more MG than YA, and definitely has the "not quite a grown-up" vibe - it doesn't need a label. Do you think a young adult - or even a middle-grade reader - would like being talked down to with a "this story is just for you, you little cutie-wootie-pie with your little kiddie brain!" label? (Whether you mean it that way or not, that's how it could be taken... remember, pre-teen/teen years....)

04-27-2016, 07:14 PM
I agree with the labeling of the genre and that it definitely looks younger...I'd assume a book for 8-10yr olds at most, rather than young adults. But otherwise, it looks really good!

04-27-2016, 09:40 PM
Agree with Brightdreamer, you don't need to categorise the book at all on the cover. Also that it could be condescending to state who the audience is for to that audience. The cover looks very MG (in a good way, I'm deep in the MG world, love it :) ), and that's really all you need :) .

04-27-2016, 11:23 PM
Agree on the consensus here that A) that cover looks really, really good, and B) you needn't mention any target audience on the cover. The cover speaks for and sells itself.

04-28-2016, 01:16 AM
It may be just me but I am not sure of the gender of the character, if that matters.

Latina Bunny
04-28-2016, 01:29 AM
Like some other posters have said: It definitely looks like a MG cover, to me.

(Off-topic: Oh, something about the artstyle kind of reminds me of the remastered remake artstyle of the illustrations from the computer game, Secret of Monkey Island. Loved that game!)


YA books, aimed at teens, don't usually have those kinds of covers. Their covers are either objects, letters, or photoshop/photo images, usually. I mean, there are some with illustrations, but not so...cartoony? Usually it's more serious looking or realistic.

I also agree that the last line on the bottom is really unnecessary (and off-putting). That makes it obvious that it's self-published. Trade published books don't put such an obvious line about the target audience onto the covers, etc.

It may be just me but I am not sure of the gender of the character, if that matters.

I had this thought as well, lol.

The character looked like a girl with the typical cultural markers (ponytail and pink shirt and lips?), but the body looks like an oddly proportioned cartoon boy. (Those arms are look big, almost muscular, while the legs are skinny twigs. The long, flat torso also add to my confusion.)

Maybe it's a preteen young girl? (I don't know the age of the character.) Or maybe they're meant to be androgynous?

04-28-2016, 11:02 AM
I really appreciate all the comments! I'm really surprised and flattered that the cover is being received so well. I was really prepared to have a bunch of design notes. Being told, "hey, remove this text piece of text for reasons that make perfect sense and you're good to go" is the fizz in my soda right now. <3 I really appreciate everyone's time and effort looking at this.

The design is mine and the cover art is by Zach Stoppel, and we're working together to create a bunch of different kinds of stories in several formats. About Kylie's gender, yes, she's female with androgynous markers fairly deliberately. The book is meant to offer up a rough and tumble character that young girls can (hopefully) see in themselves, especially as an alternative to certain other kinds of characters, and that offers young boys the notion that, yes, girls can be tough heroes and that when they are, it's notable simply because they were heroic and tough. But I should probably keep my politics out of the cover design thread. =|

04-28-2016, 01:25 PM
Too cute, Bart. I love the mood of this cover. Makes me want to read it!

Gale Haut
04-29-2016, 09:20 PM
The art could be geared to YA with some filter adjustments and different font choices. I'd assume a humorous tone in YA would be a hard sell considering the age group is damn fickle on the coolness factor.

04-29-2016, 09:40 PM
I'm going to light into the cover in a minute, but with the best of intentions. However, I'd first like to say that it's truly an amazing MG cover. If there's any way you can age the MC down, or save this cover for another novel with a younger protag, then you might want to consider doing so.

Now mean-Cyia comes out:

This will not fly as YA. Drawn artwork in that style is very blatantly for younger readers, as is the framing and the color choice. Her expression is cartoonish, and the font / title are squarely in MG territory.

Since the androgynous nature of the covergirl has been mentioned, it's definitely going to work against this looking like a book for teens. There are zero physical cues that she's a teen girl. It's not just the flat chest; she's proportioned like a boy or a *pre*-teen girl. Look at the width of her shoulders compared to the rest of her body. There's no waist-taper, no hips, and the length of the upper body compared to the lower is more in line for a male character than a female one. Her forearms are more muscular than her upper arms, and her facial ratios are borderline to the point that I'd call them "tween," meaning she looks 12. She has no eyelashes, which are the universal illustrator shorthand for "female." An adult will usually be 7-8 heads high, proportionally. Teens will be at least 6, close to 7. Your girl is right at 5. These are subconscious cues that people use to guestimate age without even realizing it.

So again, it basically boils down to -- this is an excellent, truly, truly excellent, MG cover. It just doesn't work for YA.

And definitely ditch the line at the bottom. That's where your name should go.

04-30-2016, 12:21 PM
Thinking about the branding a bit more seriously, and I realize that the text on the top and bottom are both basically in the way. The bottom text solves itself easily, since the community consensus (and I agree) is that it's not in any way helpful, especially since it's speaking down to the audience and doesn't convey accurate information.

The top text is a bit harder (http://i.imgur.com/vGphksV.png), mostly because Kylie Roth isn't established outside of rough drafts that are nowhere near as close as this.

I'm probably going to stick with "A New Kylie Roth Adventure" because there *will* have been some Kylie Roth adventures by the time this is fit for human consumption. The only problem is that they're going to have been in my comic strip, which is not really aimed at children. (Seriously, it isn't. Book three is partly about a cam girl who is evading up a dangerous fan.) I might ultimately need cover variations for my comic site(where people will know who Kylie Roth is, but will not assume this is middle grade, simply because of who wrote it) and for other sites (where no one will know who Kylie Roth is, but the cover's artwork is self-explanatory.)

(Please please please don't ask me to explain how these characters are related.)

But I appreciate any and all thoughts on this. Unless I or Zach significantly alter(s) the artwork, I'll probably stop sharing minor tweaks, even though I am very definitely still taking in feedback and running iterations. The core part of the cover I feel has passed the tests it needed to pass, so I'm really just trying to hammer the best variations of the white text into place.

04-30-2016, 06:22 PM
Okay so let's talk text!

It's cool to put some kind of text across the top, the problem is you have a lot of text in one area. There's very little space between the top text and the title. I'm wondering if there's a way to lower the title (without obviously blocking the girl). I think the bit about shutting up would actually look better closer to the sword anyway, down in that negative space around it on the right.

I'd play around with "The Sword" too. "The"s are a bloody nuisance. You need them, but they get in the way. So play around with its size and location. Maybe move it to an entirely new part of the cover. Really go to town and think outside the box. You may end up back where you started but that's what I would recommend.

Also your name looks like an after thought. Like, "Oh crap, right, I need to tell them who wrote this." I'd raise it and make it bigger.

04-30-2016, 07:01 PM
In mulling this over, you have two descriptors: "A New Kylie Roth Adventure!" and "A Blimpford Fantasy Novel." I'd recommend deleting the "New." Eventually this novel will be "old," or an earlier version, or a "final" adventure. Do you think the "New" could be confusing down the road?