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leifwright
06-21-2016, 12:28 AM
OK. The publisher sent along this concept for the cover of my next novel, [I]Robby The R-Word.

The book is about a string of assaults—and one murder—surrounding a severely handicapped man named Robby after he regains the ability to communicate with the world. The detective working the case is fighting misogyny at the police department while she struggles to capture a bumbling criminal who seems to be proving more elusive than he should.

The blurb at the top is a placeholder for a real blurb when the editing is farther along and review copies have gone out.

I have mixed feelings about the cover. Here are the reasons: I like the concept, but I think the "Robby" font could be kerned tighter and the letters be a bit larger.

I'm not at ALL sold on the "R-Word" font. But from a non-designer perspective, I have to admit it grabs the eye.

I'm assuming the pixelated face at the top left is because it's a placeholder image, and I also assume the cutout of that face will be better in the final product—specifically, I'm hoping the blue highlights in that cutout disappear.

So what are your thoughts? Am I being too nit-picky?

EDIT: The publisher asked me to unpublished the cover from my personal site, which I think also includes this one. Their logic was sound: publishing my manuscript before it's edited is akin to publishing the cover before it is finalized.

Samsonet
06-21-2016, 01:12 AM
I'm not sure if this is helpful at all, but with the name Robby I thought the R-word was Robot.

leifwright
06-21-2016, 01:33 AM
I'm not sure if this is helpful at all, but with the name Robby I thought the R-word was Robot.

In a way, it can stand for that, since the machine he's using to communicate handles all his interactions with the world.

Loverofwords
06-21-2016, 02:04 AM
I like the "R-Word" font, but I think the "Robby the" font could be different. I'm not sure it needs to be bigger necessarily, though maybe a tad. IMO, I'm not a big fan of faces on covers, but I don't mind it on yours because it's mostly hidden in shadows. But overall it looks like a neat cover and the I like the red and gray colors.

leifwright
06-21-2016, 02:47 AM
I like the "R-Word" font, but I think the "Robby the" font could be different. I'm not sure it needs to be bigger necessarily, though maybe a tad. IMO, I'm not a big fan of faces on covers, but I don't mind it on yours because it's mostly hidden in shadows. But overall it looks like a neat cover and the I like the red and gray colors.

Thank you. I'm not sure what input they're wanting from me, but I thought I'd throw it out there before I respond with my input. Hoping, I guess, that someone here offers something I can use.

Southpaw
06-21-2016, 03:16 AM
Dude, your cover is too large for the forum (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?304595-FAQ-Image-Size-Guidelines). Shrink it to 400 x 400 and reduce the ppi. (And there is a forum dedicated to cover art.)

On a personal note, I hate scrolling up and down to see a cover. It's difficult to get the overall feel.

Do you get any input, I mean if you say something will they change it out?

leifwright
06-21-2016, 03:21 AM
Dude, your cover is too large for the forum (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?304595-FAQ-Image-Size-Guidelines). Shrink it to 400 x 400 and reduce the ppi. (And there is a forum dedicated to cover art.)

On a personal note, I hate scrolling up and down to see a cover. It's difficult to get the overall feel.

Do you get any input, I mean if you say something will they change it out?

Size is now changed.

I'm not sure how much input I will get. When they sent it to me, they said "I welcome your thoughts and comments."

So I'm not sure if they'll change something if I mention it or not, but I figure that's an open door and it can't hurt to mention things.

Southpaw
06-21-2016, 03:26 AM
That was fast, thanks.

I was thinking it was okay until I saw it as a whole piece. I like the colors and stuff, but oddly I don't care for the font used for 'Robby'. I can't really tell you why. I know that isn't helpful at all.

As for the image of the face. Ask them if that is a placeholder because it might not be (I agree it needs to be de-pixelized0.

Carrie in PA
06-21-2016, 04:37 AM
I like the "R-Word" font, but I think the "Robby the" font could be different. I'm not sure it needs to be bigger necessarily, though maybe a tad. IMO, I'm not a big fan of faces on covers, but I don't mind it on yours because it's mostly hidden in shadows. But overall it looks like a neat cover and the I like the red and gray colors.


This, exactly. I *really* don't like the font for Robby/the. Perhaps a serif font would look better?? Sorry that's not particularly helpful!

beckyhammer
06-21-2016, 05:56 AM
I'm indifferent to the fonts, but the overall design is a bit busy - too many elements muddled together in the dark.

veinglory
06-21-2016, 06:06 AM
It's too dark to make any sense in thumbnail

leifwright
06-21-2016, 07:07 AM
That was fast, thanks.

I was thinking it was okay until I saw it as a whole piece. I like the colors and stuff, but oddly I don't care for the font used for 'Robby'. I can't really tell you why. I know that isn't helpful at all.

Actually, it's quite helpful, because I was having the same reaction.


As for the image of the face. Ask them if that is a placeholder because it might not be (I agree it needs to be de-pixelized0.

I will definitely ask, because if the book comes out with that image, I would be horrified.

leifwright
06-21-2016, 07:09 AM
It's too dark to make any sense in thumbnail


Try this one: [REMOVED. See first post]

jjdebenedictis
06-21-2016, 07:53 AM
I'd like to see "the R-word" in a thicker, more ragged looking font. I like the general idea of the font chosen--a hand-written scribble--but it's too tidy-looking, imo. Should look like it was written with a thick crayon.

Loverofwords
06-21-2016, 08:28 AM
I'm indifferent to the fonts, but the overall design is a bit busy - too many elements muddled together in the dark.

Yeah, I kind of agree with this now that I've taken a second look. There's a lot going on.

mrsmig
06-21-2016, 08:32 AM
It's too dark to make any sense in thumbnail


Try this one: http://leifwright.com/images/robby_concept_big.jpg

I think veinglory's point is that in thumbnail size (the size most frequently used at sites like Amazon), the design would be impossible to make out because it's so dark. I agree. I shrank it down to a thumbnail and not only did the details disappear in the murk, it was difficult to make out anything but the word "Robby."

Matt T.
06-21-2016, 09:54 AM
I agree with the other comments that it's rather busy and that it's pretty dark right now. When I look at it up close, such as in that high-res version you linked to, it's easier to pick out the individual parts in the darkness, but it isn't the kind of thing that would grab my attention when I'm scrolling through books on Amazon and the image is the size of a postage stamp.

Putputt
06-21-2016, 10:18 AM
I'm not a fan. Here are the things which would make me pass on the book based on the cover:

-It seems like a slapdash cut-and-paste job. The images are kinda just stuck on and the end result feels busy and yet vague. There isn't much unity, it feels like a bunch of random images pasted together.
-The overall color scheme isn't grabby enough. Someone pointed out that as a thumbnail, it would be too dark, and I agree with that.
-Both fonts don't work for me. The "ROBBY" font isn't big enough, and the "R-word" font seems a bit too thin. Again, when you shrink the cover down to thumbnail-size, the fonts just don't work.

Overall, I don't think it's BAD, but it feels like it was done without much love or thought, and honestly I wouldn't click on it if I were to see the thumbnail on Amazon. :-/

leifwright
06-21-2016, 05:09 PM
Thanks for all the input. I'm going to pass it along.

I shrunk it down and didn't have any trouble making everything out, but that may be just my monitor, and the truth is, what I think when I shrink it down doesn't matter nearly as much as what YOU think when you shrink it down.

So I'm going to pass that along, too, because everyone is right: what it looks like on Amazon matters.

Latina Bunny
06-21-2016, 05:30 PM
I'm also going to echo everybody about the darkness and muddiness of the cover. I had to zoom in and squint on the thumbnail image.

I would think the face needs to be lit up more. Or perhaps the badge could be more brighter. They're both a little hard to see. The badge is a bit muddy to make out.

The protagonist with the wheelchair definitely needs to pop out more as well. I think the protagonist blends too much with the cover, so perhaps the background color could be either brightened, or perhaps changed to another color scheme. I feel like putting up the "brightness" or "contrast" with this cover could help.

Maybe it's because of the combination with the two-toned color scheme, but the cover feels...a bit crowded? Busy?

I think one of the elements should be taken away, (either the badge or the shadowy face), to make the cover feel more cleaner.

Just my humble opinion, of course. :)

neandermagnon
06-21-2016, 06:27 PM
I'm going to go against the grain and say I (mostly) like it. I like it enough that I'd grab it off the shelf and have a read, and your story explanation from your post has got me hooked. I'm now at the stage where I'd read the first few lines and if they make me want to keep reading, I'll buy it. So it's done the job.

I don't really like the face. It reminds me of those memes with 80s photography and the face superimposed on them to look creepy (http://i3.kym-cdn.com/photos/images/original/000/113/021/890.jpg). It's more subtle than the memes but I'm not sure if it belongs there. There seems to be empty space in that section of the cover, or at least that the face and detective badge are competing for the space rather than being centre stage. Maybe this is why it seems to lack cohesion.

Maybe if you make the silhouette of Robby bigger, and the text bigger, and just have that as the cover and don't try to squeeze in the detective badge and the face. The cover doesn't have to show the whole story concept. It shows Robby and the blurb mentions the detective.

evangaline
06-21-2016, 07:22 PM
To add my two cents to everyone else: I like the colors, but to me, the cover is too busy and at thumbnail size, you lose the detail. I'd keep the muddied background but lose the face and the badge, make the wheelchair a little larger and move it up a tad, and change the font for 'ROBBY.' It feels too clean and pristine.

JoeSlucher
06-21-2016, 07:34 PM
Another voice here saying that it's too dark. The problem is it's too low contrast. It can have lots of black but there needs to be something bright to set it off. As others have said, it will not be a very interesting thumbnail.
I'm not sure how much control you have at all over the cover so I'm not sure what my thoughts are worth but I think a simpler graphic style that really pops might work best rather than cobbled together photo collage. I like the hard silhouette of the guy in the wheelchair and something bright in there like his eyes/glasses,etc could be striking. Kind of like this cover. Silhouette style 1 (http://i2.wp.com/www.tor.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Hammerscover_outline.jpg?fit=740%2C%209999&crop=0%2C0%2C100%2C1180px) Or maybe use a larger silhouette of the wheelchair character or badge as a containing shape for everything kind of like Olly Moss does so you have one big strike image but also all the little details you want. silhouette frame/Olly Moss style. (http://static1.squarespace.com/static/52127948e4b06d5f9d345a0f/t/5212b232e4b00cd5639afab1/1376956979327/jedi.jpg?format=original)
Since all of this dark stuff surrounds the handicapped character maybe his silouette could be completely white while all of the other elements stay as dark as they are. So it's like he is surrounded by darkness. Then throw something inside his white shape to pull attention there.

kevinwaynewilliams
06-21-2016, 09:08 PM
I'm having such trouble with the title I'm having trouble getting to the cover. The only aspect of this cover that is giving me any clue as to what kind of book I'm dealing with is the police shield.

leifwright
06-21-2016, 11:54 PM
I'm having such trouble with the title I'm having trouble getting to the cover. The only aspect of this cover that is giving me any clue as to what kind of book I'm dealing with is the police shield.

I think that's because it's more than just the police shield can convey. It's the story of a woman's struggle in a male-dominated profession (that may be the biggest storyline, though it competes with the others). It's the story of a man who has been discounted and abused because of his inability to speak up. It's got themes of child abuse, spouse-killing, a truckstop serial killer, a woman coming to terms with her sexuality (and the male best friend who wishes she'd reconsider). It's a broad story, and I'm kind of impressed at how succinct the cover image ended up being.


Another voice here saying that it's too dark. The problem is it's too low contrast. It can have lots of black but there needs to be something bright to set it off. As others have said, it will not be a very interesting thumbnail.
I'm not sure how much control you have at all over the cover so I'm not sure what my thoughts are worth but I think a simpler graphic style that really pops might work best rather than cobbled together photo collage. I like the hard silhouette of the guy in the wheelchair and something bright in there like his eyes/glasses,etc could be striking. Kind of like this cover. Silhouette style 1 (http://i2.wp.com/www.tor.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Hammerscover_outline.jpg?fit=740%2C%209999&crop=0%2C0%2C100%2C1180px) Or maybe use a larger silhouette of the wheelchair character or badge as a containing shape for everything kind of like Olly Moss does so you have one big strike image but also all the little details you want. silhouette frame/Olly Moss style. (http://static1.squarespace.com/static/52127948e4b06d5f9d345a0f/t/5212b232e4b00cd5639afab1/1376956979327/jedi.jpg?format=original)
Since all of this dark stuff surrounds the handicapped character maybe his silouette could be completely white while all of the other elements stay as dark as they are. So it's like he is surrounded by darkness. Then throw something inside his white shape to pull attention there.

I think decluttering may help the image a great deal. I've passed that along to the publisher.


I'm going to go against the grain and say I (mostly) like it. I like it enough that I'd grab it off the shelf and have a read, and your story explanation from your post has got me hooked. I'm now at the stage where I'd read the first few lines and if they make me want to keep reading, I'll buy it. So it's done the job.

I don't really like the face. It reminds me of those memes with 80s photography and the face superimposed on them to look creepy (http://i3.kym-cdn.com/photos/images/original/000/113/021/890.jpg). It's more subtle than the memes but I'm not sure if it belongs there. There seems to be empty space in that section of the cover, or at least that the face and detective badge are competing for the space rather than being centre stage. Maybe this is why it seems to lack cohesion.

Maybe if you make the silhouette of Robby bigger, and the text bigger, and just have that as the cover and don't try to squeeze in the detective badge and the face. The cover doesn't have to show the whole story concept. It shows Robby and the blurb mentions the detective.

I think you're right on all counts, and having read a lot of your critiques, I'm flattered that you'd give my book a chance.

kevinwaynewilliams
06-22-2016, 01:05 AM
I think that's because it's more than just the police shield can convey. It's the story of a woman's struggle in a male-dominated profession (that may be the biggest storyline, though it competes with the others). It's the story of a man who has been discounted and abused because of his inability to speak up. It's got themes of child abuse, spouse-killing, a truckstop serial killer, a woman coming to terms with her sexuality (and the male best friend who wishes she'd reconsider). It's a broad story, and I'm kind of impressed at how succinct the cover image ended up being.

Part of the definition of "succinct" is that it's not only short, but that it effectively conveys the intended message. I note above that someone above made the same mistake that I did and assumed that your lead character was a robot. Two out of a handful is significant. I'm still not certain what the "R word" is, after all the discussion above.

The illustration doesn't give me anything about your other themes, and certainly not enough about anything to counterbalance my initial misconception.

leifwright
06-22-2016, 01:11 AM
Part of the definition of "succinct" is that it's not only short, but that it effectively conveys the intended message. I note above that someone above made the same mistake that I did and assumed that your lead character was a robot. Two out of a handful is significant. I'm still not certain what the "R word" is, after all the discussion above.

The illustration doesn't give me anything about your other themes, and certainly not enough about anything to counterbalance my initial misconception.

I'll pass that along.

As far as the "robot" misconception, I think that's largely due to Robby the Robot, which I'm guessing is an old TV show. I heard Howard Stern mention it just today.

As far as the cover being confusing, I don't know that it's possible for a first iteration like that to cover everything and not be confusing.

I agree with everyone that it's too dark and muddled, but I also think having the wheelchair and the detective badge is necessary. I'm not as convinced that the face needs to be there.

Toothpaste
06-22-2016, 04:54 AM
I agree with most of what's been said: the "Robby" font is off, the cover is too dark (can't really see all the different images), it looks very cut and pasted together.

My biggest issue is that I don't know the genre. Even with the police badge. Like I might look at that and go, "So gritty detective?" but then I'd look at the font and go "YA story about a mentally and physically challenged boy coping as a teen?"

So that's why I think the biggest thing that'll help your cover is font. You need it to be the same kind of font of other cop thrillers. Almost universally such fonts are tall and lean, sans serif and bold. Like these: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/c1/fd/33/c1fd33ec2e6bd829077376a35768067b.jpg

https://robertdmcclure.files.wordpress.com/2015/05/cover.png

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-mw16sPcrs-s/UWUwqUCjMtI/AAAAAAAABHk/uhOKlXzAIfI/s1600/DELIVERANCE_of_Evil_HB.jpg


You'll notice too a trend to put an image into the font itself. I think the font here will help the most, really get across the genre better than anything else.

I agree that the wheelchair and the cop badge are helpful images as well, but again, you don't need to hint at everything. You don't need the whole backstory in a cover. You just want people to stop and want to check out the book.

kevinwaynewilliams
06-22-2016, 05:00 AM
As far as the "robot" misconception, I think that's largely due to Robby the Robot, which I'm guessing is an old TV show. I heard Howard Stern mention it just today.

"Robby the Robot" was quite famous, a meme before we had memes.

"Misconceptions" can cause a lot of problems: I'm genuinely trying not to be an ass here, but warn you of an issue. I have spent over a year explaining that my book is not a satire. I'd give anything to go back in time and launch it with a new title.

leifwright
06-22-2016, 06:19 AM
"Robby the Robot" was quite famous, a meme before we had memes.

"Misconceptions" can cause a lot of problems: I'm genuinely trying not to be an ass here, but warn you of an issue. I have spent over a year explaining that my book is not a satire. I'd give anything to go back in time and launch it with a new title.

You didn't come across as being an ass. I posted this because I wanted criticism, so you're fine.

leifwright
06-22-2016, 06:23 AM
Thank you, everyone, so far.

Here's what I sent to the publisher today:


I’ve been doing some more thinking (and asking some author friends), and I think some changes could help. Universally, I heard the cover is too dark, and too busy.
In addition, almost no one liked the font.
Among the suggestions I heard were a thinner, taller font, and possibly using the silhouette as a frame instead of an object on the page.
Re the font, I’ve attached images of books that have been suggested as examples for such a thing.
Again, I know you’re going to be the one making the final decisions, but I thought you might appreciate the input.
Please see the attached images, which were suggested to me specifically for the font.

Toothpaste
06-22-2016, 05:21 PM
And now we play the waiting game. Here's hoping they agree and take some of the suggestions on board! :)

Southpaw
06-23-2016, 12:22 AM
Good luck, Leif.

leifwright
06-23-2016, 03:12 AM
And now we play the waiting game. Here's hoping they agree and take some of the suggestions on board! :)

Thank you. I sent them the covers you linked to, because I agree, that font is way cooler.


Good luck, Leif.

Thank you! I really hope they listen, because the cover can mean so much.

taraesque
06-23-2016, 08:41 PM
IMO, the spacing for "THE" is too large, it makes things look like they are danging. I'd ask for Robby the to be a thinner font and the R-Word to be thicker.

leifwright
06-24-2016, 06:31 AM
The publisher responded today:


I appreciate the additional feedback. I’m going to be showing the cover to some industry pros – distributors, sales reps, national buyers – with whom I have a good relationship in order to get some more opinions. We really want to get this cover perfect.

Latina Bunny
06-24-2016, 07:24 AM
Ah, that sounds good! :) Definitely good to get some extra eyes, especially expert / professional eyes, on the piece.

The cover has some potential, for sure. With some (hopefully minor) changes, it will be much more eye catching for the customers. I'm crossing my fingers for you! :D

Can't wait to see the future cover! :3

leifwright
06-29-2016, 08:52 AM
OK. The publisher came back with a cover that I think in many ways is better, but in many other ways is worse:

I didn't like the serif font they chose, but I really did enjoy that they lightened everything up and made the wheelchair more prominent.

I HATED the handwriting font they used and the embossing on it, but I liked that they changed it from red to white.

They're getting closer in ways to what I had in my mind, so rather than only describe it, I did a mockup and sent it back to them (along with an apology for my horrible clone and stamp job on the wheelchair's wheel):

I used League Gothic for "Robby" and Trajan for "R-Word," which I think makes it feel a bit more serious than the handwriting font.

Thoughts? Am I completely wrong? Should I have left well enough alone?

[EDIT: I removed the images. See first post for reasons]

Toothpaste
06-29-2016, 05:02 PM
I still don't think the cover is bright enough and the contrast isn't distinct enough. And they are clearly fond of the handwriting font for "R-Word" :P . I like your font choices better (I still don't think it's quite spot on). (do we have verification that they are going to be getting rid of those white watermark lines crossing through the face?)

Also, um, are they using that as a blurb or are they using that as a placecard holder blurb? Because a blurb by your editor (or really any editor from any publisher) is not a blurb and looks rather unprofessional.

edutton
06-29-2016, 05:31 PM
I like the way Robby is in shadow (the wheelchair image), it says a lot about your theme as you've described it. The police badge is kind of a generic image, but not a stopper... but we HATES the face, Precious. We hates it so much. ;)

I'd be interested in the effect of (a) losing the face, and (b) shifting Robby-in-the-chair a little left and down from the focal point, where he's even more blatantly out of the way. Also, if the whole color palette could be lightened a few degrees, but still allow Robby to be in shadow? Maybe?

I'm with you on the Robby font, it needs to be something... else. The R-Word font is not horrible, but it lacks imagination - as with the police badge, it feels very generic and kind of high-end self-publishing. Overall I think the CONCEPT is good, but a lot of detail work needs to be done.

Good luck with it!

ETA: So that was in response to the original. I approve the lightening job they did, and the font choice is better. I'm not sure about the Trajan, it feels too formal? Your Robby font choice is WAY better than what they had. My thoughts about losing the face and shifting the wheelchair still stand.

leifwright
06-30-2016, 12:39 AM
I still don't think the cover is bright enough and the contrast isn't distinct enough. And they are clearly fond of the handwriting font for "R-Word" :P . I like your font choices better (I still don't think it's quite spot on). (do we have verification that they are going to be getting rid of those white watermark lines crossing through the face?)

They have confirmed that the lines are because the image hasn't been purchased yet and will be once final approval is given.


Also, um, are they using that as a blurb or are they using that as a placecard holder blurb? Because a blurb by your editor (or really any editor from any publisher) is not a blurb and looks rather unprofessional.

It's a placeholder blurb. The book hasn't even made its way through copy editing yet, so they don't have any real ones to put there.


I like the way Robby is in shadow (the wheelchair image), it says a lot about your theme as you've described it. The police badge is kind of a generic image, but not a stopper... but we HATES the face, Precious. We hates it so much. ;)

I'm also not a fan.


I'd be interested in the effect of (a) losing the face, and (b) shifting Robby-in-the-chair a little left and down from the focal point, where he's even more blatantly out of the way. Also, if the whole color palette could be lightened a few degrees, but still allow Robby to be in shadow? Maybe?

I'm with you on the Robby font, it needs to be something... else. The R-Word font is not horrible, but it lacks imagination - as with the police badge, it feels very generic and kind of high-end self-publishing. Overall I think the CONCEPT is good, but a lot of detail work needs to be done.

Good luck with it!

ETA: So that was in response to the original. I approve the lightening job they did, and the font choice is better. I'm not sure about the Trajan, it feels too formal? Your Robby font choice is WAY better than what they had. My thoughts about losing the face and shifting the wheelchair still stand.

My agreement still stands too!

veinglory
06-30-2016, 07:36 PM
I think whoever made it might have their monitor set with more brightness and contrast than the average person, because it is still too dark to make sense to a person looking at it on Amazon. My own recent cover (left) has the exact same problem.

leifwright
07-12-2016, 08:43 AM
I designed a cover on my own, but I'm positive this won't be the cover for my book.

In fact, I probably won't even submit it to them, but I think it captures the look I was envisioning when I saw their initial mockup of the cover. If I was self-publishing, I think I'd probably tweak the cover a lot, but this is along the lines of what I would go for.

http://leifwright.com/images/robby_my_idea.png

Except I totally misspelled "Robby" on the cover concept of the book I wrote, using the spelling I chose for his name. Jeez.

SBibb
07-20-2016, 01:22 AM
While you no longer have the original covers posted, I think I like the recent concept you created better than the ones I previously saw. "R-Word" is a bit squished, but I like that it fades through to the image below while still being clearly legible. Also, I might raise the man and make him a bit smaller, so his image isn't right against the edge... but I'm not sure on that. Maybe have the badge bigger, partially obscured by the man?

I don't know what their process is, but it might not hurt to show them an idea of what you're thinking. Your cover artist might then be able to merge the concepts.