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View Full Version : Book Cover - Desperate for Advice



MissyMay
07-13-2016, 06:03 AM
Hey, guys. It looks like book covers don't get shared here often (if ever), so I hope this is okay. I'm in the process of creating my own.

I know it doesn't look erotic enough, but I'm not sure what else to do. Any thoughts?

(Also, I do realize the bottom photo is bad quality. I haven't officially purchased it yet because I'm not sure I'll keep it.)

JoeSlucher
07-13-2016, 05:20 PM
Illustrator here so I'll give my thoughts on it artistically. The cutting off of the bottom of the "S" on Spike really bothers me. I would look at some other fonts for that. If you have any Photoshop skills, I would go in and tweak the "M" and "y" in "May" as it's a handwriting font but it always feels a little silly when there are letters that are the exact same in a headline handwriting font. The font for "The Strays Series" should probably be changed to something that reads better at a small size. The line in the interior doesn't help it read and just kind of dirties up the design. Also, generally I think it is best to limit yourself to two different fonts on a cover.

The soft edged black bands are not working for me. It makes the composition of the cover essentially 4 stripes. If you want to do the stripes then I would make it hard edged and try to just use one stripe in the middle. Personally I would put the series info and title in the middle and author's name on the bottom not in a stripe.

There are a couple of tangents to be fixed. Tangents are where things line up by chance to create confusion or an unpleasantness to the design. I would adjust the "Spike Missy May" section so that the "y"s do not graze the bottom of the black band. The black band isn't quite low enough to hide the corner of that eye so the position of that needs to be adjusted. On a similar tangent, it looks like we're to think the guy is naked but then we just barely see a tiny sliver of boxers on the left. I would adjust the photo so that's not seen.

Now onto content. If I had to tell somebody about this book based on the cover I would say it's an erotic story set in a rural town with a rough and tumble teen country boy named Spike as the love interest. I don't mean this as a judgement of the model or anything but possible gay romance? I really don't know where I'm pulling that from but my instincts think maybe that's the case. If I'm correct on all of that then maybe the cover is doing it's job of conveying the general story. What I am a bit unclear on is what the tone/mood of the book might be. The photos are pretty bright so I would feel like it's almost a joyful/charming kind of vibe but then "Spike" and the black stripe make me debate whether it might be a MUCH darker kind of story. It's not reading as a steamy romance book if that's what it is.

I feel weird bringing it up but the nipple on the left is kind of weird right? I assume erotic books usually describe the ideal male form so if you have some Photoshop skills, I would maybe try to edit that nipple.

ElaineA
07-13-2016, 05:31 PM
Wow, Joe gave you a lot of great technical feedback. I just wanted to say the nipple oddness caught my eye, too. It's like it's from a different body.



I feel weird bringing it up but the nipple on the left is kind of weird right? I assume erotic books usually describe the ideal male form so if you have some Photoshop skills, I would maybe try to edit that nipple.

veinglory
07-13-2016, 06:27 PM
As a non-expert it looks okay to me. The nipple did not strike me as odd.

MissyMay
07-13-2016, 11:38 PM
I totally agree with everything you've said. Thank you!


If you have any Photoshop skills, I would go in and tweak the "M" and "y" in "May" as it's a handwriting font but it always feels a little silly when there are letters that are the exact same in a headline handwriting font.

I don't have any Photoshop skills! :cry:


The font for "The Strays Series" should probably be changed to something that reads better at a small size. I think it is best to limit yourself to two different fonts on a cover.

Agreed. Believe it or not, the font for "The Strays Series" and "Spike" is the same. I remembered that two font rule and tried to stick with it, but I think I did something to the font that made the lines go away in "Spike." I didn't notice it until the image was enlarged and posted here, so it was too late to tweak it at that point.


The soft edged black bands are not working for me. It makes the composition of the cover essentially 4 stripes. If you want to do the stripes then I would make it hard edged and try to just use one stripe in the middle. Personally I would put the series info and title in the middle and author's name on the bottom not in a stripe.

Okay, I will try that! :)


Now onto content. If I had to tell somebody about this book based on the cover I would say it's an erotic story set in a rural town with a rough and tumble teen country boy named Spike as the love interest. I don't mean this as a judgement of the model or anything but possible gay romance? I really don't know where I'm pulling that from but my instincts think maybe that's the case. If I'm correct on all of that then maybe the cover is doing it's job of conveying the general story. What I am a bit unclear on is what the tone/mood of the book might be. The photos are pretty bright so I would feel like it's almost a joyful/charming kind of vibe but then "Spike" and the black stripe make me debate whether it might be a MUCH darker kind of story. It's not reading as a steamy romance book if that's what it is.

I guess I should have explained this earlier to help you determine if the cover was right for the story. (Then again, I wanted to see unbiased opinions of it, first.) It is not a gay romance--it's neither gay nor romantic, really. This is going to be a series of novellas in which three male characters are involved (sexually, not romantically) with a central female character. They all have their own stories to tell, but the underlying theme of the series is how different people choose to deal with their pain. All three of them experiment with using sex to do it, but they eventually find that there are better ways. These books are much more about their stories than the erotic components, even though there are quite a few erotic components. This is why I chose against including a female on the cover. The country road in the bottom image was chosen because they all work for the woman they're involved with on her farm-turned-dog-boarding-facility.


I feel weird bringing it up but the nipple on the left is kind of weird right? I assume erotic books usually describe the ideal male form so if you have some Photoshop skills, I would maybe try to edit that nipple.

I totally didn't notice that until now! :roll: Unfortunately, as I mentioned, I have no Photoshop skills...

Edit: If I don't cut off the top of his face, is it hard to tell it's erotica?

Edit 2: Since I'll be making three other covers with different models, should I remove the background and add a color or photo that can be used behind all of them?

JoeSlucher
07-14-2016, 12:06 AM
Well you can still cut off part of his face, just make the crop to where it doesn't land anywhere too awkward. If you're talking about removing the top band revealing his face, just enlarge the photo of the guy until his face his cropped again.

Are you talking about removing the background of the photo of the guy? If you don't have Photoshop skills then I wouldn't try it. Plus it makes it more difficult finding photos of models that will feel right with the lighting and color palette of the background photos.

It occurred to me why I thought maybe it was gay. My only experiece with romantic/erotic books are the covers I have seen of the books my mother-in-law reads which always seem to feature a male and a female. So that is probably just me and people who read this genre wouldn't have that bias.

MissyMay
07-14-2016, 12:24 AM
What about this one? (The current "remove background" job is not great, I know.)

Tavia
07-14-2016, 12:34 AM
Pings me as M/M too. It's got this dreamy country boy vibe -- like all he needs is a nice cowboy to show him the ropes.

EMaree
07-14-2016, 12:36 AM
This cover is still giving a strong 'gay erotica' vibe to me as a reader (due to the naked hairless young man). Considering you don't want the cover reading as erotica, I think you'll be disappointed by audience expectations if you use this one.

Have you considered choosing a model wearing farm-boy clothing? I think just giving him clothes would help, but I would suggest placing a women in the background to make it clear it's about a female main character.

MissyMay
07-14-2016, 12:43 AM
Considering you don't want the cover reading as erotica, I think you'll be disappointed by audience expectations if you use this one.

Erm... I do want it reading as erotica. Not gay, though.


Have you considered choosing a model wearing farm-boy clothing? I think just giving him clothes would help, but I would suggest placing a women in the background to make it clear it's about a female main character.

Well, he's not a farm boy, so I don't want to give off that vibe. The female isn't the main character, but I could see how including her would help with the gay feel. I have no Photoshop-type skills, though, so I worry making it look fakey.

MissyMay
07-14-2016, 12:45 AM
Edit 2: Since I'll be making three other covers with different models, should I remove the background and add a color or photo that can be used behind all of them?

I think I answered my own question with this one. Their backgrounds work well enough together, after slightly altering the coloration. (Spike's background is a bit more textured, though, which maybe doesn't work...)

http://i1312.photobucket.com/albums/t521/Mikaela_Pederson/all%20three_zpswt2joqml.png

Maryn
07-14-2016, 01:04 AM
To me, every one of those still reads quite strongly as gay erotica.

Go so the website of any publisher of het erotica. Look at the covers. What do you see?

Toothpaste
07-14-2016, 01:07 AM
I'll be honest with you here. The concept as I see it is that it's about three different guys and how they impact one woman's life. I assume these three guys are quite different from each other. But when I look at those three covers I see three guys who look almost indistinguishable from each other. I have no sense of personality, why they would each affect her differently. Even their names are all from a similar white mid-western stereotypically corn fed masculine kind of family: one syllable, a hard "k" sound in each.

I think a much smarter and cleverer choice would have three guys wearing at least some article of clothing (an open shirt, a tie etc) with different coloured hair etc. Something that shows us different personalities. I would also give each book cover it's own colour palate. So that the road beneath is hued red, or blue, or purple.

Right now it looks like you can't decide between three images and three names for the same book and are sharing three potential covers from which to choose one. Not like you have three different books with three different covers.


As for the gay erotica thing. The thing is, men and women find different qualities appealing in a man aesthetically. Often for women's erotica, it's about the man in a nice suit, or how he relates to a woman, or something, anything to do with personality. Gay erotica is more about: here's a hot male body.

This is not to say that some women aren't into personality-less hot bodies, and some gay men aren't into personality over physique. But as a general rule of thumb, that's why the het covers tend to look how they look. Women like to know more about the man than just that he has nice abs.

MissyMay
07-14-2016, 01:13 AM
Go so the website of any publisher of het erotica. Look at the covers. What do you see?

To be honest, I've seen a lot of erotica book covers with just a man on the cover (hairless, even) that don't come across as gay. I don't think the problem completely lies with the lack of a woman. I don't know what to do, though.

MissyMay
07-14-2016, 01:22 AM
Even their names are all from a similar white mid-western stereotypically corn fed masculine kind of family: one syllable, a hard "k" sound in each.

Well, that's somewhat of an inside joke in the books. They aren't their real names. They're stereotypical dog names to go with the "stray" idea. You wouldn't know that until you read the books, though.


I think a much smarter and cleverer choice would have three guys wearing at least some article of clothing (an open shirt, a tie etc) with different coloured hair etc. Something that shows us different personalities.

Ha! More clothes! I never thought I'd hear that advice when it came to erotica. :roll: I get what you mean, though. I'm off to search for more images!

Alessandra Kelley
07-14-2016, 02:15 AM
Hi, MissyMay, and welcome to Art & Design.

Please reduce the size of your images to about 400 by 400 pixels, as outlined in the forum guidelines. (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?250679-Guidelines-for-Posting-in-Art-amp-Design-Please-Read-Before-Posting-*UPDATED-25-NOVEMBER-2014*)

Thank you.

DexyDoo
07-14-2016, 09:11 PM
I agree with those who said the covers give off the M/M vibe. Also, the backgrounds are drab. Since you don't have the Photoshop skills to replace the backgrounds, I'd suggest enlarging the men. Wait, that sounded weird. Ha. I mean, having their bodies take up more of the book cover, and crop off as much of the background as possible.

Maryn said to check out the het covers at a publisher. I agree. I also suggest going to Amazon and looking at the covers in the Erotica Top 100 Bestsellers list. Some are bad, some are great, but it gives an idea of what's selling.

Here's the link:
https://www.amazon.com/gp/bestsellers/books/10141/ref=pd_zg_hrsr_b_2_3_last#1

EMaree
07-14-2016, 09:34 PM
Missy, sorry for my daft line about you not wanting them to give off an erotica vibe! I misread your earlier post, particularly this section:



I guess I should have explained this earlier to help you determine if the cover was right for the story. (Then again, I wanted to see unbiased opinions of it, first.) It is not a gay romance--it's neither gay nor romantic, really. This is going to be a series of novellas in which three male characters are involved (sexually, not romantically) with a central female character. They all have their own stories to tell, but the underlying theme of the series is how different people choose to deal with their pain. All three of them experiment with using sex to do it, but they eventually find that there are better ways. These books are much more about their stories than the erotic components, even though there are quite a few erotic components. This is why I chose against including a female on the cover. The country road in the bottom image was chosen because they all work for the woman they're involved with on her farm-turned-dog-boarding-facility.

...And thought you weren't wanting to give the books an overtly erotic feel.

I'm struggling to bit to pin down your target audience, which is a big factor in what kind of cover I'd recommend. Which audience are you aiming for?

You've said the female MC is central to the story, so I'm a wee bit confused why you've chosen against including a woman on the covers. It would be the easiest fix to the m/m erotica confusion, and if you stick to the same female model it clearly conveys that this is a series built around that character.

Check the Popular Romance slideshow at Samhain (https://www.samhainpublishing.com/) for some good examples of how cover models are used as a shorthand for contents. You'll see a lot of chest-to-chest male/female couples for straight romance, usually clothed or with the lady in lingerie. There's some interesting angles and cropping used too, and multiple male models flanking the lady when there's threesomes. Bestselling author Jane Rylon's books page (http://jaynerylon.com/books-2/)is interesting viewing for the style contrast between her straight and m/m books as well.