PDA

View Full Version : Military-Horror Book Cover: I Require Critique



xbriannova
09-28-2016, 05:39 PM
Hi guys!

So, I've got a Military-Horror Novel lined up for launch next month. The first iteration of the book cover has just been released to me.

The problem is, it looks kinda okay-ish to me. It doesn't strike me as awesome, or excellent, or 'bestseller'.

Here, have a look:

http://i.imgur.com/dqDSD95m.jpg

Personally, I have some gripes about why this cover feels kinda off to me:

- It's too bright! It certainly didn't look this bright on the cover artist's monitor. Should it be darker?

- Too cartoonish? The outlines especially.

- The fonts are just... Meh.

Any idea how this can be improved? Or is this book cover utterly hopeless?

jimmymc
09-28-2016, 06:32 PM
Yeah, you're spot on with your gripes. So, this guys laying on the floor in a public bathroom looking at a another guy sittting on the pot.

If you are going to use it, the title needs to be moved up and a different font.

xbriannova
09-28-2016, 07:49 PM
Yeah, you're spot on with your gripes. So, this guys laying on the floor in a public bathroom looking at a another guy sittting on the pot.

Oh darn. So maybe furniture should be added to the background to make it obvious it's not a toilet?

That guy's supposed to be under a bed, but the angle and requirements of other elements in the picture meant that the bed itself had to be removed.


If you are going to use it, the title needs to be moved up and a different font.

I've been looking up photoshop fonts. Got plenty that'd look better :D

---

So a few important questions:

- Should the angle be from the soldier's perspective? It was my original request, but the artist... Just couldn't do it or couldn't conceive of how it should be done. I imagined that it would have allowed the bed to stay in the cover, and for the rest of the room to be more visible.

- Should I just go with a premade?

gtbun
09-28-2016, 08:13 PM
There isn't much right with this cover, to be frank. The image is very cartoonish and the use of fonts only accentuate that. The tiles make it look like he's in a toilet and the style's a bit... meh, not to mention those blood effects which look like someone's just used a soft photoshop brush and dotted it around. I would consider making the text the focus of the cover, using a tall and thick sans serif.

cornflake
09-28-2016, 08:19 PM
I was about to write that I thought it was weird how close he was laying to the stall door when I saw it wasn't meant to be a toilet -- looks like they're in a public restroom to me too.

My big thing though is the feet -- why're the feet different? They're different colours, different skin, different nails (well, one has nails, one claws), and one has five toes and a dew claw and one has seven toes. I can't take my eyes off the different feet. Are they supposed to be that different?

Toothpaste
09-28-2016, 08:24 PM
Honestly, if this is an adult horror book then you should not be using an illustration as cover art. I know of no other adult horror novels that use a cartoon-y image as their cover. Google some horror authors and look at what they have for their cover art. When I think horror cover I think big bold font that looks blood or like the letters were ripped out of the cover or something. One striking image in the middle. And that's it. The reason such books don't have too many details on their covers is because the scary stuff is in the reader's mind. The more you show, the less scary it is.

Look up some Stephen King or Clive Barker covers.

This is all wrong, basically. I wouldn't even consider fixing it. I'd think more starting over. Get yourself a stock image that symbolises the book. Go to dafont.com and find a "horror" font (make sure you license it if you have to). And go from there.

(I realise you might have paid for this art and you really want to use it because of that, but I'm sorry, you need to just consider that money gone because no one who loves horror will think this book is for them with that art. You won't get readers. So if you really want to do this right, write this off as a learning experience and try again. I know this is harsh, but I really really want your book to have a chance out there and it just won't with this illustration)

veinglory
09-28-2016, 08:36 PM
Yeah, among st other things--sorry the perspective and lighting are super off. The surface that is meant to be the underside of the bed is lit consistent with it being a vertical plane. The floor tile lines make it obvious that the perspective just is not consistent for all of the objects in the scene.

A person under a bed is going to be mostly obscured by the perspective and the lighting and having a point of view from somewhere inside the mattress is counter-intuitive--it all makes a scene that (as you say) is somehow super bright with lots of visible elements, just not make sense.

The concept is good but I would suggest the artist take reference photos with some props. You probably (just my 2c) want a low POV, showing the hands and gun only and then the monster feet in super high contrast and just enough background and hanging blankets to show where it is happening.

Toothpaste
09-28-2016, 08:40 PM
But do you honestly feel a drawing like this suits the horror genre in the first place? I feel like everyone's offering suggestions how to make it better because we all know the OP likely paid for the service or whatever. But is it right to have a cartoon-y drawing in the first place? The only time I see a painting or drawing used on horror books is when it is from a famous painting or is some hideous sketch thing. I've never seen this kind of art on a horror cover before.

Southpaw
09-28-2016, 09:09 PM
You say it's been "released" to you, does that mean you have input?

Please reduce the size of your image so we don't have to scroll up and down to see the whole thing. I think the board rules specify nothing larger than 400x400.

Toothpaste
09-28-2016, 10:53 PM
Oh wow. I hadn't realised that this could be a publisher presenting an author with a cover. That's how unprofessional and self published this looks to me.

If it is from a publisher a whole new kind of approach to getting this fixed is warranted. Can you let us know if this is something a publisher created for you or not?

dpaterso
09-28-2016, 11:30 PM
I like the art, cool alien feet bursting out of the boots, but I don't like the title and author text, they need to be bigger and better. If you shrink the image down to thumbnail size (which I did) the title can't be read.

As said above this needs to be shrunk to a max 400 height, see the FAQ: Image Size Guidelines (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?304595-FAQ-Image-Size-Guidelines) thread.

-Derek

A.E.Fisher
09-28-2016, 11:44 PM
...The problem is, it looks kinda okay-ish to me. It doesn't strike me as awesome, or excellent, or 'bestseller'.


Personally, I have some gripes about why this cover feels kinda off to me:

- It's too bright! It certainly didn't look this bright on the cover artist's monitor. Should it be darker?

- Too cartoonish? The outlines especially.

- The fonts are just... Meh.

Any idea how this can be improved? Or is this book cover utterly hopeless?

This definitely screams amateur! I unless this is a graphic novel, I'd ditch the cartoonish look.

Some designers overuse drop shadows and inner shadows, but in your case the font is too flat. If it won't be embossed on the cover, I'd suggest playing around with the shadow effects to make it jump off of the page. As well, if the cover is going to be dark, I'd suggest a white font *or* outlining the red font in order to make it pop more.

I'll admit that I haven't dug into your posts, so I'm assuming that you are self publishing? If you are then I would suggest having a really honest conversation with your artist. Try finding a few covers in a style you want to use for yours, and let them try again. If they still can't get your vision, I'd start from scratch with a new artist.

I'd love to see round two, but I personally would bypass your book based on the current cover alone.

Twick
09-29-2016, 01:13 AM
I'm afraid I have to agree with the others. This looks more like a Harry Potter cover than a military-horror novel.

If you want a redo with the same artist, suggest that s/he not try to pack so much into the picture. Concentrate on one creepy close-up, rather than trying to tell the whole scene at once.

Myrealana
09-29-2016, 01:30 AM
I'm afraid I have to agree with the others. This looks more like a Harry Potter cover than a military-horror novel.


I agree. I don't get "military horror" from this cover. I get "Goosebumps wanna-be."

Undercover
09-29-2016, 02:10 AM
I'm with Cornflake about the two completely different feet. That would bother me.

xbriannova
09-29-2016, 05:12 AM
There isn't much right with this cover, to be frank. The image is very cartoonish and the use of fonts only accentuate that. The tiles make it look like he's in a toilet and the style's a bit... meh, not to mention those blood effects which look like someone's just used a soft photoshop brush and dotted it around. I would consider making the text the focus of the cover, using a tall and thick sans serif.

That bad huh? Thanks for the feedback!


Honestly, if this is an adult horror book then you should not be using an illustration as cover art. I know of no other adult horror novels that use a cartoon-y image as their cover. Google some horror authors and look at what they have for their cover art. When I think horror cover I think big bold font that looks blood or like the letters were ripped out of the cover or something. One striking image in the middle. And that's it. The reason such books don't have too many details on their covers is because the scary stuff is in the reader's mind. The more you show, the less scary it is.

Look up some Stephen King or Clive Barker covers.

This is all wrong, basically. I wouldn't even consider fixing it. I'd think more starting over. Get yourself a stock image that symbolises the book. Go to dafont.com and find a "horror" font (make sure you license it if you have to). And go from there.

You're completely right. I thought to myself that with my cover artist, I could aim for a classical horror novel look that even Stephen King of decades ago uses, but I'm wrong. Neither the artist nor the way is right.


(I realise you might have paid for this art and you really want to use it because of that, but I'm sorry, you need to just consider that money gone because no one who loves horror will think this book is for them with that art. You won't get readers. So if you really want to do this right, write this off as a learning experience and try again. I know this is harsh, but I really really want your book to have a chance out there and it just won't with this illustration)

Actually, it's free and from a family member who insisted that I give her a chance rather than hire a professional, so I haven't lost anything. I can just up and get a pre-made right now...


Yeah, among st other things--sorry the perspective and lighting are super off. The surface that is meant to be the underside of the bed is lit consistent with it being a vertical plane. The floor tile lines make it obvious that the perspective just is not consistent for all of the objects in the scene.

A person under a bed is going to be mostly obscured by the perspective and the lighting and having a point of view from somewhere inside the mattress is counter-intuitive--it all makes a scene that (as you say) is somehow super bright with lots of visible elements, just not make sense.

The concept is good but I would suggest the artist take reference photos with some props. You probably (just my 2c) want a low POV, showing the hands and gun only and then the monster feet in super high contrast and just enough background and hanging blankets to show where it is happening.

Yeah, it's all over the place isn't it? I've personally told the artist about the perspective problem, that I think it'd work better from a first-person perspective, but she's resistant to criticism.

Thanks for telling me both sides of the story though. It's gladdening to know that at least the core idea is good. I can always take that idea to another artist.


But do you honestly feel a drawing like this suits the horror genre in the first place? I feel like everyone's offering suggestions how to make it better because we all know the OP likely paid for the service or whatever. But is it right to have a cartoon-y drawing in the first place? The only time I see a painting or drawing used on horror books is when it is from a famous painting or is some hideous sketch thing. I've never seen this kind of art on a horror cover before.

Oh hi, it's you again :).

I didn't pay for it. It's free.

What you're saying is completely right. I told my artist that the cover looked cartoon-ish, but I was brushed off.


You say it's been "released" to you, does that mean you have input?

Please reduce the size of your image so we don't have to scroll up and down to see the whole thing. I think the board rules specify nothing larger than 400x400.

Yes, because I was working with a family member. I've given a ton of inputs, but half of them were either ignored or met with outrage.

Sorry about the image size. It looked small on my computer screen. I'll be more careful next time.


Oh wow. I hadn't realised that this could be a publisher presenting an author with a cover. That's how unprofessional and self published this looks to me.

If it is from a publisher a whole new kind of approach to getting this fixed is warranted. Can you let us know if this is something a publisher created for you or not?

Wow, you look personally offended by the cover art. 3 posts in half a day?

Anyway, it's from family.

But I've gleaned another nugget of wisdom from your responses. This cover art is so bad as to provoke anger and outrage. Hmm...

I'm glad I've got someone like you who's emotionally invested in my progress though. I'm definitely going to make some big decisions shortly.


I like the art, cool alien feet bursting out of the boots, but I don't like the title and author text, they need to be bigger and better. If you shrink the image down to thumbnail size (which I did) the title can't be read.

As said above this needs to be shrunk to a max 400 height, see the FAQ: Image Size Guidelines (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?304595-FAQ-Image-Size-Guidelines) thread.

-Derek

Understood about the title and text. I noticed the same thing when it was a thumbnail in my Download folder too. Everything's smudged up. Thanks for the feedback!


This definitely screams amateur! I unless this is a graphic novel, I'd ditch the cartoonish look.

Some designers overuse drop shadows and inner shadows, but in your case the font is too flat. If it won't be embossed on the cover, I'd suggest playing around with the shadow effects to make it jump off of the page. As well, if the cover is going to be dark, I'd suggest a white font *or* outlining the red font in order to make it pop more.

Noted.


I'll admit that I haven't dug into your posts, so I'm assuming that you are self publishing? If you are then I would suggest having a really honest conversation with your artist. Try finding a few covers in a style you want to use for yours, and let them try again. If they still can't get your vision, I'd start from scratch with a new artist.

I'd love to see round two, but I personally would bypass your book based on the current cover alone.

Yes, I'm self-publishing. Thanks for the honest opinion. I'm considering getting a pre-made right now, actually. Time is running out.


I'm afraid I have to agree with the others. This looks more like a Harry Potter cover than a military-horror novel.

If you want a redo with the same artist, suggest that s/he not try to pack so much into the picture. Concentrate on one creepy close-up, rather than trying to tell the whole scene at once.

Well that makes sense. The artist works on either manga or children's books mostly.

Originally, I wanted a first-person perspective. Maybe that'd work?


I agree. I don't get "military horror" from this cover. I get "Goosebumps wanna-be."

:D Not what I'm going for.


I'm with Cornflake about the two completely different feet. That would bother me.

Understood.

---

So from all the responses, I gathered that:

- Not one person would let this pass as it is.

- Half suggested that this cover be heavily edited.

- The other half suggested this cover be trashed.

- Only one guy from PM suggest that this cover be used... With some edits.

---

I believe there's a consensus. I'm going to get a pre-made, or at best, a simpler but better book cover from a professional.

Anyone got a suggestion for a book cover artist who can deliver at below US$100?

Or a pre-made cover store with something close to what I'm looking for?

I have 11 days left to get the right cover, or I'd have to delay the rest of my plans.

Toothpaste
09-29-2016, 07:29 AM
Okay wow, I was neither angered nor outraged, I don't think I even used a single exclamation mark. And I wasn't offended either. I was worried for your book's success and thought the cover was THAT bad and I really wanted to respond to others that I felt were telling you to continue with it that I thought it was a bad idea. It was a sincere desire to make sure you didn't ruin your chances before you even got started. I happened to be playing online while others responded and so engaged in a conversation as it happened. That's all. You don't really know me I suppose, but I really actually do care that much for my fellow writers and really don't want to see them make a mistake. That's all.

Anyway, glad you're backing away slowly from the cover. As far as premade covers go check out the sticky at the top of this sub-forum, there is a thread with a bunch of artists selling their wares. It might at least be a place for you to start.

xbriannova
09-29-2016, 07:46 AM
Okay wow, I was neither angered nor outraged, I don't think I even used a single exclamation mark. And I wasn't offended either.

By that, I mean that maybe seeing a bad cover art reminded you of past incidents, whether it involved you or not. Maybe you were betrayed by a cover artist you thought was good, or something... I've read about such things before. Or maybe the problem of bad cover art being published is becoming serious and it's wrecking the Self-Published Author image?


I was worried for your book's success and thought the cover was THAT bad and I really wanted to respond to others that I felt were telling you to continue with it that I thought it was a bad idea. It was a sincere desire to make sure you didn't ruin your chances before you even got started. I happened to be playing online while others responded and so engaged in a conversation as it happened. That's all. You don't really know me I suppose, but I really actually do care that much for my fellow writers and really don't want to see them make a mistake. That's all.

No worries, we're all writers here. I can understand. I already had half a mind to let go of my current cover artist, I just needed to see what you guys have to say to confirm my suspicions on the quality of the cover art. My opinion of the piece was 'okay-ish', which means mediocre, which means, well, bad. I need a cover that's excellent.

Well, at least I think I know you better now :) We can always use a literary paladin here. I feel safe already :) I'm definitely aiming to be just like you.


Anyway, glad you're backing away slowly from the cover. As far as premade covers go check out the sticky at the top of this sub-forum, there is a thread with a bunch of artists selling their wares. It might at least be a place for you to start.

Sure, thanks for the tip.

But what do you think of this place?:

Self-Pub Book Covers (http://www.selfpubbookcovers.com/)

Toothpaste
09-29-2016, 05:54 PM
By that, I mean that maybe seeing a bad cover art reminded you of past incidents, whether it involved you or not. Maybe you were betrayed by a cover artist you thought was good, or something... I've read about such things before.

Nope believe it or not, I am capable of empathy without having to have experienced a situation myself. I've had amazing cover art from amazing publishers over the last 10 years. And I in turn have designed some pretty sweet covers for others if I do say so myself. Not sure what I did to get all this speculation aimed at me, I'm quite stunned by it really. Someone takes time out of their lives to help someone else, and they get this kind of response. I honestly don't know what to say to that.



Or maybe the problem of bad cover art being published is becoming serious and it's wrecking the Self-Published Author image?

It's never not been serious. People judge books by their covers. They always have. Especially self-published authors. It's quite the stereotype that self-published authors have the most unprofessional looking covers. You don't want to be one of those.





Sure, thanks for the tip.

But what do you think of this place?:

Self-Pub Book Covers (http://www.selfpubbookcovers.com/)


Not sure why I'm still helping you considering you don't seem to want me to, but I find the work on that website mediocre and very self-published looking. Better than what you have. But not good.

Southpaw
09-29-2016, 07:29 PM
It's nice a family member wanted to help out, but they should know if they want to do this professionally they have to listen to the client.

So, the book illustration look like a middle grade humorous romp, not adult, and not horror. The illustration itself has perspective and depth issues, and the font is a no go.

As they say in query-letter-hell, this is a scrap and redo, my opinion. I wish you luck, conveying that to the designer may be a tough one. I hope you'll come back with a revised cover.

PS: Reduce the image in that first post. When the mods find it (and they will), they'll give you a few hours to fix it, then they'll remove it because people with dial-up can't access the post.

gtbun
09-29-2016, 08:55 PM
If your artist is actually capable of drawing, then ask that they do it again. They should have an allowance in the contract for one re-do, especially when what they've done isn't up to scratch. Have you considered just going much simpler. You don't have to put EVERYTHING into the cover image, a horror image ill do just as good a job of attracting attention if it's good enough. It's a real issue in self-published covers that people feel they have to have every plot point and theme represented on the cover, when really you only really need to focus on one to avoid over-crowding.

If I were to tackle this, I would have a vector sketch (so you can re-colour it) of whatever your monster or problem is, zombies etc. Look at the covers for I am Legend over the years, they do a great job of evoking the horror elements without pointing out everything (i.e. science, loneliness, dogs) it just sticks with the monster. With that you can use some elegant typography to make a good cover. If you want the view of a designer - and this is something we are taught on the first day - don't use dafont. It is home to some of the worst typefaces available online, font-squirrel and ufonts provide passable renderings of proper typefaces, look there rather. When it comes to type, you don't need a "horror" font, a more rational font would be far better, unless you can find something that evokes horror while being both readable and good looking, but running blood type fonts or super gothic fonts will just look bad.

Polenth
09-29-2016, 10:57 PM
And if you'll excuse me, I know for sure that I'm having a really bad day, with publication projected at only 10 days away at maximum speed and no good book cover in sight, the editing still behind schedule and no bloody books under my belt so I can cushion the crisis with skill and know-how, unlike you. And to top it all off, you're not the only one making an already terrible day worse with all kinds of unnecessary drama. Yeah, I'm going to sleep this day off and pick me a mediocre cover for my mediocre novel tomorrow.

This is exactly why it's not a good idea to rush things. Getting wound up and shouting at people is not going to help. Take a break. Get everything done at a sensible speed. Set a new deadline that's more realistic for what you have to get done. Realise that no one here is your enemy.

As for covers, it's better to do a simple concept well than to fail at a complex concept. The limits of the artist are an important thing to consider. I design my own covers, but I'm not a pro artist. I can't paint photorealistic scenes to that level, so I don't try for that sort of cover. Your best bet is to think of an item that would sum up your book. If you can't draw it, then take a decent photograph of it or find stock photos. Place it in the centre. Put author name/title above and below in a clear font. It's not an exciting cover arrangement, but it's functional.

Even if you do go for something premade, I think it helps to try making a few covers. It'll get you looking at covers and give you a feel for what works. That'll make it easier to judge whether you're being offered something worthwhile.

kevinwaynewilliams
09-30-2016, 02:21 AM
I'll second Polenth's advice: take deep breaths, stick to simple, and execute simple well.

A good font like http://www.myfonts.com/fonts/jnlevine/brass-stencil/, a simple graphic like http://media.istockphoto.com/vectors/scull-of-camouflage-vector-id478748363, and you are on your way to communicating "military horror" in a professional, eye-catching way for about $40.

Toothpaste
09-30-2016, 02:44 AM
Now, if it's you having a bad day, I suggest you sleep it off instead of trying to paint me as some low-born newbie-runt peasant ingrate who's biting the hand that feeds him.

And if you'll excuse me, I know for sure that I'm having a really bad day, with publication projected at only 10 days away at maximum speed and no good book cover in sight, the editing still behind schedule and no bloody books under my belt so I can cushion the crisis with skill and know-how, unlike you. And to top it all off, you're not the only one making an already terrible day worse with all kinds of unnecessary drama. Yeah, I'm going to sleep this day off and pick me a mediocre cover for my mediocre novel tomorrow.

Wow. This was so unkind and so unnecessary. This is utterly absurd. I showed up, gave some advice, responded to some other people here about how I thought they were giving you bad advice in trying to work with the cover as is, and you determined from that that I was personally offended by the cover, angry and thought that you were some kind of newbie peasant.

I feel like I've fallen down the rabbit hole here.

I started literally no drama. I came here to help, and because I posted more than once you got annoyed with me and made assumptions about me. And now you're making further assumptions about what I think of you as a person. It's unfair, unjust and unkind. Just because you're having a bad day doesn't mean you have to take it out on others, ESPECIALLY others who most sincerely just wanted to help. And that's all. If you look through my posting history you will see that that is my primary reason for being here (for over 10 years I should add). I have learned so much from AW and from the posters here and through my own journey and watching the journeys of others, my entire family are teachers, and I like to share the knowledge I have gleaned in whatever small way I can. That's all. I know maybe you might find it hard to believe that someone would have no ulterior motive, but I swear to all the gods or lack thereof that I had none. And still have none. I'm hurt now by the things you've accused me of thinking and being, but up until this very moment I was totally fine with you, just a bit confused why you thought I was upset etc.

I think absolutely one of us needs a good night sleep. I hope you feel better tomorrow. I really do.

(and btw, you asked my thoughts on that one particular site with book covers, I said they looked mediocre. Again, I was trying to help you. I suggested you look at the artists in the sticky above, there are TONS of excellent cover artists there. But no, somehow my saying that those particular covers were not very good was an insult to you and your novel. It's absurd.)

AW Admin
09-30-2016, 03:05 AM
Yep it's absurd and we're not going to have that particular spasm.

Don't ask for critique if you're not ready for critique.