View Full Version : Book cover feedback - Callisthenes' Secret / Historical Fiction/thriller

10-14-2017, 08:26 PM
This is the intended front cover for a 5.5 x 8.5 format.

The "look" I'm going for is

- Simple/classy
- Symbolism that makes clear the era of the book (ancient Greece/Macedonia/Egypt)
- The back cover isn't done yet

Class or Trash? All feedback, thrashing welcome. First timer!


10-14-2017, 09:24 PM
I really like the artwork, but I think the general look is a bit . . . dry. I'm sorry, I can't think of another way of putting it. It looks like a dense textbook on mythology. Not an exciting thriller.

I get what you're going for, a kind of classic vase look. But the thing is you also need to convey the genre and style of the novel. That's more important. I think it might make sense to look up thriller covers and try to emulate the style of those with classic elements rather than the ancient style.

If you really want to go with the artwork you have, I would then highly recommend a font change. That font looks too non-fiction. Again, a great way of figuring out what kind of font is to look up thriller covers. You'll notice the words are generally tall and thin, and often take up a good deal of the cover.

An added thought: your title is very hard to say out loud. I'm assuming that's the name of your main character? And while that's totally fine once reading the actual book, you want people when looking at it to be able to remember the title. A title that a person finds tricky to pronounce does not stay in the head (you also have that unfortunate apostrophe after the s situation which now makes me wonder if the first name is a pluralisation or not). You may want to find a way to have a title that excludes the character's name.

I hope none of this is too harsh. Like I said the artwork is very nice and the general layout is quite good. If it was for an analytical text about something. For a thriller? I don't think this works. I'm sorry.

10-14-2017, 09:30 PM
Hi Toothpaste, those kinds of impressions are exactly what I'm looking for. Re: the font, I'm a bit torn - the book is a thriller, no doubt, but it also arcs with many "real" historical characters and events, which is why I chose the more classy font than the taller thriller type fonts, but clearly it didn't resonate with you.

The name is a a bit of a challenge... I admit. I need to find an easier name or verbs that people can remember.

Back to the drawing board! I'll be back once I (hopefully) have a few feedback posts and I incorporate any other important elements.

10-14-2017, 09:50 PM
Yeah I totally understand what you are going for here. 100%. Which is why I commented because your instinct makes sense, but unfortunately was leading you down the wrong path (or at least, I think so, remember this is just my one subjective opinion :) ). Here's an example of merging the two ideas together to give it that thriller vibe but still ancient setting: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7998933-killer-of-men This one too: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11250317-the-song-of-achilles You'll notice it's one symbol and big font as a kind of trend :) .

Play around a bit, see what happens. Have fun with it!

Meanwhile I want to share this piece of fan art I have a print of that I bought hanging on my wall which, I mean, maybe you can find inspiration there for your cover to add a little pizzaz to the classic vase concept if that's still the direction you want to go in - even font choice - see how the font has a classic quality but still is totally cool and modern? Also . . . I just love this piece so much!!


10-14-2017, 10:40 PM
I really like it. Although, I agree with Toothpaste on the title. It is hard to pronounce. But I like the ancient look for the cover! Nice touch.

10-14-2017, 11:06 PM
I'd change the background to white.

The tag is a bit wordy.

No man on earth, whether by land or by see, can defeat the king who know...

10-15-2017, 04:40 AM
Thank you all for your feedback!

Here is an update.

1. Added a dash of danger (blood splatter y'all)
2. Changed the name - consensus was clear, and I have reasons behind the name, and I'm hoping that this is easy to remember, say, share
3. Some minor placements
4. Fixed the wording of the tag

I did try a couple of other things
a) like changing font to the new thriller styles (Impact style) - didn't like it, or maybe I need another go at it.
b) lighter background color - somehow it took away the impact of the darker colors, so after trying several blends - from pure white to ligher blues/grays, I gave up.

What do you think? I will play with the fonts etc. but taking a stop here to get additional input.


10-15-2017, 05:00 AM
Is there a reason the text in that image isn't symmetrically aligned? I like your blurb, but it's off-centre. The title seems to be off-centre, too, but in a different way than the blurb? I'm not an expert with this--general impression only. And maybe the image is just oddly cropped.

I like the overall aesthetic, but that may be my personal tastes. I like abstract covers, loved the vase motif. I don't read a lot of thrillers, though, so take with a large grain of salt. I really like the figure and the background colour.

Don't like the blood splatter at all--feels forced/obvious, but then, I'd agree that the cover doesn't look thriller-y. I think that's probably a more fundamental issue, though, one you'd need to really address from scratch.

Font I'm OK with but again, tastes. I do feel like it's a bit... plain. Your author name is nicer because it's slightly off-white. Stands out. The main text looks a bit amateur, I'm afraid, just because with it so absolute it looks slapped on top of the artwork rather than contributing to it.

Like I said, though, I'm not a cover artist, apply salt. Like the overall feel, too.

10-15-2017, 05:08 AM
My thoughts:

1. Yeah the font is still too textbook. The thing about fonts is it's not just about the font itself, but in context. This font you chose could be perfect for a different kind of novel, but with the cover you have already, it's making it seem too academic. If you are not keen on the thriller font, have you tried something like this? https://www.dafont.com/roman-sd.font Or this: https://www.dafont.com/romanum-est.font (you can do your own search at that site for more options, just make sure you read the licensing agreements for the fonts. Sometimes they're free, sometimes it's a small fee like $15)

2. I think I've come up with a neat idea. One of the issues is this looks like it's a cover of a text book: "Here is some information on a time gone by". Even the texturing of the red gives the impression it might be leather or something. All of it has a distancing effect. Not that immediate lives are at stake thriller feeling. But if you turn the background into something more immediate, then you have less of a scholarly text. Put the artwork including the two bands across the top and bottom as if they are on a worn scroll instead. Also then the blood splatter will actually be visible and the whole thing will have a more raw visceral tangible quality. This kind of colour palate: https://thumb1.shutterstock.com/display_pic_with_logo/3222413/577810900/stock-vector-ancient-greece-scene-black-figure-pottery-ancient-greek-mythology-ancient-warriors-sparta-people-577810900.jpg

This is the kind of worn scroll look I'm thinking: https://thumbs.dreamstime.com/z/ancient-scroll-8450126.jpg

If you like this idea, make sure that the blood looks more realistic, a little see through otherwise it'll look like paint. Here's another example with the colour palate I'm thinking of and some blood: https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/81Q9b9bPjPL._UX300_PJku-sticker-v7,TopRight,0,-50_OU01__BG0,0,0,0_FMpng_AC_UL320_SR214,320_.jpg

3. If you are going to cover the image with your title (and I think you should) the image should be larger. As it is now it looks like the text is accidentally covering it and you are trying to squish the image between the title and author and failing.

4. I'm agreeing with Cindy that your quote is too long. Maybe cut out the middle line? Also get rid of the quote marks. Quote marks on a cover is for a blurb (ie "Best book ever!" - my mom), without quotes it's a tagline (ie Death was only the beginning . . . ).

And yeah! Hope this is helpful :)

10-15-2017, 05:23 AM
Is the book more HF or more thriller? I see what Toothpaste is saying about it feeling "textbooky" but that's not necessarily as bad in HF. It doesn't look, at least to me, boring. I really like the aesthetic, and I read more HF than I do thriller, so that might be why. I think it fits there.

Lots of HF can, of course, be quite exciting. But it is a different genre. So which is yours more truly? Which readership are you going for? Which section, if you had to choose one, would it fit in best?

Same might apply to the tag/quote, too. The middle line suggests a unique quality to the world, that it has land and seas (and if it's set in Greece, then yes). It might be too long in a thriller. It might not be for historical.

But genre heavily depends on the content and style of the story itself.

10-15-2017, 05:31 AM
Adrienne, VeryHumongousBeard,

Thanks again! Time to get back to the drawing board with a new approach based on this feedback. I'll be back in a couple of days/week with new samples.

I love that Roman font. May get that, or find something similar.

EDIT: I realized why I've been struggling. I'm saying one thing but conveying another and causing you confusion - my book is better positioned as a historical fiction rather than a thriller - though there's plenty of thrill in it. The book covers on Amazon when I take that slant are distinctly different (and more like what I have) than the thrillers. The question for me, of course, is how I really want to position this. Some of the examples for my inspiration are river god (wilbur smith), the imperium/lustrum/dictator series from robert harris.

10-15-2017, 06:03 AM
The blood splatter picks up the dark background. I don't have a problem with the font family, but everything, including the images, is off center.

10-15-2017, 06:11 AM
I think everything is off centre because the image isn't cropped to the cover size. But within that, the tag isn't aligned with the title and I don't think the author name is aligned, either.

If it's more historical then I think I'd be a lot more intrigued by this cover. I don't think you need the blood, in that case. I still think your font could be better. But the iconography works as far as historical, for me.

I can't really give you anything more than that, I'm afraid. Not a cover designer, and my aesthetic eye isn't that great. Hope this helped.

10-15-2017, 07:06 AM
So, I'm coming to terms with this. A few responses

1. I would call this lot more HF than thriller. The reader will encounter many "real characters", read real battles and interesting and real historical incidents. I want people who enjoy stuff like that to read the book.
2. The off center is because I was being an ass and cropped the image to show but not correctly. But I need to fix Alignment overall, will do in the next version
3. I'm going to work on a better font per all your feedback - toothpaste had some great suggestions
4. I think I'll kill the splatter

10-15-2017, 08:45 PM
New revision.
Font, Tagline, other cosmetics, centering


10-15-2017, 11:18 PM
It's tough for me because as you know I'm not a fan of the general concept, but I appreciate that you are keeping it as is, so I'll do what I can to work with what you've got.

My biggest problem now is it's way too crowded. Every element is stacked on top of the other, literally touching each other. The top banner touches the catch phrase which almost touches the title which touches the image which touches the author name which touches the second banner. This gives the impression of trying to squeeze everything into the space. I really think you should consider putting the title over the image and making the image larger.

Also not sure what that glowing effect is, but it's really not working for me. It doesn't look like anything specific and it also looks really digital as opposed to the more old world look the rest of the cover has. The new font is really working great though! :)

I'll tell you what, my deadline for this book is tomorrow. After then I'll have a bunch more time and there's nothing I love more than playing in photoshop. If you are so inclined and can wait a couple days, why don't you send me all the images you are working with and I'll play around a bit with them. I won't be offended if you end up not liking what I do, have no fear. But at this stage I feel like it'll make more sense if I show you what I'm talking about. If you're interested PM me and I'll send you my info :)

10-22-2017, 04:09 AM
First, it's hard for me to really see the cover since I have to keep scrolling up and down. Please consider reducing the size. (I think they are too large by forum guidelines too.)

I think it's over complicated with the texturing. And the Greek motif on the top and bottom needs to be centered in the black (top to bottom) and the tightened to fit (left and right) to look more professional. I also find the blobby thing behind the D distracting. The Roman dude should fit the cover too, having just the tiny bits of his spear off also pulls from a pro-look.

HOWEVER, overall I like the concept and were your're going. I also like the color scheme, reminds me of a Margaret George book I read (even though I have no clue if her covers look anything like that).

10-22-2017, 06:15 AM
A fresh attempt.

Southpaw--thanks for the comments. A few fixes and reduced image size. Didn't know who Margaret George was, but now that I looked her up -- definitely in line with my interest.


@Toothpaste--a few more attempts this weekend and the file's yours :)

Better, or a step backward?

10-22-2017, 10:53 AM
I find the tan section at the bottom out of place.

I also find the addition of the partial images on the edges to be distracting. I'd remove these elements and zoom out a bit on the main image.

The eye is a neat graphic element, but it has no context in the image. I'm puzzled why it's included.

I like the colors on the font and helmet from the previous version better, but it looks like you changed it so it doesn't match so closely with the new background (which I like a lot).

10-22-2017, 09:00 PM
Avekevin - some tweaks based on your feedback and my fresh eyes at it this morning.

I may have screen-shotted this slightly off, but on the image everything is indeed centered.


10-23-2017, 06:57 AM
I like the more vibrant colors in the helmet. Did you intentionally cut off the top? Perhaps because it hits the top of the "parchment" background? It looks like a mistake - I suggest you drop the entire warrior image so that the entire helmet is visible.

I also like that you've brought back the green tassels on the shield.

I think I like the orange text better than the red, but it may be a little hard to pick out from the background. Perhaps you should bump of the font size or the font weight?

I'm still not a fan of the bar at the bottom and the eye graphic. Is seems like wasted space that could be used to open up the rest of the cover. Is there a way to incorporate the eye into the main image in a way that's more natural? Another option would be to use the eye graphic across the entire border, similar to how you are using the spiral motif at the top (or maybe in place of the top row of spirals). I not sure if the graphic has a particular meaning to the story, but it remains a awkward element for me.

Still not a fan of the partial shield on the left or the severed arm of the right. The spears from those partial images made for odd lines.

It coming together, keep up the great work!

10-23-2017, 06:58 AM
Just had a thought on the font color. What if you were to use the emerald green from the eye to tie these elements together? No idea how it would look....

10-23-2017, 09:47 AM
I haven't commented on this before, but I've dipped into this thread. Maybe try a tighter drop shadow. I realize it's an odd font for that, but the soft one looks a bit messy.

I agree that continuing the style of repeated images makes sense, but you might want to use the same on both panels, or eliminate them and fill the whole frame. If you want to keep them, the eyes speaks to Egypt, whereas the graphic is more general, though I like how it fills the space more.

I don't know what the cut off object is, but the outlined line leading to it is awkward. Can you just alter the image to eliminate them?

Since you added color to the helmet, I agree it's better, but maybe play with putting some of the text, like your name in the blue. It's a good blue! Can't say how it will look, just something to play with.

Maybe drop "this" from tag. It's a bit awkward because it leads to the title to finish the sentence. Is there a way to rephrase and focus on "the" king who found it. Maybe something like, No one can defeat him, by land or sea, and just leave off the connection part. (maybe readers will get he found it, or somehow you can phrase that.) Definitely look at it in it's tiny thumbnail size. A shorter tag would pop more with a bigger font. Atlantis is a super hot topic in my view! I'd be interested to check it out even without the tag.

I really hope any of this helps! Best of luck with it!


10-23-2017, 10:08 PM
I think it's getting a lot better, but the title font is still not quite working. I think larger would be better and no drop shadow (like what Darien said). I also want to see you try it without any border top or bottom. I also really like Darien's suggestion of how to change the tag line. The idea of it being independent from the title makes it far more in line with most tag lines, shaper and punchier too. If however you do want to tie in the title to the tag line, removing this and adding elipses would be effective I think.

But really I'd love to see a version of this cover with no border, no red, just that entire parchment part blown up to fit the entire cover with the title large and bold over the whole thing. Just to see what that would look like. I think you might be a little stuck with the border thing and sometimes breaking free and trying something totally different while even if the attempt itself ends up not working, it can spark the imagination to look at things a different way.

10-23-2017, 10:16 PM
The new one is definitely the best of the ones you've posted in thread, but:

The eye on the bottom border throws the balance off. If you're going to use the border pattern at the top, then you want it at the bottom, too - otherwise, the eye looks like a logo.

White writing on red is one of the most illegible combinations, especially with narrow font.

You've also got a visual tug-o-war with the colors you've used. The helmet's so vivid that the eye goes there, instead of to the title.

10-23-2017, 11:57 PM

All your feedback has been really helpful - so the coming weekend I will work on a couple of variations on the tag, border, font and "let myself free of my borders" ;) and come back.

10-29-2017, 11:57 PM
Back with a refreshed direction. A few things
1. A fuller image, bigger fonts.
2. Color harmony - not too many distracting ones
3. New tagline

My preference:






I don't quite like the third one due to red looking garish and not working well on the background.

Still very tempted to add an...ahem... blood splatter to the first one. But first let me hear if this direction works generally...

(PS don't worry about centering, cropping - I'm new to Photoshop and I just screenshot/copied a selected area, the image and its elements are centered to the guideline and if they're not, I will take care)

thank you

10-30-2017, 01:34 AM
I really like the new background and the design overall. I agree with you - the text color works better on image 1, but I don't understand the red streak behind the word Atlantis. Overall, the color scheme may now be too monochromatic. There's nothing there to really catch your eye on a bookshelf of other colorful covers.

10-30-2017, 03:05 AM
@avekevin - I wanted to get to this base. I'll try a little bit of coloring. The red streak is well... a streak of red to break the monotony of orange :) Kind of like a bloody imprint or something, at least in my mind!

Edit: added coloring and included in same message

10-30-2017, 04:01 AM
It's coming together. Keep up the good work.

10-30-2017, 06:13 AM
Hi ecerberus,

I love that you are trying many things! I love and respect that fighting spirit, and congrats if you're new to photoshop and doing all this! Good work!

I do know photoshop well. I'll try and point out a few tricks, but it gets rather wordy, so go ahead and PM me if you don't get what I mean.

To my eye, all three are too busy. If you shrink it down, I don't think it would read. There's so much going on the eye dances all over, you want the title and your name to pop, everything else is secondary to that.

On the title. If you don't want to use a bolder font, or if bold isn't a variant available, dupe the layer with the text. (on mac, command+J with layer highlighted. Might be control+J on PC, but I'm not sure.) Make a selection on the type, then expand the selections a few points. Then fill over the type or in a new layer. This may mess up your kerning, so it may take a few times to get it right. You may want to do each word in separate layer. (or each letter) I think a bolder font and closer line spacing will improve the visibility. I do like the tighter drop, but maybe use in combination with a black outline too.

On the border. Make them uniform top and bottom, same size, and re-size the shape so it's not cut off on either end. May need to respace a bit. If it's going to be printed, you need some bleed, which is extra extension of color all around to compensate for printing and trimming. (Only along the outside of the whole thing, not the individual pieces.) You can make a guess and just open the canvas a little and then have a white border on a top layer to cover the trim area.

On the figure. The main thing is the weapon, shield, and figure. All the details and outlines are competing with the title. i would at the minimum, lower the contrast of the outlines. (Consider that the S is the same thickness as the outlines, it should be more dominant.) I still don't know what the thing hanging off his waist is. It looks like an umbrella to me (LOL!), and doesn't seem like something a fighter would have hanging off in a battle. I hope that helps. In the same way as the title above, try making a selection and just make the figure and the shield one black solid shadow. Just something to play with.

I'm not sure it can be done, but having the title alone on the parchment, and the figure beneath it may help.

Play with the sizing too. A bigger black behind the title will help, and in previous versions, you had the figure cut to show only the top parts, so maybe play with making the figure bigger, and then shorten the weapon so it can still show the point.

The cut off arm looks awkward to me. If you've got a full image of two warriors competing, maybe you could shrink considerably and show them below the tighter title.

Another general to consider. If the parchment is of the image, cutting off the figure where the rips are around the edges should be clear to observers, as in, they would get that. :) The borders take away from that simple notion of just a black surrounding the central image.

For any colors, google: egyptian parchment prints, and check the images. I would sample from those pallets in a similar fashion.

The tag, for example, is crowded in there over lapping the helmet. I know this is something you may intend to fix on your own.

Sorry for so many words. I did warn you, LOL! Mainly, less is more. Simpler is better. People are going to be seeing a very small version of whatever your final result is, and as stated, I love everything and anything Atlantis, so I think that's your strongest point! i really hope this helps, and feel free to PM. I can obviously go on and on, LOL! I tried to make suggestions for whatever direction you decide to go, so some may not agree, just giving you things to play with.

Again, congrats with your progress!

11-05-2017, 12:08 AM
Weekend refinement continues.

DarrenW - I took many elements of your feedback, went back to learning Photoshop to do some of the text stuff, and revised this again. So far, I realized that it never dawned upon me that most readers would never see the full size image of the cover when attempting to buy - they will see thumbnails or small sizes and make their decisions. That's when it hit me -- duh-- why y'all were emphasizing so much on title and author size.

So, with that, here's the next iter. I realize at some point this will hit human subjectivity, so there will always be something to tinker with and play. I tried many combinations before arriving at this, and I feel more and more at peace with it. There is a certain symbolism to the little isolated piece of parchment on the page (some may even figure it out!) and it's intentionally left that way.

Again, please ignore centering etc.

Here are the thumbnail sizes as well




The Romanum Est font, which I really like (thanks Toothpaste), makes it slightly hard to make it stand out clearly in small thumbnails but I think where I landed works.

Thank you all so much. For a first time writer/photoshopper you have no idea how valuable all your input is.

11-05-2017, 05:53 AM
Looks great ! I'm on phone, so only thing is tighten the line spacing on title and lower it. I think it will read better. :)

11-05-2017, 10:46 AM
It really is looking great. I only have 2 suggestions. I would increase the font tracking to give a little more space between letters. They seem a little cramped. Another thought is, if you can find a way to fit it, add some graphic fragment to your new piece of parchment. It would help tie it into the main piece.


11-05-2017, 09:13 PM
This is so much better! I'm loving it! But . . . the title isn't quite working yet. I don't think white is the right colour and the font, which I know I know I suggested but that was back when you had a lot more clean lines in your image, is now too messy over the current image. You have so much going on in the background now, that the sort of splatter effect of the font makes it hard to read and one thing too many. I think maybe using a font like this instead would work better: https://www.dafont.com/roman-sd.font (if you don't like that have a scan through these pages of options: https://www.dafont.com/search.php?q=roman )

As to colour: white isn't awful, but it's not quite working for me. Maybe play again in the yellow range, maybe even a yellow that is almost white . . . or even a bright red . . . maybe. Hard to know without trying it.

(I know it's so much and so picky, but the thing is, title and image work together. The second you change one thing, you might then have to change something else. The worst thing a designer can do is slavishly stick to one thing because they like it even while the rest of the design has vastly changed. You are so close, and don't sacrifice legibility of the title (arguably one of the most important parts of the cover) because the font used to work but now doesn't quite)

(also again hope I'm not being too harsh, I think you're doing an amazing job, and we are so close. And the closer we get, the more nitpicky I get, lol. But seriously, you're doing an awesome job :) )

11-05-2017, 11:12 PM
@avekevin - I've done it, will be back next week.

@toothpaste - I hear you -- I will try font alternatives and some colors next week and see what I can come up with. Even I struggle with the title font now, so I guess I should try some options! So close... and now it's tweak, tighten, tinker, try time :) Thanks again.

(I never realized how much fun I'm having learning Photoshop. My day job is so far away from whatever I'm doing here - both writing and photoshopping, it's such a different feeling.)