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View Full Version : Looking for critiques and advice for my cover



ShaunHorton
03-14-2018, 06:15 AM
So, my book has been out for a while. I can't say I've always been happy with the cover, but it was about the best I could afford/work with at the time. As it is now, I think it's time for something new. The problem is, I don't know what kind of cover would be most effective.

Here's the old/current cover. Not exactly high quality, I know.


https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51L9wU4tuUL.jpg


The premise is basically Cujo meets The Exorcist, so it's canine-themed horror, but I want something to stand out among all the werewolf books out there, as well as kind of giving the impression that this isn't a werewolf book. I can afford to get a really good cover now, but I have no idea what to ask an artist for.

Thoughts?

NathanBrazil
03-14-2018, 08:32 AM
Sorry, not an expert, but I would definitely want to see the teeth. To separate yourself from the werewolf books, I think you'd need to stay away from the dogs with the wolf like appearance. That probably sounds obvious. I might just add a few images of what kind of dog you were looking for. I'm assuming you were looking for something other than the poodle. If it is the poodle, I saw a few excellent vicious poodle images that would probably work.

My daughter is an artist, and wouldn't be able to to the actual artwork, but might be able to help with general guidelines, in terms of what questions to ask.

ShaunHorton
03-14-2018, 10:14 AM
I did actually choose the poodle. In my hubris I wanted a breed that wouldn't actually get any fallout if my book became a hit. Lol. Also, a standard poodle is big enough to be an actual threat if it wanted to be.

NathanBrazil
03-14-2018, 10:26 AM
Just a sample that might work for the artist.
https://farm5.staticflickr.com/4780/26930896668_2b3214970b.jpg

DarienW
03-14-2018, 10:51 AM
I'll add my 2 cents, though I'm not an expert on book covers either. My question to you is: what does your possessed poodle do? Would it be possible to have a pile of carnage in the background, and a much more sinister close up of the face blocking part of the view? Maybe a burning building or car? A poodle is not a werewolf with all that curly hair, so I don't see any worries there. :)

Right now the poodle looks too innocent and cute.

Is there a person who doesn't believe the poodle is evil? Is there a scene of said person discovering the carnage? If so, an image of him/her could be running toward the evil, tooth bearing face, as Nathan suggested.

Another thought, if there is a person, would having the dog being held while we can see the snarling face something more suited to the story? I say this because of the title, but I don't know the story. "Hannah" does not suggest a rabid evil dog, so the image is what you'll need to convey that, and maybe a red, blood dripping title. Could even have a paw slash through it.

I do know photoshop rather well, so if you like the feedback, PM me with a query or something and maybe i can help. Nathan's daughter would be welcome to join in the adventure!!! (Not sure about the rights to said images though.)

Best of luck no matter what! I think a killer poodle sounds fun!

ShaunHorton
03-14-2018, 11:39 AM
It takes them a while to figure out the dog is a threat. There are a few scenes that jump to mind. One of them would be wholly unacceptable for cover art though.

For some reason, there was a small theme of rabbits. In one scene earlier on, they watch her stalk, kill, and completely behead a rabbit in their backyard.

A later scene involves the adults discovering she's (the dog) been doing that for a while, as around the side of the house they find over 100 dead rabbits.

I've tried looking up other dog-horror themed books, but most of them are pretty simplistic (Cujo, for example), or aren't really too different from what I have.

DarienW
03-14-2018, 12:43 PM
Without more about the story, I could see a family holding a poodle with an evil face and a bunny, or bunnies all bloodied in the background. I think it's just the gist you need to get across. It doesn't have to be exact, as long as bunnies die, LOL!!!

ShaunHorton
03-14-2018, 03:09 PM
I actually think I like that! Like a family photo type look, but with the dog snarling and dead rabbits on the ground all around them...

Metruis
03-14-2018, 07:59 PM
Okay, so my pitch for this is like, a stalking poodle coming out of one side of the book, and the rabbit going into the other side, so the edge of the page cuts its head off. This is done in a simplistic art style, and in the background the family is there, all smiling like it's a happy family photo. The word Hannah comes out up above their heads, like a kind of distorted jaggy speech bubble sort of text, so the text makes it feel like they're calling out to Hannah.

Yeah. So like it's the implication of the headless bunny. You could drive it home in the print edition by having just the rabbit head on the back, of course.

I imagine it either done with a limited color pallet and kind of flat, with graphical textures, or an overly bright and cheerful family photo, like something that would come out of a Wes Anderson film, but with dead rabbits.

Curlz
03-14-2018, 09:06 PM
The poodle cover doesn't hint what the book is about at all. Are the eyes red? They seem kinda red, maybe a bit demonic but that's difficult to spot and the full-height poodle image doesn't hint of anything scary. You could go with a close-up of just the head, if you insist on the dog breed been recognisable. Then you can do something funky with the eyes, put little images in there, a bit like a reflection, or just something that looks menacing, unusual irises etc. Or, you can have the dog bite on something, or carry something in it's teeth (a human hand, mwahahaha).

DarienW
03-15-2018, 01:33 AM
Or, you can have the dog bite on something, or carry something in it's teeth (a human hand, mwahahaha).

Or a dead bunny.

:)

Professor Yaffle
03-15-2018, 01:38 AM
I'd maybe have part of the dogs head, cropped to just have a raging eye and some snarl. Keep it simple, not too many colours. Perhaps have the hair curling madly away from the eye upwards, sort of dissolving into a mad scrawl and the title in red or white against this sort of seething mass of fur.

I also like Darien W's idea of a twisted family photo, but again I'd keep it simple, just focussed in on one person.

tiddlywinks
03-15-2018, 09:03 AM
I'm both intrigued and horrified at the idea of dead bunnies strewn about. *backs away from the bunny killers slowly*

DarienW
03-15-2018, 11:45 AM
I'm both intrigued and horrified at the idea of dead bunnies strewn about. *backs away from the bunny killers slowly*

Harrumph! I have four cats and I'm a total animal lover. I just know, when it comes to books, we gotta go there . . . LOL!

Maybe there could just be fresh blood on Hannah's sneering lips, as well as a more ominous title treatment. I guess that's with the family picture thought. As a photoshop artist, I'm trying to picture how small lumps of bunnies would read. One in the mouth would still do, but I'm thinking the family might see that.

And to Professor Yaffle's note, the bigger everything can be, the better, so maybe even a crop of the family picture with no heads and only Hannah being held. If you want bunnies all bloodied in the background, Hannah's face would have to be near the end.

Anyway, just more thoughts.

So many readers see the smallest version, but again, best of luck!!!

tnfalpha
03-15-2018, 12:41 PM
I have an idea! It is almost a direct plagiarism lol! Instead of going for realism why not do a dark minimalistic outline of a poodle/dog with red eyes. I imagine something similar to this:

https://resizing.flixster.com/zw5l3iBtiWPdLP3PIvclMt0ZbNc=/206x305/v1.bTsxMTE4MTA5NDtqOzE3NzI0OzEyMDA7Mjg0OzQwNQ

Qwest
03-15-2018, 02:08 PM
Love that idea tnfalpha! Ha ha.

Must say, I rather like your cute looking poodle, as I'm partial to the idea that this "cute" animal is a really a monster - trope of appearance vs reality. I'd have made the eyes more sinister though. It looks a bit like a red-eye flash gone wrong. Although your font is super horror-vibe, so that gives the right impression. If you stay with the cute poodle idea, I wouldn't do the dead rabbits... I'd probably go for the dog licking its lip with a hint of blood dripping from the tongue.

Toothpaste
03-16-2018, 02:19 AM
I need more info. Is this a funny horror book? Satirical? Or is this straight up drama horror?

ShaunHorton
03-16-2018, 12:16 PM
Straight up supernatural horror.

The family was on a camping trip and left their dog with a 'friend'. The 'friend' has a crush on the husband and tried to do some kind of love-spell, which went horribly wrong and turned into a demonic summon which took over the dog. The family gets home and just the demon's presence starts making strange and dark things happen. Then the dog starts acting strange, resulting in it trying to.... well...with the wife. Then it attacks his son. Then it attacks him. They have to put it down, but the demon is still trapped inside and twists the body to something it likes better. The body of a dog isn't strong enough to hold a demon spirit though and quickly starts rotting. It returns to the house and grabs the daughter, taking her back to the friend's house in order to do another spell to transfer it's spirit into her.

Rosanna Banana
03-16-2018, 02:46 PM
I'm picturing getting rid of the poodle entirely and having the same background with an empty dog house/ dog collar lying in the grass. Maybe there could even be a dog dish with something sinister in it? This is literally what popped into my head while skimming through this post. I don't really know what happens in your book so I'm not sure if that would be appropriate.

Toothpaste
03-16-2018, 07:13 PM
If this is straight up horror then like what Rosanna said you need to get rid of the poodle off the cover. Because a poodle coupled with the name of your book on the cover looks like it's meant to be funny. Horror, sure, but a satirical horror. Poodles just look . . . silly and have less than scary connotations. They have poofs on them, they are known for being stereotypically the models of the dog world, prissy. Even just an outline of a poodle and a horror title makes it comedy. I think you need a symbol instead. I think maybe just a dog's mouth with fangs and blood would do the trick. Like if the cover is all black and all you see are teeth dripping with blood? That's pretty cool.

I would also consider changing your title because the association with the dog's name is just again kind of funny. I picture the dog doing something horrific to someone and their owner calling out: "Bad Hannah, bad girl!"

Now I realise all this is harsh sounding, but it isn't meant to be. None of this means the content of your work isn't straight up scary. It just means you have a bit of a job making the cover reflect the horror within. Every book's cover has its unique challenges and yours is people thinking the subject matter is legit scary and not ironically so. Doesn't mean these challenges can't be overcome though. :)

Metruis
03-18-2018, 08:05 AM
Oh, I actually disagree. I don't think a poodle says "this is satire" at all, but instead "DON'T TRUST WHAT YOU BELIEVE TO BE ADORABLE AND CUUUUUTE." As long as the cover clearly conveys 'this is straight up horror'. I did a super quick cover sketch using an image nabbed from Google that is not mine just to demonstrate this concept. http://feedthemultiverse.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/hannahcover.jpg

Just from this quick mockup, it makes me think that it's possible to work a heart into an open fangy mouth to convey the curse, to use tones of love and blood, and to obfusticate enough of the poodle to make the brain leap to 'this is straight up horror'. More than ever, I believe you're going to want custom artwork and not just a Photoshop, because the proportions and facts should be exaggerated and obscured.

I've seen tons of teeth dripping covers. I'd steer away from that because it's a cover cliche. Like every single cover for Cujo is dog teeth. It's been done.

The scariest thing based on your description of your novel is the idea of the demon mangling the deceased poodle's corpse to continue using it in order to procure a new body. A mangled, dead pet still moving from unearthly powers is FREAKY.

Could also just have a dog dish with a headless rabbit in it! The name HANNAH is on the dish. It's otherwise a lovely picture.

rchapman1
03-18-2018, 08:55 AM
I love NathanBrazil's suggestion! I think you can tell the artist a bit about the book and they will come up with some ideas of their own.

ShaunHorton
03-18-2018, 11:04 AM
Yeah, the snarling teeth by themselves is extremely common, as is the bloody paw-print.

I think I'll definitely have a headless rabbit in there somewhere. Considering whether I should have it in a dish or in the dog's mouth.

Considering changing the breed at this point too, to be honest. I feel silly for the reasons I chose a poodle, when other breeds are much better suited, and it really wouldn't change much as far as the story goes.

taraesque
03-19-2018, 12:13 AM
I would also suggest that you don’t need to give yourgraphic artist too much to go off of. Itis their job to take what you tell them (straight up horror with a poodle (thatyou don’t know is evil) with a habit of rabbit slaughter) and let them see whatthey come up with. They could come up with something cool thatyou never thought of.

ShaunHorton
03-22-2018, 12:14 AM
What about the dog's face looming out of swirling black smoke, holding a dead (maybe even headless) rabbit in it's bloody teeth, and instead of a normal pupil, the center of one eye is the upside-down cross?

NathanCosby
03-23-2018, 11:41 PM
The first thing that popped into my head was something like a big doghouse in the back yard with the red eyes peering out from inside it. Good luck with the new cover!

zclesa
04-06-2018, 05:51 AM
I love your typeface - that's perfect. I like the background, but can't get over the weird poodle photo. I actually think most books with photo covers look really self-pubbed if not done completely perfectly. They look too "busy". I liked TNAlpha's suggestion.

Definitely keep the typeface, but maybe have a shadow of a dog behind the title, looming ominously over the letters.

That said, I've noticed really good book covers have some form of depth. So maybe you could take some elements of the background and include them as well, because the house further back does give you depth. So, another option is to keep the background and just have a dog's shadow lurking somewhere in the picture, perhaps casting a shadow over the side of the house? That would suggest the curse thing, I think.

But the poodle photo staring me straight in the eyes is not doing it for me. It does kinda look like a B-movie poster, and you don't want that if you have an A-class book :)