Cover questions

I would get a little feedback on this cover. I have some specific questions I would like to present to outsiders, that is, anyone who does not know me or hasn’t read this book.

Every part of the cover is explained in the book, they aren’t just random images. 

Front:  The UH-1C gunship is the Army and Vietnam experience. “Cinnamon” is the sub-title, and a character name. Plus the name, “Cinnamon” is brought up in the first page, and fully explained later in the book. The galaxy, is an integral representation of one of the characters.

Back: The three couples are the central characters, the one couple walking into the glow (not a light.) will be recognizable to anyone as they read the book; as will the other two couples, and the two helicopter mass flyovers.

My questions: Will this cover be intriguing to someone seeing it for the first time? Will they care enough to open the book and read  to see what it’s about? Are all the different symbols an attraction or distraction? And, is the galaxy on the front recognizable as such? 

Does the blurb pique the interest?

Last, does the ISBN barcode have to be over a white background, or will this way suffice? It looks readable to me, but I don’t know what is required.

 Right now, I’m waiting on my proof copy to see how the colors turn out, before I do any changes.

 Thank You

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Comments

  • You underscore one of the biggest problems with the cover in your opening paragraph:  A potential reader would have to already know something about the book to appreciate the cover. If appreciating the cover requires an explanation found in the book, there is a definite problem.

    What has happened here happens often to DIY book covers: it is very difficult for an author to be objective about their own book. That is, everything on the cover is significant to you, but only because you are already intimately familiar with the story.

    You say that "Every part of the cover is explained in the book, they aren’t just random images," but in fact they are random images since their significance is only appreciated after reading the book---which is putting the cart before the horse.

    As you say yourself, the word "Cinnamon" "is brought up in the first page, and fully explained later in the book. The galaxy, is an integral representation of one of the characters." These are things that are only meaningful because you already know their significance. To a potential reader, the galaxy is just a galaxy and, as I mention below, gives a distinctly science fiction flavor to the cover. Something I suspect you don't want.

    A book cover should intrigue a potential reader...it should not puzzle or confuse them. They should be saying to themselves, "That looks interesting!" not "What the...?"

    This cover also tends toward the "kitchen sink school" of book cover design. That is the tendency to want to include everything you think is significant. The result is that instead of a single coherent image you wind up with what looks more like a page from a photo album.

    At the moment, your cover (taken front and back) is a collection of evidently unrelated images floating about independently of one another. 

    That being said, the inclusion of a galaxy and the glowing figures suspended in a sky (filled, I discover after enlarging the image, with tiny helicopters), along with the title itself, gives the book a science fiction/fantasy vibe...something the blurb doesn't at all suggest. I think that a potential reader would be left totally confused.

    But whether or not the blurb piques interest is almost moot: a potential reader will have to want to get that far first. But even if someone were to be intrigued enough to read the blurb...you have made it very hard for them to do so with your choice of type size and color.

    Other problems...

    You have at least two too many typefaces.

    You do not ever want to put red type against dark grey. The two colors are too closely related value-wise, making the text very difficult to read. And when converted to greyscale, the text may actually disappear entirely.

    It is not apparent that the word "Cinnamon," separated as it is from the title, is meant to be a subtitle. (Whether or not it is also the name of a character is irrelevant.)

    This cover really needs to be rethought from square one. You need to create an image that will convey to the uninformed reader---someone who does not know anything at all about the book---something significant about the novel, what sort of book it is, its ideas or themes. And it needs to do this with immediacy and unambiguously. Your cover should be neither a visual puzzle for the potential reader to unravel nor require them to have prior knowledge of the story.

    __________________________________________
    Black Cat Studios http://www.black-cat-studios.com/
  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius
    The blurb and back cover are intriguing (I would use a white and larger font, though and the title the same font front and back) but the front cover looks disjointed. Perhaps paste the copper over the galaxy?  

    BTW. I would be very tempted to change the title, because it's the name of a quite famous animation.   https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0245429/
  • RoyRRoyR Author
    edited September 12
    Book covers are not my strong point, but you have given me some things to think about.
    I do have to disagree on one point, however. At least in my opinion. I tend to be intrigued by covers that present a puzzle, and want to read to find out what it means. I do the same thing with movies on Netflix. If the cover picture makes me say, "what the??" I will want to see it. (then when it turns out to be foreign language, or a topic I'm not interested in, I stop.) But at least it gets me to check it out, or open the book. Of course, if I'm the only one that thinks like that, the point is moot, anyway. But that explains where I'm coming from on my cover. 
    Also, aren't the nature of blurbs themselves confusing? They give suggestions as to what is happening without explaining anything. 

    As far as the Title. The one thing the publisher changed on the book I had published was the Title. I suppose if this one gets that far it won't be a problem for me.  Also you can imagine what happens if I go to Amazon and do a book search for Roy A. Rogers, 57 pages of results come up and my books are somewhere waydown the line. I can put my title and name and it comes up, but no one can find it with name only.  (not changing my name though. lol )

    Thanks for the advice. I will probably do some more work on it. Mainly the fonts and colors, etc. Or I may be able to come up with a completely new idea.I'm not sure what I'll do with the galaxy, if I even keep it. 

    Also, if anyone is interested in finding out what it all means, after I get my proof book and am satisfied, I plan on making an ebook. Hopefully I'll figure how to make it available for free here and you can check it out. 

    As a side note, I just converted the cover to grayscale and the text actually stands out better, easier to read than the color. 
  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor
    edited September 12
    RoyR said:
    Book covers are not my strong point, but you have given me some things to think about.
    I do have to disagree on one point, however. At least in my opinion. I tend to be intrigued by covers that present a puzzle, and want to read to find out what it means. I do the same thing with movies on Netflix. If the cover picture makes me say, "what the??" I will want to see it. (then when it turns out to be foreign language, or a topic I'm not interested in, I stop.) But at least it gets me to check it out, or open the book. Of course, if I'm the only one that thinks like that, the point is moot, anyway.
    I think you are probably being much too subjective.
    But that explains where I'm coming from on my cover. 
    Also, aren't the nature of blurbs themselves confusing? They give suggestions as to what is happening without explaining anything.
    No...a book cover blurb should never be confusing. It can intrigue, but not confuse or puzzle. Another serious no-no (and one that relates to your second paragraph above) is that a book cover should not mislead a reader. I think this is happening with the definite science fiction/fantasy vibe you have given the book with the galaxy and floating, glowing figures.

    As far as the Title. The one thing the publisher changed on the book I had published was the Title. I suppose if this one gets that far it won't be a problem for me.  Also you can imagine what happens if I go to Amazon and do a book search for Roy A. Rogers, 57 pages of results come up and my books are somewhere waydown the line. I can put my title and name and it comes up, but no one can find it with name only.  (not changing my name though. lol )
    I wasn't really questioning the title, but rather the disconnect between the title and subtitle. [Oh...I see now that you are referring to a comment Kevin made] This occurs in large part because they are spaced so far apart.

    (And if you think you have a problem with "Roy A. Rogers," just think what I have to face with "Ron Miller"!)

    Thanks for the advice. I will probably do some more work on it. Mainly the fonts and colors, etc. Or I may be able to come up with a completely new idea.I'm not sure what I'll do with the galaxy, if I even keep it. 
    I really do think that you need to reconsider the imagery. It's going to take some real effort, I know, to look at your book objectively. Two or three things I think you should specifically consider: One is to make your cover imagery more coherent, rather than having it consist of so many very different elements. Make them all work together better. Even the cover as it is would work better if the galaxy were moved up into the cover further and enlarged slightly. Then you would have at least a visual symmetry with the helicopter. (Unfortunately, you would still have the SF/fantasy impression.) Two, don't try to illustrate so many different ideas. Pick one visual theme about your book that best represents it--and, I want to emphasize, that doesn't require reading the book or having already read it to understand. Finally, don't mix and match styles quite so much. The front and back covers could be for two different books.

    Here is a test I have often suggested that you can apply to this book. Imagine the cover with all of the text in an unfamiliar language. Would you be able to tell what the book is about, its themes or ideas? Would you even have any idea whether or not it was fiction or non-fiction? For that matter, there is really nothing about the title and cover as they stand now that suggests fiction.

    Also, if anyone is interested in finding out what it all means, after I get my proof book and am satisfied, I plan on making an ebook. Hopefully I'll figure how to make it available for free here and you can check it out. 

    As a side note, I just converted the cover to grayscale and the text actually stands out better, easier to read than the color. 
    I am not so sure about that. Here is the cover in greyscale, along with a thumbnail-size version. "Cinnamon" all but vanishes.
    While I am at it, I might also mention that you being much too shy with your credit on the cover, tucking your name away in the corner in such a small size.

    __________________________________________
    Black Cat Studios http://www.black-cat-studios.com/
  • The blurb and back cover are intriguing (I would use a white and larger font, though and the title the same font front and back) but the front cover looks disjointed. Perhaps paste the copper over the galaxy?  

    BTW. I would be very tempted to change the title, because it's the name of a quite famous animation.   https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0245429/


    Kevin makes a good point. "Spirited Away" is not only the title of a classic animated film, but also goes a long way toward reinforcing the overall SF/fantasy impression.

    He is right, too, in suggesting that the back cover works better. If all of the elements were larger--floating silhouetted figures a little larger and helicopters large enough to recognize--it would make a much more coherent and more interestingly composed cover. But...it may look even more fantasy-like than ever.

    I don't think you have ever said that the book does not contain an element of fantasy, and the blurb is a little ambiguous about that (I mean, all of that about a curse and everything). If there is in fact an element of fantasy then it might be worthwhile being more explicit about it...especially in the blurb.

    __________________________________________
    Black Cat Studios http://www.black-cat-studios.com/
  • So, I skipped the thread to prevent it from prejudicing my opinion.

    The cover suggests to me that a Huey goes missing over the ocean, having been drawn into some sort of vortex. I note the similarity between the vortex on the water and a galaxy. This suggests to me that it is a wormhole and that it has drawn the helicopter to a new place in space (hopefully one with oxygen in the atmosphere).

    I'm imagining a military / Sci-Fi story, not unlike a "Stargate" kind of adventure. Kind of like what our old forum friend R.E.G. Cameron used to write.

    Cinnamon needs a much greater level of contrast.
  •  I didn't mention it in this post, but the book is listed as Romance; sub categories, or key words, Strong female, Vietnam era, historical fiction, coming of age, drama.   

    I asked for opinions on the cover, and looks like it comes across different than intended. 
     

  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor
    edited September 13
    RoyR said:
     I didn't mention it in this post, but the book is listed as Romance; sub categories, or key words, Strong female, Vietnam era, historical fiction, coming of age, drama.   

    I asked for opinions on the cover, and looks like it comes across different than intended. 
     


    No doubt about that! In fact, other than the possible hint of Vietnam era (and at that probably only to anyone recognizing a lone image of a helicopter and making the immediate connection with the Vietnam war), there isn't a hint of a strong female character or a coming of age theme. Certainly no one would ever guess "Romance" from the cover.
    __________________________________________
    Black Cat Studios http://www.black-cat-studios.com/
  • I do have an alternate blurb I have been working on.

    Kathy traded her poodle skirt for a wedding gown. Three years later, Johnny traded his stagnant future for an Army uniform to fulfill his lifelong dream of flying. Together, they are spirited away to a life they could have never imagined. 

    Through flash backs, we see their future fulfilled. In flight school they join with two other couples in a bond stronger than anything except their love for each other. This relationship puts Kathy in a dilemma as to what is love, and what is her selfish desires.

    Johnny sees himself as the best helicopter pilot the Army has ever produced, and he is determined to make everyone else aware of that fact, to the point of his pride threatening his relationship with Kathy. 

    Their life journey takes an intermission while Johnny goes to Vietnam and Kathy becomes a mother five months later. 

    They both change during their time apart, and their reunion is a dream come true as Johnny is introduced to the baby called Cinnamon and reintroduced to his first love, Kathy.

    However, they each still retain their own secrets, which could tear apart their happy life together. It is in these times of troubled memories that Cinnamon works her magic to bring them back to the present. 

    This is a story of tragedy, love, despair, and hope.  
  • Aside from the blurb being a little overlong (it reads more like a synopsis), it certainly underscores the inappropriateness of your original cover. You definitely need to go back to square one and rethink it.

    If "This is a story of tragedy, love, despair, and hope" you need to convey that in the cover, and helicopters and galaxies are not going to do the trick. You obviously have a very human story about very human people. That is what your cover imagery should be about.


    __________________________________________
    Black Cat Studios http://www.black-cat-studios.com/
  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius
    BTW. The expression to "spirit away" means to remove without anyone's noticing.
  • A_A_CainA_A_Cain Oz Creator
    The cover and title read to me as "Apocalypse Now in Space, with Angels"

    None of which gets close to your desired intent. There's nothing suggesting romance to me, nothing at all.

    A book cover shouldn't be a puzzle, it should work like a movie poster. Genre, title, author, and a catch phrase, kept simple.


  • TheJesusNinjaTheJesusNinja Teacher
    edited September 15
    Ron does bring up some great points. I would suggest watching Derek Murphy on Youtube. He has videos on there discussing how to make covers. What they should include, what colors, and correct fonts. He gives his strategies on how to make a cover that sells and not merely looks good. How to make it fit the genre etc. To me overall your cover is not that bad, but as Ron pointed out maybe the reader won't quite understand it. I'm still learning myself and far from perfect. But again watch Derek Murphy cover videos and see if it's makes sense to you. 
  • BTW. The expression to "spirit away" means to remove without anyone's noticing.
    That's one definition.  
  • RoyR said:
    BTW. The expression to "spirit away" means to remove without anyone's noticing.
    That's one definition.  

    True enough...but it is certainly the most common one...so much so, that it's hard to find a definition anywhere that is significantly different.

    __________________________________________
    Black Cat Studios http://www.black-cat-studios.com/
  • Ron does bring up some great points. I would suggest watching Derek Murphy on Youtube. He has videos on there discussing how to make covers. What they should include, what colors, and correct fonts. He gives his strategies on how to make a cover that sells and not merely looks good. How to make it fit the genre etc. To me overall your cover is not that bad, but as Ron pointed out maybe the reader won't quite understand it. I'm still learning myself and far from perfect. But again watch Derek Murphy cover videos and see if it's makes sense to you. 


    The first 60 seconds of this video is well worth listening to.

    __________________________________________
    Black Cat Studios http://www.black-cat-studios.com/
  • Another question I asked that hasn't been answered.  Does the barcode Have to be over a white background if it is readable? 

  • The first 60 seconds of this video is well worth listening to.

    I couldn't seem to get the link to work. Is it on Youtube?
  • Here is one for Derek Murphy. 
    Thanks.
  • A_A_CainA_A_Cain Oz Creator
    edited September 17

    RoyR said:
    Another question I asked that hasn't been answered.  Does the barcode Have to be over a white background if it is readable? 
    I have several books where the barcode sits over the back cover colour, no problems. Note though, the back cover is just a single colour, not an image of some sort.

  • A_A_Cain said:

    RoyR said:
    Another question I asked that hasn't been answered.  Does the barcode Have to be over a white background if it is readable? 
    I have several books where the barcode sits over the back cover colour, no problems. Note though, the back cover is just a single colour, not an image of some sort.


    A white box is probably preferable, but I think so long as there is sufficient contrast between the barcode and the background it's OK.
    __________________________________________
    Black Cat Studios http://www.black-cat-studios.com/
  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor
    edited September 17
    RoyR said:


    The first 60 seconds of this video is well worth listening to.

    I couldn't seem to get the link to work. Is it on Youtube?


    Sorry about that. Something went awry when I cut and pasted the link!

    __________________________________________
    Black Cat Studios http://www.black-cat-studios.com/
  • Ron that is one I meant to send as well. Derek Murphy in my opinion is a genius when it comes to cover design. This one is probably the better of the two videos. Something he said I really liked. If you removed the title and author name, would your cover still deliver what your book title promised? Would the person looking at the book feel first love for a romance novel, fear for a horror or suspense thriller, or like they are about to learn something from a how to or non fiction book? Makes a lot of sense. 
  • Aside from the blurb being a little overlong (it reads more like a synopsis), it certainly underscores the inappropriateness of your original cover. You definitely need to go back to square one and rethink it.

    If "This is a story of tragedy, love, despair, and hope" you need to convey that in the cover, and helicopters and galaxies are not going to do the trick. You obviously have a very human story about very human people. That is what your cover imagery should be about.

    If I were making the cover for the story you describe,  I would have something like a couple in flight gear in the foreground -- closeup, say head and shoulders -- staring into each others' eyes. The background would show a Huey sitting on the tarmac, and might include two other couples at a distance, also in flight gear, staring indulgently at the couple in the foreground. 

    That, imho, would say "romance at flight school, ensemble cast." I might make the title "Collective control" or "Spinning up" to suggest both a helicopter term and (to the non-flier) a rising romance or the influence of the group.
  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor
    edited September 18
    Ron that is one I meant to send as well. Derek Murphy in my opinion is a genius when it comes to cover design. This one is probably the better of the two videos. Something he said I really liked. If you removed the title and author name, would your cover still deliver what your book title promised? Would the person looking at the book feel first love for a romance novel, fear for a horror or suspense thriller, or like they are about to learn something from a how to or non fiction book? Makes a lot of sense. 


    Exactly what I have been saying when I ask people to imagine their cover with the title in an unfamiliar language. Would anyone be able to tell what sort of book it is, its themes or ideas?

    Derek does do some nice work, but in going over his website I don't think that he is really always being terribly forthcoming. As, for instance, when among the choices of cover designers he describes "The professional" as someone who will "make something clean and decent. It’ll look great, and pretty… but not terribly exciting. They’re probably cranking out covers. It’s good enough, and will avoid obvious design mistakes, but it’ll also look like everything else."*

    Pardon?

    Having also eliminated "the amateur"---"they’ll do what you want. It might be good, or it might not. Honestly the biggest challenge here will be YOU, because amateurs will let you take over instead of telling you what you need. Amateurs can be creative and talented, but they don’t have the business experience or confidence to tell you 'that’s not going to work"---he settles on "The artisan"---which is, of course, himself. He defines the word as someone "who can tell you exactly why one cover will perform better than another, and how to use design to effortlessly attract your target audience"---but then goes on to sell templates and premades.

    In addition to the page of his own book covers---and a very mixed bag they are, too---there is also a very large collection of book covers under "Resources" that turn out to be nearly 180 covers by other artists and designers. He says that "If you need a book cover design that’s anything like any of these, (not exactly alike of course, just slightly similar) it’d be my pleasure to work on it."

    In other words, he'd be glad to copy some professional designer's cover for you, changing just enough to avoid outright plagiarism.**

    I am reminded of the time I worked at a small commercial art studio. Being low man on the totem pole, I was the first to screen applicants for jobs. One day a fellow showed up looking for work as an illustrator. I opened his portfolio and it was filled with tear sheets from magazines featuring art by such great illustrators as Bob Peak, Bernie Fuchs and Mark English (this was back in the 70s). "Do you like these samples?" he asked.

    "Well, of course I do," I replied.

    "I do work," he said, "just like that."


    -----------------

    *I get the distinct impression of sour grapes from the body of his website since apparently he has never created a cover professionally for a traditional publisher.

    And, I have to admit, I take this kind of thing more than a little personally as well.

    **He would seem to prefer referring clients to https://ebooklaunch.com if they are interested solely in obtaining a cover design instead of one of his inclusive package deals.

    By the bye, he mentions "organizing a writing retreat in a French castle" by which I assume he means the Rocaberti Retreats. I know someone who has taught screenwriting at one of these. The founder is someone named  Claire Elizabeth Terry. I have never seen Derek Murphy's name attached to the retreats or any of their programs.

    __________________________________________
    Black Cat Studios http://www.black-cat-studios.com/
  •  In reading and watching videos of opinions about cover design, I have found that like most topics it, too, is subjective. Reading even professional opinions, people will have their own slant on how it should be done. I know I have found a few differing opinions on making book covers. However, that can be good, too, as it will cause one to do more research which will result in more opinions. In doing that you will find ideas that everyone can agree on, as well as disagree. That leaves you still able to put your creative spin on something that will be attractive to others. 

    I find that much more appealing than having a cookie cutter, “You HAVE to do it this way” approach. Everyone likes the freedom to be creative their own way.

    As I say, I am not a graphic designer. I like messing around with Photoshop Elements, but I am way down on the amateur/expert scale. I spend as much or more time Googling how to do a certain feature on Photoshop than I spend actually doing it. But, to me, that is part of the fun. Like writing, I like to create something that is mine. Also, like writing I don’t want to put out a cover that is the equivalent of writing something like, “George seen the pigs wagging there tails when he come up.”

    So, I’m trying to learn something about cover design, although I’m not sure how long it will take to get halfway good at it. I have made two other book covers on Lulu. One, I am pretty satisfied with, the other, I thought was good until a friend pointed out the many things wrong with it from a potential buyer’s viewpoint.

    Still, between designing a cover and writing the story between the covers, I am much more comfortable doing the latter.  

  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor
    edited September 18

    There are probably no hard and fast rules regarding cover design. More like, as the pirate would say, guidelines. And there is nothing wrong with bending or breaking any of these "rules"---but you have to know what they are before you can do that.

    And by the same token, anyone who suggests that by simply following a few simple "rules" anyone can create a good book cover is being simplistic and disingenuous.

    I do think that there are really only a couple of things that should generally be kept in mind:

    1. The title needs to be readable.

    2. A cover image needs to be unique and it needs to convey, with simplicity and immediacy, something significant about the nature of the book: its genre, its theme or idea. This image might be an impression of the nature of the book, something suggesting what the book is about or what its idea or theme might be. But it should really just be one element, image or idea that best represents the book. Something that immediately catches the eye of the potential reader and can be quickly understood and absorbed.

    Perhaps more than anywhere else, "less is more" applies to book covers.

    All of this is why I have so often compared book covers to packaging...which is what they really are: just like a box of cereal or the label on a can of peas. They have to let the reader know what's inside and they need to attract their attention from among dozens of similar products.

    A few years ago I was conducting some tutorials for the fans of an author friend for whom I have done some cover art. They had expressed a great deal of interest in the processes involved as well as my own personal philosophies regarding cover art. The only thing that remains of this is this web page, which may or may not be of some interest...

    http://black-cat-studios.com/book_cover_design.html

    __________________________________________
    Black Cat Studios http://www.black-cat-studios.com/
  • TheJesusNinjaTheJesusNinja Teacher
    edited September 18
    One thing Derek mentions is that covers need to blend in with genre and not stand out. Otherwise your reader may see the book as something they aren't looking for. In one video he shows two books that are making him $5000 a month. I know his books are popular and he writes in a great niche. He also understands how to launch a book. Many things he suggests I can't really do especially publishing here at Lulu. Most advice people give are for Amazon KDP and doesn't work here. But I like his advice on covers. He said around fifty percent of the people he makes covers for don't use his cover. They go back to their own. To him it's more about making a cover that sells books , not one that looks good. I'm sure there is a difference somewhere. 
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