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Book cover and concept art for my debut novel (1 Viewer)

Tyrannohotep

Senior Member
I am in the process of getting my first novel published, and I hope it will be out by the spring next year. The work is titled Priestess of the Lost Colony, and I would describe it as a hybrid between the alternate history and magical realism genres. Below is a little blurb I've written for the project.

It is 1600 BC in an alternate timeline. Ever since its establishment on the shores of what will someday be known as Greece, the Kemetian colony of Per-Pehu has suffered a tense, often antagonistic relationship with the native Achaean inhabitants. When the Achaean warlord Scylax of Mycenae attacks the colony and enslaves its citizens, it is up to the escaped Kemetian priestess Itaweret and her younger brother Bek—together with an Achaean shepherd boy with a hidden heritage—to save what remains of their people.

And now for the book cover I've designed for it!
COVER_Priestess_of_the_Lost_Colony-1.jpg


Here is a map of the novel's setting.
Priestess-of-the-Lost-Colony_Map-1-scaled.jpg


And here are some concept artworks for the main characters.
Itaweret-the-Priestess-of-Per-Pehu-2-scaled.jpg

Bek-of-Per-Pehu-scaled.jpg

Philos-and-Xiphos-1-scaled.jpg

Scylax-of-Mycenae-scaled.jpg

Kleno-of-Mycenae-2-scaled.jpg

Nebta-of-Wawat-scaled.jpg


And finally a depiction of Per-Pehu itself:
The-Egyptian-Colony-of-Per-Pehu-scaled.jpg
 

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
Absolutley gorgeous artwork! Your characters are really beautiful.

One observation: The cover seems a bit top-heavy and disjointed. The soft white cloud doesn't seem like a strong enough anchor for the very striking characters that are really the focal point. Can you make the cloud more dramatic and bring the characters down closer to the castle so it looks more incorporated?

Otherwise...LOVE IT!
 

Tyrannohotep

Senior Member
Absolutley gorgeous artwork! Your characters are really beautiful.

One observation: The cover seems a bit top-heavy and disjointed. The soft white cloud doesn't seem like a strong enough anchor for the very striking characters that are really the focal point. Can you make the cloud more dramatic and bring the characters down closer to the castle so it looks more incorporated?

Otherwise...LOVE IT!
Thank you.

Here's an updated version of the cover in response to your critique:
COVER_Priestess_of_the_Lost_Colony_V2.jpg
 

vranger

Staff member
Supervisor
This is my guess at the advice: It's very, very good amateur art. It falls short of professional cover art. There are pros you can take the concept to and get dynamite results for a hundred to a hundred and fifty bucks. There are more great artists interested in doing cover art than there are people paying for it. Lots of supply and low demand drives the price down.
 

sigmadog

Staff member
Media Manager
Okay. I'll put something together. It will be honest and direct, not because I enjoy inflicting pain - although, to be honest, I kinda do - but because I think your novel should have every chance to succeed, and the first chance it has is on the cover. A great cover may or may not drive some sales, but a bad cover will definitely repel sales.

Hint: vranger is on the right track, but I've got a bit more to add.

I've got some deadlines to deal with today, but I'll get on this afterwards.

Ooooo! I can feel the anticipation building…

-Steve (sigmadog)
 
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sigmadog

Staff member
Media Manager
“It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.” -J.R.R. Tolkien


The Tolkien quote seems appropriate, though I’m not sure if it should serve as a caution to the writer who wants to design his/her own cover, or a warning to yours truly against opening this can of worms.

Everyone has their opinion on cover design. I’m no different. However, as a professional graphic designer and illustrator with over 35 years experience in all manner of print design, I think I might have some insight into what works.

I’m not saying I’m the big honcho expert. My opinions and preferences are based on my experiences, and I can justify most of them with what I consider solid reasoning. I don’t ask you to agree with me completely, just consider the possibility that some of my positions are valid and credible.

So let’s talk about Priestess of the Lost Colony. Here’s the cover designed by Tyrranohotep:

Cover_300px.jpg

It’s not bad. I’ve done a fair amount of critique on student work while visiting local college design programs, and I’ve seen worse. However “Not Bad” isn’t exactly high praise, either.

“Hey, Stephen King! I read your last book, and it’s not bad!”
Not bad? Grrrrr.”


But let’s see how it stacks up against Amazon competition. Here’s the book as it would appear in a typical Amazon page:

AmazonListings-01.jpg

It’s almost readable. Of the three, it gets third place. I think there’s no reason it can’t look better (and more exciting) than “Getting Fired Up”, and I’d love it to look as interesting as “The Calculating Stars.”

That’s not all, sometimes it may appear even smaller, with no text underneath to save it:

AmazonSmallListing-01.jpg

Hmm. I don’t like how this book stacks up against the competition.

Let me give a quick rundown on what I see as the problems.


  • Poor font choice. It’s hard to read generally, next to impossible to read at small sizes, doesn’t take advantage of the space allotted, and the leading (space between lines) is odd.
  • Illustration is busy. In order to compete it can and must be better.
  • Illustration is confusing. Are those giants looming behind that fortress? Gods?
  • The fortress itself isn’t compelling, but it’s the largest part of the illustration.
  • I can’t put it any other way: The cliffs annoy me (this is a personal opinion - YMMV).
  • Assuming the Priestess is the woman in front, she should be more prominent.
  • Is the page background supposed to be parchment? Can’t tell.

Ouch. That’s gonna leave a mark.

I get that not everyone has access to professional design knowledge/software, and that places limits on one’s ability to achieve the level of quality we’d all like to see.

Still… ouch!

Like every hitman said in every hitman movie ever made: “It’s not personal. It’s business.”

No gentle pulls: Gotta yank that BandAid® right off and get on with the healing.

So, what is the fix? You have two choices:


  1. Fix It Yourself
  2. Seek Professional Help

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


But first, let me introduce you to The Hierarchy of Importance.

I don’t know if this is an accepted design principle in the high-falutin design schools. I don’t even know if it’s accepted in the medium or low-falutin schools. All I know is it works for me.

The Hierarchy of Importance describes the intentional arrangement of objects in a page, poster, ad, or in this case book cover in such a way as to direct the viewer’s eye from one specific element to another. When I describe this to students or interns, I usually limit it to three discreet items, but a good designer can make it work for more elements if needed.

In other words, before beginning any design, ask yourself the following questions:


  • What do I want the viewer to see FIRST?
  • What do I want the viewer to see SECOND?
  • And what should they see LAST?

Within the Hierarchy of Importance (HoI), there can also be sub-Hierarchies in each element.

Why is the Hierarchy of Importance…uh… important?

Because if all the elements were given equal importance, the design would be a mess. There needs to be one thing that attracts the eye more than anything else, and a intuitive process of viewing that leads the viewer from one element to the next in a logical order. Every element is important, true; but not every element deserves to be dominant. Dominance can only be given to one element.

If every element is fighting for dominance, nobody wins. Like Syndrome said:

syndrome-motto.jpg

In the case of this book cover, the HoI currently consists of:

1. Illustration – Within the illustration the three elements (Priestess, supporting characters, and the fortress) are all fighting for dominance. There is no Illustration Hierarchy, but there should be.
2. Title
3. Author


So with the Hierarchy of Importance on our minds, let’s consider Solution #1: FIXING IT YOURSELF.

I recommend to Tyrranohotep that a decision needs to be made as to which element is most important. Is it the illustration or is it the title? The author should always be third, unless it can sell books on its name alone.

tomclancy.jpg

My Fix It Yourself recommendations:
• Pick a better, more readable font
• Make the Title the dominant element
• Eliminate extraneous illustrations and go with just the Priestess and
• If possible, hire a pro to illustrate the Priestess
• Make your Hierarchy of Importance:

  1. Title
  2. Illustration (Priestess)
  3. Author
• Go to Amazon and look for samples of that particular Hierarchy of Importance and see what works and what doesn’t.
• Copy the successful techniques you see on Amazon (not the art - don’t steal or copy art for commercial use - that’s naughty)
• Do several versions
• Post them here for honest feedback
 

Moose.H

Senior Member
I am battling with the Asterix impression.

It needs direct tying to the story even if it has several tales included. It needs to say who is 1, 2 and baddy+ setting in one glance. I am battling with my covers at the moment and there are a thousand wrong things and only one right. Good luck.
 
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