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Thread: Bad Covers

  1. #1
    KMTolan kmtolan's Avatar
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    Bad Covers

    Sigh.

    I had to do a very hard thing this morning when one of my author friends on Facebook was showing off the cover of their new self-published novel just ahead of its release. Lots of favorable and encouraging comments leading up to mine. Which wasn't so favorable.

    The cover sucked.

    Three images were simply cut and pasted on a purple background - I doubt the artist (and it may have been the author, who knows) could even spell "Photoshop" let alone use it. Composition was horrid on top of that. I was polite, but stated flatly that the work looked amateurish and would do his story a disservice. I guess nobody else had the heart to state the obvious with the author being so excited and all about publishing, but folks need to understand that a bad cover will have a huge impact on a first impression.

    There are a bunch of folks out there who are great Photoshop jockeys - hell, both my kids can render a far better cover than what I saw. I wish writers would think a bit more about such things before rushing to print. People DO judge a book by it's cover.

    Okay, rant over, and I wouldn't be surprised to have a few less friends on FB after this.

    Update: This was a small publisher doing the work (Wings E-Press) and not the author. I would avoid that small press like the plague until they can decide to put out professional covers.

    Kerry
    Last edited by kmtolan; August 14th, 2012 at 09:08 AM.

  2. #2
    aka. Stephen B5 Jones MrBF1V3's Avatar
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    I've been watching the covers on Smashwords with some interest. Some are obviously professional. Some not so obvious. Then there are the ones which are self-made. Font size is important.

    I agree, the cover is the "door mat" for your book. If you want to say "Welcome" then one should say it right. In some cases you might want the cover to say I did it myself. It's worth the extra effort to make sure the cover says what you want it to say. In some cases that means to find someone who can do a good job.

    I hope this doesn't make me a cover snob.

    B5

  3. #3
    It could be worse. ~tmso Moderator N. E. White's Avatar
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    I think we are all cover snobs. What might work for some, doesn't for others.

    But there is a boundary. There is a point when a cover is done so badly, it does a disservice to the story (as Kerry pointed out).

    I think you did the right thing, Kerry. It is your opinion and you gave it in a polite manner (I'm sure). It is up to the author to do what he/she will with it.

  4. #4
    Registered User Loerwyn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tmso View Post
    I think we are all cover snobs. What might work for some, doesn't for others.

    But there is a boundary. There is a point when a cover is done so badly, it does a disservice to the story (as Kerry pointed out).

    I think you did the right thing, Kerry. It is your opinion and you gave it in a polite manner (I'm sure). It is up to the author to do what he/she will with it.
    I agree fully with tmso. A bad cover can affect the success of a book, particularly at the unknown/self-pub'd level.

    But some truths are harsh, and we shouldn't shy from them.

  5. #5
    LaerCarroll.com
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    Even covers which are artistically and technically well-done can be poor AS COVERS.

    Covers have to serve several purposes. They must at the very least

    • get attention
    • interest readers (merely neutral impressions won't do)
    • work both in the large and the small (from a distance AND as an online thumbnail)
    • be memorable (readers may not be able or willing to instantly decide to buy)

  6. #6
    We Read for Light Window Bar's Avatar
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    Changing a Tire (d) Cover

    Several months ago, one of the Smashwords authors who had been selling steadily but poorly paid up for a new cover. Immediately thereafter she began hitting the best-seller lists for indies. My memory doesn't serve me well enough to name the book or even the genre (romance or erotica is my recollection), but her author interview supported all of the above remarks.

    That said, no one should be too timid to try something a bit different. Our own Hugh Howey with his Wool series has proven that creativity does not end when we write finis. Hugh, if you read this post, let me once again offer a tip of the hat for a job well done--this time for your instinct in stepping outside the norm of look-alike sci-fi covers.
    Last edited by Window Bar; August 14th, 2012 at 11:48 AM.

  7. #7
    aka. Stephen B5 Jones MrBF1V3's Avatar
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    ... there's where it might be tricky. Something works, so everyone does it and it no longer works. You can say the same things about the cover you say about the title; it should give some indication about the story, and maybe leave whoever might look at it with a little "?"

    But people get crazy. I've heard (through the grapevine) publishers don't like covers with the color green in them. It makes the book look boring. Artists are learning not to use green, and if they do to hide it sufficiently so the publishers don't see it. You can bend yourself into a pretzel and still get nowhere.

    Don't try to follow all the rules, go with concepts.

    B5

  8. #8
    Palinodic Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    So you all have decided that covers are not going to become obsolete for e-books, as was predicted?

    Quote Originally Posted by MrBF1V3 View Post
    I've heard (through the grapevine) publishers don't like covers with the color green in them. It makes the book look boring. Artists are learning not to use green, and if they do to hide it sufficiently so the publishers don't see it.
    What in the world are you talking about? Does this look boring to you?


  9. #9
    We Read for Light Window Bar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KatG View Post
    What in the world are you talking about? Does this look boring to you?
    Wow. That Green cover is one of the most compelling I've ever seen. Absolutely riveting.

    BTW -- Am I the only one here who has noticed all of the gold-and-fire covers hitting the market lately? Don't tell me: These authors and/or artists might have heard of The Hunger Games trilogy? Nahhh... just a happy coincidence.

    --WB

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by kmtolan View Post
    Sigh.

    I had to do a very hard thing this morning when one of my author friends on Facebook was showing off the cover of their new self-published novel just ahead of its release. Lots of favorable and encouraging comments leading up to mine. Which wasn't so favorable.

    The cover sucked.

    Three images were simply cut and pasted on a purple background - I doubt the artist (and it may have been the author, who knows) could even spell "Photoshop" let alone use it. Composition was horrid on top of that. I was polite, but stated flatly that the work looked amateurish and would do his story a disservice. I guess nobody else had the heart to state the obvious with the author being so excited and all about publishing, but folks need to understand that a bad cover will have a huge impact on a first impression.

    There are a bunch of folks out there who are great Photoshop jockeys - hell, both my kids can render a far better cover than what I saw. I wish writers would think a bit more about such things before rushing to print. People DO judge a book by it's cover.

    Okay, rant over, and I wouldn't be surprised to have a few less friends on FB after this.

    Update: This was a small publisher doing the work (Wings E-Press) and not the author. I would avoid that small press like the plague until they can decide to put out professional covers.

    Kerry
    I hope you didn't use the term sucked but if they asked for feedback I think you owe it to them to be honest.

    Not harsh or mean-spirited, but critically honest.

  11. #11
    LaerCarroll.com
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    Quote Originally Posted by kshRox View Post
    ... you owe it to them to be ... Not harsh or mean-spirited, but critically honest.
    Elizabeth Moon's recent thread comes to mind, on avoiding destructive criticism and focusing on constructive criticism.

    Also, the comments people in that thread made to be sure any suggestions you make are clearly examples of what might be done, not dogmatic prescriptions.

  12. #12
    Palinodic Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Window Bar View Post
    Wow. That Green cover is one of the most compelling I've ever seen. Absolutely riveting.

    BTW -- Am I the only one here who has noticed all of the gold-and-fire covers hitting the market lately? Don't tell me: These authors and/or artists might have heard of The Hunger Games trilogy? Nahhh... just a happy coincidence.

    --WB
    I could give you dozens more. I hadn't heard a no green rumor before. Eventually I'm assuming publishers are going to be considered the Illuminati and insist that their sandwiches always have the crusts cut off.

    Given that the Hunger Games covers don't have any flames on them and only one is red with a bit of gold, and that YA covers are done by different publishers than the adult books, I think you are maybe inventing a connection. I think that it may be for the indie pubs that flames are relatively easy to do and look nice. There are trends in covers because art departments have lots of covers to do and if a look seems to be working, they'll copy it with some variation for a bit. We can set up a thread to talk about covers and what goes into them if folk want. I touched on that some when I brought up the YA novels.

    But green is pretty much just fine, given the number of fantasy novels that involve forests. Here's some more:









    Green's also very popular for horror covers.

    Kerry -- maybe you could offer your kids' services to do a new cover. I'm sure the person is smarting if he/she paid for the art service. I'm telling you, my daughter makes these great greeting cards -- teenagers could clean up.

  13. #13
    KMTolan kmtolan's Avatar
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    Who, me?

    Quote Originally Posted by kshRox View Post
    I hope you didn't use the term sucked but if they asked for feedback I think you owe it to them to be honest.

    Not harsh or mean-spirited, but critically honest.
    God forbid. Actually exchanged mails with the author afterwards and no, there's no hurt feelings (beyond, I suspect, the author's regret over seeing others agree with his own assessment). I felt his work deserved better and said so. Suggested he might see if this publisher would be open to a supplied cover but doubt there's time. Really feel sorry for the author.

    Kerry

  14. #14


    Don't like this one at all.



    This one is all right, not a favorite though.



    Don't really care for the 'photograph' look and the title covering so much of the cover so dominantly.



    I really like this cover art, put's me in the middle of some kind of action with some cool visuals related to the armor? suits?

    Also really liked the cover for Green but the story itself is taking some pretty rough hits on Amazon reviews.

  15. #15
    The Great Flying Bear choppy's Avatar
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    I suppose it's all in the eye of the beholder.

    The biggest concern that I would have is if the cover looks a little too amateur, it might give potential readers the impression that someone (author, editor, publisher) hasn't been paying attention to details. And as a result readers might pass on it.

    But at the same time, there's a difference between "sufficient" and "optimal." In some cases the author/editor/publisher may be faced with a decision. You have a piece of cover art that perhaps you've already payed for. You're not happy with it, but your alternative is to delay publishing and miss some key market timing, and thus miss potential sales. Less than optimal is usually better than zero.

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