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  1. Puffy Smoke

    Puffy Smoke New Member

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    Cover Critique

    Discussion in 'Self-Publishing' started by Puffy Smoke, Oct 17, 2019.

    Greetings peeps. I'm writing a trilogy about a very distinctive serial killer and this is the first cover I designed of said trilogy. Most people seem to like it but stare at it too long, perhaps because it's too busy? And I had one person say it's dated, like something you would see from the 90's. Feedback would be appreciated.
     

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  2. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    to be honest it looks very home made ... its the sort of cover that people look at and say 'yeah that's self published' - unless you have a serious design background i'd always advocate buying a premade if you can't afford a bespoke cover designer
     
  3. Naomasa298

    Naomasa298 Member

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    I agree that it's too busy.

    Thing is, what is it trying to convey? I look at it and see skull with glowy eyes, graveyard and it looks like the cover of a horror role playing game rulebook.
     
  4. Puffy Smoke

    Puffy Smoke New Member

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    I tend to agree. My wife likes it though. :/
     
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  5. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    I'd suggest working out who your peer authors are and looking at their covers - its more important to fit in than it is to stand out, especially as amazon sales depend largely on advertising and AMS uses the cover as the creative.
     
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  6. hvysmker

    hvysmker Banned

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    One way to build a good cover is to Google the "Internet Archives" where everything is in the public domain and freely available. I don't mean to simply copy but to alter to reflect your own needs.

    For a detective novel, I once played an old black & white movie. I stopped the movie at one point, copied a frame, made a few cosmetic changes. Then I superimposed my title and name.

    Charlie
     
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2019
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  7. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Christ, don't do that - the internet archives are freely available to borrow and view - they are not copyright free and available to be adapted for commercial use ... taking a frame from a movie and making it into a book cover is a clear copyright violation and if you do suceed in making any money you can expect to be sued by a studio who have much more money for lawyers than you do.

    Also "altering it to your own needs" ie creating a derivative work, does not excuse you from responsibility to the copyright holder

    to source photos for book covers you should use a stock library where the pictures are clearly licensed for commercial use (for example on the shutterstock standard license images are licensed for unlimited digital use and 500k physical copies... if your book sells 500k copies in print you'll need to extend the license but at that point you'll be able to afford it)
     
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2019
  8. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll "It's a messy business." :P Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah, I'm in the 'it's too busy camp' as well.

    I am not sure what it is trying to say either.
    [​IMG]
     
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  9. Oscar Leigh

    Oscar Leigh Contributor Contributor

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    It's never a good sign when your serious serial killer book cover makes people think of the Kool Aid Man.

    Also it really does look like a 90's video game. I would say simpler is better with covers if not sure, it's better to be boring than garish.
    It's not a terrible attempt though.
     
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  10. The Piper

    The Piper Contributor Contributor

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    I'd always be happy to give cover design a go if anyone needed - and would certainly be a lot cheaper than anyone you'll find online - but I'll stop talking in that particular vein in case it starts pushing towards me promoting my services!

    I always find with my covers that I can be really happy with something - I recently did a cover for a short story that I've just released in prep for self-publishing a collection in January, and I thought it turned out really nicely, but I've just been worried since that it isn't professional. This is the worry for me - that someone will look at it and, like Moose says, say "thats clearly self-published" unless you spend the hundreds of pounds/dollars on a professional cover.

    In terms of the cover posted by OP it shows some genuine skill with the tools/software used, it's simply a case of refining those skills so that the end result is more in-line with what's already out there. Main tips would be: the fonts used look fairly school-project (not a criticism of the skill, just of the choice of font) and the graphics themselves look a little early-years playstation. The rest I think has already been said - keep it simple and quiet, less cluttered so you have a focus point that stands out from the rest.

    Hope this helps!
     
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  11. LazyBear

    LazyBear Senior Member

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    A shaded line drawing of the skull would avoid distracting with large polygons and cluttered details. Give it an impression of being a timeless classic, as if the content is so good that it doesn't need fancy 3D effects. Select one or two colors to use with black and white. For two colors, the hue angle should be 90 or 180 degrees in between.
    * You can add a colored glow effect on the monochrome or grayscale silhouette. When done with blurred glow layers, merge into one layer and adjust gamma of separate channels to set a color on the middle intensity.
    * Alternatively make a dried blood effect with red on pergament and darker edges using a high-pass filter.

    I can show you some layer tricks in GIMP if you make a good skull stencil in a high resolution.
     
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  12. InsaneXade

    InsaneXade Member

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    Please don't take any of these critiques the wrong way. I know it can feel like a knife to the heart to hear such things about the artwork that you worked soooo hard on but we are trying to help you become a better cover designer. Mine is long-winded, but please bear with me.

    It's a wonderful first try, but tone it down a little, nothing says amateur better than something too busy. It's best to remember K.I.S.S. which stands for Keep it Simple Stupid (I'm not calling you stupid) When it comes to covers, business cards, flyers, or practically anything promoting something, simple is better. Go to a book store and walk around, looking at the covers. Every one of them might be fine detailed but actually pretty simple, with one or maybe two key features that stand out from the background. Unless it's a comic book cover, although those tend to be more complex than a book cover, they are actually pretty simple in themselves if you pay attention. Most of the time it's the main character(s) of the current tale doing something dramatic, related to the comic itself.

    Now, sometimes a little busy works, like J. K. Rowling, but even her Harry Potter series covers (<link) had a theme going on, the background was a little faded most of the time with the main feature being Harry, and sometimes his friends. In the American version, some only had a basic background behind Harry, while further behind him showed some action in miniature. Unless you look at the new American ones, but still, those are scenes from the book, with the characters at center stage. Bear in mind that different countries have different cover standards. Anyway, even the other countries everything is related to each other. (Even if Harry looks like a poorly drawn cartoon character sometimes. Blech.)

    Yours, on the other hand, is too busy: the explosion pieces, the background, even the blood, and the skull is too busy. Keep it simple. Try a simple scene from the book, or a simple version of the main character in front of an equally simple background. Btw, you need a master main character someone that the reader can relate to. I found that having more than two main characters can make a confusing book. However, secondary characters can have almost the same importance as the main character. As I once read somewhere you cannot have a hero without their foil, their partner, their Dr. Watson to Sherlock Holmes. A sidekick, if you like. Always give your hero a companion, even if it is an animal companion. The companion can change, but don’t change the hero very often. You can flip flop between two or three, but dedicate at least a chapter to one before you switch. Only a true master can easily switch between characters on the fly. But they know it’s always done sparingly. (Nora Roberts is great about that, showing first one lover's pov then switching to the other to enhance the erotic factor. She slips it in so gently that you barely notice that the pov changes.)

    One of the writing books I read mentioned that the writer, who is a publishing house editor, received a book that is a perfect example of too much head-hopping. It started out with a mom, arguing with her daughter. You start to relate to her then it switched to her daughter sulking about how unfair it was that she had to move away from her friends. Finally, the POV switched to the brother in the back seat, debating whether or not to pull on his sister's hair. All within the first page! I forget the book, I know it's in my expansive kindle library but I forget which one it is.

    But I digress. It looks like you used a 3d program. If so, kudos to you for you have a real knack of it. I'm 99% positive it is a 3D model and will now kick into 3D modeling mode (that's another hobby of mine.) The skull looks to be at least 100k polygons, to have such details in ridges and indents, plus teeth. If you used normal, bump and displacement maps, that would drastically reduce the polygon count to around 20k with the teeth. However, I think you went the high poly count after I zoom in for more realistic detail. If you built that I can honestly say you rival my own skills. If you used a premade model that's okay too, long as you give credit.

    If I'm not mistaken, this might even be a Blender build, perhaps with a touch of Zbrush. If so I suggest you look at toon rendering this would drastically reduce detail in the skull without losing the polygon detail. The shatter polygons are poorly UV mapped, which is another reason I think it's 3D. The stretched texture map on the edges suggests that part was a rush job. If you are going to the trouble of making the sull detailed, at least do the same for the rest. You could have gotten away with a solid color like you did with the back faces. Again, always, Always UV everything to avoid looking like a noob. You could even use different materials so you can easily change it on the fly to see what looks best. The exploded pieces adds to the busy factor; the reader needs to look at the skull first, not the shattered plane. The blood is tacky though and looks slapped on via photoshop or another program. The background itself is stamped on a plane and does nothing but fill in the image with even more busyness. I cannot tell what the title is, first it says cruel some then below it says death can be cruel.

    Overall, great job on the skull, but keep it simple and don't startle the reader by having gore on the cover, even if it's a gory book. Let's see a new and simpler version of the cover and if you want a one on one with a fellow 3d artist then PM me, I love sharing my knowledge. I've been in full-on writer and research mode and it's hard to get me out of a mode, so bear with me if I say not right now.
     
  13. Puffy Smoke

    Puffy Smoke New Member

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    Greetings fellow graphics software (weekend warrior/professional/aspiring genius) thanks for noticing that this is really hard to pull off in Blender (or other 3d software) unless you're a total Blender head. I Guess I just made what I knew I could do and not what might be the best. If you work with any software you know what I mean. I use Gimp sparingly and wouldn't be able to do the things you're taking about. Thanks....
     
  14. Puffy Smoke

    Puffy Smoke New Member

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    Yep, It was done in Blender. Good call. But I think I'm going to work on something else. It was difficult (for my experience level) but it was fun. Have another idea in my head.
     
  15. InsaneXade

    InsaneXade Member

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    Keep your fingers in Blender, you show great promise. Sometimes it's best to move on for a while, but be sure to come back after a few months and revisit this project. Perhaps you can come up with another, better cover by then.
     
  16. The Piper

    The Piper Contributor Contributor

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    Exactly, keep your hand in, keep working on it. Take a look at other covers for inspiration, and soon you'll have a cover that not only is your audience impressed by, but more importantly you're happy with too. Definitely some skill there that just needs a little refining. And of course if you ever want to look for a cover artist, I'd suggest taking a look round on here, I haven't seen many covers uploaded over the years but there's definitely been a few from some very talented people and I know it might be worth asking around before you shell out online!

    Having said that I wonder if OP would mind if this thread became one in the same vein as "share your first three sentences" where people can post cover designs and receive feedback? I wouldn't want to hijack a thread that you started, but don't want to clutter the forum with a very similar one - what do you think, @Puffy Smoke ? I know if benefit from some feedback on the cover I'm working on at the minute, and I'm sure it could be helpful to others as well - but absolutely your decision. Hope all is well, and if there's a new or updated version of your cover I'd love to see it.
     
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  17. Puffy Smoke

    Puffy Smoke New Member

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    No Problem, what ever you guys want to do. I posted this here because it's where I saw an earlier cover critique.
     

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