Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Bad cover, good cover

Of course books covers are a matter of personal taste. I hardly expect everyone in creation to share mine. But I just happened across a couple of new-to-me books where I had rapid, visceral responses to the covers and I thought I would share those with you.

Forthwith, the bad:

What is wrong with it?

Well, to start with, I have trouble reading the title. Some of what’s going on with light and shadow confuse my eye when I try to read the words. The letters on top of a black background stand out a lot more, for me at least, than the ones over the red background.

The author’s name is also difficult to see. It’s too small or the font is too narrow or the colors behind the name are too confusing … maybe all three.

Did you immediately see that this was a woman’s face with a weird design in red superimposed? I did not. It took my eye some time to sort out the face.

Also, what is the red filigree supposed to be? Is it really abstract or is it meant to represent a hummingbird? I saw a hummingbird shape here long before I found the woman’s face. Then I wondered if the shape was really supposed to be a butterfly. But it’s like looking at ink blots; I see birds and butterflies because my eye always looks for animal shapes. Maybe this is purely an abstract shape that isn’t particularly supposed to represent a hummingbird or anything? What do you see in it?

Anyway, right after I happened to see the above cover, I spotted this one and thought how much better I liked it:

The color scheme is simpler. Yellow is a hard color to handle, I’ve heard, but it looks fine to me here. Because the background color is semi-uniform, the title of the book is much easier for me to read. I like the font and color of the title, which is complex without being visually confusing.

The author’s name is no larger, but the white font shows up well and the lettering is simple and clear.

The imagery is also clear and immediately interpretable. There is a dragon. No question about it: that’s a dragon. Dragons are always good as far as I’m concerned. It looks like an important element in the book, but it doesn’t appear to be attacking the woman. That’s good too. I’m immediately interested in the dragon and the woman and what’s going on between them. There’s a lot more story implied by this cover than the former one. The tagline offered on this cover seems sensible: it’s enough to cue readers that there will be an important romantic element, but also clearly indicates to those more interested in the fantasy elements that yes, the dragon is important.

Given both of these books face out on a shelf, I know which one I would pick up for a closer look.

How about you? Agree/disagree?

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6 Comments Bad cover, good cover

  1. Robert

    Agree. When I saw the first cover, I thought something was on fire. Actually, I’m still not sure. Definitely like the second cover.

  2. Elaine T

    Agree. That first one is terrible. For the red filigree my first thought was butterfly, then on second look thought mouse: big ears, body curled as if being held in a hand. Upon looking at the Amazon page I see the beak/needle and given it’s a vampire story wonder if the red was supposed to be a mosquito?

    The yellow one has an eye catching image, and you can read the important things: title and author.
    That’s a good dragon/wyvern – it’s the flying snake variety as I don’t see any legs. Good wings (says the Teen who is very picky about wings).
    now the blurb makes my eyes glaze over, but if I were in the mood for that sort of thing I’d at least try a sample.

  3. Pete Mack

    Best yellow cover I’ve seen is The Osiris Project by E.J. Swift. Just say ‘yellow cover’ and I think of it immediately. I agree that the first cover is a bad composition. The second is good, but a bit hackneyed. I guess in advertising, dragons are like sex: they sell.

  4. Matthew

    I’m probably of a different opinion because I’d been anticipating Certain Dark Things for a while. That means that by the time I saw the cover, I already knew it was about Mexican vampires so the face and the blood spray-reminiscent hummingbird design immediately popped out to me.

    The Heartstone cover I like well enough, but the title’s placement makes the dragon look weirdly proportioned to me. (probably an optical illusion or, I suppose, he has really long hind section lost in the mist)

  5. mona

    There’s one very important thing off on the yellow cover: it makes the title look like it’s two words, Heart Stone, when actually it’s one. I searched for it on Amazon under this assumption and it didn’t come up at all. Of course, that’s got a lot to do with search terms and Amazon’s particular search engine. Google had no trouble finding it.

  6. Rachel

    Oh, the red is supposed to be blood? Yes, knowing a little about Certain Dark Things before you see the cover would probably help. Definitely not something the cover designer should count on, though.

    I do think that breaking “Heartstone” into two words was ill-advised, given the problem with search terms.

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