Apr 02 2009

What do you think about this novel cover?

Published by at 10:13 am under Art,Book Covers

(Picture taken courtesy of The Baltimore Sun; you can read their review here).

This novel has been published by Harper-Collins, so I’m sort of surprised by how unappealing the cover is.  It looks like it’s been slapped together for a self-published novel.  There’s a typo on the cover. (“a terrific send-up not only superheroes in general” is missing the word “of”).

What do you think?  What worked and what didn’t?  What would you have changed?

UPDATE: The author of this book has contacted us, saying that the cover is an “uncorrected draft.”  Erm, the book has been out for two months.  Isn’t it well past time to correct it?  Moreover, what were the circumstances that led a publisher to rush out a book that didn’t have a good cover ready?

25 responses so far

25 Responses to “What do you think about this novel cover?”

  1. B. Macon 02 Apr 2009 at 10:14 am

    On a side-note, I really like the title.

  2. Davidon 02 Apr 2009 at 10:18 am

    Having underwear on the outside is very questionable. And red and yellow don’t go together very well.

  3. B. Macon 02 Apr 2009 at 10:30 am

    Relatedly, I think that the author’s website looks awful. That’s too bad, because a lot of the content is very funny and clever. I’d recommend that the author take a few hundred dollars out of his advance and invest in a website that makes a better first impression.

  4. Tomon 02 Apr 2009 at 10:37 am

    That’s awful. The photo looks like it’s been taken by a total amateur. It looks like something I’d produce on a bad day, and I’m a bad photographer always. The text bubbles look like they’ve been coloured in by a three year old, and again they scream amateur.

    In fact, this whole thing screams amateur.

  5. B. Macon 02 Apr 2009 at 10:45 am

    “This whole thing screams amateur.” That’s precisely what I thought. This is particularly disappointing because Harper-Collins is an extremely legitimate publisher that knows how to market books and I suspect that the book’s content is actually pretty good.

    But the presentation is abysmal. He has typos on the website, a typo on the cover, a cover that looks pretty bad, a terribly designed website, etc. The sad truth is that readers will evaluate you on your presentation skills well before they actually start reading.

  6. B. Macon 02 Apr 2009 at 10:50 am

    Also, for $50-$100, he could have hired a Marvel-grade letterer to do the balloons. Marvel really knows how to do balloons. Even a third-tier Marvel title gets nifty text effects like these. In particular, I’d like to draw your attention to the colored rectangles behind the white text balloons. These colored rectangles help create the impression of depth and set apart a white balloon from a background that may be partially white itself.

  7. B. Macon 02 Apr 2009 at 11:22 am

    Also, this is how I’d recommend that he’d revise his About page.

    ORIGINAL VERSION OF FIRST PARAGRAPH: “Hi out there! This blog is the cyberhome of Captain Freedom. As every schoolchild who scores highly on national standardized reading tests can tell you, my powers include my superhuman strength, flight, lightening-fast reflexes, and the uncanny ability to predict the weather.This blog belongs to G. Xavier Robillard Copyright 2008. For more information email him at greg AT alldaycoffee DOT net.”
    –I’d axe “Hi out there!” It sounds like something from a Myspace page.
    –“This blog is the cyberhome of Captain Freedom” could be shortened to “I’m Captain Freedom.”
    –“…lightening-fast reflexes…” Ack. The word is lightning-fast.
    –“This blog belongs to G. Xavier Robillard Copyright 2008.” I think that’s missing a period. Anyway, the copyright information is completely unnecessary and can be removed.

    ORIGINAL VERSION OF SECOND PARAGRAPH: “You can also learn about The Hero’s Memoir, Captain Freedom – A Superhero’s Quest for Truth, Justice and the Celebrity He Most Richly Deserves (Harper Collins) available February 2009 – a perfect gift for Valentine’s Day, Groundhog Day, and all those people whose TVs stop working when the FCC switches the signal over to digital.”
    –This first sentence is convoluted and should be rewritten. For example, “You can also learn about my memoir, Captain Freedom: A Superhero’s Quest For Truth, Justice and the Celebrity He Most Richly Deserves”. That’s a good start, but what is it we’re learning about the book? “Learn” is a sort of boring verb here.
    He got the name of his own book wrong. On the book cover, the title reads “…the Celebrity He So Richly Deserves…” In the About section, he calls it “…the Celebrity He Most Richly Deserves.” C’mon.
    –“available February 2009” should be removed now that we’re past February 2009.

  8. Holliequon 02 Apr 2009 at 11:43 am

    Ack. Even considering the amateur-ish photo and speech, that composition is awful. The first thing you see is the horrible, horrible costume. It’s plain and boring. The same could be said of the wardrobe itself. If they were going to use that, they could have added some suits in there or something – that would be more interesting, because it would tell us something about the character. Also, the superhero costume would seem quirkier, which I think would be effective.

    The room. White equals boring. Therefore the book and character are boring too. If they wanted white to imply the straight-laced hero character, they could have spiced it up with posters and/or newspaper clippings.

    The speech bubbles are, again, white. As B. Mac commented, they’re very plain.

    The quote from Christopher Moore should not have been on the page. If they wanted to put it on, it should have been an excerpt and it should not have taken up that much room. That’s wasted space. They could have used that space for something wacky/interesting that said something about the novel.

    Yeah. It’s very amateurish. 🙁 I probably wouldn’t even get as far as the title.

  9. scribblaron 02 Apr 2009 at 12:03 pm

    Hahahahaha – wait till I pick myself up off the floor – hahahahaha.

    I have big issues with novel covers, I posted a few times about them on my last blog. They really get me – it’s one of the reasons why I want to self-publish. They so often seem to get it wrong (like this http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/images/n0/n4559.jpg)

    This one is ridiculous.

    For one thing, the colour scheme is horrible. Red and mustard? The chest is plain, there should be some insignia. No mask, no cape, no gloves, no boots… not all are needed, but most are. I could throw a better costume together with stuff in my wardrobe right now.

    For a second thing, there isn’t a secret panel in the wardrobe. And there’s no other clothes, but lots of spare hangers.

    The lettering is rotten. The captions are rotten.

    But then, from what I see, it’s a spoof – so it has a spoof cover.

  10. B. Macon 02 Apr 2009 at 12:56 pm

    If it’s a spoof cover, then I’d recommend making it look funny. The words sell this as a comedy, but the picture does not.

  11. Ragged Boyon 02 Apr 2009 at 1:34 pm

    Ick! that costume is awful. Everyone knows that shade of yellow and red clash horribly. They should have used The Flash as an example of yellow and red. This picture is boring. It looks like someone photographed it with a disposable camera in a shabby apartment.

    I get what they were trying to do, but this execution is lacking horribly. I could have done better than that.

    The title is amusing, though.

  12. t3knomanseron 02 Apr 2009 at 2:47 pm


    Composition: there isn’t any.

    Lighting: This looks like it was shot with natural light through a window out of frame. The end result is that it looks like a quick snapshot with absolutely no planning put into it.

    Colors: Clashing colors are a superhero staple, but it looks crappy in the real world. Even worse, there’s a third clashing color: the floor.

    Concept: For starters, why is the closet empty? Does our superhero have 1 outfit for normal wear and one costume? Shouldn’t there at least be boots or something? The costume-in-a-closet thing seems to imply a normal life at home, but the bare closet counteracts that. Shouldn’t the superhero costume have a logo, as is standard? And why does the costume look like footie pajamas? That’s not what I imagine a superhero costume looks like on the rack.

    Bubbles: Oh, my god. Really? Who designed that? First, putting them against the right makes the cover feel lopsided. Goes back to that lack of composition thing. And spikey bubbles don’t really fit with the cover- especially the review at the bottom. Nobody does bubbles like that. And the lettering is garbage. It’s like somebody’s trying to emulate Lichtenstein without understanding Lichtenstein.

    Fixes: Populate the closet with clothes in muted tones. Greys, blacks, dark colors. Let the costume be the one shot of color in the closet. BOOTS at the bottom of the closet, and the other assorted crap that gathers in closets. Make it look lived in. Maybe have the boots propped up/fallen over on a backpack or something. Pull farther back, take a step or two to the left, and shoot the closet at a steeper angle. For chrissakes, put a poster on the wall to tone down the painful white, or modify it in post so that I’m not getting beaten by pure white. Avoid getting the door into it. Use the newly added space in the frame to move some of the text around. Obviously, use better lettering and more sedate speech bubbles.

    Alternatively, ditch the idea entirely. Instead, give me the costume laid out on the bed in a real-looking bedroom, with a person’s shadow crossing over it. This requires some actual intelligent use of lighting, which, y’know, should be done if you’re going to do photography. Considering the subject matter, I’m not entirely sure photography is really the right medium for the cover anyway.

  13. B. Macon 02 Apr 2009 at 3:07 pm

    I think photography worked really well for Soon I Will Be Invincible, which is probably more cartoony than this. The bright colors were very eye-catching. SIWBI’s props were well-designed and really captured the point of the book.

  14. scribblaron 02 Apr 2009 at 3:23 pm

    Ha, I just realised what we all missed.

    What kind of weirdo puts pants on top of trousers and HANGS IT UP. Fair enough if you’re wearing it, but hanging it?

  15. scribblaron 02 Apr 2009 at 3:43 pm

    Hey, my SIWBI cover was different – it was a crappy comic book muck around.

  16. Marissaon 02 Apr 2009 at 5:34 pm

    Another thing that hasn’t been mentioned:

    Since when do people include a three-sentence review on the front cover? I mean, it’s bigger than the title, as far as bubble-sizes are concerned, and much bigger than the author. This is… really unappealing. I may be wrong, so feel free to correct me.

  17. B. Macon 02 Apr 2009 at 5:38 pm

    The UK version was a bit less inspired. Also, the second-most prominent character on the cover looks strikingly like a Thundercat.

  18. Bretton 02 Apr 2009 at 7:40 pm

    To be honest, I would expect a book with a cover like that to be relentlessly depressing, not a comedy, which makes everything ON the cover a joke. Oh, the irony.

  19. Lunajamniaon 02 Apr 2009 at 8:42 pm

    The cover hurts my eyes and is ugly (the one in the article/blog post). Sorry I cannot think of any better way to express it. And I am not good at critiquing.

  20. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 03 Apr 2009 at 12:58 am

    It looks like a kid’s Halloween costume that has been hidden away because of its ugliness. Yellow and red remind me of McDonald’s, and when I think McDonald’s, I think “EW!” Haha.

  21. Stefan the Exploding Manon 03 Apr 2009 at 6:05 am

    I wish they could have made the costume a little bit more iconic. Like maybe add a symbol or something on the chest. That always works. I’m assuming the cover was going for an indie feel with the simple layout and word balloons, but I don’t see how that would help market the book very well.

    What’s that little white thing at the bottom of the cover?

  22. B. Macon 03 Apr 2009 at 6:09 am

    Perhaps it’s a sock?

  23. B. Macon 04 Apr 2009 at 4:46 am

    I don’t know how I missed this before, but there’s a typo on the cover! “a terrific send-up not only superheroes in general” is missing the word “of.” Ick.

  24. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 04 Apr 2009 at 5:14 am

    If the cover is so badly edited, think of the content!

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