Unsuccessful E-pub Covers

In the Creative Book Publishing Program, we were taught to never say that we hate a cover design. When dealing with designers, you have to say why a cover is successful or unsuccessful, and have an appropriate argument for that.

I was browsing a lot of different e-publishers today as research for the Enterprise (the final project for my program), and I was appalled at the out-of-date websites and amateur covers. Ebooks right now are only 2-8% of the market (depending on the size of the publishing company), and while ebooks will never replace print books, they will continue to rise in popularity. However, some of the uncertainness in e-publishing and why it retains a tinge of unprofessionalism is due to their design.

Because people really do judge books by their covers, and it’s often the biggest marketing tool for a publisher. It’s the first impression that counts, and good first impressions lead to future sales.

So I thought I’d share some of the not-so-successful e-published covers and explain why they fail, and how they can be improved.

First up: A Promise Kept from Aspen Mountain Press.

Putting the name of your press on the cover of your book is not necessary. Aspen isn’t the only one: I’ve seen some other e-publishers do this too. That’s what your company’s logo is for. Granted, ebooks don’t have spines to proudly display the publisher’s logo, but a tiny logo in the top or bottom corner is much less intrusive than large, sprawling green type.

Secondly, what is the man in the picture doing? I can’t really tell, there’s more inappropriately formated type in the way. The title is too close to the edge; if this were to ever have a print edition, there would be bleeding issues. If I were the designer, I would have moved the word “promise” out of the man’s way, probably up to the “a” line. I would’ve moved the author’s name to where Aspen’s full name is at the bottom and taken Aspen out entirely. I also think the picture would have been more compelling if it were more closely cropped on the right, but not too much on the top, to leave room for the title.

At first glance, Behold the Eyes of Light by Twilight Times Books isn’t that bad. But then I made the image bigger.

My first issue with the cover is that I don’t know where I’m supposed to look. The red type might indicate that the title is the most important. But then there’s also that shiny glare and I can’t for the life of me figure out what that is. Did the artist get Photoshop-effect happy while designing? Is it a magical shining orb that the video game elf wants? One good thing the designer did was to make the elf and the lizard eye both look at the shiny thing–presumably we should be looking at that? If only I knew what it was.

I’m also not sure if the art style of the elf compliments the lizard-dragon eye. It looks like they were created separately and photoshoped together. It’s not that I’m not a fan of the Neverwinter Nights elf, I’m just not convinced that it’s appropriate for the cover.

The other object that confused me was the bar at the top with “book one” inside it. At first, I looked at the elf and up at the bar and thought, “Oh, he’s running low on health!” The red is too jarring on top of the green, and I would have preferred something softer on the eye.

Whiskey Creek Press offers Retired and on the Rocks, featuring a stock photo man contemplating his future as an image on an ebook cover. I think the image itself is fine. It’s nicely cropped. There’s a weird glare on his wrist, like he put too much suntan lotion on that spot, or the artist got a little Photoshop happy.

The problem with this title is pretty obvious: why is the title font stretched to oblivion? It’s like looking into one of those carnival mirrors that distorts physical appearance, or it’s like the font decided it was too fat and is now trying to appear thinner. It would’ve been alright had it accepted itself for what it was.

I would’ve also liked to see the “Mysteries Series” type branded more. Part of a greater whole? Get a logo, or section of a part of the image near the top or bottom with a solid background. It would set it apart from the rest of the cover and reduce its blandness. The rainbow-arch that is the author’s name also screams amateur. It doesn’t need to be fancy, just horizontal is fine. If I were the designer I would’ve made the author’s name a bit bigger, but I’m not familiar with the mystery series, and perhaps the publishers want to promote the series more than brand the authors. In that case, the size can remain.