Cover challenge, version 2.0

When we weren’t sure about our cover design, we thought it came down to the overall amount of yellow in the cover. But our heads were stuck inside some box and losing sight of the forest through the trees — thinking that a tint or hue or tiny tweak to color was going to impact visibility, reader interest, or sales.

It took two posters in the Scribophile forums (I’m a member) to help us see the real issue.

This is what we thought was such a big deal — the amount of orange-yellow tint in the two cover options.

“If the choices are just those two …the yellower version is more evocative. But I would suggest taking it even further. If your story includes murder — how about doing the image in red — or parts? or making it darker to appear more sinister … something that is more evocative of the story. Just a thought.”

This was from E.M Hale and he was so right, so true!

Mike Zed also helped us see the real issue.

“The cover gives me little indication of the genre. Have you explored a wider range of options?”

Why didn’t I think of that?

After thinking about those comments for a while, and recognizing my limited budget, I went on Upwork to look for a book designer. After one fail — a talented Philippines-based illustrator but too slow when it came to communication and prone to days away from her computer, I found a solid match. A designer located in Japan.

We started to click and the sketches and improvements started to flow.

Here the progression of the art (see the image mash-up below).

First sketch, No.1. Hard to judge from just a pencil trace but promising. We move forward.

New design, No.2. “So flat” was our first thought — the hair a black blob and not working; the mask, like flat patio paint! We looked around and determined the hair needed strokes of white and the mask need to go to a red color for drama. And those flat facial features on the mask needed shadow, shading, and depth.

After six or seven iterations — back and forth with the designer over email, Skype, and Dropbox — we finally had our design. The image below shows a few of the sketches and mock-ups in the order we received them. And the art at the top of the post is where we’re at right now.

Our dilemma wasn’t about more or less orange. We were up against a bigger issue.

So now we’re back, but with two cover options that authentically call for an opinion. What do you think? Which cover is more exciting, more persuasive, more of a prompt to the reader to click through the image and reading more?


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