This month we have a cover submitted by Susan Appleyard
My first thought on this cover is that it's quite dark and a bit... muddy(?) I really struggled to figure out what the central focal point is, aside from the obvious, "something on fire". I had to zoom in quite significantly to make out what I think is a ghost and skeletal hands at the top of what I assume is a witches pire. If I got that right, kudos on a great concept. Those hands are a stroke of genius! I just think it needed to be larger, to fill the space, and make it easier to recognise the figure for what it is, especially at thumbnail size. The scale of the central figure could have been increased a good inch and a half by pulling the bottom of the fire down to just above the series title, and snugging it up to the bottom of the title, leaving just a touch of breathing space. (1/8"ish on either edge.)
Cathy? What say you?
My first comment is on the artwork – definitely takes me back to darker, medieval times. And I do want to know why and who is being burned at the stake in front of the ominous castle. The scene is mysterious, moody and menacing; easily drawing the eye in.
What can help give more of an impact is the font used for the title – something that is more fitting for historical fiction overall. The peachy fill color is also not as rich and fiery as it could be. I think the intent was to use one of the colors from the flames or smoky atmosphere around the central image – just not quite enough saturation of red in it to totally pull it off. I would go a tad brighter with the orange.
The font choice for the title itself could also be more serious too. It seems a bit playful to me, and I am fairly certain that this novel is not playful in the least (correct me if I’m wrong). So, I would recommend going with the Sabon font family (typically used on historical fiction covers) or something close to it. And Sabon pairs nicely with a simple sans serif for a little typography hierarchy/variation on a cover layout as well. The title should be the largest element on the cover, in almost every case, thus go a few point sizes larger so the title is easy to read at thumbnail size.
The series title ‘The Albigensian Crusade’ is nearly lost as the point size is far too small. I would suggest moving it to the top of the cover and increasing the point size. Line the left and right edges of the series title with the author’s name too for balance. Most of the typography on a cover should line up for good balance.
And one final note about font fill color choices – avoid using white or black for all or most of your typography – that is a common mistake made by non-designers. In this cover design, I might go with a light color for all of the copy, other than the title, picked out of the clouds and smoke – being sure to have enough contrast so it is all still easy to read over the background. White is often too harsh – you want the entire cover design to use the same color pallet – and feel like all of the elements blend together.
I took the liberty of playing around a bit with the typography and came up with this version:
I gave a slight increase in size to our person burning at the stake, centering the fire ring on the cover, being certain that the title did not quite touch the pole. And while zooming in on the person on fire, I did notice a hard line of reddish orange on the right side over the person – I’m assuming part of the flames added to the design that need to be blended out along the one side to correct. I also gave the title a dark drop shadow effect to allow it to stand out from the background a bit more (depth).
Overall, the original is a good design with beautiful and engaging artwork – the typography is good, but with a few tweaks, could give this cover that extra punch that might better attract more readers.