Sunday, 30 May 2021

Critique Corner

would you like your cover to have a free professional critique?
Find out how here

Welcome to our Discovering Diamonds feature, Critique Corner, where our cover design experts volunteer kind, expert, and constructive critiques to help our readers make the most of their cover designs. Since Discovering Diamonds began in 2017, Cathy Helms of and Tamian Wood of have been co-judging the monthly cover design competition for the site. And since their selected designs have been so well received, they would like to share with all the #DDRev's fans and followers, some pearls of wisdom from their combined 40 years in the cover design business - so, over to Cathy and Tamian...

This month we have a cover submitted by Jen Black - Silver Season Affair

Thanks for sharing your cover! We appreciate your participation.

Tamian's response:

The lovely manor house and clothing of the female figure definitely put us right in the historical fiction genre, for sure. But I'd have to say, this one could use a bit of polish.

My first giveaway that this might be a DIY cover is the all white all centered, all the same size text. Choosing a colour from the image, say a light beige from what looks like (maybe) Cotswold stone (?), would help bring up the sophistication factor. 

And while the font is definitely readable and sufficiently contrasty, it's just the teensiest bit... generic and lackluster. I think this might have been a bit more successful with a font like Desire. Since the sub title hints that there might be some hanky panky goin' on, a slightly more romantic font might not go amis. 

If I were designing this, I'd bring the image of the house down a bit  and add more sky to allow more room for the title to be split on to at least two, possibly three lines. It would have the added bonus of cropping out the tree stump in the foreground. (Some good photoshop skills could get rid of that too) Unless it is a feature in the story, it's just distracting.

I would probably choose a less bold version of the font for the sub title. It's not fighting for attention with a busy background, so a more delicate font would feel less clunky. Also, I'm not sure the quotation marks are necessary. I might also choose a different font altogether for the author name. But KUDOS for being bold and letting it take up some space.

The character does definitely catch the eye, but is most surely a cut and paste that is not blended well into the scene. When I zoom in, I can see the building through her chin and hat. And the lighting doesn't match. Clearly the building light source is a fairly strong light from the upper right. On the girl, at least her face, the lighting is from the lower right. But the thing that strikes me most is how, curiously, her face is a bright orange, while her arm seems more of a normal skin tone. Just evening out that discrepancy would go a long way to improving this cover.

Cathy? What say you?

Cathy’s Response:

Overall, this cover design immediately sells the reader that this is a historical fiction novel. Both the title and the quote on the cover hint at a potential historical romance novel as well.

The background image of the estate is a good solid photo that also works overall – but my eye keeps going to the tree stump in the foreground. On one hand, I wonder if the tree stump ties into the story somehow, does it? But if on the other hand, it does not, then I think it simply needs to be edited out as it is a distraction. We have three elements in this design: the manor house, the lady and the tree stump. I would recommend narrowing that down to just the lady and the house. Those two elements are more than enough to sell this cover.

What I would suggest is blending in a more dramatic sky over the manor house and bringing the house image down to the horizontal center of the cover. The lady could be much larger and shifted over to the left side of the layout. And with a little more detailed design work on her, she can better blend into the layout. I see some issues with the edges of her dress, hat and gloved hands not being clipped out of her original background quite cleanly enough. And I suspect there are a few smudges of white left over from her original background that are floating over the dark grass to her right. And her skin tone needs to be balanced – her face is almost orange while her exposed arm is quite pale in color. We have a very bright sunny day on the manor house yet our lady seems to be in more diffused lighting. I would balance that out so the entire design is equally sunlit.

The typography, with a little editing and font choices, could have better impact as well.  If the manor house is shifted down a bit, then I would stack the title and increase the point size of the letters to fill the top portion of the cover. White is commonly used by non-designers for their text – so to help give this cover a more professional feel, I would use one of the colors out of the bricks of the house or a blush color, or a dark color. The author’s name would be better balanced centered across the bottom, but the font is fine – perhaps not in italics though. The quote – if this is simply the sub-title for the book, I’d recommend not using the quotations at all. And I would place it closer to the title, not in italics, but perhaps all caps.

I hacked up the background enough so that I could play around with the typography placement to better demonstrate what I am suggesting:

I hope that helps. The cover has good elements in it, so with a little extra design work, it could have more impact – especially at thumbnail size.

Thank you again for submitting your cover, Jen!

Discovering Diamonds will be reviewing this title on 9th August

We do hope that our readers might pick up on a few tidbits of good design points while reading our commentary. And again, we thank our volunteer authors for willingly submitting their book covers for a free and no-strings-attached constructive critique of their designs. 

Until next time, be safe and be well!

Anyone wishing to submit their cover for our two graphic designers to critique, please contact either designer directly:

Tamian at

Cathy at

Due to their schedules, future critiques will be posted here once a month on  the day following the Cover and Book of the Month announcement (i.e the end of each month)  and often re-shared on Tamian and Cathy's individual blogs. as long as we have enough submissions.

Discovering Diamonds will not always be able to review the book selected for a cover critique and cannot, therefore, guarantee the quality of the text narrative.

Copyright Disclaimer

The Fair Use Doctrine of copyright law states that there is no copyright violation when a necessary portion of a work is presented as part of commentary or criticism of that work. Copyright restrictions on a book cover are further weakened by the fact that a cover is meant for exposure and advertising; while this is a critique article, the book covers and authors are still receiving exposure for potential new readers. The bottom line is that we, the designers offering free design critiques, are not liable for how any of the suggestions discussed in this blog may be used, interpreted or incorporated in published works. We have offered our help with no strings attached – use any of our suggestions at your own risk.

We will always supply a direct link to Amazon whom the authors/publishers have authorized to promote and sell the books we display on this blog. It is ultimately our goal to help authors better present and market their books – our area of expertise being design and marketing. However, we offer our professional input solely for the betterment of the authors who have willingly submitted their published book covers for our review. We do not accept any monetary compensation for the review.

Views Disclaimer

The opinions expressed in this blog entry are not necessarily held by Discovering Diamonds or any of its affiliated members. The opinions expressed in Critique Corner, while given by both formally educated and experienced graphic designers, are still open to interpretation by the best of those in the publishing business.


  1. Thanks for your comments, guys. Lots of helpful stuff to work on!

    1. Glad our input was helpful! Thank you so much, Jen, for submitting your cover.


WARNING: Spammers will be composted