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Cover advice: The Indivisible and The Void

Updated: Feb 13, 2020

Apropos of this thread.

This has a solid compositional idea. The silhouette-of-a-face-as-a-frame-containing-other-visual-elements is a popular trope but one with enough potential for variation that it’s not a completely over-used cliché.

Depending on exactly what and how the images are used it’s an arrangement that can be used to convey a whole bunch of different moods, genres and broad ideas. The flipside of how versatile this composition is, is how precisely right you have to get it to convey the exact mix of those things appropriate to your book.

So when I say I think every element in this version is slightly off, please don’t take it as a damning criticism! You’re close, but the devil is in the detail with something like this. These ideas with just a bit of tweaking could become something really beautiful.

This is how I would approach the mystery/woman/city/fantasy elements you have in play

The first thing I’ve addressed is the woman’s silhouette. I think your current silhouette is lacking in a couple of ways: the hard, simple outline doesn’t chime with the fantasy genre. Its mostly reminds me of books from the pick-up-artist genre. I’ve chosen a photo that captures something a bit more moody and adds in a softer, illustrative touch more appropriate to the fantasy genre (actually it’s a photo, but once it’s layered under and over the other stuff it feels illustrated). This face conveys some slightly ambiguous, but appropriate emotion. We see enough of her to be mysterious, and this is a mystery story.

Next I’ve looked at the city. I’ve used a much simpler city illustration than yours. I don’t think your city is really reading at first glance. It’s an awkward fit for the shape of the body and slightly too complicated a scene for the viewer to immediately figure out what it is. I’ve got a much simpler skyline with enough there to convey its fantasy nature.

On your current cover there’s not a lot of sympathy between the two elements, the woman and the city. My version connects them through a shared moodiness, and the arrangements of their shapes. I’ve moved bits around and layered them up to create shapes that interact with the face/neck. It sells the idea much more immediately of this woman and this place being connected. She is disappearing into it, just like in the plot.

Next I’ve swapped out your pale surround for a colour and texture that matches the rest of the illustration. Again, a consistent moodiness that ties all these separate parts together to tell a single story. I can see your logic in the pale background – to bump out the important part of the cover – but I think your current neutral background is deadening everything, and that this kind of composition should be about consistency rather than contrast.

Finally the text treatment. The first thing I’ve done is take the title away from being framed by the woman’s shape. There are books which use a silhouette with the title typography shaped to fit it…

… and covers which use face silhouettes to frame another illustrative element…

… But not ones that do both at the same time. Your title needs to be away from the main part of the silhouette/city.

Secondly your title is simply not well suited to that kind of treatment: the word ‘Indivisible’ amongst the otherwise short words for it to look anything but awkward and it would be a great shame to weaken the impact of an evocative title.

You chose a very classical serif font which is a solid choice for a fantasy novel, but after experimenting with a few approaches I think this cover benefits from a little more flourish.

Below are some working images as it might be useful for you to see how I played around with different possibilities to reach the conclusions I did. You can often only work things out by trying them out and pinning down what’s not working one bit at a time. For example I tried out a different photo of a woman and a different city, but found her expression of looking upwards and the details of the city had the whole thing look too science fiction instead of fantasy.

Finally I worked out that the white background had to go, partly because white backgrounds area problem on Amazon etc (white on white means the book disappears into the page).

But mostly because isolating the girl against a white background and placing the city entirely inside her shape implied the wrong thing: it implies she is the heroine, rather than a mysterious and intriguing figure as the city is. So I had the city spill out of her shape and had the blue palette continue beyond her.

What I have done might look slicker and potentially difficult to achieve but it’s all actually quite straightforward on a Photoshop level and just takes time.

There are just three layers and two transparency settings here creating the main effects,. I didn’t even have to use the erase tool to have the city fit inside the silhouette, it’s almost all in choosing the right images!

The real skill is in choosing the images and understanding how they have to work. And a lot of that simply comes in trial and error, as you can see a bit of in those rough images. Always remember that you can play around with the watermarked preview images off shutterstock before committing to buying any image, to see how it works!


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