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Friday, August 30, 2013

Judging a Book's Cover: A Cover Critique of Only Half Alive

Earlier this week I logged onto Facebook to see this:

Konstanz Silverbow's cover reveal. And I loved it so much, I had to share it. You may or may not like it. But either way, this cover works. And I'm going to pull it apart to show how it conveys its genre and story in order to appeal to its target audience.

(Please note I have not read this book. This is a breakdown entirely based on the cover content.)

Many authors who publish traditionally don't have much, if any, say in what their covers look like, but they can still benefit from what I'm going to talk about. And, with more and more people self-publishing, more and more authors have to come up with their own covers, so this may be helpful for them too. Unfortunately. . . I've seen some awful indie covers. I won't post any up here, but, if you want an example, it shouldn't be hard to find one. Konstanz Silverbow is self-publishing this novel. She had Stephanie White design the cover. Here's why it works.

(Please take time to read the back cover--in italics below--to follow along with the critique.)

The world's darkest creature, will be their brightest hope. While darkness haunts her, she craves the light. Christina is a demon, but she doesn't want to be. She is willing to sacrifice everything to change it. Only one person stands in her way, and he will stop at nothing to keep her the way she is. The greatest battle of light vs dark threatens every living creature, a battle that could destroy all. And the demon in love will only have one chance to save everyone.

First, let's look at the image. It resonates with Michelangelo's piece "Creation of Adam."

As such, it implies something otherworldly--heaven or hell perhaps, for Christina. On Only Half Alive Christina is in the dark, and it looks as if the male is reaching out to pull her into the light, to a better life than what she has been living as a demon. Also, notice how she is below and he is above, further cementing that suggestion. In both pictures, the fact that the subjects are reaching out, but not yet touching, creates tension, and in the case of Only Half Alive, the body language (holding hands) suggests romance.

So, already, the image conveys something otherworldly (a heaven and hell, light and dark) and romantic, and therefore its genre, paranormal romance.

Looking closer, we see that black birds are flying up through the woods, which could be symbolic of freedom, release, or escape, like how Christina yearns to escape her demonic self.

Am I over-analyzing this? Whether or not all of this was intentional, it's there. All of this is conveyed in only the image, the first aspect that readers see. One glance, and they know what kind of book this is. The image stirs emotion. And you can bet it stirs something in paranormal romance readers especially.

Next, the title. It resonates with other phrases readers (or anyone for that matter) have heard: "You complete me," "My other half," "My better half"--each of which relate to romance

At one point in history, people believed that, before you were born, your soul was split into two pieces, and when you fell in love with "the one," you had found the other piece of your soul. That's where those phrases originated from; that's where the term "soulmates" comes from. So "Only Half Alive" plays into those notions.  It conveys a sense of romance on a subconscious level. Christina is only half herself.

The title also implies danger. Someone who is "only half alive," is dying, literally or figuratively. The title again wanders into the otherworldly. In a way, all the undead are "half alive." Vampires, zombies, mummies, ghosts are only a step away from demons.

Then, there's the author name. Konstanz Silverbow. You're likely to think twice about it--which is twice the attention a name like "Jan Smith" will get. Konstanz Silverbow is unique. It encourages questioning, sparks interest. How often do you see a "K" and "Z" in the same word? And "Silver bow" evokes its own emotions--it might make people think of adventure (why else would you need a bow?) or fantasy (lot's of epic fantasies have bows).

Finally, the tagline and back cover use language that promises a particular type of story: "darkest creature," "brightest hope," "haunts," "demon," "sacrifice," "battle," "love," "save everyone." The text plays up the irony and contrast of light and dark in a pleasing way. "The world's darkest creature, will be their brightest hope." Doesn't that make you want to read the next sentence?

As authors, we only have an image, a title, and a name to catch passing readers' attention. (They have to actually pick up the book to read the blurb.) Make them count. Use them to convey your genre so that your book ends up in the hands of your target audience.

If you are interested in learning more about Only Half Alive, you can visit Konstanz Silverbow's blog. For other cover designs by Stephanie White, visit her website Steph's Cover Design.

Any other thoughts on book covers?


  1. Kami,

    I can't even tell you how much this means to me! A lot of the aspects on the cover you bring up, were intentional. The birds? That's something that Stephanie added and I love them being there so much!! She really did a fantastic job!

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! This is so wonderful! And it makes me so happy to know that you totally get the cover! YAY! <3 <3 <3


  2. Oh my.. I feel like someone teachers into my head and helps me articulate how much I love this cover. Everything just goes together so perfectly! Thanks for this post! Now I can easily see what I wasn't quite able to put into words!

    1. Apparently, my kindle doesn't like English. **reached. =P

    2. It really does go together well! Glad I could help. Thanks for commenting.

  3. Thanks for helping promote my friend's new book! Your critique is really helpful for those of us thinking about the covers of our almost done books...
    Tina @ Life is Good


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