Case Study 16

Title: Forest Child

Author: Heather Day Gilbert

Designer: Seedlings Design Studio

Genre: Historical Fiction

Graphics: This is the second book in a series built around Viking explorations. The protagonist, Freydis, is the illegitimate daughter (“forest child”) of Erik the Red and half-sister to Leif Erikson—all three actual historical figures. In a legendary account Freydis is pictured as braver than many of the men she explored with, and the book is written on that premise.

In the cover image we see Freydis depicted as a young woman, her face showing quiet determination. Her hair, appropriately, is red (her father got his moniker from the color of his hair and beard). We see arrows poking out from a quiver, thus a hunting or military connection, and in the background, partly obscured in mist, are trees—an implication of “forest child.”

The image thus presents several elements of the historical character and the fictional character, something not commonly done well on book covers. As in most such covers, the protagonist looks twenty-first century (Vikings didn’t sport sculpted eyebrows, and is that a hint of lip gloss one sees?), but that concession to commercialism doesn’t detract from the overall effect.

Typography: Two fonts are used, one for the title and author name, the other for the tagline. The author name is set in a bar at the bottom of the cover. Often such bars conflict with the associated image, but here, because of the multiple horizontal lines and the gray and brown colors, the bar seems to work. The kerning doesn’t quite work. Notice that the T and H in “Heather” are touching.

The font used for the title and author name has an embossed, three-dimensional look. That’s not necessarily bad, but it isn’t necessary, given the effective three-dimensionality of the image. Such fonts aren’t uniform in coloration; slight alterations in tone are needed to suggest the third dimension. That sometimes is problematic, since a secondary tone might be lost in the background, thus making the font look slightly broken. I would have used a simpler, flat font here.

The bigger problem is with the tagline. It is illegible at thumbnail size and almost illegible even at Amazon’s sale page for the book. I’d have reworded the tagline slightly: “Vikings of the New World Saga Book 2″—which actually is how it is at Amazon. That would have saved nine characters and spaces, allowing the font size to be boosted by a couple of points.

As it is, the tagline is too close to the protagonist’s head. Since a larger font would make the tagline closer still, I’d add more free space above her head, making that area about twice as tall as it now is. This could be done by shrinking her image slightly and by moving it a bit lower.

Overall: This cover has to be rated a success, despite minor flaws with the typography. Even at thumbnail size it says “professional,” which is precisely what any author should want.