Case Study 97

Title: Homeschool Made EAsy

Author: Lea Ann Garfias

Designer: Lea Ann Garfias

Genre: Self-help

Graphics: Homeschooling is becoming ever more popular, so there must be an increasing need for books about how to get started in it. This one promises an easy introduction. To what extent is any of that indicated by the graphics?

On the right side of the cover is a stack of books. Some of them are thick and look formidable. These likely aren’t books to be used when instructing children of elementary-school years. Someone looking at the books might think, “If those are the sorts of books I need to master to teach my children, maybe homeschooling is beyond me.”

If a stack of books were to remain the chief graphical element, then thinner books, more along the heft of those actually used with children, would seem more appropriate. But is a stack of books the best way to go anyway? There isn’t much inviting about many pages piled atop one another. This might have been a good cover for a bespoke illustration or, if the budget didn’t allow that, for a low-royalty illustration that better exemplifies the materials used by most homeschooling families.

The books on this cover bleed beyond the right edge and half of the top and bottom edges, thus marking where the cover stops, but what about the left edge and the other half of the top and bottom edges? It’s as though they aren’t there because the cover uses an almost-pure-white background. This problem persists at the Amazon sales page for the ebook edition. Before uploading the cover to Amazon, the author-designer should have added a thin black rule all around the cover.

Next let’s look at the disk. It provides a good contrast to the books. They are rectilinear; the disk is round. It isn’t a mere circle, which would have been a little dull. Near its perimeter are two concentric cutouts, providing sneak peeks of the books, and the edges of the disk are jagged and might suggest a pinwheel.

Typography: There appear to be three fonts, one for “Homeschool,” one for “Easy,” and one for the rest of the text.

The title word that stands out best is “Easy,” not just because it is the largest text but because it’s the only text in color, in this case red. (This is an example of the proper use of red text: against a light background.)

The most important word of the title is “Homeschool,” but it hasn’t been given the prominence it deserves. Its size has been constricted by an attempt to keep it within the disk, and the choice of font isn’t optimum. The designer should have selected a more compressed yet still thick-stroked font so that its point size could be boosted. “Homeschool” ought to be half again as tall. Compression will take care of part of that, and the word can occupy some of the empty space to its left.

Yes, under the current arrangement, that would force the word beyond the border of the disk, but there is a solution to that: enlarge the disk. It need not remain wholly within the bounds of the cover. If the diameter of the disk were increased by a third, the right side could extend over the right edge, just as the books do, while the left side could come close to the left edge of the cover.

Enlarging the disk would provide several benefits. It would give space for a larger “Homeschool,” it would become the focus of graphical attention (that honor now is held by the books, not the disk), and the text within the disk would have room not to extend across the two cutouts. Notice how the tails of the L in “Homeschool” and the Y in “Easy” become obscured when they are placed over the books in the background.

The remaining words of the title and subtitle, “Made” and “Homeschool Your Way,” are adequate as they are, but they would look better if they were bolded. The other words—especially once the initial title word is enlarged—vary too much from these words in strength.

The final text to consider is the author name. It’s too small. Its placement is fine, but it ought to be in a font that is at once compressed and bolded. That would allow the letters to be boosted by a few points.

However that works out, it’s necessary to omit “by,” which signals not that this book was written by the person whose name follows but that this book was written by an amateur. If a name stands by itself on a cover, viewers immediately will think it’s the name of the author. There is no reason to add a verbal arrow.

Overall: This cover has good things going for it, particularly the attractive disk and the font and color choice for “Easy,” but the cover also needs work, chiefly in terms of sizing and placement.

If the disk and text were adjusted as proposed, the cover would earn a solid B. If a more enticing illustration could be found, the grade would be higher still.

Case Study 94

Title: The Circle of Fifths

Author: Philip Jackson

Designer: Philip Jackson

Genre: Self-help

Graphics: Online I found half a dozen books written to teach musicians the meaning and use of the circle of fifths. Not one of those books has an attractive cover, so this book fits right in.

In fact, its poor graphics are better than those of several of the other books, which may demonstrate that expertise in one area (playing music) doesn’t necessarily correlate to expertise in another area (designing book covers).

Here we have an especially simple drawing of the circle of fifths. Most of the other books make the circle look like a pie, with slices in various colors, or they try to give the circle a three-dimensional air, trying to raise it off the page a little. Each of those attempts makes for clutter. Often simplicity is best, but this drawing is so simple that it’s dull.

It’s also missing some of the notes because the title and subtitle have been laid over the circle. This makes it appear as though the circle consists of only eight notes, three at the top of the circle and five at the bottom, when in fact is consists of twelve, at least in its simplest form. Someone unfamiliar with musical terminology might imagine that the circle of fifths is a circle with two separate areas, with three notes gathered in one and five in the other.

The circle and its labels (indicating natural notes and flats) are in dark blue and are set against a gradient that goes from a fairly dark blue at the top of the cover to light blue above the author name, where the gradient inexplicably changes from blue to gray.

Thus the circle is blue on blue, which the eye interprets as moving the circle into the background. What is left in the foreground? Nothing at all, since the circle is the whole of the illustration.

Typography: As ineffective as the drawing is, the typography is even worse.

The only bright spot is, well, the only bright spot: the title is legible because it’s yellow and stands out well against the blue. Alas, the title’s font lacks all charm, and the title is set with the nouns in all caps and the other words in upper- and lowercase (and with the article set several points smaller than everything else).

The author name is set in gray against gray, precisely what shouldn’t be done. In that it mimics the circle, which is set in blue against blue. At least the author name is legible. That’s more than can be said for the rest of the text.

The subtitle almost contains a joke. It reads “visual tools for musicians,” but its red letters make it almost the opposite of visual. When two colors clash, as red and blue do, it’s nearly impossible for the eye to focus on the two at once. One is in focus only if the other is kept out of focus.

Things are even worse with the tagline at the bottom. There, the red against light gray isn’t as bad as the red against medium blue above, but the letters are so small that they can be discerned only if the cover is expanded to its maximum size at Amazon.

The tagline has three errors. Its first word ought to be capitalized because the tagline reads not like a headline or title but like a long sentence. The ampersand should be swapped out for “and”; there is plenty of room for the additional two characters. There should be a comma after “modes.”

Better yet, the sentence should end with “modes”—which then would need “and” in front of it—and the phrase “and much more” should be dropped, since it tells the reader nothing. If the “much more” included anything important, that thing should be listed along with the other items.

Overall: For some reason, a few things in life never get the artistic attention they deserve. The circle of fifths is one of them. Someday a designer will come along to give the circle its just desserts. In the meantime, there are ineffectual covers such as this one.

For most musicians, mastering the circle of fifths is no easy task. It isn’t made any easier by books with covers that imply that the labor will be dull and unrewarding.

Case Study 66

Title: What’s Really Eating You?

Author: Renée Jones

Designer: Cathi Stevenson

Genre: Self-help

Graphics: To say this cover’s graphics are minimalistic is almost to understate the case. We can spot just three elements: a broken spoon, an easy-to-miss butterfly, and the background itself.

If the spoon were whole, it wouldn’t so much imply restraint from eating as digging in. A little thing like a break changes the symbolism entirely. It sends the exactly opposite message. Since spoons don’t break spontaneously (it’s not easy to break a spoon, even if you try), we know that the break was deliberate: the breaking of the spoon stands for the breaking of a bad habit.

Oddly, this spoon is deeply tarnished. It’s not obvious why. Tarnish suggests that the spoon hasn’t been used much; it’s what we expect to find on authentically silver silverware that has lain in a drawer for a long time.

Granted, the tarnish does add “character” to the spoon, and it tells us that this is (or once was) a piece of a handsome place setting. Still, I’d have opted for a well-polished spoon, an image that implied constant use (or overuse).

The spoon is set too far right. This book was published not just as an ebook but as a hardback and a paperback. I wouldn’t be surprised if, at least in the case of the paperback, errant trimming made the break in the spoon touch the edge of the cover—or even extend beyond it.

This potential problem could have been avoided by rotating the two parts of the spoon inward, so the break is aimed not at the edge of the cover but toward the bottom of the G in “Eating,” though perhaps it would be necessary for the bowl of the spoon to be placed vertically while the handle was placed at more of an angle.

So much for the spoon. What about the butterfly?

“What butterfly?” you might ask. Fair enough. I missed it the first couple of times I looked at the cover. I mean the butterfly silhouette at the top right. I suppose the designer meant the butterfly to symbolism liberation from the habit of overeating. The placement perhaps was meant to imply that the butterfly somehow freed itself from the bowl of the spoon, but that’s a conceit that’s a little too precious.

If a butterfly were to be used, I think it would be better if it were especially colorful. (The “question mark butterfly”—yes, that’s its common name—would be appropriate: its wings are orange, brown, and black, and it would “pop” from this cover’s background well.) That would heighten the liberation symbolism. The vague, monochrome silhouette presently on the cover can be taken to be a shadow, implying something that was but no longer is rather than a new birth, thus sending a confused message.

The third element of the cover is the aquamarine background pattern. It isn’t entirely flat; it has a slight texture. The color is subdued enough that the spoon and text aren’t lost in it. I might have considered a background that looks more like a wooden table on which the broken spoon could rest, but such a table would have to have subtle grain so as not to interfere with the imagery or text.

Typography: This cover has three textual elements: title, subtitle, and author name. The first and last are in a serif font, the subtitle in a sans serif font. I would have reserved the serif font for the title alone, since it’s the most important part of the wording.

The present font is adequate, but the kerning needs work. There is too much space between the apostrophe and the S and too much between two A-T pairs, but most people won’t notice those small deficiencies.

The chief problem with the title is its coloration. It’s in navy blue, sitting atop aquamarine. There is insufficient contrast between the two colors, resulting in a title that doesn’t catch the eye as it should. Odd as it may seem, the title would stand out better if it were in black. I say that may seem odd, because many people assume black to be the least prepossessing color, but actually black and white are the colors that usually are most noticeable when place against colored backgrounds, as here.

As an alternative to black, a yellow or gold tone could be considered. Whereas black text would be more noticeable than navy blue text, it wouldn’t be so noticeable as to draw attention away from the spoon, which is where the eye tends to go first. If the title were in yellow or gold, it likely would take precedence over the spoon—not necessarily a bad thing, but one a designer would want to weigh.

The subtitle is too subtle. It needs to be in bolded text. The font itself is fine, but its lines are thin, and so the words don’t stand out sufficiently from the background. This is an easy fix.

Similarly for the author name, which, as I said, should be in the same sans serif font as the subtitle. If set several points larger than the subtitle, the author name could remain unbolded. That would provide a nice contrast with the subtitle. The contrast would be more marked if the letters of the author name were kerned widely, a common technique nowadays for author names.

Overall: This simple cover has much going for it, but it could stand a little perkiness.

The spoon, on its own, isn’t enough to make the cover look upbeat, and that presumably is what the author would want. She is providing what she believes is a solution to a widespread problem, so the cover of her book should emit a can-do attitude. A colorful butterfly and more prominent lettering could achieve that.

Cast Study 56

Title: Move or Improve?

Author: Debbie C. Miller

Designer: Steve Fata

Genre: Self-help

Graphics: The sole graphic clearly is a stock business image, the kind that looked innovative in the 1990s. Here we see a maze that fades into the distance. A youngish man and woman, in business attire, view a shortcut across the maze, the shortcut being cut by the eraser of a gigantic pencil.

The image is muddy blue, and the telltale yellow of the pencil is hardly discernible. Nothing about the image pops, and nothing about it relates to the book’s theme, which is housing options for those nearing or at retirement age.

The intended audience is baby boomers, yet the two people in the image clearly aren’t in that generational cohort. The length of the woman’s skirt is enough to tell us that. And what does a maze have to do with downsizing a home? Granted, the process can be confusing and frustrating, just as mazes can be confusing and frustrating (they are designed to be so), but that’s a tenuous connection.

Why not an image of a shrinking house, to suggest empty-nester-ism? Or a moving truck? Or houses of various sizes? Such images actually would relate to the argument of the book. The present image doesn’t.

Worse, it’s just an unattractive image regardless. I presume that it didn’t start out so muddily blue but that the designer muted the colors in order to form a backdrop for the text. Perhaps that helped legibility, but it injured attractiveness.

The image adds nothing, so it should have been omitted, replaced either with a relevant image or with nothing at all, since this cover could have gotten by just with a clever placement of text against a solid background—something that often works with covers of how-to books.

Typography: As ineffective as the image is, the text is more so. Let’s work our way up.

The author name is clear enough, though I would set it in sans serif rather than in the serif font that, at present, is used for all the text. That same san serif I would use for everything except the title. Even with that change the author name would require help. It is too near the bottom edge and is threatened with having its feet sliced off on the paperback version of the book. (One has to leave room for errant trimming.)

As a practical matter, there likely won’t be many instances of that, since few people ever will see the paperback version. Its price ($24.95) and the book’s length (just 50 pages) will see to that. Nevertheless, even for the benefit of the ebook cover, the author name should be shifted up—and it should not be isolated in a box that serves little purpose.

Moving up the cover, next we come to the second half of the long subtitle, “How to Choose What’s Right for You.” This is the second-most prominent part of the titling area, after the main title itself. It so overpowers the first half of the subtitle, “The Baby Boomers’ Guide to Housing Options,” that at first I read it immediately after the main title, “Move or Improve?”

When read that way, the second half of the subtitle makes little sense. What is the “What” in “How to Choose What’s Right for You”? There seems to be no referent. You have to backtrack to take in the first half of the subtitle, and only then do you realize that the book is about housing choices.

This problem arises from the subtitle being bifurcated in two ways. The fist half is reversed out in a white box, and it’s set in considerably smaller type. It’s meant to go with the second half, as shown by the colon, but the two parts feel disjointed. I would have reversed out the reversal, making the first half look like the second, giving both halves the same size and the same coloration.

Even with that clean-up, the subtitle would be less than optimal because it’s so wordy. If all fourteen words are retained, they could be set in four lines, like this: “The Baby Boomers’ Guide/ to Housing Options:/ How to Choose/ What’s Right for You.” Notice that each line includes one phrase or thought.

Now to the title, the largest yet weakest part of the textual treatment. The font is not particularly attractive, in part because the letters are not kerned well. Notice that the V and E nearly touch, while the O and V seem too far apart. Since the title includes an action word, “Move,” I would have chosen a serif font with more character—but not one that might be mistaken for a font suitable for a romance novel.

What about the title’s middle word, “or”? Look how much emphasis it has, partly from being reversed out (black instead of white) but mostly from being set in a large white box. The box is the largest segment of white on the cover, yet it does nothing. It serves no purpose. The word “or” doesn’t need emphasis; after all, it’s the least important word of the title. It would have been fine to leave “or” in white, just like the other two words.

Perhaps the designer felt that such a small word, on a line of its own, looked orphaned. That could have been fixed by putting “or” in italics or in a separate, cursive-like font (thus adding a little variety to the text). It also could have been fixed by putting “or” at the end of the first line, thus making the title two lines rather than three.

Normally it’s a mistake to put a conjunction or similar small words, such as prepositions and articles, at the end of a title line, but here it could be made to work if “or” were in a notably different font. One advantage of such an arrangement is that it would allow “Move” to be made the same size as “Improve,” removing the false impression (given by the present cover) that “Move” is more important than “Improve.”

Overall: As it now stands, there is little to commend this cover. It looks amateurish and, worse, ineffective.

Its words ought to flow, but they do not, and the odd textual treatment leads the viewer into misunderstanding what the book is about. Even the graphic sends wrong signals about the book’s theme and its target audience.

Case Study 47

Title: The 1-Hour College Admissions Essay

Author: Craig Machen

Designer: Ebook Launch

Genre: Self-help

Graphics: It takes but one glance to recognize that this is a non-fiction book. The graphics follow a standard pattern: solid or slightly shaded background, a centered photo or illustration, and type that is clean and simple.

The background is a gradient from left to right. I would have had the gradient—if I included one at all—go from top to bottom, from lighter to darker. Why? To suggest an off-the-cover light source that could account for the stopwatch’s shadow, which is below the stopwatch, not to its right, as the present gradient might imply.

What about the stopwatch itself? Its hand is at about the eleven-minute mark. I wish there were a way to have it indicate either a full hour or an hour that has just begun, but that would interfere with the graduation cap, so what we see is fine. The cap is a nice touch, even though caps are worn at graduation, not at matriculation. No matter. The cap immediately brings to mind higher education, and that’s the point.

My only reservation with the graphical treatment is that I’d like to see the stopwatch and cap occupy a little more room, though I admit I’m at a loss to see how that could happen without impinging on the text.

Typography: There is just one font here, and it’s a good one. Its lines are spare, yet it has a little distinctiveness: notice the slight movement on the foot of the R.

The key term in the title is “1-Hour,” an appeal to high school students who want to handle this part of the onerous college admissions process expeditiously. It’s proper that “1-Hour” be in particularly large letters, but those letters would stand out better if they weren’t set in dark blue against a blue background that, on its right, comes close to being dark blue. The letters should take the yellow from the cap’s tassel. That would help the cover from over-relying on one color. The remainder of the title looks fine.

The same can’t be said for the subtitle, which is illegible at thumbnail size. The subtitle needs to be larger. There is room, left and right, for it to expand by about a quarter in width and height. That still might not be enough to make it legible, so I would change it to yellow also. That would leave two colors for the text, white and yellow, rather than three, as would be the case if only “1-Hour” were put in yellow. The more I look at this cover, the more I think that blue on blue doesn’t quite work—thus the swap to yellow.

Overall: There is little to fault here—not surprisingly since the design comes from a professional firm. A change in color, an the enlargement of the subtitle, and a reconfiguring of the gradient wouldn’t take ten minutes but would be enough to bring this cover from a solid B to an A. Even in its present form the cover does its job.

Case Study 44

Title: Transitions and Beyond

Author: Inderjit Kaur

Designer: Inderjit Kaur

Genre: Self-help

Graphics: I have read this book’s jargon-heavy preface more than once and admit I can’t figure out what the book is about or whom it’s for. It seems to be a step-by-step guide toward regaining psychological balance when faced with adversity, but I’m not sure.

Assuming that’s an approximation of the book’s intent, do the graphics help us understand that? Not that I can see.

Here we have three entirely unrelated images: a puzzle, an image that might be taken from a PowerPoint demonstration, and a photo of a tree trunk with sprouting leaves.

Only the middle image could be taken to suggest a transition or going beyond (to use the words of the title). It implies leaping over an obstacle and continuing on one’s way. Neither of the other images says even that much. The puzzle consists of isolated pieces that are floating away. I suppose that might imply “beyond,” but where is the transition part? And the tree trunk? It’s pretty, but that’s about all that can be said for it.

Each of these images, taken in itself, fails to indicate the genre of the book, except perhaps to indicate that this is a non-fiction work. Taken together, the three images are a muddle. The muddle exemplifies what happens when a designer tries to cram too much into a small space.

Self-help books almost always limit themselves to one bold image that recapitulates the thrust of the title. How to Sell Your Car will have an image of a for-sale car. Mastering French will sport the Eiffel Tower or something equivalent. Planning Your Wedding will feature a multitiered wedding cake. Each cover will have just one image. With three images you don’t get three times the oomph. You get three times the chances to confuse readers, as here.

As I said, I’m not sure what this book is about, but it certainly isn’t about puzzle pieces, red arrows, and foliage. If the author-designer has no choice but to select from these images, I’d recommend using either the first (since the floating-away puzzle pieces might be construed as representing a transition) or the second (since the leaping arrow implies going beyond).

Typography: This book sorely needs a tagline to let us know what it’s about. The title is too opaque. There are countless sorts of transitions in life, and we need to have some sense of what the writer is writing about. Of course, the ideal would be a change to a more explanatory title. In the absence of that, a tagline would help.

The title and author name are in a odd font, one with cartoonish elements. Notice how some of the letters are off-kilter and how the large, blocky serifs run into one another. This font might be suitable for a children’s book but is out of place on a book intended for an adult readership.

The title would look better if it occupied the whole of the top third of the cover and were set in two lines rather than three—and in a different font. As it stands, the text is far too small. It needs to be at least twice the size to have an impact, and it ought to be centered rather than huddle against the left margin. These changes won’t work against the present image; it wouldn’t do to have the text superimposed on the puzzle pieces.

The author name can stay more or less where it is, in the lower left-hand corner, but it needs to be considerably larger, at least twice the current size. This would require a change of font. The new font’s characters would need thick verticals to stand out sufficiently against the tree trunk, which has light-gray sections. If the new text doesn’t stand out sufficiently in white, it might look fine in yellow.

Overall: Amateur designers often see, in the graphics they choose, implications or symbolisms that their hoped-for audience doesn’t see. What might seem meaningful to the designer is meaningless to the reader, and thus a sale is lost.

If it is bad to use one image that fails to convey a book’s theme, it’s worse to use three. If the author had shown a mock-up of this cover to complete strangers and asked them what they thought, she likely would have learned enough to turn to a professional designer.

Case Study 31

Title: Prove Them Wrong

Author: Nancy Shugart

Designer: Kathi Dunn

Genre: Self-help

Graphics: Most self-help books have bright covers. There’s a reason. The books want to inculcate a sense of optimism: “You can do this!” But this cover is exclusively in dull tones: light gray for the background, darker gray for the area behind the author name and the arrow, near-black for the maze and the title. The overall sense is not so much inspiring as dispiriting.

I called the lone image a maze. I think that’s what it’s supposed to be, but it isn’t constructed like a maze. Neither the light nor dark parts go anywhere. The red arrow points to the goal, represented by a red flag, and presumably implies a shortcut, but the maze itself provides no way to reach the goal from the near side.

This may be intentional, since the tiny-print blurb refers to accomplishing seemingly impossible things, so perhaps the designer deliberately drew a maze that has no solution. I think it would be better if there were a solution, even if complex, so that the arrow could point to a shortcut, the notion being that one might become discouraged by a path that appears insurmountably difficult but, with persistence, a straightforward way can be found.

The maze is free-floating. It doesn’t suggest a landscape, yet three clouds float above it. Why? They add nothing. If anything, they make the viewer suspect he’s looking up a skyscraper and seeing clouds above it, and in that case the maze ceases to be a maze.

Typography: The title and author name are legible, though each should be in a brighter color, perhaps yellow for the title (to contrast with the relentless gray) and bright white for the author name. Only the subtitle is in a bright color—and for no obvious reason, since it isn’t the key textual element here. (As a call to action, it’s less than inspiring.)

Why is the subtitle in all lowercase? It reads as a sentence, so one would expect at least the first letter to be uppercase. In fact, the whole of the subtitle should be uppercase, tying it more closely to the title. The subtitle should be kerned more tightly: it would look better if its length matched that of the bottom word of the title.

The chief textual problem is the long blurb. It is a mere blur at thumbnail size and still unreadable at the next larger size. The only way to make it out is to go to the book’s page at Amazon and click on the cover to enlarge it. Even on the paperback version of the book the blurb would be hard to read. If the blurb were to be kept at all, it should be moved to the back cover of the paperback, along with other endorsements. On the front cover it accomplishes nothing.

At the bottom is a line giving the name and identity of the writer of the foreword. It might make sense to advertise that the foreword has been written by someone well known for writing self-help books along the lines of this one, but I’m unable to locate any book written by Mark J. Doyle. He may not be known to prospective purchasers of this book, in which case giving his name would have little marketing purpose. Again, it might have been better to include mention of him on the back cover of the paperback version.

Overall: There are countless self-help books. A diligent search might turn up more than a hundred that promise to help the reader accomplish something otherwise considered impossible. When there is that much competition, a book such as this needs a top-flight cover. It doesn’t have one. The cover is bland in color and textual treatment. Nothing on it suggests expertise on the part of the author, except perhaps the far-too-tiny blurb.

The title itself is engaging. It’s a challenge to the reader. It suggests “Do what I propose, and you’ll see success,” but the cover otherwise doesn’t live up to that promise.

Case Study 18

Title: The Power of Creativity

Author: Bryan Collins

Designer: Bryan Collins

Genre: Self-help

Graphics: The stock image isn’t bad, although it might suggest ingenuity rather than creativity. The animals are trying to reach the ivy, but why does the ivy dangle from the word “success”? Is this a not-so-subtle hint by the author? If so, it doesn’t quite work. It would have been better to leave plenty of space between the ivy and the words.

Typography: Non-fiction books usually feature fairly plain fonts, whereas many fiction genres feature fonts that somehow suggest their genres, such as curlicued fonts for romance novels. We see two fonts, a sans serif for the title and a serif for the author name and subtitle. Given how many words there are in the subtitle, I would have switched the fonts, using the serif for the title and the sans serif for the remaining words.

Placement of the text is the chief problem here. The author name is too small and is too close to the top of the cover. If the book were to be printed as a paperback, trimming might result in the author name ending up right against the top, and that would look awful.

A bigger problem is the size and placement of the subtitle. The first phrase, “how to conquer procrastination,” is so long that it hardly can be increased in height without the words butting against the sides of the cover. It would have been cleaner to drop the “how to” and just get right to it: “conquer procrastination . . .”

Notice that the second line of the subtitle ends with a conjunction, a construction that one should try to avoid. And notice the lack of an Oxford comma—that is, a comma at the end of the second of the three items. The subtitle ought to read this way: “conquer procrastination, finish your work, and find success”.

The subtitle should be stacked in three lines, as here, but with the shortening of the first line and the moving of “and” to the third line. The shortening would allow for larger text: about twice as large should do.

What about “find success” being in bold? Perhaps the author wanted to give the cover a little more oomph (“Everyone is looking for success!”), but bold, on its own, rarely does that. Better to have been consistent with the font weight, using regular instead of bold all the way through.

One last problem: red text against a blue background. It isn’t so bothersome here as in some other covers because the blue is solid and light, but, nevertheless, red and blue clash. They don’t sit well with the eye. I would have drawn some color from the giraffe’s back instead.

Overall: If you wish to put yourself forward as an authority on developing creativity, your book cover needs to be creative. It needs to tell the prospective buyer, visually, that you are creative. This cover doesn’t do that. It clearly consists of a stock image overlaid by uninspiring text. It doesn’t have that “wow” factor one would expect on the cover of a book touting the secret path to creativity.

An adventure story cover should look adventuresome, a romance story cover should look romantic, and a self-help book about creativity should look creative. This one falls short.