Critique Corner: Historical Fiction

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Queen of Trial and Sorrow Synopsis

A B.R.A.G. Medallion winner, this is the story of Elizabeth Woodville, the wife of King Edward IV and the mother of the Princes in the Tower. As an impoverished widow, she was wooed and won by the handsome young king and believed her dreams had come true. But she was soon swept up in the War of the Roses, enduring hardship and danger as her husband struggled to keep his throne. When he died Elizabeth was unable to protect her family against the ruthless ambitions of the man he trusted above all others. It was the king's brothers, the unstable Duke of Clarence and the loyal Duke of Gloucester, who would prove to be Elizabeth's most dangerous enemies. If you enjoyed The White Queen by Philippa Gregory, you might enjoy Queen of Trial and Sorrow.

Genre: Historical fiction


For more information about Susan's book visit her Amazon page.

ProfileCritique Corner courtesy of Tamian Wood:

Thanks for participating Susan.

Congrats on your B.R.A.G. Medallion WIN! That's an impressive achievement. Let’s jump right in and see if we can't help this cover a bit. 

First things first, since I know your goal is to get this book in print for the new year, we’ll need to discuss the quality of the images. While the quality of what I see on Amazon is low on both the images (ie low resolution), they are not equally bad. The castle image is much more out of focus and pixelated, while the queen is a bit less fuzzy, but still very soft. Unless you have high resolution images of both, you’d need to start over for print anyway. Your printer will require the images to be at least 300dpi at actual size (6x9, 5x8, etc.)

Nevertheless, let’s break down what’s not working with this cover and why.

I would agree with you that it has all the appropriate elements, yet it is looking a little amateurish, so, your instinct is good. These particular chosen elements are not effectively working together to best represent your award winning story.

Notice how the light source on the White Tower comes from the left. Now look at your light source on your Queen. It’s coming from the opposite direction. Dead give-away that these images don’t belong together.

Also, your protagonist doesn’t seem to be dressed very… “Queenly”(?) She does have a headband, and that might suggest a crown, but unfortunately the rest of her outfit is rather… “peasanty”(?). At least to my eye. I’ll admit I am not an expert on this particular period, but I would hazard a guess that a Queen might be dressed a bit more “regally.” {Whew! I finally found a real word! :-)} Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to find imagery for historical fiction, so you almost have to find a designer who can create the image you need by blending together the correct elements.

I think this might be a nudge in the right direction… While I know the hair is ALL wrong, and the colour of the fabric is questionable, this garb seems a little more appropriate to someone of her Queenly station. A professional designer could give her a new hairdo, and change the colour of the dress to something more appropriate. 

Now, let’s address that rose. I know it needs to be white. It’s just not standing out against the “white” building. You’d need some contrast between the two for the foreground to stand out against the background. Perhaps it need not really be so literal though. Perhaps you could simply lay a white rose at the bottom of the design space to fulfill that “requirement.” Oooooo! The petals of a white rose fading into the image above has just popped into my head. That could be REALLY cool! *Oooop, removing my designer hat, putting my critic hat back on.*

Since you need to find an image that’s higher in resolution for print quality anyway, I did a little search for images of the White Tower and found these.


I'm happy to give you image numbers for any of these if you are interested. The rights to use them can be purchased for very little cost.

Now, let’s chat about fonts. Generally, it’s the font selection, treatment and placement that trip up most DIY authors/new designers. The title should be the first "element" to catch a potential readers attention.

This title font is a bit average and not really contributing much to the design. It should be interesting, without being too “kitchy.” You’ve definitely got “not kitchy” down, but it’s not terribly “interesting.” You could also try using a fancier font for just the Caps. That could swash it up without going overboard.

The words should fill the space without either, covering anything critical, or sitting atop anything too busy that might make it difficult to read. Case in point, your “and” is getting a little lost in the shadows. The primary red title, while it is the colour of her dress, still comes off as a little DIY. I might typically choose a richer/darker/more sophisticated red, but since the background is so dark, you really can’t do that. Perhaps a gold gradient might work better and provide more contrast. 

This last bit is getting a little picayune, but I’m very distracted by that strip of blue behind her. I can’t figure out what it is, and it throws an additional primary colour into the mix for no apparent reason. I’d remove it. 

Whew, that was a lot! I hope these comments are helpful. If you use any of my advice, I'd appreciate credit as your consultant. 😉 And If you belong to any writing groups, please feel free to tell them about this blog. I’m always looking for my next victi…. er, volunteer. 

I'd love to see how this one comes out. Be sure to keep me posted, please.


PS. so as not to appear too "salesy" I mention this as a post script. You should know I do offer a discount on cover re-design for my brave volunteers. It's a small token by way of a thank you for contributing to my site.

Tamian Wood
Graphic Designer
Beyond Design International
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Can't afford a designer? Consider a cover critique...

Many new authors think they can't afford to hire an accomplished, trained designer for their books cover. Fair enough. If you want a professional cover, created by a designer with education, skill, experience, and a good reputation, that doesn't come free. (Money well spent though, and worth every penny!)

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If you'd like some honest, kind and constructive insight, contact me and let's collaborate.