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I posted this cover here a while back and people said it looked peaceful and more like women's fiction or non-fiction than a thriller.



Well, what about these thrillers?







And this last one is a lot like my story (about ex-Navy SEALs).



These covers are peaceful too.

Granted, there's the sea adventure/southeast US vibe to them, but my story takes place in Everglades, which is in that ballpark. So does this method of doing covers only work for these southeastern US sea adventure type things?

Or like my next book takes place in the Rocky Mountains. Could I just do a peaceful scene of the mountains?

It seems these other books just plucked peaceful scenes from where they take place. They aren't scenes from the book.

So what am I missing that my cover (this is a mangrove forest in the Everglades) doesn't work as a thriller?

 

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I scrolled down from the top so only saw the bright green leaves at the very first and immediately thought "yeah, not a thriller" to your question. Look at how much darker and more broody the other covers are compared to yours. Also, two of the ones you posted involve sunset images. There's a hint that something dark is happening or an ending is approaching.
 

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I make really awful self-published covers.

Your cover looks self-published, too.

The others look professional.

I don't know what the difference is. Part of it might be fonts. Maybe the quality of the image. A direct photograph vs whatever those other covers are using. I think you're probably on the right track, and with a little photoshopping tweaks, and the right fonts, it would probably be fine.

But I've got no clue how to accomplish those other things.

ETA: Ooh, Cassie makes great points. See, if you can't make it darker somehow, or merge a sunset photo into it, maybe.
 

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You're on the right track with typography, but the image looks like one of those novels where the grandmother is telling the whole story in flashback to her granddaughter.
 

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The professionally made ones are not only darker, they're also extra dark around the edges, giving it a shadowed look. That's how those scenery scenes work for a thriller cover.

Also the height and spacing of the font indicates the genre.

In short, there are so many subtle clues and hints that tell a reader what the genre is that most of us look over consciously, but we all know subconsciously what they mean.
 

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Two minutes in photoshop, adjusting your cover's brightness and contrast, and adding a little darkening about the edges. Super rush job, and I'm two beers in, could certainly neaten it up, too much black about the top, for example, and the green of the leaves is showing through the burn tool on the left, but it gives you an idea.

Just adds a little moodiness to it that it's missing in the first image.

 

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Since the top two covers were ones I did, I'll comment on this. There are a couple of things that make an image go from peaceful scenery to thriller cover. One is the font. Tall, thin, bold fonts are a signal that the book is a suspense or a thriller. The second is the grunge overlays applied to the image. A little bit of grunge can signal that things are about to get a bit dark. But you don't want too much, because that's generally a signal that the book is really dark, or straight-up horror. Another thing is the vignette to darken up the edges, although that's not really just a suspense/thriller thing, that's just generally a professional designer thing, to help give the cover a more finished look. And there's also the color palette. Color theory is not just for art class. A good designer knows how to use color to help signal genre. For suspense and thrillers you want bold colors and good contrast. With the top three, they all used good color contrast and thrillery colors. The Matthew Rief cover isn't using thrillery colors so much, but the red water is a good signal that things are about to get dark.

Gregg, the font you're using is a middle-of-the-road kind of font. It doesn't really signal any particular genre strongly on its own. It's not bad, but if you want to signal thriller more strongly with your typography, I would suggest looking at Steelfish, which is a free font. I think you can find it on FontSquirrel.com.
 

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I don't write thrillers. I like to read them, though.

The four covers you linked to make me think of the subgenre of books I call "Florida as paradise subverted." We often think of Florida and the southeast as a vacation paradise -- beaches, and cocktails, and sailboats, and clear water, and nice weather -- but these thrillers subvert that assumption by setting dangerous action and crimes there among paradise. In others: I expect the book to feature a pretty setting, with danger afoot.

Beyond the fonts, these images work for me specifically because:

#1 - Definitely gives me a vibe of paradise lost, right down to the title. There's heavy vignetting around the corners which gives an otherwise pretty photo a dark vibe. Too, the wooden staircase leading away and dropping off abruptly to the water hint at danger.
#2 - The gathering dark clouds hint at danger and trouble. The orange font adds danger and energy, as does the boat rushing away.
#3 - This is a very moody cover. I would suspect this story involves a suspicious death at sea. The red sunset hints at blood and danger.
#4 - A moody and broody sunset; the water is blood red, hinting at danger, death, probably a murder.

 

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.

"Lost Key" is the best example and the benchmark you should aim for.

Top and bottom Fades are used from black to transparent. In Gimp.org this is the "gradient tool" from black to transparent.
Looks like a beast's mouth is closing on the observer -- "can you escape?" kind of feeling.
(My thumbnail "Zombie Tattoo" story uses thinner black fades, the two books on the left use white gradient fades from the top down)

Tall skinny title font. Sans-serif and bold -- genre style.
Quite well done font shadows.

Horizontal stretched author font that is a different font style too.

Match the vertical spacing of your 'cave opening' and the title font of the benchmark book. See how all the text lines are balanced across the vertical scale. The center of the benchmark brightness is just under the title, directing anyone looking at the cover to read the title.

Experiment with your 'cave opening' slightly off-center or even the whole image off-kilter (ten to twenty degrees) as if reality is warping or the protagonist escaped on foot catching them running.

You probably don't need 'a novel' after you adjust the other elements.

A great exercise would be to put the "Lost Key" image on the background layer of your software program and then add layers of your own content slowly covering up but copying as close as you can everything that they did. Then when you have your 'perfect thematic copy' you will have learned how and why you want to change your image features to reflect your story elements or imagery.

I'm not sure the software you are using, does it have all the features like gradients? You may want to upgrade to Gimp.org for deeper edits. It's free software, many fonts are available to plug in (for your future covers), and many youtube tutorials exist for anything you may want to do. Some kboards top selling authors use Gimp to make their covers.

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I'm not a cover designer, but like others I "know it when I see it," and when I look at kboarder Wayne Stinnett's Caribbean Adventure and Caribbean Thriller covers I can see all the design elements and techniques mentioned by others in this thread. Take a look at his covers; they're thrillers, with settings similar to yours, and they may be good examples for you.
 

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As I mentioned in one of the other many threads about this, you need to convey atmosphere. As others have said here, that can be done with color.

As is, your image says floating down the river in an inner tube.



Even without the alligator, this sets a much darker mood, just by making it darker.
 

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No, it doesn't work as a professional thriller cover.

You have a cover designer in Shayne who has explained it. Others have altered your image, especially the first one to make it more genre specific. Even that could do with a little more depth to the dark shading top and bottom. Then all it needs is a better font for the title.

Good luck in coming to a decision.

Edited: several sentences removed. Drop me a PM if you have any questions. - Becca
 

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I'd highly recommend hiring Shayne. He clearly knows what he's doing and has a proven track record in the genre. Then you can not worry about it and focus on more profitable uses of your time. Like writing.
 

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LijahPhoenix said:
I'd highly recommend hiring Shayne. He clearly knows what he's doing and has a proven track record in the genre. Then you can not worry about it and focus on more profitable uses of your time. Like writing.
I'll second that. Shayne is great to work with and knows what is needed.
 

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I've never hired Shayne, but if I wanted a thriller cover in that style, he would definitely be on my short list. He has multiple outstanding examples of this cover style (being a bird lover, Lake Mortality is my favorite) in his portfolio.
 
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I really think you need a figure, silhouette, partial person, etc. on your cover. Here's another link that might give you some ideas.

While the covers above could be thrillers, I'd guess most of them are some kind of mystery. Thrillers usually show the possibility of immediate danger to a person rather than a scene without people. Again, I'm no expert...just my two cents.

https://www.bing.com/images/search?q=bestseller%20thriller%20novel%20covers&qs=n&form=QBIR&sp=-1&pq=bestseller%20thriller%20novel%20covers&sc=0-32&cvid=0BBFC21015BA442DA806A3AC8AAE26C0&first=1&scenario=ImageHoverTitle
 

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I'm no expert on covers but the images in those others look better quality, with better typography. Also, there are certain elements that make them more thriller-ish, like the broken dock, the moody, ominous lighting etc.

 
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