Book cover designs for similar age group

Steven K. Smith is an indie author who writes for my same age group, his books sell very well, and I like the style of his book covers. His books are all set in historical locations in Virginia, so the location is a major feature of most of his covers. Except for the book 1 cover, the kids are all very small. But you can see the kids on the book 1 cover are very realistically drawn. 

Spy School is a popular middle grade series, but is traditionally published. Halley Harper is another indie author who writes in my same genre. Her books haven’t really found their niche yet – not like Steven K. Smith, but middle grade STEM adventure is not an established genre yet. The main issue I have with the Halley Harper covers is the Titles are too small and don’t pop. I’m also not a fan of the tutu on book 1. Luciana was a traditionally published science girl adventure series. My books have a different tone, they’re for older middle grade kids, there’s a spy sub-plot as different people try to figure out the secret of the magic eyePad, either the hi-tech hummingbird robot with visual capability, or the artificial intelligence behind it. The Proto Project is closer to my book, but it’s very sci-fi, and it’s a stand-alone book. The author is a CEO of a major company, but his book continues to do well. The paperback version does not have the Mom’s Choice Award seal on it.

Rough working concepts for my cover redesigns follow next, then current covers. Titles still being tweaked. Feedback appreciated. Working toward more of a Nancy Drew cover vibe.

My working draft concepts (needing lots of work)

My books run 42,000 to 60,000+ words – upper middle grade. Each has an original invention (although not necessarily a hi-tech one) in them. I want to channel a more realistic feel of the Nancy Drew books … shooting for Nancy Drew meets MacGyver with a hi-tech holographic sidekick.

Channeling Nancy Drew mysteries:

current covers (books 1-3 published, book 4 launching soon, prequel is lead magnet)

Feedback I’ve received: ditch the medals on the covers. Books 2 & 3 look too juvenile. Book 4 – close, but girl needs to be in a more active pose. The series title doesn’t convey genre. Based on a coaching session with Steven K Smith, I realize I need to re-title and relaunch with new covers, blurbs, and fresh edits. Tighten up the plot, trim words (especially book 3).

Book 4 is in final editing. The Prequel / lead magnet  is also in editing. I need to launch book 4 as a paperback in late April to take to Hilton Head Island to get in local gift shops. While researching Book 4, I solved a real problem, saving baby sea turtles from two nests that would otherwise have followed artificial lights inland to their deaths from predators after sunrise. That’s the prototype (orange screen) that I designed and Sea Turtle Patrol Hilton Head Island successfully used on two nests in 2021. Not sure if the screen works on the cover or not. Ebook will not launch until Books 1-3 have been relaunched.

Book - cover versions & notes

Current covers are on the left. Prior versions are to the right. 

Putney, the girl and main character, is a 12-year old aspiring artist / inventor, tall, athletic, she has light brown hair she usually wears up in a yoga braid, and golden amber eyes.

Sam is the Magic eyePad holographic interface, and she first appears as a girl with brown hair, Princess Leia braids, golden eyes, and clad in green. Sam is later able to take on the physical image of a green anole… thus the lizard in the prior cover. In books 2 -4, she can also manipulate a mechanical hi-tech hummingbird robot which she 3D printed.

Sam could be drawn in one of 3 ways:

  1. Princess Leia/Peter Pan girl clad in green
  2. The green anole lizard (right) as a hologram
  3. The hi-tech hummingbird robot, which is remotely controlled by the magic eyePad.

The setting is Hilton Head Island… the original covers showed the lagoon background with a lot of greenery. Book 4 is based on the beach.

Size requirements: I publish ebook and paperback as 5.25 by 8″. In the past I’ve also done hard covers as 5 x 8″, but am planning to switch to an Amazon hardcover size of 5.5 x 8.5″.

  • Hard cover requires wide margins (about 0.625 inches all around) for wrapping the case, but the physical cover size is 5.25 x 8.25″
  • HC: key text and graphics must fit within a 4.579″ by 8″ window.
  • I can handle the final cover layout if you provide me with a Photoshop File (templates to be provided) with a total size of 6.5″ wide by 9.5″ high, with 0.75″ margins all around.
  • Text and seals to be on separate layers so I can tweak final layout for each version (ebook, paperback, hard cover).
  • The covers below have been cropped to 5.25 by 8″ size, the size for eBook and Paperback. The key image and text needs to fit within a 4.675″ width, so the original cartoony covers of books 2 and 3 are too tight. The book 1 redesign cover was drawn to fit a 5 x 8 frame from the beginning (I didn’t publish hardcovers initially, so was unaware of the tighter size constraints).

For reference - book 2 cover versions and notes (will be next)

The Cardboard Boat Race by MK Tufft

For reference - book 3 cover versions and notes (to follow)

Marsha Tufft aka MK Tufft book cover

Book 4 cover - released 2022

The key plot will center around trying to come up with a way to shield sea turtle nests from artificial lighting that can cause misorientations (turning towards the light instead of the sea). I actually came up with a prototype that successfully saved baby sea turtle lives from two nests in 2021 – that’s the orange screen.

A sub-plot has two new students spying on Putney and trying to figure out what she knows about the hi-tech hummingbird robot, while the other is on the trail of an advanced artificial intelligence that tracked a Russian hacker’s tripwire. Sam – the magic eyePad interface does some scouting in hummingbird form.

The sea turtle project page has more details if you’re interested. I’ll collect some baby sea turtle pictures as well. I don’t have any of my own yet.

Prequel covers

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