Looking for the Perfect Book Cover Design? The Crowd at 99designs.com Has You Covered

POSTED ON Sep 18, 2013

Joel Friedlander

Written by Joel Friedlander

Home > Blog > Cover Design > Looking for the Perfect Book Cover Design? The Crowd at 99designs.com Has You Covered

by Joe Conlan

Readers will have noticed that we often have entries in the monthly ebook cover design awards posts from the auction site 99designs.com. Some of these designs are outstanding, and I’ve wanted to bring you information on how their method of getting a cover design works.

(As a designer, I’m ambivalent about the way this site and others like it work, since in any competition, all the designers who submit concepts will lose out, except for the one who wins.)

To better understand how this process works, today I have a guest article from Joe Conlan, an indie author who used the site to get a cover for his book. In addition, I’ve arranged with Kyra Harrington, PR Coordinator for 99designs.com to show you the “final 5” designs Joe chose from, and to explain their process in more detail.

If you’ve been thinking about using 99designs.com or another auction, “crowdsourcing,” or competition site, you’ll find a lot to ponder. Here’s Joe’s article.

Book cover design is probably one of the more important marketing endeavors that an author must oversee when publishing a novel. I didn’t realize this until after the fact, but somehow managed to make the right decisions.

Being a first time author at the age of 50 with absolutely no experience in the publishing industry, I have to thank goodness for the internet. When Nameless had gone through its final edit and it became time to think about a book cover, I had absolutely no clue how to go about the process.

I had never heard of crowdsourcing before I clicked on the link for 99designs. It is an amazing concept and a great tool for authors, especially those who are self-publishing.

Imagine having 50 or more talented designers competing with each other to create your book cover and all that at a very reasonable and affordable price. Essentially, I ran a contest that occurred in stages. I was able to offer as much or as little guidance as I preferred—though, at a minimum, I had to provide a description of my work.

First Stage of Competition

The first round was open to any designers who wished to participate.  From the very beginning of the competition, there was an open dialogue between the designers and me.  The designers then resubmitted their proposals based on my feedback and recommendations.

After several days of submissions and resubmissions, the pool of designers was narrowed down to five. This was not one of my favorite parts of the competition. There were so many unbelievable designs I had to eliminate.

I was truly amazed as the first proposals came in and they only seemed to get better and better as the contest progressed. Picking just five was extremely difficult.

Stage Two of the Competition

In the second stage of the competition, the contestants tweaked their work based on more feedback. By the end of the round, I had five designs I would have been thrilled to choose for my book cover. 

I wanted them all. 

The designers were really that great. I ended up mailing a public poll to friends and family who could then choose their favorite of the finalists. I took more than a day to mull over all of the information and ultimately allowed myself to fall in love with the great design that now graces the cover of Nameless.

The entire contest occurred over a one week period. It was truly a great experience. I was constantly on the site, anxious to receive new submissions and having great conversations with the designers. 

There was really only one downside. There were many contestants that worked hard over several days to a week to create a book cover. Only one person was paid and the rest walked away with nothing. Certainly, everyone who participates knows the rules and is well aware of the great chance that they will not be paid.

I would compare it to an advertiser who develops a campaign only to lose out to his or her competitor. I also feel this type of crowdsourcing is a great opportunity for young, talented designers to get a foot in the door. It was just a personal issue with me. I don’t like disappointing people, especially when they are working hard to please me.

You Need Luck, Too

I’m not sure what makes a book successful on Amazon. Nor can I say that there are surefire ways to make your book sell. I have read that an author could write a masterpiece and still have difficulty getting readers to buy the book. Quality obviously has to mean something. 

However, there are other factors at play as well. I firmly believe that one of them is luck. It’s the same concept that makes a Youtube.com video or Facebook message go viral. There’s something that happens that none of us can pin down with any real accuracy.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the cover of a book can be one of those factors that creates an author’s luck. It definitely helped mine.

Final 5 Designs for “Nameless”

Ed: Here are the finalists for the cover design of Nameless. First is the winner, others are in no specific order.

This is the winning design, by designer Pintado.

Design by AJSB.

Design by Alcatraz90.

Design by Chameleonstudio74.

Design by Kristin Designs.

Explanation of the Process from 99designs.com’s Kyra Harrington

99designs is the world’s largest online graphic design marketplace, connecting businesses looking for design work with more than 240,000 graphic designers from 192 countries around the world.

“Our book cover design process is simple: writers or publishers complete a design brief template, pick a package (starting at $299), and launch a contest.

“Over the course of a week they receive dozens (if not 100+) of cover concepts from designers in our global community, give feedback, and ultimately choose their favorite design (which is often the toughest part of the process!). It’s fun, fast, affordable and a great way for authors to see numerous ideas and hone in exactly what they want to convey to prospective readers.

“99designs is focused on providing the best opportunities, experience and outcomes for the 245,000 designers active in our community. While not every designer can win every contest they enter, participating in contests is a great way for starting designers to build a portfolio, practice certain skills, design to a real brief and build connections while working with clients worldwide.

“Our platform allows for customers to select multiple winners at a discount price, and 40 to 50% of the contests result in follow-on work for designers.

“You can view our platform as a dating service where we connect businesses needing design work done with our talented community of designers. Even when their design isn’t the final winner, a connection is made and the door is wide open to work together on different projects in the future.”

cover designJoe Conlan was born in Nassau County, Long Island, New York. He has lived most of his life in Florida, the great majority in the Fort Lauderdale area.  He practiced law as a trial attorney for 15 years, 3 of which were spent as a prosecutor in the Broward County State Attorney’s Office. He now lives in Jacksonville, Florida. He has two grown children. When he is not writing, he enjoys reading, traveling and spending time with his family and two best friends who happen to be female Rhodesian Ridgebacks.

Artwork by Pintado. Amazon links contain my affiliate link. I have no relationship with 99designs.com

Joel Friedlander

Written by
Joel Friedlander

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