A Cover's Worth a Thousand Words

I’m not going to quote you that quote, you know the one about not judging a book by its cover. It’s a cliché way to start talking about cover design. But there’s a reason everyone always starts with that when they talk about covers, because of course we all do judge. I had 6,000 people download my book on a recent free day and I think a lot of it had to do with the cover.

I’ve been asked a hundred times about the painting of the woman on the front of the book. 1. Did you paint the picture? 2. Is that you? 3. Who did it?

The answers are: 1. Heck no, I’m not that talented. 2. No, it’s not me. It’s a self-portrait of the designer. 3. This amazing designer called Zoe Shtorm on 99 Designs.

Would you believe I scoured the world for my cover? I had entries from all over the globe. Sixty-three designers submitted 299 designs to my cover contest. My top entrants were from Italy, Russia and lord knows where else.I won’t say it was easy. There were stock images, images pulled illegally from the Internet and so many designs to give feedback on. I kept compulsively checking my phone and computer. I spent a week obsessing over every entry as they poured in. There were also some really talented folks to choose from, but Zoe stuck out in her originality and professionalism.

So what did I learn about using 99 Designs?

1. Know what you want but give enough leeway for the designers to come up with their own ideas. They are the artists, after all.

2. Remember that many designers are from other countries so make sure you are clear and don’t use a lot of slang when you give them directions.

3. Seek a design that looks good as a thumbnail.

4. Try to have them design an image that doesn’t give away anything you don’t want to give away plot wise. Keep this in mind when giving designers instructions.

5. Create a poll but don’t feel like you have to do this democratically. Be a design tyrant. Technically, I chose my second-place winner. It was neck and neck, and, to be honest, the one that came in first was too literary looking. Think about the genre and audience of your book. It may be different from your friends.

6. Tell them upfront if you don’t want any stock images. If you are using stock, make sure you get information on how to pay for it. Make it clear you will disqualify any entrants using illegally sourced images. You must respect copyright law.

7. If a designer shows real talent but does not have a design that is what you need, give feedback and ask them to submit something else. Zoe’s first design was beautiful but gave too much away and wasn’t what I was looking for. I asked her to submit another design and that was the one I chose.

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