Welcome back. The carsonhume.com blog is my fourth major blog (aside from Tumblr and Blogger and such), and the common thread between all was writing. I shared my positive and negative experiences as much as I could, and thanks to the Internet Archive, I found old posts that can get recycled and reposted here.
One such post is the science-art of picking a book cover because the cliché about book covers is true. The process of designing and/or picking a book cover is difficult for me because covers are a combination of design, art, analytics, and good old dumb luck. I am not an expert, as you may guess if you look at my Amazon bookshelf. I’m kind of all over the place, aren’t I? But I do have a process that starts with 99Designs, and I’ve never been disappointed in the professionalism and creativity of their designers.
The process is straightforward: you start a contest, you outline your needs, you have X number of days to pick a set of covers that will advance to a final round, and then another set of days to pick the finalist. I’ve developed a QC system that might help you in the future:
Communication: You cannot over-communicate, in my opinion. When you establish the contest, you provide a book outline and some details, and a list of your expectations. As the contest continues and the book cover designers post their covers, you have the opportunity to provide feedback. The biggest favor you can do for the designers and for yourself is to be open and candid. Provide sample chapters and links to your web sites (social media, blog, home site) so the designers can see your public thinking.
Rating: You can rate book covers on a system of zero to five stars. For me, I use zero to three stars, reserving zeros and ones for book covers I’m never going to use. Two stars are for book covers I’m not quite sure about, and three stars are for designs that I’m certain or near certain are going to survive to the final round. When designers ask why they received their rating, answer all questions. Don’t be afraid. The designers really want to give you what you want.
Be Realistic: Don’t fall in love with the first submissions (like I always do). You’ll have a lot of great designs by the end of the first round if you have adequately communicated your needs. Be patient and stick to your rating system from the beginning of the contest to the end of the contest.
The Final Cover: I have no idea how to pick the final cover. For my latest contest, I bounced back between three or four designs because they were all great. You can set up a poll so your friends and betas can help you pick, but even then, I struggle. When I narrowed it down to two designs for one book, I bought them both. They each have their strengths, and I would have been happy to post either on Amazon. The final decision came down to which cover do I want to see five years from now. (The winner is here, if you’re interested.)
If you have a better methodology, please share. This blog stands to share my experience, but also to learn from you. To paraphrase Edmund Gwynn, “Writing is easy. Book covers are hard.” Thank you.