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99 designs book cover contest -- by Sandra Seaman

or . . . an opportunity to be an art director for a week!

I love a good image which is why my website is littered with them. I wanted to create a book cover that featured an image that captured the feeling of my story. This was not as easy as I anticipated it to be.

After a few false starts, I participated in a 99 designs contest to find a book cover for Seeds of Change. 99 designs is an online website that allows a client to hire an artist one on one or to launch a contest. A contest allows any artist who is interested to submit one or more designs. I received 153 different versions of a variety of designs.

Why do a 99 designs book cover contest? I attempted to create my own cover but my design eye knew that I was not quite getting it. My graphic design skills have not been updated since my days using QuarkXpress for typesetting. That was a long time ago—a very long time ago.

I had an overabundance of ideas about what I wanted and knew that the only way for me to narrow it down was to see a variety of designs. Seeds of Change is a different sort of sci fi story and I wanted to express that in an image. This was quite a challenge. 99 design's brief process helped me to define what I was looking for. It was very comprehensive and forced me to describe what I was looking for in great detail. I was also able to upload other images and covers I liked to give the designers a visual cue to my style.

The good. I received a wide variety of ideas and found five designs that were professional enough that I knew I could use any of them. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the process of refining the designs, though commenting on each design was very time consuming. The other positive was that interacting with each designer and asking for changes quickly demonstrated the designer's ability to take direction and to interpret my ideas. 

The not so good. There was nothing truly negative about my experience. I did receive a few copycat designs and more than a few that were very predictable but for the most part, I was impressed with the results. My biggest problem with the whole process was my codependent nature. I worried that I was making the artists work for no money. I winced every time I had to decline a design. I had to remind myself that the choice to enter a contest was theirs and my role was to be the client.

The takeaway. I love the design for Seeds of Change. It captures the soft science fiction, metaphysical, ecological and more female oriented themes of the novel. As a bonus, I have discovered several designers I feel confident would do a great job with future projects. 

Tip: There is a star rating system which I quickly abandoned. I found that the artists reacted strongly to it—either by withdrawing a design that received less stars or by submitting designs that resembled the one with the most stars. I removed all the stars and communicated privately with the designers and received a greater variety of ideas.

Posted by Sandra Seaman 14 May 2019 at 03:12
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Responses to this blog

Glitterpen 14 May 2019 at 16:14  
I think I'll check them out when I have a book ready for publication (if I go the self publishing route).
Sandree 14 May 2019 at 19:16  
You can save some money by using premade covers if you can find one that fits your story well. I was not able to find one that worked for me but itís worth a look.
Lfrankt 22 May 2019 at 13:43  
Just used 99Designs to create a cover for my soon to be self-published mystery novel and was totally happy with the results.

I didn't use the cover contest format. Instead, I did a survey of the top 100 mysteries on Amazon and identified the most popular cover styles used, then found an artist on the 99Designs site who had done several in the appropriate style. Within a week I had a great cover that I loved.

Of course, YMMV.

Imagination is like a muscle. I found out that the more I wrote, the bigger it got. - Philip Jose Farmer
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Glitterpen 26 May 2019 at 15:31  
Hi, I looked for the section of pre-made covers but couldn't find it.
Lfrankt 26 May 2019 at 18:27  
Hi, I looked for the section of pre-made covers but couldn't find it.
Ouch, I see what you mean. Basically, try doing a search (mystery ebook covers or whatever) for the project you're interested in and note the listed designers. I saw a link below each designer that allowed you to see more of their work.

When I did my search I vaguely remember finding a page that listed several designers and their work all at once, which I scanned through to locate one matching the style I was seeking. Wish it was more straightforward but there you go.

Best of luck.
Imagination is like a muscle. I found out that the more I wrote, the bigger it got. - Philip Jose Farmer
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Sandree 26 May 2019 at 20:00  
The premades I was referring to are not on 99 designs. You can just do a google search for premade book covers and you will find tons. The bookbub link above will take you to some of the sites.

On 99 designs, you can browse the designerís portfolios to find one who has done work you like and then contact them through their portfolio page. I think you have to sign up for 99 designs in order to access the portfolios, then click on Find a Designer. It will prompt you to enter what kind of project you want to do and you can search book cover.

Or click on Discover and choose book covers and you will see pages of covers with their designerís links. These are all covers they have done already or have prepared for a contest but if you like their style, you can contact them.
5 Jun 2019 at 22:26  
Would you be willing to tell us about $$?
Maybe just 'over $500' or under or 'over $1000'
I understand if you don't want to
Sandree 5 Jun 2019 at 23:48  
Sure. I got the Bronze Book Cover Package for $399.99. There were no added costs.

I had tried another very big cover design site. They charged $349.00 and I didnít get to communicate at all with the designer beyond a short intake form. The design was terrible and had nothing to do with what I had asked for. Fortunately, they refunded my payment. I donít want to name them because perhaps my experience was unique. I am very picky about what I like and donít like in graphic design.

Looking through my emails to find the price, I saw the hundreds of emails I got throughout the design contest. It brought back how intense the process was. Kind of fun, but all consuming at the time.

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