99 designs - book cover review

Should I Use a Crowdsourcing Site Like 99designs For My Book Cover?

Utilizing an internet-based service like 99designs for your book cover seems like a great idea, right? You get access to thousands of designers from around the world, you are guaranteed hundreds of designs, it’s cheap, and you get your money back if you aren’t happy. I’m going to try it!

While there are some good reasons to go this route, before you rush right out and sign up, you might want to consider some of the disadvantages and risks that go along with this method of cover design, selection, and implementation.

Yes, you will get a huge variety of cover designs to choose from. That’s pretty cool, but it’s also a little daunting, since it will be time-consuming to sift through hundreds of designs, provide feedback to the designers, and whittle them down to just the best ones. Many of the submitted designs will simply be awful, or ridiculously off target. However, once you’ve select the design you like, this is when the real problems with this process will likely start: implementation. If you have decided to have your book printed, the design now needs to be shepherded through the highly technical, even byzantine, process of preparation for and actual printing. Even if you plan to publish only an ebook, you still have many practical issues that need to be considered and adequately handled.

Let’s consider an ebook cover first. While printing is obviously not an issue in this case, there are many important considerations involved in designing an effective ebook cover. Since you will be advertising it on sites like Amazon, the image of the cover that potential purchasers will be viewing will be quite small. As such, to be readable, font sizes should be larger than for a print book. Also, it makes no sense to have an ebook cover design that is quite intricate and detailed, since these subtleties will be impossible to discern and may even muddle the presentation. Many crowdsourcing designers will not be experienced enough to be aware of these important ebook design principles.

As for print covers, many crowdsourcing designers also have little to no experience with the print process, including its limitations, constraints, and rigid technical requirements. As a result, they may not be capable of seeing their interesting design through to a quality finished product. What good is a great design if it is not perfectly reflected in your final, printed book?

As examples, these newbie designers often don’t have the knowledge and experience to know that “rgb” files cannot be used for print, and when converted to print-friendly “cmyk” files the colors often do not translate properly, resulting in an unpredictable printed product. Also, experience with typography and fonts is critical to a professional-looking book cover, which again, many novice designers lack. And what of your book’s interior design? Interesting interior design, as reflected in section headers, chapter headers, font choice, and the like, can be a great way to differentiate your book from the pack, and lend harmony to its overall design. Lastly, language barriers with international designers can make working through all of these implementation issues a nightmare.

Your book is like your baby. You’ve put your heart and soul into it, and you want it to be phenomenal. You want it to be perfect.

Before deciding between a crowdsourcing site like 99designs and a one-on-one relationship with an experienced book designer for your book design process, you might want to picture two key moments in your mind. First, your printed books have just arrived from the printer, or you are viewing it for the first time on your Amazon sales page, and you are eagerly anticipating getting your first look at your precious book. “Oh my God, I hope they didn’t screw it up. I’d be devastated!” Do you want to risk this experience being your worst nightmare? The second critical moment will be if you hand a print copy of your book to a dear friend. “I hope they love it. If they look at all disappointed, I’ll be crushed.” You will likewise want to ensure that this is a happy and proud moment for you.

In sum, if you choose to use a crowdsourcing site for your book design, and are willing to put in all of the time and effort it will take to guide your book through to completion, you will likely save some money. But are you willing to also take the risk that your book won’t look the way you always pictured it and falls short of your dreams for it? That’s the risk you might be taking.

1 reply
  1. Elaine McIntyre
    Elaine McIntyre says:

    Awesome article, Audria! Very informative, and extremely well-written! Thanks for the advice.

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