Saturday, December 3, 2016

Picking a Cover With 99Designs...and a Request

Scott D. Parker

Let me just tell you how awesome 99Designs is.

Sure, back in September I wrote about the site that allows authors like me to interact with graphic designers all over the globe. It got me the cover of Ulterior Objectives, over there on the right. But I want to extol the awesomeness that is 99Designs again…and ask a little favor of y’all, too.

As a refresher, 99Designs is a venue where anyone who needs a book cover, logo, website landing page, or almost any other type of graphic can start a contest. With a written description of what you want including any images you may want to include as reference, designers will take a look. If they decide to give your contest a go, they’ll submit designs. Along the way, you, the contest initiator can interact with the individual designs via private conversations and star rankings. By the end of the qualifying round, you should have a pretty set of designs.

The book in question is Always Bet on Red: A Rogue Gambler Western. The main character is John Denton, professional gambler, who rarely is in one place for long. He lives on the road and by the cards. But he’s feeling the pull of home, and the closest thing he’s got to a home is in a little town in Texas where his best friend, Eli Jones, is sheriff. During a poker game, an agitated man bets the deed to a saloon he owns. Denton knows he has a winning hand, but Jones sees the saloon as a way to get out of the gun fighting business. Denton folds and Jones wins. Within an hour, Jones is dead. Denton saw the murderer, but the killer gets away. The next thing Denton knows, he’s being accused of the crime. The only way he can clear his name is to find the killer himself and bring him to justice even if it means defying the gambler code of honor.

I ended up with 71 different designs! Now, to be honest, some were variations on an original version or a designer taking into account feedback I delivered. But still. Seventy-one designs from which to choose. It’s an embarrassment of choices. Some were easily dismissed while others were fantastic. One of my friends in my local book club is a graphic designer and, in his words, “…you have an insanely talented batch of [designers]. These are pro level designs for the most part!  Some of these are so good, and clearly so time consuming, I'm blown away.”

I think a key aspect of this contest is that I chose a blind contest. What that means is the other designers cannot see what I’m seeing. They have only my description. Going forward, I’d recommend using a blind contest every time.

The possibilities ranged from traditional western to the untraditional, the cartoony to the photorealistic. I wrote to some designers that the book in question doesn’t match the cover submitted…but that I wanted to write the book that would fit some of these covers. I recently went to Barnes and Noble and examined the westerns and the covers of the paperbacks and hardbacks there. A few of the covers I received could easily be on the shelves in any bookstore.

Y'all wanna see some? All you have to do is click on this link. You’ll see 8 designs—in no particular order—and you can vote. I have to select the Top 6 by Monday, so if you’re gonna vote, please do it by Sunday, 4 December.

These are exciting times to be an author! Especially when you can get covers like these. 

If you have any other feedback, just leave me a comment.

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