Design Competition: Want to Design My Next Cover?



If there is one thing I’ve learned from this blog, it’s that the readers here — that’s you — have some stellar ideas and skills.

For the next book, tentatively titled “Becoming Superhuman”, I would therefore love to invite any designers out there to throw their hat in the ring for the cover design, especially talented beginners who might not otherwise have a chance to work on a project with international reach.

This is a 7-day competition, and the clock is already ticking…

The last book is now in 35 languages, and I’m hoping the next book will be much bigger. I’ll be firing all cylinders and then some.

So here’s the deal: I’m not a corporate type, but I have to play nice with my publisher. Sooooo… I’m forbidden from making any big promises, and I need to make a few things clear. So here goes:

1. I will offer $250 to four of my favorite designs, but this doesn’t mean any of them will end up being the cover. There is a good chance all of them will be vetoed completely, so the $250 is offered as a good faith gesture. Obviously, if we do use your cover, you will get cover credit, fame and glory, and there is the possibility of a follow-on agreement.

2. If we borrow elements or concepts from your cover but don’t use the whole thing, I will make sure you are recognized and thanked, whether in some form of partial/conceptual credit or in the acknowledgments.

3. That said, the publisher’s in-house design team, a few freelancers, and I have been working on tons, and I mean tons, of different cover options. This means that there is a distinct chance we might have tried concepts you might try. Please don’t assume we stole it if things look similar. It’s not in my best interest to screw anybody, and it’d be idiotic to do it so publicly. That’s not how I roll.

4. By submitting your design mock-ups and cover ideas, you are agreeing to the following terms and conditions. Please read them here. It basically says that once you submit anything for evaluation purposes, you can’t sue me or my publisher. Unfortunately, in a world where people sue McDonald’s for pouring hot coffee on their own genitals, this lawyering is necessary to prevent any misunderstandings.

The Upshot

Best case scenario, you get $250, your cover on a huge international bestseller (awesome for a major portfolio jump), full cover credit, and all the perks that come with massive recognition.

Worst case scenario, you give it a shot, have something new for your portfolio, but don’t get recognition or money.

For those interested in submitting and giving this a shot, here you go! Just follow this link to 99Designs for all the juicy details…

Good luck!

For those who think I’m a jerk for offering the above, please feel free to protest by not submitting. Feel free to call me names, too. I find “sweetcakes” particularly offensive. Just ask yourself this first: would you submit a design if it would take you a few hours and it might be featured on a Times Square billboard with full credit, even if for no pay? If not, I’d consider you unique. If yes, then recognize there are benefits to certain projects besides the compensation. Not that this cover is comparable to Times Square, but for a designer looking to break into a new and lucrative niche (book covers), or an experienced designer who can kick out a good design quickly, it might well be worthwhile to give it a shot. Realize also that there is a good shot we’ll end up using an inhouse cover, so the $250 is intended as a good faith gesture.

For a thoughtful critique of this post, I suggest the following article, which is the best written I’ve seen: Is Tim Ferriss Acting Like an Asshole?


Afterword – To the commenters who insist I’m exploiting the entire design community, I’d like to point out that, if you don’t participate by submitting, it is impossible for me to exploit you.

To those who suggest I write a book for free and then open it to the world, I’d like to quote blog reader Benedict, who commented below:

There’s something the naysayers all seem to have overlooked: Tim primary occupation is writing a first-class blog, an activity that earns his an annual salary of $0. (Income derived from the resulting kudos is something he has to work extra for.)

There are at least a dozen books worth of content on this blog, all of which I wrote for free. No even on spec — for free. My further thoughts on good and evil uses of spec use are below in my comments, which are highlighted in green. Here is my first comment:

I know there is a strong resistance in some designer communities against spec work, which is exactly what this is. I make no efforts to claim otherwise.

Here is where spec goes wrong: the prospective steals designs and, after someone has put their talent to work, offers nothing in return.

For the client who can offer value and not screw the designers they end up using, there is nothing wrong with spec work. If you’re in an advertising agency and want to get a high-profile client, what do you do? You offer spec designs and concepts to compete against other agencies bidding on the same project. Spec arrangements aren’t inherently evil at all, but the losses can be huge as a freelancer if you get screwed. Screwing people, including designers, is just fucked. No two ways around it.

But, can spec work be extremely valuable to someone who is looking for a high-visibility gig? Is it worth the risk that they might not win the bid/competition? For some, absolutely. For others who have a waiting list of clients and get paid in advance for work, perhaps not. It’s dependent on the individual, but spec has it’s place.

Related Posts:
Think this post is controversial? Not compared to
How to Tim Ferriss Your Love Life

Posted on: April 4, 2009.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Comment Rules: Remember what Fonzie was like? Cool. That’s how we’re gonna be — cool. Critical is fine, but if you’re rude, we’ll delete your stuff. Please do not put your URL in the comment text and please use your PERSONAL name or initials and not your business name, as the latter comes off like spam. Have fun and thanks for adding to the conversation! (Thanks to Brian Oberkirch for the inspiration)

213 comments on “Design Competition: Want to Design My Next Cover?

  1. @Anne C. Kerns

    I think you might be missing the point a little bit here: Tim emphasized that he’s interested in ideas as well as finished designs, so a successful applicant doesn’t necessarily need to know about not using RGB for print design, etc. Not everyone with visual talent has had the opportunity to go to design school.

    As a professional musician, I’d use the analogy that while you definitely need experience to write a good orchestration, anyone could write a good tune.


  2. Reading 4 Hr Workweek right now and just joined Twitter for the first time wanting to follow you and a few others. I am reading Art of the Start as well as another commenter of yours. I like what Guy did as well with his competition. I could almost say I bought the book based on that cover design. I need an elaboration of your concept to offer a cover contest submittal. Can you offer a 3-4 sentence narrative on your new book concept?
    Cheers. Continued success to you!


  3. @Benedict Westenra,

    I don’t believe I missed the point at all. Mr. Ferriss emphasized nothing of the sort in the post I read above, although he did indicate the possibility of borrowing or overlap.

    Besides that, I was simply offering advice (because I appreciated his egg advice) that many people using contest sites like 99D… do not know about and therefore end up getting burned with. If bad files are submitted, somebody has to fix them! Professionals know how to prepare files properly, for all the required uses.

    Just because someone can write a good tune doesn’t mean they can record a professional sounding CD.




    NARRATOR: In a world where terrorsts lurk in dark corners and carbon spewing corporations threaten the very air we breathe… In a world where totalitarian dictators race to build nuclear bombs and where diabolical men with Napoleon complexes threaten to take over the internet…. We now have a new evil. One that is more insidious than all the nefarious “men who will destroy the world.” And his name is TIM FERRIS! (CUE chorus of creepy high pitched and fast singing nuns) AHH OOO AHH AHH, AHH OO AHH AHH!

    …. Otherwise known as DR. SPEC! (AHH OOO AHH AHH, AHH OO AHH AHH!)

    In a world where Graphic Designers sip there lattes enjoying free wireless access in the coffee shop while listening to their free music, while communicating with their clients with free gmail while doing research with free google while tweeting with their free twitter and sending their projects with a very low cost servic (eschewing the old school way of creating their designs on paper and shipping using the nice (and costlier) UPS man) they are under attack! Armed with only their expensive student loans and abnormally sized egos they must try to regroup against DR. SPEC’s merciless design contest thrusts and parrys! Their only defense is to form the LEAGUE of GRAPHIC DEWHINERS!

    DR. SPEC: Would you guys be interested in submitting cover designs for my new book? (of course only with your consent and I’ll throw in a few buck too. You might even get some recognition in the Web 2.0 world! (I’m actually kind of a big deal!) You know it’s kinda like when filmmakers submit their films to festivals or when oh yea, like when fashion designers send clothes to celebrities in the hopes they might wear them to an event and get it seen on tv. If you’re not interested, no biggie. But there is no fee to enter!

    GRAPHIC DEWHINERS: That’s below the belt! How DARE you! Don’t you know you are destroying us! This contest is pure bile coming from someone who should know better! Bring back the old Tim Ferriss before we uh, before we uh…. STOP READING YOUR FREE BLOG! Punk! We have bills to pay and can’t except your offer of….opportunity!

    DR. SPEC: Jeesh. Uh didn’t think it was that big of a deal. Sorry for asking! I know, let me do this… I’ll just go back to my publisher and let the graphic designer who made a personal choice to work for a company that provides him with a salary and graphic design work and ask him to do it. Poor guy has to go to the office every day, but I’m sure he’ll gladly work on it.

    GRAPHIC DEWHINERS: You should be ASHAMED of yourself! (Wait, we are getting an industry tweet…. “blah blah ok… another graphic design firm goes under due to surge of lower cost freelancers”)…ahem. NEVERMIND! Where were we?

    DR. SPEC: I think you were trying to pin your life choices on me. You know, funny thing, I write this blog on lifestyle design, you should check it out.



  5. I think it’s a great idea! I really don’t see why people have such big problems with it. People do this all the time- i’m a student and we basically have no choice but to do stuff like this to get our foot in the door, so to speak. People who have problems with doing stuff for free – try being a student with no experience in their future career fields. That’s life. And it usually works out really well!

    Tim -I think it’s really good of you to even give people a chance at this. Thank you.


  6. Hi Tim,

    This is my first comment after years of reading and using the fantastic insights and practical wisdom imparted here. The controversy here prompted me to finally speak up. I wanted to voice my personal appreciation for this opportunity. I have often read your articles wishing that I could share the enthusiasm they generate and the success and failures from my attempts to implement them. This is a genuine chance for me to participate in a conversation I have only been listening to for much too long.

    I already submitted my design and happily spent my time and money designing it. I’m actually really excited about the final product. How can this be a bad thing when it leaves a reader excited and anticipating the results and book release? You already have the pro designers, and now you’re giving us a chance to best them. Thanks for keeping it real …


    The Tyler


  7. I wasn’t going to chime in here but because the FHWW was the first of many books that continue to improve my life and I am a hard working illustrator and artist I thought that I should.

    I have never done Spec. I do get paid royalties on book covers. They are Ebook covers and I get a % everytime one is sold. It is a business model that was designed to mitigate risk.

    I have passed up having a billboard in central London because the price was too low. I’m that very unique person Tim mentioned.

    I do a lot of work in video games (over 15 million people have interacted with my artwork) of which I sign away all the moral rights to my work. I know that I automatically get them back after 35 years and there is so much work to do right now that I don’t worry about it. Yet!

    If you think you can win in a contest like this. Where the guy putting it on says that you will probably not win anyways. I suggest the lottery.

    This contest actually has nothing to do with graphic design. Nothing. If you study the art and have read some of the posts above you would understand why.

    Anytime a contest like this comes up it’s really about having some fun. I think that instead of worrying about whether Tim is taking advantage, one instead should consider what they would get out of it.

    I have seen the work that comes out of 99designs. Rarely is it amazing. But its valued at a risk versus reward that most up and coming designers can handle. So be it.

    If you think that this will propel your career… Think again. Everybody, Even Tim Ferris and Random House wants design on the cheap.

    I hire a lot of artists. As soon as the work is over… Your on your own again. Sometimes your associations help but the truth is your price is going up so your getting harder and harder to hire. Go look at all the portfolio sites and stock image sites. Crowdsourcing is not going away.

    I can tell you that there is no magic associations any more. Being on the cover of a Tim Ferris Book is going to be great for a while, but only if you leverage it when the time comes. People will not see your design as the catalyst that sold the book. It’s the inside that counts.

    If you do the contest… Do it for fun and forget the spec argument. If you don’t win but enjoy yourself then great. If you do win then Bonus and A holy shit moment.

    I myself am not doing it. Because I don’t have the time as I am working on my own Art project when I’m not working with my clients. I intend to pad my portfolio with my own cool stuff. In Fact the art project and the strides I’ve made with my business and clients started with FHWW and I have begun my own life’s work because of it.

    I suggest anybody who has doubt just work on there own project for a day.


    I have to admit the original post comes off a little cheap. I think that next time your inviting a contest of talents offer more and make it worth it. The lottery is millions of dollars. $250 is like a punch in the face. I pay more for canvas.

    I respect your work and your blog. I have one too. Its free as well. Love of what you do is often done for free, however you have stated in the past that the blog is designed to sell more books. Therefore its an investment.
    So comparing the free blog of lifestyle experiments to the books you are selling almost negates your life’s work.

    I will buy the second book and continue to sell your books for you of mouth style, (I think that I have sold 6 copies) as your life message rings true, and I hope this debate has given some new insights.



  8. Wow,
    First of all congrats Tim. I am very sure you will receive a large amount of ideas and who knows? Maybe your future book cover.
    For the rest of you all who’s beliefs are preconceived about the crowdsourcing…well hear that i have participated in contests from 100$ till 20000$, won a lot and lost a lot. Regarding the prize, there are companies – large ones – that prefers crowdsourcing instead of being pricked by a mediocre agency who asks for a huge price for their poor services. I am glad crowdsourcing was invented , this way a lot of middle and mediocre agencies will disappear.
    If you would ask me, i really know a lot of guys & girls who started from crowdsourcing and now their studios can compete against large agencies like S&S, LeoB and so on.
    SO yes, as long as SPEC work will exist we will know the real prices, yes, as long as the crowdsourcing will exist we will know that clients will no longer need to be tricked paying a huge amount of money for a guy who draws some curly things, throws some ink splat-like over them and then throws in some vivid unprintable multicolor on those circles, call that creation and claims it worth’s 5000$ – the source of this is as real as i am. Then why pay 5000$ when you can get the exact same shit for 1000$? Why? Just that because a few “brain publicity” guys cannot adapt their standards? Just that they consider “low level” when they have to compete against hundreds of proposals? Ha…losers who don’t know how to loose, who likes to have complete control over the client and influence his decisions, who likes to send candy stories about their designs and pictures taken late in the night with all the creation department, all that sent along with the proposed artwork in a nice file. That’s what we don’t need!
    Accommodate people, believe it or not this thing you call “SPEC work” will become “i am going to work” in the future.


  9. Hi Tim.

    First off, thanks for a great blog, and an inspiring lifestyle.

    I’m a proffessional designer too, and I have nothing against this. It’s a smart way to get loads of inspiration. If unlucky however, it could result in a bunch of useless designs and loss of time. That’s the risk you take and you already know that.

    This task is for blog readers with love for design and some spare time. Designers in need of money should not even think of participate in design contests like this since it’s obviously not a clever way to earn your food and rent money.

    I’ll submit a 4-hour designwork later on. :)


  10. I hope this is my last comment on this subject!

    * * *

    @Anne C. Kerns

    Sorry for misinterpreting the tone of your comment! In the context of all the aggression from other writers I mistook your design advice as being sarcastic, which I can now see it wasn’t.

    I would still argue that “mock-ups and cover ideas” suggests concepts rather than finished designs, though. Also, your statement:

    “just because someone can write a good tune doesn’t mean they can record a professional sounding CD”

    seems to express exactly the same sentiment as my original:

    “while you definitely need experience to write a good orchestration, anyone could write a good tune”!

    OF COURSE, just because someone can write a good tune doesn’t mean that they can record a professional-sounding CD, but the best-selling album of all time – Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” – was written by Michael Jackson singing melody lines to Quincy Jones, who then arranged them.

    I got the impression that Tim’s intention was to take a reader’s idea and then give it to the in-house team to finalize.

    [Also, I replied to your comment not because I thought it was the one I objected to the most, but because I thought it was the most constructive critical one. Many thanks for your reply. :-)]

    * * *

    @Everyone Else

    I’m not defending Tim because I think he’s right, since I think he probably made a mistake with this post, albeit a very small one in the grand scheme of things (let’s not forget how much he’s given to and raised for LitLiberation). I’m defending him because I know from his book and other media that if he did a mistake it was made in good faith and that he’s open to criticism, as he’s admirably demonstrated!

    He could have followed his own rule that “if you’re rude, we’ll delete your stuff”, but instead chose to let the negative comments stand (even following someone’s suggestion to stick his head up his own butt – conclusive proof that he is indeed superhuman). I think this displayed far more courage than most of the commenters are likely to possess. And while his blog may not be entirely altruistic I don’t think it’s at all entirely self-serving either – I know I’ve benefited a lot from it without it costing me a thing, as have thousands of previously illiterate Vietnamese children.

    When someone acts in good faith and is open to criticism I don’t think there’s any excuse to react offensively, abusively, or aggressively – it’s not constructive for anyone. Maybe if people redirected the energy they’re expending on mudslinging towards making new designs the world would be a prettier place.

    Best wishes,


  11. Tim,

    Goodness, talk about a touching topic. It sounds (or reads) like you were expecting this kind of response by the tone of your post.

    Enough already! Where is the report about your China Tea adventure!?



  12. When I first read this post, I jumped on the bandwagon with the other designers, crying ‘no spec!’

    but after some thought… have you guys read Tim’s first book? Its all about outsourcing. cheap. to India. Should you be surprised? I’m not.

    This is arbitrage at its best. Sure you could get an Indian firm to design your logo for $99, (or less), or get 5 from logoworks for $300, but hey, if I could get 1,000 submissions for $250. That’s a no duh, in the 4-hour work week playbook. Right Tim?


  13. Hello everyone…Jason Aiken here from

    Really fascinating comment thread and I read a lot of these things. Definitely appreciate the feedback and sentiment from all sides.

    Thanks to Doug Radar, Jeremy SInner, Patrick, Jaq, Miki,Naomi, Ryan Riegner and the many others who have commented in support of the opportunity that Tim has offered.

    At the end of the day..that’s all it is…an opportunity…you can choose to see it that way or choose to ignore it.

    Those who are against Spec Work always say that “people deserve to get paid for their work.”

    I don’t think anyone here would argue with that…but as has been noted…Spec Work in one way or another is an inherent part of customer acquisition and building a business in countless industries.

    What Tim has offered here is a real gem of an opportunity with very little downside and a world of upside.

    Jason Aiken


  14. Hey Tim,

    I’m also against spec work … but the comments here are simply entertaining :D.

    I really loved this post. I’m not going to submit an entry, but not because I hate spec work, but because I really have to focus on another project right now.

    Come on Tim, prove them wrong :)
    PS: I love the way you respond to comments. I for one learned something from this post, just by reading your responses.



  15. Real artists: stop begging for easy money.

    I have seen very few (but enourmously many taking in consideration artists their size are scarce) world-class artists in my country do some work more valuable than anything you have ever done…..and they didn´t paint on a canvas, but a bare wall in an abandoned house. Yes, my neighborhood is a very nice place to live in.

    I love everything Tim Ferris.


  16. And if you´re still offended please notice Tim pulled the post out- by republishing it 4 months “earlier”,

    as well as sending two more post to subscribers, one of them old but remastered and appropiate for the occasion, the other fairly made in a rush

    there´s nothing like that to distract attention. i mean


    i really appreciate that and the fact that his comments have the coolness of a master even under severe criticism. one can learn a lesson or two of that, if you want


  17. Um, I really don’t see this as spec work. He’s not looking to hire anybody.

    It’s a contest. A contest. When kids color in the insert in the newspaper and send it in are they expecting to get paid? No – because it’s not a job, it’s a contest.

    When writers write a short story for the Writer’s Digest Short story competition, do they expect to get paid for it? No. They hope they’ll win and get some cash, but they actually pay to enter the contest. Is that spec work? No, It’s a contest.

    It’s a contest, for fun. Should I complain about every programming contest out there, saying it cheapens my profession as a programmer? As a programmer, my skill are adequate to get a job already, and as such I need to competition credentials. I don’t ever bother to even find out what competitions are out there.

    It’s a contest, a competition, a fun little challenge. Tim isn’t exploiting anybody, he’s holding a contest.

    On a different note: does the gallery of entries become visible to the public after the contest is over? I’d be interested in seeing what everybody entered.


  18. Oh, garbage, I need to read over my posts better before clicking “Submit Comment.”

    the lines should have been “my skills are”, “I need no competition”


  19. Let me start by saying I will not be submitting a design but I do have something to say to Tim Ferris…

    I congratulate you on the ability to create controversy and get a lot of people to talk about this contest. I am sure you knew of the current debate going on in the design community about spec work and you have used it to your advantage very well.

    I hope that you choose to post all of the design submission so that we can see if this spec work paid off for you.


  20. It’s actually not spec work at all, there is no bidding for this job involved, which, as one part, would include spec design. This is called crowd sourcing, and it smells cheap.

    But then again, Tim got us commenters out of the woodwork and that is worth something, I guess.


  21. I wish I had the artistic talent to submit a design! Mainly to express all the col ideas this book has inspired (just from the title & synopsis in your other post.

    I’m sure many people have thought of this already, but a great design could involve some form of modern twist on Leonardo Da Vincis Vitruvian Man…especially because of all the polymath and ‘Renaissance Man’ associations that come with it.

    By the way Tim – at the bottom of this post it says “Posted on April 4th, 2009″ seems your blog or WordPress is experiencing some kind of a bug?


  22. Hey Tim,

    While I don’t think you are an “asshole,” I am disappointed in your approach. I saw your talk at TED online and it was inspirational. I think you are talented and have the benefit of an audience, but that also is a responsibility.

    Here are some alternatives I wish you would have explored:

    1) Design it yourself. Frankly your life pattern has provided you with lots of opportunities to concept what this would look like, I would imagine. I’m sure you could have displayed your vision for your content.

    2) Find a student/entry level designer to work with. Think of it as a missed opportunity to mentor and inspire someone on a project that might have helped a fledgling professional grow.

    3) Position this as a non-paying project accepting submissions from your followers only. Something that might give one of your talented fans a voice and some recognition.

    With a spec approach, you cannot be sure that the work you are getting adheres to quality, ethical and legal guidelines either. Is this important to you?

    I’m also disappointed because people who promote or engage in spec work do not and have not thought enough about what this does to design as a KNOWLEDGE BASED profession. You’ve heard this before, I know. Yet, just because we can do something, doesn’t mean we should.

    As for those who believe that spec is “good for design,” “no big deal,” and promote their “lighten up” mentality… who are you really trying to convince?

    That’s about it. I still wish you well Tim. Thanks.


    • Hi Eric,

      Thank you. I completely and totally agree that the suggested alternatives could have been better, especially #3. Frustrating as it is, I was considering doing this and then complicated things. Another lesson in why to keep things simple :)

      All the best,



  23. In regards to “the commenters who insist [you're] exploiting the entire design community,” ignore ‘em. Nuff said. No, wait, I spoke too soon. Let me also add that I find that the freelancers who have enough time to criticize and complain so passionately about things like this tend not to have enough work to keep their minds, hands and hearts busy. Hmm, inverse correlation to time-on-hands to talent? No, no, I can’t say that—that would just be a mean and baseless accusation. ;)


  24. Hi all. Just want to say something to all of you. I had some fun reading this. I learned some things. And now I’m very sad.
    I sad that you Tim choose to hide this post. You can’t please everyone and tho I understand you are just being polite I think you should leave it the way it was (I hope you are not running away from some bad publicity). Write something nice about everything going on here in a future post.
    But that’s not why I’m sad. I’m sad to see so much HATE. Stop judging, stop making assumptions. Try to understand the other side.
    I didn’t really see my participation to 99designs as spec work. I’m a little offended by some things said here. I’m not saying they are true. Or that they are not. Not everything is black or white… And I don’t think the idea with this contest is good or bad. And I think we should stop talking about it.
    I like your passion. But do something else with it.
    Ok, my final thoughts: hey you pretty girl AD(me), do you like to dance? go to this club 99, it’s a free entry, and if the bartender likes how you dance, he might give some free cocktails… This is how SOME people see these things. Not saying is good or bad!!
    Have fun doing what you want!


    • Hi AD,

      Thank you for your post. I really appreciate your comment. I redated the post, not to hide it, but because several readers pointed out that the post only applied to a small % of my readership, probably less than 1%. I’m not avoiding the critics — just thinking of my readers ;)

      All the best,



  25. Hi Tim,

    I have a question, I know the deadline is passed BUT I had problems with 99 designs. I registered to 99 designs to upload the cover and it took them almost 2 days to send me confirmation link so I could log in. The problem is that by the time they wrote back the deadline was over. Is their anyway I can still show you my design? I wrote to 99 about this and they said no.
    I just wanted to ask you since you are the author.

    Thank you,



    • Hi Edita,

      Feel free to send to amyatfourhourworkweekdotcom, though I can’t make any promises, as I’ve sent everything off to my publishers after looking at the submissions.

      Sorry for your trouble!



  26. I don’t get the spec work argument as long as you’re dealing with a contest holder that has some integrity….it’s really no different than taking on a sales gig that pays on commission. You can spend some time and not get rewarded but that’s the risk you take. And if you’re not willing to take the risk, you don’t participate in that piece of the market and look for work elsewhere.


  27. Wow! I’ve never seen so many whiners in one place… I know I’m late to this post, but had to chime in….

    There should be no apologizing here for this Tim… and people saying the price was insulting, etc, etc, etc… Thats B.S… You should never pay more than the minimum someone is willing to be paid for the job you want done. Period….

    I have to agree completely with what Mason said….

    “It looks like you’re accomplishing more with this contest than just generating some cool book covers, You’re also weeding out annoying readers :)

    Long live captialism.



  28. wow. my original intent was to comment on your post, tim. way too much pre-emptive apologies, caveats and disclaimers. VERY american, or so i thought (see your hot coffee example). it was not a fun read …

    and then i saw the comments. sheesh. pitiful. sad.

    ok, much as i was suppressing my curiousity before, now i HAVE to see the book. i’ll buy it. promise. and i’m sure the cover will be interesting.

    good luck.


  29. Hi Tim,

    It’s interesting to hear your take on spec-work, I’m a designer myself and while I disagree with a lot of spec-work out there your argument makes a lot of sense. Though I won’t get into this debate here, it soon becomes tiring.

    I’m currently in the early stages of a project that offers an alternative to design spec-work involving the employment of design students, tomorrows professionals. It would be great to discuss this further with you if you find any spare time. If you’re curious you’ll find a fast-paced slideshare in my website URL to the left that will provide a bit more information on the project.

    Thanks for your time and I look forward to see the chosen design!



  30. Agne, as a designer from Lithuania, you’ll be interested in my book design contest. My upcoming book is called “The Hidden Europe: What Eastern Europeans Can Teach Us.” So it’s a subject that should interest you as an Eastern European!

    I learned from Tim Ferriss’s book competition and I’m offering something that is better:

    1. Since I’m self-publishing my book, I don’t have to resort to contest rules that are filled with weasel-words. Tim had to cover his butt in case the Random House design vetoes his ideas. He doesn’t have the power to overrule them. I don’t have anyone to answer to, so I pick the winner and guarantee it. Simple and clean.

    2. There’s a clear winner. I don’t give $250 to the 4 finalists, but $1000 to the winner. Simple and clean.

    As a writer, I’ve PAID money to participate in writing contests. I spent lots of time writing, paid the entry fee, and didn’t win. This contest is free to enter.

    Like Tim’s contest, if you don’t like design contests, then don’t participate. Nobody is forcing you to do anything. Hike your own hike.

    Contest details are [on my site, per comment rules]

    Thanks for sharing your experience Tim!


  31. I’ve been a fan of yours for quite awhile now, but I will be refusing to buy your new book purely on principle. I refuse to do spec work and where possible I refuse to support any product or service that uses it.

    – paul


  32. Hey Tim,

    I know it’s not your fault as this was a largely misunderstood and misinterpreted event in the media, but this comment should be examined.

    ‘Unfortunately, in a world where people sue McDonald’s for pouring hot coffee on their own genitals, this lawyering is necessary to prevent any misunderstandings.”

    Watch the doco called “Hot Coffee” which is about Tort Reform in the USA and how that particular case was used to push an agenda that was designed to reduce the average American’s access to the court system (Tort). You will be shocked and disheartened. No doubt you will also see how easily it is to “brainwash” a society (as if you weren’t aware already). That particular case was a huge public misconception, it will seriously blow you away how wrong we all are about it and how easily the media et al can guide our thoughts.

    There’s a really great lesson in there for all of us and perhaps even some reference material for your future work.

    All the best and love your work

    ps: after a quick peruse of the comments I now notice this post is years old … still a good doco if you haven’t seen it yet :P