Design Competition: Want to Design My Next Cover?

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(Photo: monkeyc.net)

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?

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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:
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How to Tim Ferriss Your Love Life

Posted on: April 4, 2009.

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

  1. First, love the idea of a book cover contest and I can’t wait to see the submissions.

    Next, if you search for ‘McFacts about the McDonalds Coffee Lawsuit’ on Google, the first result will have some interesting information about that infamous case.

    Looking forward to the next book!

    -Nicky

    Like

    • Hi Aaron,

      Thanks for the 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.

      Hope that helps!

      Tim

      Like

  2. I’m excited for this-will definitely put in some time for a shot at the cover.

    It was great when Guy Kawasaki did it for “Art of the Start” too. He put all the runner-ups on the inside of the jacket-something you might give a thought to?

    Like

  3. Who needs to go out and search for qualified cover designers when you can just ask your own community. However, the problem with this is that you can’t be sure that the work is original…. Is there any process for this?

    With that said, doing this is much easier than actually getting a thousand dollar designeer to do it.

    Like

  4. I like this idea…I’m sure your going to have 1000s of people submit their work…including me.

    Being in web design has given me the opportunity to get creative; from time to time :-). I’ll see what kind of mock-up I can get you.

    Like

  5. So glad to see a great author embracing crowd-sourcing to engage their fans in helping creating something cool and let them be a part of the process; you are way ahead of the curve Tim. If you ever decide to have your fans create anything else in the future, we would love to help.

    Like

  6. Dear Sweetcakes (someone had to do it…),

    Great idea and opportunity. And, while I’m not artistically inclined, I’ll be sure to pass it to many of my friends who are!

    Can’t wait to see what the new book holds in store…

    Like

  7. great idea. i am far from being a designer but i would love to offer myself as a cover model if you descide to do a cover with a person performing something “superhuman” as i take personal pride in being able to do very chalenging feats while looking good doing it :) if you are interested send an e-mail and we’ll talk. if not i would suggest you use pictures of yourself. you’ve done some pretty awesoem things from what i’ve seen. or you can take one fo those cirque de ole guys! they can do soem pretty awesome stuff.

    Like

  8. Yeah, sorry but you’re being really uncool Tim. That’s OK, though, if you would please publish your entire book here and let us all read it first and then decide if we’d like to pay for it ;-)

    Like

  9. I think the “becoming superhuman” title will only be justified if you go beyond diet and exercise, to talk about herbal enhancements. Having flexibility in choosing your body type, while impressive, doesn’t strike me as overwhelmingly superhuman. Increasing your intelligence, personality and energy levels effortlessly past the competition does. If that’s what you’re delivering, then don’t nerf the hook!

    Not that I doubt. Just sayin.

    Like

  10. Are you are aware of the controversy around the issue of crowdsourcing and spec work? I would think you would be, which makes me wonder if you are trying some kind of PR stunt… Regardless, I’ll probably submit an entry. ;)

    Like

  11. Oh my goodness this is so exciting! I don’t know if I’ll come up with a great design or not, but I am excited to see the entries, and especially to get the book. How should we submit our entries?And can we send in more than one?

    Like