Win a free cover design!

Are you about to publish your new book, either online or in print as well? And are you one of those unfortunate authors with no graphic design expertise to call your own? If so, this is the comp for you.

What’s the prize?
99designs is a community of graphic designers which enables you to put your design brief out to competitive tender. Basically, you tell the community what you’re after, and different designers compete to meet your brief. You are presented with various designs. You give feedback as you see fit. Designers refine their artwork. Then you pick the one you like the best.

This cover was developed via a 99 Designs design contest. We think it’s a lot better than HarperCollins’s original design.

If that sounds interesting, we’ve teamed up with 99designs to make it even better. They will give away a free Bronze Cover Design package as a prize. If you want to upgrade from Bronze, you can do so by paying only the relevant supplement.

Harry Bingham – Dark Lord of the Writers’ Workshop – used 99designs to come up with the cover for his recent e-book republication of The Money Makers and comments, ‘This was a much, much better cover than my original publisher designed – and I had total control over design brief, shortlisted designers, and design tweaks. It’s a wonderful way to develop a cover concept you can feel really happy with.’

What do I have to do?
Simply answer two questions:

A) Give the title and elevator pitch for your book in a maximum of 60 words. If you don’t know what an elevator pitch is, then we suggest you remind yourself.

B) Set out a short design brief (max 100 words) that will set out your vision for an attractive, saleable, yummy design. (This won’t necessarily be the brief you give you designers, because you can provide that at as much length as you choose.)

Give your answers by way of comments to this blog post. Last day for entry: 30 June, please! The Dark Lord, together with various senior henchpeople, femmes fatales &c &c, will choose the winning entry.

Make your book stand out
The truth is that this is a vastly exciting time for indie authors. Although in-store print distribution remains the preserve of traditional publishing, the e-book revolution (and, to some extent, the CreateSpace one) has made it totally viable for indie authors to publish themselves, gain a readership, gain respect and make money. Since a strong book cover is a crucial tool in any bookselling campaign, we hope this contest will get you off to a strong start.

Everyone a winner
In addition, 99designs have offered to create a Power Pack Upgrade for every design assignment launched by friends of the WW. The upgrade means that your design assignment will be be given additional promotion on the 99designs site, which means that more potential designers will see and be able to respond to your brief. In order to make use of that upgrade, please just enter your cover design brief using this link.

Any questions? Yes? No? OK: then give us your elevator pitch & design briefs and let’s get this contest moving.

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  • A) Magician.
    Two teenagers fall in love as they are chased across the country by a secret government agency, reliving their past as they go. Will they make it? Who or what are the government after? Is it Charlie, his book, or is it Eve, who isn’t completely human, that they so desperately want?

    Bubbles in the bath, is the second chapter and sets the tone of the book, so an old style roll top bath by an open window is crucial. The majority of the bubbles are escaping the window, but four or five of them are large and reflect different major events through the book. It might be Nick Brick, the live Lego character battling dragons, the police helicopter crashing into the swimming pool. Maybe the narrow boat or allotment shed, where the main characters spend a night. It could even be Heather Cottage, or the volcano in the classroom! You decide.

  • Adventure in Ambak – a children’s adventure where colour is power. Five auras with five Powermages to control them – but when one desires the control of all, it makes a hero out of an ordinary boy.

    Cover Brief: Either simple and striking and able to work with other colours for future stories; this one would be predominantly red, with five silviron rings linked in a circle. Or something more picturesque; focus on the characters or location, e.g. a castle with a glass dome in its tallest tower, built into the rockface of an island. An alternative e.g. would be a boy, a girl, and a giant with a disproportionately small head.

    Cover must appeal to children of 9-12 yrs – and their parents.

  • Michael Middleton

    A) Title. ‘What Maidens loth ‘ (‘My Name’s Polyhymnia, Fly Me.‘ )

    Keats’s ‘Ode to a Grecian Urn’ and the legend of the maze at Knossos combine in an explosive mixture when a writer confronts a muse – his minotaur. This novel has been professionally inspired by the leading experts in the field.

    B) The urn that Keats describes has a frieze. This frieze contains images – fragments of Greek myth. Scenes in the novel reflect these images. Much of the action takes place in a Greek Taverna where cheesy murals depict a bacchanal. The cover should reflect the images of Keats’s poem – and the urn – in a farcical way.
    P.S ‘Allegedly’ Keats refers to one particular vase in the British Museum. This particular vase has images similar to Wedgwood but other vases have images of a sexual nature. I believe Keats used his imagination as I have done – ‘What wild ecstasy?’

  • Kathleen Watkins (Michael Middleton – executor)

    A) The world of E.S Nesbit has bypassed the world of Enid Blyton and a family are transported to the grittier realities of post-war Wandsworth Common. It is the beginning of the sixties and a portrait of Gagarin adorns young Henry’s t-shirt. Can Edwardian children survive the new age? OF COURSE THEY CAN!

    B) On her typescript, Kathleen has drawn a sketch of a teapot with two spouts. Rose Ellen, the heroine, describes this family heirloom.
    It is not only a unique teapot then,” said Rose Ethel, it is also shrouded in mystery. Do you think it belonged to Queen Victoria?”
    “That”s most unlikely,” said Mother. “But I think it is the kind of teapot children might like to read about in a story.”
    The story ends with the teapot becoming the sign of a teashop in Wandsworth High Street. Can Kathleen’s sketch can be adapted to suggest this?

  • A) Border Line
    An upbeat love story about suicide. Grace searches the Internet to find a way to die. She joins Daniel and nine others on a three-week trek across Slovenia. They tour, play drama games, start relationships, debate death and make decisions. Some of them will cross the border with Daniel and die.

    B) The Slovenian landscape is full of beauty and drama and is the backdrop to the story. Grace, age 34 with red/brown pre-Raphaelite hair, tells it. The writing is between literary and genre with a bittersweet ending. I am interested in any design that conveys or combines these elements. I am interested in any design that conveys or combines these elements, e.g. a back-view of Grace facing a computer screen showing a Slovenian mountain/meadow. My previous covers had poor graphics (, but the images pleased me.

  • Stephen Mark

    A) The Paradise Knights

    Mordred, King Arthur’s half-demon nephew has been imprisoned by Merlin in an abandoned mine under the Wessex Downs for fifteen-hundred years. Teenage twins, Luke and Alice Goodnight are forced to enlist the aid of a secret brotherhood of guardian knights when their much-loved eccentric aunt, Augustine, is kidnapped by Mordred’s evil familiars.

    B) The novel is essentially ‘Swords and Sorcery’ set in modern-day England. The twins’ discovery of a mysterious ‘Crystal Key’ begins their adventure. The rescue mission will be a company of eight, including the twins. The six adults – five men, one woman – are knights. Those imprisoned in the mine include Mordred, who has the ability to assume the shape of a giant lizard; Mordred’s sire, an enormously fat demon; numerous orc-like creatures and three, shape-changing familiars. Xavier, who leads the company, wields Excalibur. I envisage a busy, colourful cover reflecting many of these elements – perhaps in Manga style?

  • Stephen Mark

    I am all agog – who won? 🙂

  • I’m curious too, not me.

  • Harry

    Aplogogies in the delay for getting to this, but – ta-raaaa! – the winner is Hilary Custance Green for her upbeat-novel-about-suicide cover.

    I was looking for two ingredients:

    1) a cover that I thought achievable within the budget. That pretty much rules out anything calling for purpose-made illustration, and really permits only the imaginative use of images from a stock-library. If that sounds dismissive – well, it really shouldn’t. Most trad publishers use stock images for most of their covers. Those covers don’t look cheap, because the images are beautiful, the typography is great, and the whole thing is cleverly put together and textured. But complex, orginal illustration – you’re talking £1000+ to do that well … and even then, you run the risk of commissioning something that you don’t quite like or that doesn’t really sell the book. Which brings us on to …

    2) A cover that would be a yummy, saleable cover, in thumbnail or full size, and that quickly and concisely expressed the kind of book it is. And while it can seem clever to avoid the cliches, the truth is those cliches are there for a reason. They tell the reader, fast, what kind of book they’re looking at.

    Hilary’s cover excels on both counts. It’s eminently achievable within budget. Its fundamental design is simple, not complex. (ie: it works at thumbnail size – essential for modern self-pub.) And the landscape + beautiful woman’s back formula is one that absolutely definitely works – publishers use that to sell books all the time.

    My one word of advice to Hilary would be: drop the computer screen. That messes up a simple, easily understood image. And you don’t need it. Also, computers are ugly, boring, horrible & depressing. Landscapes are yum. And beautiful women with pre-Raphaelite hair are double-yum.

    To everyone else: well done. There’s a lot of creativity and imagination there – and, speaking personally, I do think that 99designs is a good place to develop designs. I used the £339 service and I got one very, very good design from the contest, plus a good handful of pretty-damn-goods. I’ll be using the same service for the US launch of Strange Death and am confident of getting an excellent design from it. And the beauty of a contest is that designers can surprise you by developing designs that are quite different from anything you imagined but which really, clearly work once you see them.

    Apologies again for the delay: no excuse except my own lassitude. Have a lovely summer and may all your books sell BIG.

  • Hi Harry, while I’m absolutely thrilled to win, I have something of a dilemma. My text went to the printers yesterday and the cover will go on Tuesday. I have had to compromise, not having Photoshop, on a simple landscape (put together by an artist and set up by me using InDesign). Yes, this kind of book should have a person on the cover, but I am committed to using the one I have now.

    I have a couple of suggestions, either Bronze Design could adapt my current cover for the eBook version, or you could choose another of the entrants for this lucky break. I would perfectly understand if Bronze Design opted for the second suggestion as it is difficult to be creative if you cannot start from scratch.

    Hope you find a solution. I have to say that the cover has cost me a great deal of angst and next time I will go to a designer from the start.
    Cheers, Hilary

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  • Thank you very much. I have had a wonderful time having a cover designed by Didi Wahyudi (from Indonesia) through 99Designs. I am very happy with the result (see my eBook cover adventure at Best of luck to everyone else in their search for the ideal cover.