(If this sounds like a rehash of an old post, I agree with you because, gosh darn it, I feel like I’ve written a version of this post before, but I couldn’t find it. Oh well. New followers won’t know any different, so apologies to older followers. Here we go!)
Creating art is an art, but there’s the analytical aspect. There’s no point in painting a Mona Lisa or sculpting a Rodin without discipline and a self-imposed system of quality control. For me, the most difficult quality control portion writing a book was not sentence structure or character development but picking out a cover.
I’ve used 99Designs for three or four books. If you’ve never used 99Designs, the premise is straightforward: you start a contest, you outline your needs, you have X number of days to pick a set of covers that will advance to a final round, and then another set of days to pick the finalist. I’ve developed a QC system that might help you in the future:
Communication: You cannot overcommunicate, in my opinion. When you establish the contest, you provide a book outline and some details, and a list of your expectations. As the contest continues and the book cover designers post their covers, you have opportunity to provide feedback. The biggest favor you can do for the designers and for yourself is to be open and candid. Provide sample chapters and links to your web sites (social media, blog, home site) so the designers can see your public thinking.
Rating: You can rate book covers on a system of zero to five stars. For me, I use zero to three stars, reserving zeros and ones for book covers I’m never going to use. Two stars are for book covers I’m not quite sure about, and three stars are for designs that I’m certain or near certain are going to survive to the final round. When designers ask why they received their rating, answer all questions. Don’t be afraid. The designers really want to give you what you want.
Be Realistic: Don’t fall in love with the first submissions (like I always do). You’ll have a lot of great designs by the end of the first round if you have adequately communicated your needs. Be patient and stick to your rating system from the beginning of the contest to the end of the contest.
The Final Cover: I have no idea how to pick up final cover. For my latest contest, I bounced back between three or four designs because they were all great. When I narrowed it down to two designs, I couldn’t decide, so I bought them both. They each have their strengths, and I would have been happy to post either on Amazon. The final decision came down to which cover do I want to see five years from now. (The winner is here, if you’re interested.)
If you have a better methodology, please share. To paraphrase Edmund Gwynn, “Writing is easy. Book covers are hard.” Thank you.