In my previous post I showed the amazing book cover that I got from 99Designs. In this post I thought I’d talk a bit about my experience of using 99Designs and try to give a few helpful tips.
As anyone who listens to The Self Publishing Podcast knows, 99Designs is, “the on-line market place that helps you get outstanding book cover designs at an affordable price. Start your custom design today at 99Designs.com/SPP and enjoy a free power pack upgrade valued at 99 bucks!”
The price of a book cover at 99Designs is $299, or £189 if you’re in the UK. The power pack upgrade is valued at $99 in the US and £65 in the UK and highlights your contest so it attracts more designers. One of the key selling points is that you have nothing to lose because you only pay if there is a design you are happy with. So far, so good.
I went to 99Designs.com/SPP and was automatically redirected to 99Designs.co.uk/SPP where all the prices were in pounds sterling. Now the first thing to mention is that you do have to pay 99Designs upfront. Their offer is actually a money back guarantee if there are no designs you like, but I thought that was fair enough so I got out my credit card.
99Designs then presented me with a number of different options. It turns out that the £189/$299 option is only the basic level and if you want really top-notch designers you have to pay more. I didn’t make a note of the prices, but there were about four levels to choose from. I decided to stick with the basic level because I didn’t have a large budget and I wanted to see what I could get for that price.
The next step is to provide some information about your book. I didn’t know what I wanted on the cover, so I tried to describe the book as best I could in the hope that a good designer would be inspired to come up with something original. You can include images or other book covers to give the designers an idea of what you have in mind. I should have attached a file with the back copy blurb (for the paperback version) but I didn’t know to do this. I assumed that sort of detail would be sorted out later, but it wasn’t. In the end my designer had to send me his email address so I could send him a Word document.
I specified that I wanted a paperback cover, an ebook cover and an audio book cover, and I gave the dimensions for all of these. Oranges for Christmas doesn’t yet exist in audio format, but it might one day so I thought I’d get a cover done now just in case.
When you’ve submitted all your details, you launch your contest and wait for the designs to come in.
Now I’ll perfectly honest here, I wasn’t very impressed with the first couple of designs. In fact I was rather dismayed. But when I received the design which eventually won, I was thrilled. In total I received about 14 designs. Quite a few of them used stock photographs of the Berlin Wall which was kind of disappointing because, quite frankly, I could have done that. I wasn’t against using stock images, but I wanted the designers to do something more creative with them. One design was superbly executed by a very talented designer, but it suggested a futuristic/sci-fi novel so it wasn’t appropriate. The design which won was, in my opinion, head and shoulders above the rest. There was one other design that was really good and would have won if I hadn’t received the image of the orange pierced with barbed wire.
When the designers have submitted their initial designs you can choose up to six to go through to the final stage. At this point you can ask the designers to refine their designs and you can run a poll on social media to help you pick a winner. I dispensed with this stage and just chose my winning design from the first-round designs because there was only one design that I really wanted.
By choosing a winner you are now committed to paying and you lose the option of a money back guarantee. My designer now clarified the exact specifications in order to deliver the final files. Specifications for ebook and audio covers are fairly straightforward. For example KDP want a 1.6 ratio, 2,500 pixels on the longest side and JPEG format. ACX want a JPEG which is 2,400 x 2,400 pixels at 300 dpi. However, paperback covers for CreateSpace are a whole different ball game.
In order to deliver a print-ready PDF for CreateSpace, your designer will need to know the exact trim size of your book and precisely how many pages it contains, also whether you are printing on cream or white paper. This is because the type of paper you choose and the number of pages determine the spine width.
Publishing to CreateSpace is a very tightly controlled process which forces you to complete each step before moving onto the next one. You choose your trim size upfront and this is associated with your book’s ISBN and cannot be changed. You then submit an interior file according to the trim size you have chosen. You will not know the exact number of pages until you have submitted your interior file. Only when the interior has been approved can you think about designing and submitting a cover. The cover will be rejected if it is not a perfect match for the measurements of the interior file. Ebooks are two-dimensional objects but paperbacks are three-dimensional and therein lies the rub.
The point about this is that you cannot go to a site like 99Designs and request a paperback cover if you have not already uploaded your interior file to CreateSpace. Your book’s interior must be completely written, edited, polished and ready to go, including all front and back matter. 99Designs is a timed system. Designers must submit their designs within a few days and you must be ready to pick a winner within a few days. Your designer will not be happy if you’re still writing the book and therefore can’t say precisely how many pages it will be. The good thing is that CreateSpace will allow you to submit your interior and then come back, when you are ready, with your cover. There’s no time pressure where CreateSpace is concerned.
I hope this post has been useful for anyone thinking of using 99Designs for their book cover. Overall, I would definitely recommend them as a way of getting an affordable cover. If anyone has any other useful tips, please leave them in the comments below.