The Hidden Europe winning cover

UPDATE: The contest is over! See the results!

What follows is for the record...

Are you (or someone you know) a budding graphic designer who wants to beef up your portfolio? Or perhaps you're a pro who has some time to spare. Either way, I'm sponsoring a $1,000 book cover design contest that I encourage you to participate in!

What is the book design contest?

Design my upcoming book's dust jacket. If you have the best design, you'll win the $1,000 prize, plus you'll get credit on the dust jacket itself!

What's the book and what are the parameters?

The book is called The Hidden Europe. Read about it before participating. Smart designers will read the sample chapters to get a feel of the book before starting to design the cover.

The only parameters are that the cover should have:

  • The title: The Hidden Europe
  • The subtitle: What Eastern Europeans Can Teach Us
  • The author's name: Francis Tapon
  • Series name: Book 2 (or II) of the WanderLearn Series (see the cover of my first book, Hike Your Own Hike, for the Series logo which you can copy or improve upon).

What image(s) can I use on the cover?

Short answer: any image you want! Long answer: read this special page.

Is there a limit to how many covers I submit to the contest?

No. I encourage you to submit multiple concepts (try one with no photo, one with a flickr photo, and another with a pro photo). Try different fonts or color schemes. Just make sure each submission is sufficiently different from your other submissions (don't just change the font from size 40 to 35).

Who is my competition? Can I see the submissions?

Yes, go to the Submissions page.

What are the benefits of participating?

  1. No matter what happens, you'll have a book cover for your portfolio. (If you're a student, use my book cover as a school project and you may get paid for your homework!)
  2. I'll post your submission(s) on my website with a link to your website. I'll leave your link there until 2014 at least. That's valuable advertising!
  3. The 8 finalists will each receive an autographed copy of my book!
  4. You have a chance to win $1,000! Duh!

How is the winner picked?

I will pick the winner based in part (but not all) of my judgment on public input. It's crowdsourcing with autocratic veto power.

As designers submit their entries, I will display each candidate under the current $1,000 Book Cover Contest Submissions.

Once all the entires are in and on my website, I will lead a small committee to pick the top 8 finalists that will compete in the playoffs. We'll seed them in order of what we think are the best designs. So in the first round the #1 seed will compete against the #8 seed, and so on. With the 8 finalists picked, anyone on the planet will be able to vote for which four advance. The same process for the next rounds. The top half advances.Book contest playoff

We will have three voting rounds. The first round will eliminate half the covers. The final four will compete for the last two spots. The final round will pick the winner!

Remember: the voting is just a recommendation. I reserve the right to overrule any vote (it's my book after all). Of course, if one cover blows another cover away in the voting, I'd be foolish to not let it advance. However, if it's a tight race and my favorite cover loses, then I may overrule the top vote getter. It's unlikely that I do this, but public votes can skew results if some guy convinces his 5,000 Facebook friends to vote for his mediocre cover. You wouldn't want to lose to someone that way, right? That's why I will pick the winner and just use votes more as a recommendation.

Can I change something after I submit it?

Yes, please do! In fact, I encourage you to improve it in between the voting rounds! Why? Because it encourages you to submit multiple design ideas. For example, you might choose to submit 5 quick and dirty cover concepts and see which ones advance into the playoffs.

Let's say only one of your covers makes it to the playoffs. Then you can refine it and photoshop it to death so that it has the best chance to compete in the playoffs! It's just like a real sports competition: players/teams can make minor adjustments prior to the big game to improve their odds of winning! You can alter your original design as much as you want because you've earned your playoff spot.

What software should I use?

I don't really care. Most pros use Adobe's InDesign, but use what works for you. If you don't have professional graphic design software, consider using the free open source Scribus software. Look at the bottom of this list for more open source graphic design software options.

What tips do you have for making a winning cover?

I don't want to give too much direction, since I'd rather see designers think creatively and not be constrained by my ideas. So maybe skip this section.

However, for those who want some guidance, I think it would help if the cover:

  • Has a dash of humor or quirkiness to match my writing style (this element is what's missing from the current cover). The covers of Bill Bryson's funny travel books, for example, have that humorous element.
  • Has an image taken in Eastern Europe.
  • Has a cover that inspires you to go there (or at least to read about the region).
  • Looks good as a thumbnail and/or in black and white.
  • Makes you say, "Wow! I gotta to buy this book!"
  • Does NOT have a photo of me on the cover (I added this suggestion later in the contest)

Check out covers of Peter Mendelsund, my favorite book cover designer, and others on that site. Peter told me that he's too busy to do my cover, but I'm sure there's someone just as talented out there and is waiting to be discovered. You just need a break, right? This is your chance. Peter has an inspiring book cover design blog too that may give you more ideas. Or just look at this list of the Greatest Book Covers.

How much tweaking is allowed during the contest?

As much as you want. You’ve earned a spot in the playoffs and you can use that slot in any way you want. If you want to scrap the entire design and start all over, that’s fine. If you have different design ideas and you want to bounce them off me, email me. I’ll check email twice a week and I will be happy to give you feedback.

Although you're free to make more than one design, you only can use one design in the actual competition. If you're indifferent and want me to pick the best version, then that's cool.

If you’re using one of my photos and would like a high resolution version of it, send me an email.

What’s the schedule?

April 7, 2011: Top 8 Finalists are selected and announced on the submissions page.

April 16: Deadline for submitting any changes to your original design for the first playoff round. If you don’t submit any changes, I’ll just use your latest design.

April 17-20: Voting for playoffs.

April 21: I’ll consider the votes, but I may overrule them when I announce the Final Four. Those who are still in the competition are free to tweak their designs at this point.

April 28: Deadline for submitting any changes for second playoff round.

April 29-May 5: Voting for round 2 of the playoffs.

May 6: After considering the votes and input, I’ll pick the final two for the head-to-head final round. They can make adjustments.

May 14: Deadline for submitting any changes for the final.

May 15-May 22: Final voting round! This is it!

May 23: I announce the winner of the $1000 contest! The winner will get a partial payment immediately and then get the balance at the completion of the full dust jacket design, which will be due in the first week of June.

What are the dimensions and specifications?

The dimensions of the cover will be 5.5 x 8.5 inches. Therefore, each submission should one jpg that is 350 x 541 pixels. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. your submission ASAP!

How can I track the contest and each voting round?

Connect with me in the three ways I describe on my contact page. If you do that, you'll be sure to be 100% up to date.

What if I have questions?

I prefer that you post them on my forum so that I don't have to repeat myself via email. If you want to keep it between us for competitive reasons, then email me. Although you can ask me for my opinion of your work in progress, just don't do it everyday, please. :)

What is the final product?

I will give the winner $750 in exchange for the source files. To get the final $250, the winner must do the rest of the dust jacket (which includes the back layout, flaps, and spine). This part of the design process is relatively easy since you'll just have to carry over the theme/style to finish off the dust jacket. See the completed dust jacket of my first book below.

HYOH dust jacket