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99designs-logo-r_0What’s the best part about being a self-published author?

Well, that’s easy—selecting your book cover!

One of the biggest gripes among traditional published authors, aside from getting nominal royalty rates, receiving minimal visibility in bookstores, and waiting months (if not years) for your book to be published is that they have no control over one of the most important features of their book—the cover design.

For self-published authors, we can choose any cover design we like or, if we have enough talent, create our own.

One of my editors recommended a professional graphic artist who designed my current book cover.

My plan was to have him use a photograph of Alex Haley, which I had purchased from Associated Press (AP) granting me eBook commercial rights for five years. The artist, whom I had hired, did a splendid job, positinig the photograph, title, and my name on the cover.

He charged his standard fee for a single design. If I wanted another design, there would be an additional fee.

Six months later, when I began thinking about publishing a paperback edition of my eBook, I investigated the cost of publishing the same photograph on a hard cover. To my chagrin, AP charged about the same fee I had paid to have the image on my eBook cover.

Furthermore, I would have to pay my designer another fee just to create a back cover (since there wasn’t one prior).

And I would have to renew the rights to the photograph every five years.

At that point, I had all but given up on publishing a book I could actually hold in my hands and turn the page.

Then, it occurred to me while I was listening to my favorite podcast program on writing—Self-Publishing Podcast—that there was a plausible alternative.


The podcast is hosted by three indie authors—Sean Platt, Johnny B. Truant, and David Wright. It was their lone sponsor, 99 Designs, who caught my attention.

99 Designs is a San Francisco-based web company that provides a marketplace for graphic designers to showcase their work based on a business’ needs.

The designers compete in a contest (paid for by a business or an individual), and, whichever design is selected by the person(s) paying for the service, the winning artist receives two-thirds of the fee. 99 Designs takes the other third.

The best part about working with 99 Designs is that there is no obligation if you don’t like any of the designs. You’ll receive a full refund.

Although the concept seemed perfect for my situation, I was convinced when Wright said on Episode #109: 

“We’re not going to advertise anything on this site that we would not use….If you want a professional design, go to 99 Designs.”



At first, there were only a few and they weren’t eye-catching. I began to wonder if I had made a mistake. But by the following morning, scores had been submitted and there were enough quality designs in the lot that I knew a refund would not be necessary. By the end of the seven-day-period, I received a total of 145 submissions in the opening round! At least twenty of them I deemed “cover worthy” and those made it to the final round.

I haven’t chosen a cover yet, but I’ve setup an interest poll featuring my favorite designs. I want YOU to help me select the best design!


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