Indie Rambles #3 – Crowd Sourcing my Cover

from EA (1)With just this picture for inspiration and the line: create a provocative cover for a modern Mata Hari who loves Venice, I initiated a contest on  the 99designs website for my book cover. The results have been amazing.

How it Works

Stage 1 – The Preliminary Round (4 days)

For the first four days anyone could post a design on the site. I was encouraged to research some of their designers and send them invitations as well. I did that and I tweeted and FBd about my contest.

Here’s what I really liked about the system. If I didn’t like any of the designs I could have walked away after the four days and my money would have been refunded.

But holy cow they were awesome. I had 117 entries. Many of the artists initiated conversations with me asking me what I liked and what I didn’t like about their designs, asking for more direction. The dialogue…the artwork was amazing.

Stage 2 – The Final Round (3 days)

This is the stage I’m in now. I could have chosen six finalists, but I chose four. Their designs are, yes I have to say it again, amazing. They haven’t read my book, but they capture my heroine in their artwork. At this point I have three days to work with the finalists and choose a winner. You can view this stage and comment on it


I’ve set up a poll on the site, but I’d also love comments here on my blog or on my personal email: They say you can’t choose a book by it’s cover, but we all know how important they are.

My dilemma right now is that I like the complicated pictures saturated with symbolism, but I question whether they are as effective in a thumbnail as a simpler design. And we all know how important those thumbnails are on Amazon. I’d love to know what you think.

What’s next? I’ll talk about that later. Right now I have to pick a design. I feel like I’m choosing my future?

An interesting process.



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Author: Jo-Ann Carson

About Jo-Ann Carson Where magic happens … Reports of Jo-Ann Carson’s death on a Gulf Island are greatly exaggerated or, at the very least, premature. The eclectic crew of ghosts that haunt her head spill onto the page in two series: The Gambling Ghosts and The Ghost & Abby Mysteries. A Viking with existential issues, a broken hearted Highlander, a Casanova man-witch and a Pirate with a secret are just a few of the males her strong heroines encounter in tales of fantasy, adventure and romance. A firm believer in the magic of our everyday lives, Jo-Ann loves watching sunrises, walking beaches near her home in the Pacific Northwest and reading by the fire. You can visit her on social media: Website * Blog * Twitter * Facebook

29 thoughts on “Indie Rambles #3 – Crowd Sourcing my Cover”

  1. As you say, covers are important. I personally like Tania, #2901 but that’s just my opinion. Crowd sourcing is an interesting and innovative way of doing your covers and hopefully opens up opportunities for up and coming designers.


    1. Thanks Pat
      It’s a slick process. Reminds me a bit of the romance writing contests. Thanks for your feedback. I really appreciate it.


  2. #93 #76 Both stand out for me 🙂
    I’d love the other top pick, but the hand is distracting to the point that I was trying to put my fingers in that position and it’s very awkward/hard to do 🙂 ….

    Also, I agree wholeheartedly that thumbnail clarity is EXTREMELY important. And I don’t mean the picture.

    Your name critical for the future. When someone reads one book and loves it, they need to be able to find the next book easily. Make your name a big deal, because it IS a big deal 🙂

    I recently rebranded my books. I spent hours on Amazon looking at thumbnails and figuring out what seemed to work best, and author name recognition shows. Have a look at Sandra Brown, Tess Gerritsen, Tami Hoag, JD Robb, Allison Brennon …. etc

    When I cruise through thumbnails and see an author name that pops out like the above mentioned, I PRESUME they are someone. I take a look at the book. If I have to search for the author name, it makes me think they’re not important. Sounds harsh, but in our world of instant gratification, that first glance may be all you get.

    So what I’m saying is, you’re somebody. Make people sit up and take notice …. my 2 cents 🙂

    Getting off my soap-box now ….

    I love this cover process you went through …. a VERY cool and smart idea! Kudos 😀


    1. Kathryn Jane
      Thanks so much for your sage advice. I’ve made the comment to several of the designers to make my name larger, but I don’t think they get it, like you get it. I’ll give them more feedback.
      Thanks for your comments. You rock.


    2. Jo Ann, these are great. Thanks for sharing. What a wonderful option for covers.
      I’m with Kathryn Jane. While the full size cover stood out, the fingers distracted me on the thumbnails where she’s holding the mask. And #77 looked upside down and confused me. #76 and then #93 where my faves for dual purpose because the thumbnails drawn you in. Good luck making a tough decision


      1. Hi Tracy
        Another KODer. This is awesome.
        The fingers bother me too, especially since I don’t think my heroine’s would look like that. I’ve written down your #93 preference. The one I think of as the golden lady. It’s very popular.
        Thanks so much for taking the time to consider my covers and comment.
        You rock.
        Happy writing


  3. Really cool, Joann. I gravitated immediately to #93 because of the simplicity and the gold background, but then I took another look and I like #76 better, I think.The background could be lightened maybe? from the smoky gray? And you’d still get the contrast with the face?


  4. Fascinating. Personally, I enjoy covers that don’t have too much business/complicated designs because when they shrink to thumbnail size -nothing is recognizable. As you have noted.
    Also, if you’re heading into a series – ideally, you want the same cover artist to proceed with the other titles you have planned -that way you are creating your ‘brand’.
    When I was working with my cover designer -the first time I saw how large my name was, I almost fell over. I felt like I didn’t deserve it somehow. I closed my eyes and nodded ‘Yes” and then emailed my cover artist before I changed my mind. It was an exhausting experience. But I’m pleased with how it worked out.
    I enjoyed #59 -but I think the tendril of hair is too close to her mouth. I love the tones of gold because they remind me of opulence and Venice.
    Bravo for jumping in with both feet. All of this is a learning experience! Whatever you choose, you want to be thrilled with and want to look at it and savour it, every day.


    1. Hi Jodie
      You nailed it. I was wondering why we all like the golden girl picture. I think it is the opulence suggested by the warm color.
      I keep asking for my name to get bigger. One designer is working hard on that.
      I do feel like I’ve jumped in with both feet and the currents are pulling me in all sorts of interesting directions.
      I’m so lucky to have friends like you who have gone through this and are willing to explain things to me. I so appreciate your comments Jodie. You rock.
      Thank you for stopping by.
      Happy Writing


  5. Hi Jo-Ann. Great looking covers and such an interesting process! I like best # 128, &# 76. Both are clear on my iPhone (I’m on the road) name & picture. I find #4 and #74 confusing, can’t understand the picture and your name and title aren’t clear and legible.
    Just my 2 cents 🙂


    1. Hi Judy
      I’m sooo glad you checked in and told me how things look on an iphone. PJ and I are beginning to favor a revised version of 128 (with a bigger name) because it works so well in a thumbprint. Just as we were discussing it, your comment came through, saying the same thing we were saying. Awesome.
      Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting.
      hugs and happy writing


    1. Hi Anna
      I like #76 too, but my concern with that one is that it suggests carnivale, and the story doesn’t take place then. It is a gorgeous picture. I’m still mulling them all over in my mind.
      Thanks so much for stopping by and giving me feedback.
      You rock!


  6. #59 would be my first choice. It caught my eye immediately, and I had to go back to the others. The clean look should show well as a thumbnail. It’s striking. But there are other good ones too–some talented designers!


    1. Hi Ellis
      I agree, they are talented designers. And I had at one point thought I’d make my own cover. . Thanks so much for taking the time to comment and let me know your reaction to the pictures. I’ve jotted down your choice.
      Best Wishes


  7. I like #103 & 46 as first choices, then I like #83 and #135 second. Jo-Ann, this is awesome. I’m going to have to give this a try for one of my next novels or swag. Thanks for sharing. C.C. Koen- KOD member.


    1. Hi CC
      Love my Kiss of Death sisters. Blood and passion rule.
      I highly recommend this process. You can pull out during the first stage, so you’re not paying unless you see something you like. Swag! That sounds cool.
      Thank you for letting me know which ones you like. I’ve written it down.
      I’m still thinking. The jury in my head is out:)
      and happy writing


  8. Jo-Ann, these covers are amazing! What a great idea. For me, I love #74 (but with a green eye–the green eye really pops). With the mask half on, half off, it says so much more than simply carnival (meaning it doesn’t look, at least to me, like it’s about carnival). There’s so much mystery and intrigue behind it. And it’s just plain gorgeous. If you’re concerned about using a mask, then I think #132/133 would be an excellent choice. I think it also reflects your book well, too. I love the angle of the hat (I think she’s wearing a hat?) over her face. Looks very noir! And I think Jodie made a good point, if you’re planning on a series, you’ll probably want to use the same cover artist. So make sure it’s someone whose work you like, not just that one cover. Best of luck making such a difficult decision. 🙂


    1. Hi Ros
      Love your comments. I fell in love with the image of the woman taking off the mask, but having an imprint left on her face. It captures the essence of the real danger my spy heroine faces, her real internal conflict. But I’m worried it’s too busy in the thumbnail. Still thinking about all of them.
      Thanks so much for stopping by and giving me your opinion. The artists have all been great to work with, trying to modify their designs as I request. I keep saying “bigger” for my name, and I think we’re getting there. lol. They are so talented, it humbles me.
      It is a difficult decision. Thanks dear friend for your help.
      Happy writing


  9. I like the green eyes and intricacy of #141 but # 148 would likely be easier to see in a thumbprint. Also I like the script of the title in 148. What a difficult decision.


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