Thanks for looking at my contest—I’m very excited about this project and look forward to a long-term relationship with the winner. This description is very lengthy because I want to be sure I convey all the thoughts I’ve got on the design and how it will be used, so bear with me, it’s all important to truly ‘getting it right’ for this contest.
This contest is for a front cover, back cover, and spine, but only the front cover needs to be submitted right now. I hold the trademark for the title of a book series: The Smartest Thing I Ever Did…™ These books are a little like the Chicken Soup series because they are collections of stories around a particular topic, but they offer ‘smart’ advice about that topic, not just a ‘warm, fuzzy’ feeling.
To give you an idea of the scope of this book series, here is a sampling of some of the titles we plan to release this year:
The Smartest Thing I Ever Did…™ for My Health
The Smartest Thing I Ever Did…™ with My Money
The Smartest Thing I Ever Did…™ as a Woman in Business
The Smartest Thing I Ever Did…™ as a New Mother
The Smartest Thing I Ever Did…™ for My Planet (good global citizen: green initiatives, volunteer work, etc.)
Before submitting anything to this contest, get familiar with how other, successful book series establish their brand by consistent use of text and graphic elements: take a look at ChickenSoupForTheSoul.com (click on Books & Other Products and see how that trademarked title is used on the web as well as on the books) and at ForDummies.com/store.html to see the elements that remain the same throughout that extensive series.
The For Dummies series never changes colors—their black and yellow are part of their brand and make their books immediately recognizable. In the Chicken Soup series, by contrast, the stylized main title remains the same, but the colors, photos, additional text, and graphic elements change from one title to the next. A cover template will not work for this project.
The Smartest Thing series needs to be recognizable immediately—every book has the same design, using a very stylized title and changing colors/photos/graphics for each title/topic. In addition to the stylized title being the same throughout the series, I also would like to have a graphic element that remains the same throughout, such as a light bulb (to represent a bright idea/smart idea).
I came up with the light bulb idea partly because I’d like to use a light bulb inside the book to make little tips stand out from the stories (it would be large enough to hold maybe one long sentence), so it would make sense to also have it be a part of the cover and thus, part of the branding for the series.
If you look at this website, you should see a light bulb with a tree in it and the same lightbulb with a globe in it: http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/i…+bulb&ex=1 I thought that maybe using this kind of idea might work for these books by putting a little graphic inside the bulb that’s related to the book’s topic (a dollar sign for all money-related titles in the series, a silhouette of a mom/dad/child for all family/parenting-related titles, to help the different categories of titles relate to each other. Hopefully you get my drift). Here are the five major categories that future books in this series will fall under: money, family/relationships, health/self, hobbies/sports, careers/business.
The title words, The Smartest Thing I Ever Did…™ must demonstrate a feeling of ‘smart’ness and sharing (one friend sharing advice with another) as well as a little fun (but not cartoony silliness). The title words will be used sort of like a logo by itself in some places on the web and in print.
I don’t think that just text will ‘cut it’ for this title, though. One idea I had (and I am in no way a designer!) was that the letter ‘i’ in the word ‘Thing’ could maybe be dotted with a light bulb, or maybe the letter would be a (tall skinny) person with a light bulb over their head. And/or maybe the word Smartest could be somehow different than the rest of the text and very powerful—that’s for a designer to figure out, not someone like me.
The words must be clearly visible on the cover no matter what size the cover is (a thumbnail on the web or in a print catalog, or full size on the book or a size in between like on a postcard or flyer). I figure that the words ‘Smartest Thing’ should be the largest, then the words ‘I Ever Did’ could be smaller, but not so small as to get lost—they’re important since the title is a complete phrase. The word ‘the’ at the beginning could, of course, be pretty small.
The words ‘the smartest thing I ever did…™ will, of course, be most prominent on every cover in the series. The words that follow the dots (…as a New Mother or …with My Money, for instance) are what I will call subtitle words. Those words obviously need to be prominent as well, but I don’t necessarily see them being the same font or style as the main title. The main title words will be used alone in some places on the web and in catalogs, but the subtitle words could be in a separate location on the cover and maybe in a casual font.
Take a look again under Books & Products on the Chicken Soup site: the fifth cover under New Books does not do a good job of displaying the title (the subtitle words can hardly be seen at the size and are probably more difficult to read than they should be even at full size). In general, I like the way the Chicken Soup subtitle words are a bit different on each cover and stand out. I’m hoping for something that helps convey the topic for each book (like, maybe the …as a New Mother subtitle would be a little flowy or look like handwriting whereas the subtitle …for My Career would be a more businesslike font).
Because this cover is for the first book in an entire series, it will be a little different than all future covers. This first book is essentially a sampler book, covering four topics, divided into four sections: Health, Money, Family, Career. If that light bulb idea of putting a different graphic inside the bulb for different categories of topics is what you feel would work for the series, maybe this first sampler book would have four light bulbs on it, each with its own topic-related image in it…then future, single-topic books would repeat the light bulb that fits its category.
Publishing executives have called this title “irresistible” so it really needs to stand out and be powerful, so no one can resist picking it up when they see if on a shelf or table. Take a look at the file I attached here. It is my non-designer's attempt at a simple website. You'll see what I did with the letter 'i' in the word 'thing' and you'll also see a sample book cover--it's useful only in that it looks like a real product is in the works…but it's NOT a good book cover. For one, the only part of the title that’s visible are the two words ‘smartest thing’; the rest of the title is so tiny it can’t be seen, so the phrase ‘the smartest thing I ever did’ is lost. Also, the cover is nice and clean (which I like—anything too ‘busy’ won’t be a winner), but it has been described as ‘cold’, ‘lacks imagination and pizzazz,’ and ‘too corporate.’ This cover certainly doesn’t help make the book irresistible to pick up…but the new cover from this contest needs to do that!
Something additional to keep in mind on this front cover is that, for custom print runs of the books, we may need to place a company logo on there someplace. So the cover should have a spot where a logo of, let’s say, no more than 1.5” x 1.5” could be placed without messing up the overall design…but, on the other hand, I don’t want a big, ugly blank spot so all the books printed *without* a logo look silly and incomplete.
The trim size for this book series is 5.5" x 8.5". Full bleeds are fine.
Any photos or illustrations used (including the light bulb) must be included with the work provided at the end of the project and must transfer to me the right to use them online and in print for an unlimited number of impressions.
Although I don’t have plans to fiddle with these covers myself, I would prefer that they be created in Adobe Creative Suite 5.5 since we will be getting a copy of that this year. We’ll be using it for e-publishing, mainly, but I suppose if we had a ‘cover emergency’, it would be nice to have the files in a format we could use to tweak something small at the eleventh hour, if necessary.
Once the final cover is approved, I will need a straight-on shot of it (like the ugly covers on my website) as well as a 3D image for use online (possibly at different resolutions and in different sizes, if necessary).
This is a work for hire project. Upon contest end and final tweaking of the front, back, and spine, I will need to have all files related to the cover, including individual elements in separate files such as the stylized title, graphics, fonts, photos, layering, etc. If my printer has any problem reading or using the files or doesn’t get the print quality necessary from them, the winning designer will include any tweaking or updating necessary to get a high-quality final product in print. These books may also be released as e-books, so the cover images must be in a format that’s usable in that area as well.
For the contest, I would love to see submissions of not only a cover for the sampler book (covering four topics) but also one for a single-topic book, so I can see how you intend to vary the elements to create a recognizable series.
For the right designer, this contest is the beginning of a long-term relationship, as we’ve got several single-topic titles planned for release this year and many more next year and beyond (and an entirely new series is on the back burner). If this first cover design is carefully planned out, cranking out future book covers should be easy—color change, light bulb image change (one of the five categories I listed above), photo or graphic change to fit the topic, and a font change for the subtitle. Be thinking about how much you would charge for each new cover, because I’ll be asking finalists for this number near the end of the contest.
Thank you for reading this far! If you read all of this, I hope you have a very good understanding of what I’m looking for and can submit designs that will be strong contenders. If you have any questions, though, please don’t hesitate to ask, as I don’t want anyone wasting time going off in the wrong direction if I wasn’t clear about something. Thanks, again—I look forward to seeing your designs!