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Many of you told me that the uninspired artwork I did for the cover of my book How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big was suppressing sales. You might be right. No one ever accused me of talent in that department. Here was my cover art:



So partly for fun, partly as an experiment, and partly to improve the product, I thought I would invite all interested parties to submit a better cover design for the upcoming soft cover release.

Here's how this will work.

Before September 5th, design a new cover, using the existing title, and email the jpeg or a download link to me at Dilbertcartoonist@gmail.com.

My publisher and I will pick some of the best submissions and run Twitter ads using different cover designs to see if one produces measurably better sales than the others. If any design outperforms my original cover, and the other submissions we test, we'll use it for the softcover.

If your design is the winner, you will receive praise in my blog, attention for yourself and whatever business you wish to promote, ego gratification, bragging rights, a credit on the book jacket, increased happiness from the thrill of victory, and in all likelihood a temporary boost in your sex life. And if you find yourself anywhere near San Francisco, I'll take you to dinner. Those last two items are not related.

I expect to show all of the better entries in this blog as well. So let me know what kind of credit line you would like with it. Feel free to include a link to your website.

Keep in mind that I don't believe a change in the cover will improve sales. If we show that it does, one has to wonder why the entire publishing industry hasn't yet figured out that testing cover designs matters. Perhaps it all goes back to the old saying that you shouldn't judge a book by its cover. I think the science would support the idea that a saying so accepted and ingrained could blind even professionals to the idea that cover design drives sales.

But we will find out if the cover design matters, and that's the fun part. I predict that no alternative cover will outperform my original by a meaningful margin. This isn't a controlled experiment, but I would expect to see a noticeable difference if any is to be found.

Here are the rules:

Dimensions of art: Trim size is 5 ½ x 8 7/16. There is a 0.125 inch bleed on each side for printing.

Format: jpeg file, high resolution. (The original art should be at least 300 dpi). CMYK (not RBG)

Must include all copy:

            Title: How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big

            Subtitle: Kind of the Story of My Life

            Author: Scott Adams

            Burst: New York Times Bestseller

            Quote: "Some of the simplest, most profound advice." - TIME Magazine

            Submit to: Dilbertcartoonist@gmail.com

            Deadline: September 5th, Midnight PST

           Key theme: Readers of the book have most enjoyed the "systems versus goals" idea, but you are not          
           required to match your art to that concept.

          Use: You agree to sign over to my publisher all rights to the artwork.

         Winner Selected: The Twitter ads will end by September 19th (ish). If any of the entries beat my
         original cover by a meaningful margin I will announce the winner in this blog soon after.

-----

I'll probably post the better submissions on this blog for you to render your opinions before I pick the best of the best for the Twitter test. That way all of you can be part of the process if you like.This should be fun and interesting.

I'll be fascinated to see how much the cover art influences consumer behavior.

_________________________________

Scott Adams
Co-founder of CalendarTree.com
Author of this book


 
Rank Up Rank Down Votes:  +29
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+15 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 12, 2014
I'm a straight male in a committed monogamous relationship, but if the dinner goes well I'm willing to see what happens...
 
 
+5 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 12, 2014
simply, this:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mj5IV23g-fE
 
 
Aug 12, 2014
I'm surprised to hear myself saying this, but Scott's original cover has kinda grown on me.
 
 
Aug 12, 2014
[That's what makes this interesting. Common sense plus the experience of every other industry says the cover design should make a big difference. But the publishing industry is full of brilliant people with decades of experience, so how could so many people be wrong about such a simple question? It's a mystery we might soon solve. -- Scott]

I think that's because books, magazines, etc are still relatively cheap, particularly for paperbacks. You can be a little more risky on them for one.

Also because people can just open it up and partake in the entertainment of the product at the store, your standards can be lower. You just need a cover good enough to get someone attention. Most likely they won't even see that much when they pick it up. They consumer is just going to see the name of the book an the author first in most cases.

In that kind of situation, the cover of the book just has to be good enough to get someone to open it up. Also since this particular book is non-fiction, I'd say the requirement for a good cover is a little lower. The sci-fi and fantasy books seem to have the best looking covers, but I think there's a bit more reasons for that.

Online shopping is a bit of a wash, you can't read the whole book, but chances are you might be able to find a sample chapter at least with a little research. So the move to more and more digital publishing may require the book industry to improve covers.
 
 
Aug 12, 2014
What happens when a user buys a book based on an ad that has one of these trial covers, but then doesn't get the cover they ordered?

Even if one cover does generate a bigger number of sales, are you going to make them wait for their book while you print the winning cover, or are you going to just send them the existing covered book?

And no t being from the US, I dont know the answer to this, but is that legal? Or is it false advertising? you are purposely changing the cover to attract customers, but then not giving them the cover that drew them to your product in the first place.

And if its legal, is it ethical?

 
 
Aug 12, 2014
p.s. I don't know art, but I know what I like. I think daveywest's ten-second attempt is at least an order of magnitude above the current cover. You also may have hit upon something publishers might try: have a book cover contest where the winner, voted by the public, gets credit for the artwork.

[Are you referring to the art that features money in a garbage can? What the hell kind of message is that? -- Scott]
 
 
Aug 12, 2014
I'm not an artist, so I can't help with the redesign. I do agree that the cover sucks, though, and I also think the poor cover had an impact on the book's sales.

My anecdotal experience is that a book's cover does tell you something about the book. For one thing, it tells you how much the publisher invested in cover art, which indirectly tells you how much faith the publisher has in the book. If the cover art is schlocky, then your first impression is that the book is that it's a filler; something second-rate the publisher took a chance on but isn't really giving much hope to. But even with schlocky art you can generally tell what the genre is.

Now, let's look at your book. Cover art: sophomoric. Color: ghastly. Genre: indeterminate. Author: Scott Adams, creater of "Dilbert."

Oh, so it's a comedy book. Now, interested, I read the splash in the inside front cover. Oh, wait, it's a self-help book. Huh? How to fail so you can succeed??? Where are the cute cartoon characters? Where's the biting wit? He's being SERIOUS? No way. Time to move on.

I am looking down at the cover of what I still consider to be your best book: "The Dilbert Principle." Eye-catching basic colors: red, white, blue, with silver and black (obviously an homage to the Oakland Raiders) thrown in. Cute cartoon characters. Clearly-defined genre in line with your successful cartooning and business-lampooning career.

Splash inside cover? WOW!!!! "Does your boss confuse his laptop with an Etch-A-Sketch (tm)?" "Are idiots promoted because they have good hair?" YOU GOT ME!!! I'M THERE!!!!

I'm sure you'll recall, Scott. although your younger readers may not, your 1998 meeting with Logitech where you called yourself Ray Mebert (Me-bert, like Dog-bert and Rat-bert, of course, although pronounced "Me-Bare" in the French way). You proceeded to come up with the most ridiculous statements you could find to see if you could get the management team to buy into them. Including homilies like: "I try not to become too familiar with companies I'm consulting for. . . I find that, otherwise, generic solutions might not fit as well."

After establishing your bona-fides as the world's worst management consultant, you go on to write a book telling people that the best way to succeed is to fail at everything in the hopes that what you learn will make it so that someday they'll succeed? Really? Why do I hear the ghost of Andy Kaufman laughing in the background?

Look, Scott, I understand that everyone's a critic. You're a published book author; I'm not. But having read the book, my criticism is that it was too much about you, and not enough about the principles you were espousing. Moreover, the only person you could point to who had sucessfully used your 'system versus goals' approach was you. That's rather a small sample size to convince the rest of the world to buy into your method.

I know your book was a labor of love, and I think it has a lot of merit. I hope you won't take my criticism the wrong way, because I can tell you, I wish someone to whom I had submitted my novel would take the time to do the same thing. So please take this in the spirit in which it's meant: constructive and sincere.

And good luck with the new cover art. Sorry I have to miss the dinner with you, too.
 
 
+10 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 12, 2014
@NerdieMcSweatervest

[I have no issue with the designer signing over all rights, but I do have a problem with you being too cheap to pay cold hard cash for professional work. Seriously, pay up if you use somebody's work to help boost sales of your book. Dinner does not count.]

I agree that Scotts reward here doesn't seem too enticing, but a few things you have to keep in mind here

A) Scott doesn't believe this will work. Hes doing this as an experiment.
B) What gave you the idea that hes expecting professional work from us?
C) Hes gotten free work from us before. If I were him Id take that as a sign that I could expect free work from my fans again and that that was OK.
 
 
Aug 12, 2014
I have no issue with the designer signing over all rights, but I do have a problem with you being too cheap to pay cold hard cash for professional work. Seriously, pay up if you use somebody's work to help boost sales of your book. Dinner does not count.

[Why do you have a problem with anything that two citizens in a free country agree to do? That sounds like a mental problem. -- Scott]
 
 
Aug 12, 2014
How about Armstrong posing beside the American flag on the Moon, except he's not wearing pants?

 
 
Aug 12, 2014
[Perhaps another way to look at it is: what book have our readers purchased (or picked up in the book store...) BECAUSE it had a great cover?]

The cover art influences my decision to pick up a book or not all the time. Other things influence my decision to look through/buy the book (do I know the author, does the title/summary make it look interesting, etc.) but the cover art is definitely part of the equation. As for the counterexamples you mention, its possible that Scotts cover art here is worse than those. Worse than no cover art whatsoever.
 
 
Aug 12, 2014
Who Moved My Cheese: worst cover art ever one of the biggest selling titles of the 90's.
How to Win Friend and Influence People: cover is just words yet a monumental best seller.
Holy Bible: cover art of two words. Worst marketing team ever. Best selling book of all time.

Conclusion: covers don't matter. Marketing and content matters.

(Also, my wife works in publishing and essentially says they do no A/B testing of any of their book. They vote internally on the cover that "people think will do well and that's good enough").

I would theorize that a cover only need be not patently offensive, otherwise it's a rounding error of influence.

Perhaps another way to look at it is: what book have our readers purchased (or picked up in the book store...) BECAUSE it had a great cover?

[The question is not whether anyone will buy a book with a bad cover, it is whether more people will buy it with a good cover. If you take the Bible out of the mix, for obvious reasons, we can't answer whether the Cheese book, for example, might have done 10% better with a more compelling cover. And one might argue that A-B testing has taught us that we can't tell a good cover by looking at it, only by testing it. So in fact the Cheese book might have a cosmetically objectionable cover that actually performs well. -- Scott]
 
 
+14 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 12, 2014
Here's my 10-second effort. https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B8iUGslSrFtEaVd5TWJiT1czUG8/edit?usp=sharing
 
 
Aug 12, 2014
Didn't we do this one with titles? I think re-working the title might have more effect. I was thinking along the lines of "it's not what you do, it's how you do it".

/j

[I agree that the title might be problematic, but changing it is impractical at this stage. A cover change is easy because the softcover can be different without hurting anything in place. -- Scott]

 
 
Aug 12, 2014
"Keep in mind that I don't believe a change in the cover will improve sales. If we show that it does, one has to wonder why the entire publishing industry hasn't yet figured out that testing cover designs matters."

The gaming industry is 180 degrees off of this. They are actually very critical and selective about what goes on the covers of their games. Part of it is due to the fact that if you are just browsing, maybe as a gift, and don't know about the game, that cover is all you have to go on. It's not like you can play the game for yourself. Also non-gamers don't know about the better or worse game review sites so they probably aren't going to search for it online or check out metacritic.

[That's what makes this interesting. Common sense plus the experience of every other industry says the cover design should make a big difference. But the publishing industry is full of brilliant people with decades of experience, so how could so many people be wrong about such a simple question? It's a mystery we might soon solve. -- Scott]
 
 
Aug 12, 2014
Well, right now, I'd guess that a Robin Williams portrait on the cover would make a difference ...
 
 
Aug 12, 2014
[What rights would you expect to keep in the case of designing a book cover for a publisher? (Keep in mind that a publisher would always be happy to let you use the design for your portfolio, website, etc. because it is more free advertising.) -- Scott]

Well look at it this way - can I publish a book of Dilbert cartoons? I won't pay you any royalties but it would be free advertising for you.

No, thought not.

[You are comparing an entire book to a cover of a book. And you are comparing an internationally recognized brand to an independent graphic artist who might appreciate some attention. And on top of that, I have always done massive amounts of "free" work for the benefit of publicity and attention. Your question is deeply uninformed. -- Scott]
 
 
Aug 12, 2014
You should get that guy that just did guest artwork for Pearls Before Swine to do your cover. I'll bet that would increase sales.

[Probably so. -- Scott]
 
 
Aug 12, 2014
"Use: You agree to sign over to my publisher all rights to the artwork."
And for no remuneration?
No thanks.
(Speaking as a graphic designer.)

[What rights would you expect to keep in the case of designing a book cover for a publisher? (Keep in mind that a publisher would always be happy to let you use the design for your portfolio, website, etc. because it is more free advertising.) -- Scott]
 
 
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 12, 2014
> You agree to sign over to my publisher all rights to the artwork.

Question: it is clear that by "all rights" your publisher would be allowed to use the artwork commercially without owing the artist any money. However, would the artist keep their rights to reuse it as they see fit (ie, using it in a portfolio, making prints of the artwork, etc), or would they relinquish *all* rights to it for *any* kind of use?

[Do you imagine the publisher would object to the book cover getting wider distribution? It is only an issue I would think if the same art is used in a way that might cause confusion with the brand or product. -- Scott]
 
 
 
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