This is a continuation of my blog post from yesterday about why I love Crowdspring. I used Crowdspring about three months ago to get a cover design for my first novel (comes out on February 8th on Amazon and B&N). If you are a freelancer and you are looking for ways to use Crowdspring as a lead generation tool, below is my experience from the buyer perspective. (Disclaimer: I am only one buyer and have no idea what other buyers look for, so take these tips with a grain of salt.)
I can’t say enough about this. It is human nature to be biased toward earlier entries. While I don’t know how other buyers operate, I know that I paid more attention to the earlier entries than the later ones simply because I had enough time to provide feedback and work with those designers to refine their designs. Also, after about six or seven days of receiving entries, I opened up the Crowdspring voting features for the top designs I had at that point. Later designs were not included in the voting, which almost guaranteed their failure.
Feel free to go off-spec.
Most buyers are not designers–if they were, they wouldn’t be on Crowdspring, right? I didn’t actually know what I wanted when I posted my project, so I included things I thought I wanted in the details section. But ultimately, none of those details mattered–what I wanted was a cover that would sell a lot of books. (Note that the entry chosen did not meet half of my specs.)
Realize that buyers do not operate in a vacuum.
Many designers said the project was kitschy because I was putting the designs up for vote among a target audience. But does anyone think it’s good business to choose the winner based on my own design preferences? No matter what project you are working on, rest assured that your buyer is going to at least run a mini-focus group to get feedback on the designs. So your design needs to be universally appealing as well as appealing for the specific buyer and specific project.
Pay attention to the buyer’s feedback.
Important clues are hidden in both the rate at which it’s given, and the level of detail. After I opened the top entries to a vote, one emerged as a clear winner. There were about four days left in the contest and I worked heavily with that one designer, providing very specific feedback to help refine the design. During that period, I still scored other entries that came in, but I didn’t provide a ton of feedback for most of the entries because they couldn’t beat the one I already had. It’s entirely possible that one of these designs would have scored nominally higher or in the same range as the top design, but I didn’t have time to redo the voting, and anyway, my job is not to create the most fair contest possible. My job is to solve my problem of getting a book cover that sells books.
Manage your time well, and fight battles you can win.
After the voting, I also stopped leaving detailed comments for the designers that resubmitted revisions of their original designs. This should have been telling, but many designers still kept submitting 8-10 more revisions of the same design that I had already ruled out. The moral of the story is that sometimes a design just isn’t a winner and incremental improvements or tweaks is not going to suddenly make it one. (I totally empathize, because this is also very true in writing fiction. Sometimes your concept doesn’t work and you start over. I’ve done it before, after writing 25,000 words. It sucked.)
Don’t be a sore loser.
I was surprised by the rude comments I got after I awarded the winner. The difficult part was that the designers who left comments actually had some of the worst designs and did terrible in the focus group I ran. Don’t assume the buyer is stupid and just doesn’t get your “art.” The well-fed designer is the one who can create something consumers like, and it really damages your credibility when you produce a mediocre design and then complain about the person who won.