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

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Aug 21, 2014
Interesting story here: http://www.adweek.com/adfreak/meet-hero-designer-who-publicly-shamed-showtime-asking-him-work-free-159579

It's a little different, as it was a professional designer, not just a bunch of comic strip fans. But it reminded me of this.
Aug 17, 2014
Here's an idea (I'm not gonna do the art for you):

Aug 15, 2014
"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."

I argue that nobody would need a saying if it didn't happen in the first place.
People do judge everything (and everyone) by it's cover all the time.
Aug 14, 2014
Oh, for Pete's sake. He does not have a disturbed mind. My reaction was the same: "So, the reward for winning the contest is . . . that you'll allow me to give the work to you?"

No one has, at any point, expressed a moral objection to somebody giving you their work for free. The only point made has been that it's not exactly a tempting offer.

I'm nowhere near as wealthy as you, and I paid for my book cover design. It was done by a friend, and her real reward was the credit (apparently book covers are something of a coup for graphic artists), but I still passed her what I could afford. If it was good enough to put on my book, it was good enough to justify spending a few bucks. If it hadn't been worth the money, I wouldn't have put it on the cover.

Do the right thing and add a Benjamin to the bragging rights. You'll get more entries and they'll be from better artists, so you also benefit.
Aug 14, 2014

Me: Pay up, you cheapskate.
Scott: You have a mental problem.

Really, you can't understand why anybody would object to a hojillionaire like you asking for free work from your fans in order to add to your hojillions? No inkling at all?

Obviously there's no legal reason, and I don't really even have a moral objection. It's just really distasteful. It smacks of money-grubbing. Kind of like the pop-up ads on your web site.

Make all the money you want, but don't be surprised if, when you do it in an annoying way, people are annoyed.

[Your concern about two strangers doing something that both of them voluntarily decide they want to do is a sign of a disturbed mind, yes. -- Scott]
Aug 14, 2014

I for one never understood all the fuss over the cover design. From the reaction of people here it seems like you visually assaulted their eyes. Maybe the Orange was off. Maybe the cartoon nature sent the wrong impression. But who cares? It's not nearly the travesty that Phantom II seems to be sure it is.
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 14, 2014
In today's strip, shouldn't Dogbert be saying that Dilbert has *over*estimated his self-control? Or am I missing the joke?
Aug 14, 2014
Apparently your wife's name is a filthy word.
Aug 14, 2014
I read your book and liked it - the cover was a non-issue.

I have a question about the book. You mentioned that when car shopping you and !$%*!$ found a car that was "you". What kind of car was it?
Aug 14, 2014
Will you still take me to dinner if I don't win?
Aug 14, 2014
[Are you referring to the art that features money in a garbage can? What the hell kind of message is that? -- Scott]

Scott, you're missing the point. I read davywest's response, and he's correct, and you're wise to have retracted what you said about it.

As to my focus: I was saying that the professional look of his ten-minute cover was a hell of a lot better than your sophomoric leg and foot trying to crush some miniature guy who was running (gasp! gosh! gee!) toward a pile of money that could reasonably assumed to be (even though you didn't draw it in) in a waste basket. Not to mention the atrocious orange color. My God, Scott, even you, as the artist, have to recognize that your cover sucked.

I mean, really. Was that the best you could do? I'd love to have you tell us why you thought that cover (I was going to use more direct words but decided to refrain) was the optimum you could come up with. Do you think that if you were some dweeb looking for a self-help book, that cover would make you say, "Gee, this is it! This will help me become just as successful as Scott Adams!"

I recall an old Gahan Wilson cartoon in "Playboy" from many years ago. It showed a vision of Heaven. There were a bunch of guys standing around in torn, dirty robes, with three-day beards on them. They were standing on some scruffy clouds, with bent halos that looked like they were made of old coathangers over their heads. Behind them was a stone wall with pieces missing. Above it was individual letters spelling out "Heaven," but the last 'E' was broken off, and there was a beer can on the wall.

On the 'floor' was some empty booze bottles and a used book of matches. One of the guys in Heaven was saying, "Somehow I thought the whole thing would be a lot classier!"

That's what I thought when I saw your book's cover. To me, the book had some great information in it. But when I saw that cover, the first thing that came to mind was, "What the hell was he thinking?"

I know the book is your baby. In a way, you consider that to be your legacy. And I agree; it has some great ideas and a lot of new ways to look at the road to success. But Scott, you need to stop defending the indefensible. You screwed up on that cover. You know it and we know it. The best thing to do is to admit it and move on. And that's my final word on the matter.

p.s. if anyone would like to see the Gahan Wilson cartoon I referenced, here's a link: http://possiblyhelpfuladvice.com/?p=13420
+6 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 13, 2014
For those that don't know, and based solely on the nice rejection email Scott sent me, he is not allowed to use Dilbert characters on a non-Dilbert book.

Forewarned is forearmed.
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 13, 2014
Do we have to be Artists? Or experts at Photoshop?
I have what I think is a clever idea I can Describe, but Draw it? Not any better than a kindergarten finger paint, really...
But the concept would get My attention...
Aug 13, 2014
Does the art have to be crafted from scratch or can it be cut/paste, say Dilbert characters from different strips? Or is the hypothesis that the Dilbert-style art is the issue? Thanks.
Aug 13, 2014

[Let me break down the though process that went into that draft.]

People aren't going to spend a lot of time figuring out what cover art is supposed to mean. They're going to make snap judgements on the book based on it and move on or look through. Your attempt sent the wrong message to Scott and I found it a bit inappropriate. To get the point of it you had to linger on it longer than you should for cover art.

But it was still better than Scotts original.
Aug 13, 2014
I like the cover just fine.

I haven't read the book yet but my son read my copy and enjoyed it.
Aug 13, 2014
People buy a Scott Adams book because it is a book by Scott Adams. By the time the third Harry Potter novel came out nobody was commenting on the artwork. General browsing in a bookshop with the intention of maybe buying a book is where cover art works its magic. So I doubt your current sales are meager enough to notice any difference due to a change in the cover.

Remember, never judge a book by its cover, but if it looks as dull as ditch water the chances are it probably is.
Aug 13, 2014
I Kindled your book on the first day it was available. The book is great. I read it in bits and pieces, even going back and re-reading chapters on occasion. Funny thing is I planned on being one of your first reviewers on Amazon but haven't read it all yet! lol.

The cover-is-suppressing-sales notion is interesting. People buying the book may expect healthy doses of Dilbert or comedy, but the book isn't about either. It is about Scott Adams the author and how he succeeds in spite of having no goals. Perhaps a more serious book cover that appeals to people buying self-help books?

Interesting problem, that. People don't expect comedic artists to produce serious output. The name "Scott Adams" sets an expectation. It isn't the artwork, but the name on the cover.

Aug 12, 2014
[Are you referring to the art that features money in a garbage can? What the hell kind of message is that? -- Scott]

First off, I want to say thanks for noticing. Let me break down the though process that went into that draft.

Image: The front inner flap of the original cover has the statement "Everything you want out of life is in that bubbling vat of failure. The trick is to get the good stuff out." Since "bubbling vat o' goo" isn't gonna sell books, I went with money in the trash. The image evokes your theme of finding success in the failure. You're original art is dominated by the foot and leg, so the same message gets lost in the filler.

Color: Orange, at least in American culture, is a warning. Just about any other color would have produced better results. Dark green evokes a feeling of prosperity.

Title: Your title is long and wordy, and you have two of them. Keeping it simple, I wanted to sell on name recognition, with visual clues that direct the potential buyer to the Times quote. That little nugget sums up everything your book is about. The whitespace sets it off as the visually most important element.

Format: My design channels business management and self-help books. As others have mentioned, you didn't write a humor book, but the original jacket channels your humor books. By shifting the message to appeal to a different audience, I think you'll find more likely buyers.

[I retract my caustic response. I thought you were trying to be a dick (in a funny way) by saying that buying my book was like throwing money in the trash. I like your analysis of the problem but the suggested image screamed the wrong message to me. I appreciate your efforts and your thought process on this. -- Scott]
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Aug 12, 2014
Not sure if the cover design is for online ads/promotions only.

If it is online, you can do a dynamic image for the book (easy to do). I would add on to the previous post by DilgalLives by having a cover with a crowd of famous people and then merge a photo of the user onto the artwork. You can take their Facebook profile picture which is usually public and merge onto the photo with other famous people. That will get their attention.

If this is for printed book covers, you could have the same crowd of famous people and allow a user to upload a photo to your website which merges their photo onto the cover and either lets them download it or mail to them. That would greatly increase the value of the book for a parent who gives the book to their children as a gift (something I did).

The "gimmick" being you can be just as successful as these people and your photo belongs among them.
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