Debbie Pahls’ inspired cover “Wallpaper” is the winner of my novel slash social media experiment, Sweet by Design. Her design will be the cover of my new novel. She also wins an iPad, the better prize! Debbie Pahls is a freelance art director in Kansas City and my new best friend. Congratulations, Debbie.

Second place, and the iPod Shuffle goes to Dana Lambert’s exceptional cover design, entitled “Frame.”

In the words of celebrity judge, M.J. Rose:

“It was close between the frame and the wallpaper – wallpaper won. So integrated and creative… Most important, the elements work together to create a whole that is compelling, unusual and provocative… Nuanced and balanced. Well done! ”

I completely agree. As did many of you. Both Pahls and Lambert received the lion’s share of write-in votes. At one point or another I regarded each of the finalists as a personal favorite. Any one of them would make fabulous covers. Thank you all -readers, designers and the just plain curious. I could not have done it without you. Literally.

Pahls, on her cover:

“This typographical solution integrates the title of the book “Sweet by Design” and the name of the author as part of a damask wallpaper pattern. The sweet, flowery vintage feel of the wallpaper would fit in well in Audrey’s Chicago Gold Coast residence, and it is a nod to Jeffrey’s profession as an interior designer. This wall covering is beautiful and elegant, however it is a layer that is beginning to pucker and peel. It is starting to reveal the not-so-pretty wall that is it hiding behind it. This visual is symbolic of Jeffrey peeling away his layers to get to the truth and revealing his reality.”

What a week for yours truly…But like the man said, the show must go on! The “novel slash social media experiment,” Sweet by Design is finally over. It took a bit longer than I’d anticipated; reformatting the novel for WordPress was time-consuming. And since I was adding links and photography along with text the task grew even harder. But it was worth it.

In terms of the cover contest, it appears the added time allowed for some pretty terrific 11th hour creations, several ‘sweet’ designs submitted in the last 24 hours. Frankly, most of the covers were damn good -arguably better than my silly book! All 70 of them can be viewed on the blog and will remain there indefinitely. Thank you, each and every entrant, reader and observer for making my So-Me experiment a success. More people read at least part of SBD than the combined total readers for my previous two novels combined.

I’d also like to thank my co-judge, best-selling author and digital publishing pioneer, M.J. Rose. Her input was a key factor in helping me choose the winning entries.

This is how the judging worked. The panel was divided into three voting parts. M.J. had a third of the vote, me another third, and your voting comments represented the final third. Pretty simple. Through this process, we came up with eight finalists, one of which will be chosen for the cover of my novel, Sweet by Design as well as win the author’s unused iPad. The second place vote getter gets an iPod Shuffle. Those two winners will be announced next week. I promise!

Please visit Sweet by Design for designer credits, book chapters and other tidbits. Enough blather… Without further ado, here are the finalists:

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M.J. Rose is the international bestselling author of 11 novels, including Lip Service, The Memorist and The Hypnotist. The 2010 FoxTV series Past Life was based on her novel – The Reincarnationist.

She also co-authored Buzz Your Book. In addition, she is a founding member and board member of the International Thriller Writers and the founder of the first marketing company for authors: Authorbuzz.com. On top of all that, she runs the popular blog; Buzz, Balls & Hype.

Adding to these significant credentials, I’m delighted to report M.J. has agreed to help me choose a cover design for my new novel slash social media experiment, Sweet by Design.

As many of you know I’m publishing my third novel, Sweet by Design online, one or two chapters a week. In addition, I’m hosting a competition to find a cover for the inevitable paperback, the winner of which wins my Ipad. Fifty pretty terrific designs have already been submitted. Those designs, plus the novel and simple guidelines for entering the contest can all be found on the website.

Who better to help the crowd and me “source” a cover than Rose? In 1998, her Lip Service became the first e-book and the first self-published novel chosen by the Literary Guild/Doubleday Book Club as well as being the first e-book to go on to be published by a mainstream New York publishing house.

Since then, M.J. has become a successful author and a beacon to many other writers, particular those of us navigating the frontiers of new media. Furthermore, and adding to Rose’s unique qualifications for this brief, she was once the creative director at the renowned advertising agency Rosenfeld, Sirowitz and Lawson.

As of this post, the cover contest is about half way through. That means there’s still plenty of time for you to catch up on the novel and/or design a cover of your own. In the parlance of the publishing world, M.J. Rose is a stunning get. She and I look forward to seeing your handiwork. My Ipad awaits. Have at it!

So far fifty of you have submitted cover designs for my new novel slash social media project, Sweet by Design. Above are six recent ones in no particular order. All fifty are remarkable. I could not have imagined so many enchanting options for the cover of my novel. My appreciation for your creative efforts is only matched by my gratitude. Thank you.

Currently we are on Chapter Seventeen of the story. I believe about thirty chapters remain. When they have all been posted the contest will enter its final phase. A winner will be chosen and that designer will receive an Ipad. Second place gets an Ipod Shuffle. While only one design will become the cover for Sweet by Design, I’ll likely publish all of them as part of the book. For they have become part of the story –a really good part.

My only challenge –if that’s the right word- is that I’ve yet to find a “celebrity” judge to help me choose the cover. Right now the criteria for picking a winning design remains up to you and me. Your comments to the blog and via email will be weighted accordingly and, in turn, I will choose a few of my own personal favorites. From this shortlist a winner will be determined. How fun, though, at this point to have a renowned member of the literary or design community serving as judge.

To that end I’ve asked the literary editor of the Chicago Tribune, Julia Keller to participate. Among other honors, in 2005, Mrs. Keller won a Pulitzer Prize for feature writing. Her participation would truly be an honor.

Julia Keller

Alas, my query to this local luminary went unheeded. Perhaps my request landed atop her slush pile along with assorted press releases, manuscripts and promotional materials. That or my email got lost in her spam folder. More likely, I do not possess the necessary gravitas to merit a reply.

But it’s not too late, Julia! If by chance you come across this blog please do consider (or reconsider) my humble request. If it’s any incentive, I receive the Chicago Tribune every morning -the actual paper version! And I look forward to your reviews and stories. Shouldn’t that count for something? If not you, perhaps one of your editors would welcome the gig. I’d be grateful if you forwarded them this link.

Frankly, I’m not worried about finding a cool judge. It wouldn’t surprise me if this very blog post helps me procure one or two. If anyone reading has ideas or wants to help round out the jury, please contact me. Meantime, keep reading the novel and keep submitting your designs. At 50 to 1, the odds are ridiculously low for winning an Ipad.


Take me, I’m yours!

We’re a month into my “novel slash social media experiment,” Sweet by Design. So far the project has exceeded my expectations. More people have logged on to read the novel’s chapters, submit covers and leave comments than bought and/or read my other two books combined: Some 10,000 people in 25 days, several hundred following the story, with more new ones every day. And while that number won’t get me on any best-seller lists, for me it’s a dream come true.

Thank you.

You should know I’ve not made money on any of my books. Financially speaking they have all been disasters. Ask my accountant! But I don’t care. I’m not in it for that. As I’ve said in previous posts, I’m in it primarily for the audience. This, more than cash, more than anything, is what motivates me to write. I don’t believe much in diaries. I want readers. If a tree falls and no one is there to hear it…

The other thrilling aspect about ‘publishing’ my book via blog is how successful the social media component has been. Not only have I been able to add pictures and links but I can also adjust the story as I go –correcting errors, changing details, adding lines. None of that would have possible had I gone right to paper. Neither could I have done any of it without you. Just as I have become a publisher, you have become editors. This is the frontier for new authors, maybe all authors; I’m convinced of it.

Sweet by Design has 48 chapters, which means we are about a quarter the way through. By early to mid fall it will be completely published. At that point a cover design will be chosen, with my barely used, top-of-the-line Ipad going to the winner. As of this moment there are thirty covers posted. That means the odds are only 30 to 1 to win it all. Pretty good odds.

I’ve included 11 randomly chosen covers, above and below. It’s a lovely display. Done right crowd sourcing really does work. Moreover, it’s fair and it’s fun. As of now, I see no downside.

I hope by reading this and seeing the work that your compadres have done more of you will be motivated to participate. For those keeping up with the novel, chapter 11 arrives shortly.

Again, thank you.


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