Help Wanted: Designer for my next book

(This post has been entirely revised and updated – you should go here)

I’m looking to hire someone to play a unique role in my next book: The Designer.

The plan is to self-publish a collection of my best writings to date, from essays, to blog posts, to magazine articles. But the goal is to avoid the traps of most “blog posts in a bundle” books – which usually stink. They have a reputation for not being well designed, edited, or curated, to work as a book. We intend to blow those perception to smithereens.

I’ve hired an awesome editor as the first key member of the team. Now it’s time for the next key member: the designer.

The role: A book is a kind of user experience, starting with the cover, but extending to every font, every layout, every chunk of whitespace. Typically designers come in late, are forced to work quickly and without much input – it’s no wonder most books are so ugly, so sad, so unloved. This role will different. You’ll be involved early. You’ll have power and influence over what’s in the book, not just how it looks. There will be no bureaucracy: it’s just me, you, Krista (editor) and a few other hand-picked people we choose.

Here are the responsibilities:

  • Drive the visual design and user experience of the book
  • Have primary authority over the cover design, typography, layout and interior choices
  • Manage the challenges of print and e-book (kindle/pdf) design
  • Contribute to the vision for the book itself
  • Suggest and provoke me to write new material
  • Collaborate with me, Krista and other team members
  • Use the readers of to contribute ideas and feedback

Here are the rewards:

  • More influence over a book’s design than you will ever have
  • The potential to do great work with great people
  • Redefine the contribution of design to modern book publishing
  • If you’re a fan, you’ll get a unique opportunity to define one of my books
  • This is currently not a paid role. If this offends you, I understand – don’t apply. I am convinced the opportunities on this project outweigh what you’d expect to be paid for a similiar role on a lame project. (See On working for free for a longer explanation)
  • You will be paid a flat fee – it won’t be much but it will be something.
  • I’m considering a bonus structure for team members based on how well the book does (perhaps something when it breaks even, and something else if it makes a 10% or more profit). But I can’t promise anything at this point.

Requirements (read them all – it’s a test):

  • You are a visual design god/goddess (in the opinion of people other than your Mom and your cat)
  • You enjoy collaboration with smart, fun people – good feedback inspires you
  • You love books
  • You are really fucking smart
  • You are really fucking funny/sarcastic
  • You are not offended by the word fuck
  • You are organized, self-directed, and can lead a project with many parts
  • You’ve always wanted to contribute to a beautiful, well-crafted, book that defies convention in favor of smart, clever ideas for book design
  • You are psyched about this for reasons other than money
  • Bonus points for being a fan, or being familiar with my writings


1. Why aren’t you (Scott) working with O’Reilly Media again?

The main reason is to do an experiment – what happens if I/we have control over the entire process? I’m sure I’ll learn things about writing books I couldn’t learn any other way. What would happen if I/we didn’t need anyone’s approval for anything? I want to find out.

2. How will you self-publish it?

There are great options these days that make self-publishing transparent to readers – fans can buy the book via amazon or kindle and never know. Details TBD by the editor/curator (Krista).

3. When does this start?

It’s already moving. Krista and I are working on outlines. The train is moving and picking up speed.

To Apply:

  1. Email me: info at scottberkun dot com
  2. With the subject: I kick ass at design
  3. Must include: a link to your design portfolio, your favorite cartoon character, and who in the world you’d most like to see naked
  4. Deadline Fri: November 5th

14 Responses to “Help Wanted: Designer for my next book”

  1. Michelle M

    Please check your inbox. My email is the one that smells the best! That’s how good my super powers as a designer are! LOL!

    1. Scott Berkun

      Ah ha – I was wondering what smelled so good on my laptop. Now I know ;)

  2. Fuzzy the Bunny

    I think that the volunteer economy is getting out of hand, is what I think. I understand that it can be read as a ‘step’ towards actual paying work, but I think that someone with your level of success and resources shouldn’t be looking to get something of this caliber for free.

    As they say, you get what you pay for.

    (as an inveterate bargain hunter, it’s more complicated than that. but suffice it to say that i’ve never walked out of a store without paying.)

  3. Just Some Dude

    You know what they say, Mr. Berkun – you pay peanuts; you get monkeys. If you want someone to spend the time required to design a book and then not get paid with anything other that good wishes, you’re on the wrong track. Would you do consulting for free if a company said they would give you freedom and publicity alone?

  4. Stephen Tiano

    Well, judging by how amateurish a performance you’ve put on so far–first offering nothing but the pleasure of working with you, and then correcting that by offering a small flat fee–I can’t imagine a professional book designer wanting to be connected with your book.

    So, hey, we’re supposed to believe you’ve already had three best-sellers? How’d you do that without understanding that the publishing process only begins with a good editor? And that paying for the kind of professional design that results in something better than the ugliness of most other books?

    Sorry for my tone, but most professional freelance book designers like myself are fed up with the crowdsourcing scam. And while your afterthought that it might just be proper to pay something for the exceptional effort you’re asking for is a step in the right direction, I susect you still don’t understand that there’s no such thing as a free lunch.

    I hope your writing’s better than your sense of the value of professional book design and page composition.

    1. Scott Berkun

      Stephen wrote:

      > Sorry for my tone, but most professional freelance book
      > designers like myself are fed up with the crowdsourcing scam

      A “crowdsourcing scam” would be to ask 100 people to design a cover and then pick one. That’s not what this is.

      As I mentioned, I have, do, and will work for free if the non-financial rewards are significant to me. I am not telling other people to do the same, but in my own philosophy I can see it makes sense for some work.

      Non-financial rewards are interesting to some and not interesting to others. If you were trying to hire people for whom financials were not the sole, or perhaps not even the primary motivation, how would you find them? As amateurish as you think it was, this was my attempt.

      I’ve worked with many book designers and they typically have limited involvement, control and influence by no choice of their own. They are nearly always involved late and have little or no direct interaction with the author (which can be a blessing, I admit). I can imagine some designers would very much like a project that was itself designed better to use their talents.

  5. Arati

    I just saw this post when it came up in a random search.

    May I just say – thank you for understanding that designers are key to a book’s success. So many self-publishing authors discard this part of the process and end up with a book that no-one is happy with.



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