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Late last year, we launched a project for Random House that we’re very excited about.

We’re excited because it’s a pretty experimental, even risky, project for Random House Business Books’ lead title for 2008, Jeff Howe’s Crowdsourcing. Jeff is a staff writer for WIRED magazine (working with editor Chris Anderson, whose book The Long Tail was also published by RH, and for which we did some other work we’re very proud of) and coined the term “Crowdsourcing” in June 2006.

Crowdsourcing is, as Jeff puts it,

… the act of taking a job traditionally performed by a designated agent (usually an employee) and outsourcing it to an undefined, generally large group of people in the form of an open call.

Great examples of crowdsourcing include Threadless, iStockPhoto, digg and stumbleupon.

And the proposal we pitched to RH was for the jacket design of the book to follow that lead, with an open call for designers (and non-designers) to have a go at designing the jacket. And, to their credit – given the frontline of bookselling that is jacket design – they went for it.

We also knew that a problem with any kind of web-based marketing campaign is getting the reach you need for it to be a success: you often need a marketing campaign for the marketing campaign. So we teamed up with Creative Review (and particularly their editor, Patrick Burgoyne) to help spread the word to designers, students, art directors and other have-a-goers. They went for it too.

The upshot is this: we’ve launched a site ( that does the following:

  • Explains the rules of the competition
  • Pulls in entries submitted on Flickr tagged “coversourcing” (how cool is that?)
  • Allows people to vote to decide the best (which you can’t do in Flickr)
  • Explains all about crowd sourcing, gives some example of good jacket inspirations, and also pulls in content from the web about crowd- (and cover) sourcing

Any competition is risky – what do you do if no-one enters? – particularly those with design and “user generated content”. And the deadlines are tight – entries have to be submitted by midnight GMT 10th February 2008 to allow time for voting to even things out (otherwise latecomers would be massively disadvantaged by early entrants). But the entries are beginning to come in now – as are the comments.

Fingers crossed, we’ll see what happens.

See Creative Review’s article about the project.

Posted by Peter Collingridge in Apt Studio work, coversourcing.

Apt’s links for December 22nd through December 23rd // Reaching Readers Online – 2008

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