Wanted: A Book Cover Designer for “Tempo”

Update: the book is published, cover and all. Adam Hogan did the cover.

I am at that dangerous stage with my first book project, Tempo, where I am going around telling people the manuscript is “95% done,” but with the last 5% threatening to take 50% of the time by the time the it is actually done. But still, with cautious optimism, I can report that I really do think I’ll get the book out by November, as I’ve promised. Which brings me to the reason for this post: I need a cover design. If you are a book cover designer and want to take a shot at it, read on. If you are not, but happen to know good book cover designers, please help me out by emailing along a link to this post, reblogging it, and so forth. Designers with no book-cover experience, you can still bid, but I’ll probably favor people with experience unless they ALL price themselves out of my budget. All bids due by August 10, 2010

9 Simple Rules

  1. My maximum budget is $1000. And I’d rather spend MUCH less upfront. I intend this book to recover my cash investment and start making money as soon as possible.
  2. You can bid for the job by emailing me your bid with links to samples of your work. Do mention how you found out about this job. Read the rest of this list first though.
  3. MY WEIRD OFFER: You can choose to bid for some mix of a dollar amount under $1000, and a per-copy profit share up to $1 per copy, on copies sold in the first year, up to a maximum of 3000 copies. So if I sell 500 copies in Year 1, and you bid $500+$1/copy, you’ll make $1000. If it becomes a runaway hit,  you make a maximum of $3500.
  4. Calibration: I have approximately 500 people signed up for the book release announcement/beta lists already. And this blog has 2000+ RSS subscribers, growing steadily. You decide what that means.
  5. I would prefer bids from the United States to keep the logistics and communication simple, but will consider bids from other countries.
  6. If you have never done book design before, send links to samples of your most relevant work. Adjust your bid downwards accordingly
  7. This is just an informal, non-binding, request for quotes (RFQ). If I pick your bid, we’ll try to figure out a deal and a mutually acceptable creative brief. If we can’t, I’ll move on to my second choice. And so on.
  8. I know many readers of this blog are designers. If you choose to bid, please don’t be offended if I don’t end up picking you. I appreciate your loyalty to this site as a reader, but my priority is to get a great design.
  9. Even if you are a big fan of ribbonfarm, please don’t offer to do it for free (I’ve received such offers before, but I can’t accept free work when I make money myself)

So if you’re interested, please email me your bid (dollar amount plus profit-share proposal) and samples to your work. Mention how you found out about the job.

All bids due by August 10, 2010.

If I don’t get enough good bids through this post, I’ll end up looking at the normal channels.

A Big Little Idea Called Legibility

James C. Scott’s fascinating and seminal book, Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed, examines how, across dozens of domains, ranging from agriculture and forestry, to urban planning and census-taking, a very predictable failure pattern keeps recurring.  The pictures below, from the book (used with permission from the author) graphically and literally illustrate the central concept in this failure pattern, an idea called “legibility.”

States and large organizations exhibit this pattern of behavior most dramatically, but individuals frequently exhibit it in their private lives as well.

Along with books like Gareth Morgan’s Images of Organization, Lakoff and Johnson’s Metaphors we Live By, William Whyte’s The Organization Man and Keith Johnstone’s Impro, this book is one of the anchor texts for this blog. If I ever teach a course on ‘Ribbonfarmesque Thinking,’ all these books would be required reading. Continuing my series on complex and dense books that I cite often, but are too difficult to review or summarize, here is a quick introduction to the main idea.

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The Genealogy of the Gervais Principle

Series Home | Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V | Part VI ebook

One reason I have delayed posting the next part in the Gervais Principle series is that as expectations have grown, I have gotten more wary about shooting from the hip. Especially because the remaining ideas in the hopper (there’s enough for two more posts before I call the main series complete) will likely be even more controversial than the first two. So one of the things I have been doing is testing the foundations laid in the first two posts more rigorously. So here goes, a (very pictorial) survey of the ancestry of the MacLeod hierarchy and the Gervais Principle. This is not Part III. It is another side trip. Not many new ideas here, but genealogy should prove interesting for at least some of you. A sense of history is a necessary (though unfortunately not sufficient) requirement for  effective sociopathy. For those who came in late, this post will make no sense to you. Read The Gervais Principle and The Gervais Principle II before you tackle this one.

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Social Objects: Notes on Knitting in America

I recently bought a classic, cherry-finish  River City hourglass. It was the first time I deliberately bought something to serve as a social object, which I’ll define as any tangible entity that can catalyze a characteristic social chemistry. In this case, the hourglass helped me tweak the ambiance of a writers meetup I run in the Washington, DC area.


I’ve wondered for years about how people connect over particular elements of their environment, ranging from water coolers and YouTube videos to parrots. We are currently in the thick of social object season:  turkeys, Christmas trees, mistletoe.

Social objects are a complex idea. We need a theory that can provide a conceptual framework and vocabulary, suggest conjectures that might become laws, and distinguish between social objects and related but distinct creatures such as memes, social signals, brands and ritual objects. A good theory should also shed light on specific questions, such as “why have so many hip young American women taken up knitting in recent years?”

I am finally beginning to see the outlines of such a general theory. The first useful inference I have been able to derive is this: when communities digitize, social objects replace walls. I call this the first law of social objects. Let’s work our way up to that. (before more people yell at me… yes, this is an early beta stab at a new theme, so apologies for the length and looseness of editing).

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The Gervais Principle II: Posturetalk, Powertalk, Babytalk and Gametalk

We began this analysis of corporate life by exploring a  theoretical construct (the Gervais Principle) through the character arcs of Michael and Ryan in The Office. The construct and examples provide a broad-strokes treatment of the why of the power dynamics among Sociopaths, the Clueless and Losers.

Series Home | Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V | Part VI | ebook


This helps us understand how the world works, but not how to work it. So let me introduce you to the main skill required here, mastery over the four major languages spoken in organizations, among Sociopaths, Losers and the Clueless. I’ll call the four languages Posturetalk, Powertalk, Babytalk and Gametalk. Here’s a picture of who speaks what to whom. Let’s use it to figure out how to make friends and influence people, Office style.


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Time and Money: Separated at Birth?

An intriguing theme keeps popping up in finance discussions: the relationship between time and money. The best-known line of thinking is the one that Ben Franklin popularized, that time is money. This is the Protestant ethic in three words. Then there is the transactional view that says that time can be traded for money. Let’s call it the Catholic ethic. There is a third view, which I’ll call the Zen ethic. The first two lead to misery. The third, I speculate, does not.


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Health and the Happy Hamster

Two months into my new work-from-home lifestyle, it hit me: having my elliptical machine right in my office is not making it easier to be healthy. It is just locking me more securely into an approach to health that does not work.  Like Robin Williams, I feel exactly like a caged hamster. One particularly lousy-body-day a couple of weeks ago, watching the Discovery channel for inspiration, realization dawned: we are an ape species that evolved into perfection outwitting and killing huge mammoths. And then we got too clever for our own good and turned ourselves into caged hamsters.  Thinking got us into this mess, and only thinking can get us out. Hamsters of the world, follow me to freedom. I don’t have my blockbuster fitness DVD idea yet, but I’ve got a few attitude-fixing principles that I’ve been trying out, and they seem to be working.

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