How PickFu helped land a frequent flyer onto the New York Times bestseller list

While writing about his travels to every country in the world, Albert Podell used PickFu to select a book title and cover, finding the variations that performed up to three times better than other options.

A life of wanderlust

Podell is the first American to visit every country in the world — and it only took him 50 years.

For his latest book, Podell turned to PickFu to concept-test a number of variations of book titles and covers.

“I found PickFu so well organized and so easy to use that it made the task of polling almost pleasant.” – Albert Podell

Choosing a title

Podell considered the following titles, each with the same subtitle:

  • Between a Croc and a Hard Place: My 50-Year Adventure to Every Country on Earth
  • How I Lived to 196: My 50-Year Adventure to Every Country on Earth
  • Around the World in 50 Years: My 50-Year Adventure to Every Country on Earth
  • To Every Last Land: My 50-Year Adventure to Every Country on Earth

Podell decided to use a polling system in which the order options are presented is randomized. This ensured a more accurate result and verified that respondents were not just selecting the first option. He ran the following polls, each of which is followed by some of the comments received.

1. Around The World in 50 Years vs Between A Croc And A Hard Place

  • “Around the world has a globetrotter appeal to it.”
  • “It sounds more professional”
  • “Puns are lazy writing”

2. To Every Last Land vs. How I Lived to 196

  • “I like the whimsy of the title, makes it sound more like an epic quest”
  • “Other title almost sounds like the person is 196 yrs old.”
  • “It sounds like an adventure, and more relevant than the age issue.”

3. Around The World in 50 Years vs. To Every Last Land

  • “Around the world tells the possible reader the book is about travel immediately which would likely attract more readers in this genre.”
  • “Option A is a play on a classic Verne story making it more appealing.”
  • “Title is more descriptive. Title B leaves the actual book summary to the subtitle.”

Podell carefully analyzed his PickFu polls to view the demographic breakdown of the poll respondents, allowing him to see specifically how his target audience (males, ages 18–35) responded. With the help of PickFu’s polls, Podell and his publisher chose the title Around The World In 50 Years.

“I like the speed with which PickFu got me replies, and I like the demographic breakdown which told me who was picking which one of the choices.” – Albert Podell

Choosing a cover design

When choosing a cover design, Podell and his publisher disagreed about the stylistic direction — Podell preferred photos from his adventures, while his publisher preferred to use symbolism. Podell and his publisher turned to PickFu for an unbiased answer.

As with his book titles, Podell ran three polls with different cover designs. The first cover poll compared versions of covers that showed photos from Podell’s journeys:

In this case, the version with a lemur on his head was the preferred option, with choice comments like, “Not only is the photo of the guy with the monkey on his head engaging and humorous, which would certainly get my attention, but the other photo is a little creepy looking and would definitely creep me out and put me off!”

For his second cover poll, Podell compared an abstract cover to a collage of travel photos:

The abstract (publisher-preferred) version won handily, 72% to 28%, with respondents commenting:

  • “The faces of the people are disturbing so I prefer the passport stamps.”
  • “I do not like the representations of each country in option B. I don’t like how it is just one stereotypical person.”
  • “The artistic design of option A is appealing. There’s too much going on in the photoshopped photograph in option B, and I don’t care for photographs as book covers in the first place.”

The final cover poll compared the winner of the second poll with a hybrid version that included photos of people Podell had met through his travels:

While the results were much closer this time, the original version with the passport stamps won the most votes, 52% to 48%. Respondents explained that they felt the design was more professional:

  • “While the people are interesting, they give the book jacket a more amateurish feel. I like the more professional design of the jacket with only the passport stamps.”
  • “I prefer choice A because it looks cool and makes me think of a passport with the many stamps that are on it. It would make me curious to read the contents of the book.”

Ultimately, Podell and his publisher selected the title and cover that received the most votes from PickFu’s respondents.

Sign up for PickFu today and start getting answers to your own questions!

Around The World in 50 Years launched this spring, debuting on the New York Times and Amazon bestsellers lists, receiving rave reviews, and garnering press from publications like National Geographic.


Justin Chen

Justin Chen is a co-founder of PickFu and serial entrepreneur of 15 years. He has a passion for creating automated technology solutions that solve problems people didn't even know existed. Justin holds a BS in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from UC Berkeley and a MS in Engineering Management from Santa Clara University. A firm believer in remote work and work/life balance, he breaks up his work day by shuttling his two kids between school and all their various activities through Los Angeles traffic.