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025 - How to Best Work with A Book Designer

book design book layout Mar 08, 2020

Hi Guys! A rainy dark almost spring-like day here in Utah! I saw flowers blooming out on the trail hike yesterday! How exciting it’s almost spring! Happy daylight savings day! 

On today’s episode we’re gonna talk about how to best work with a book designer.

There are multiple levels to the book design process. There are many moving parts from the time the manuscript leaves the editor to the time you hold the book in your hands. The book’s cover is the first time you see your book come to life. A professional book designer will always do far more than just a book cover!

As a book designer for the last decade myself, I am often approached with people telling me all about the artistic components of the book they envision creating. But, honestly, I wouldn’t be doing my job right if I didn’t re-focus my authors on what they are trying to achieve rather than how they want it to look. A proper designer is looking at all the pieces to the puzzle. As a retired executive with a rich career in marketing, advertising, and design I would be doing my clients a real disservice if I didn’t understand the goals and objectives of my authors and how they are planning to use their book in the short and long term. If they are speaking and want a strong stage presence the book cover should be bold and have a strong message. Every book is a different genre and its appeal needs to integrate yet stand out and yet still target its audience. 

A professional book designer will do book cover design, jacket design, and interior design yes. But, they will also compile assets like a project manager, look to create consistency in design from the cover to the interior, work with the editor laying out the manuscript and making changes as needed, they will prepare the files for the printer and work with the printer defining the print template (this defines the bleeds, folds, and margins). They will also help you get a proof book pack from the printer, while holding your hand through the entire process and into your final print. They can typically move your book into an eBook and further blow out all the book assets to get you going with your book launch and marketing.

In less than a second you can gain or loose a buyer and the book cover attracts people to the book…and that’s not always to sell just the book alone, if at all!

As a self-published author you will need to know a few basics to educate the designer on your desired outcome. A good designer will not be someone that just does cover design and moves on to their next creative project…they will focus on all things book! They can guide you on what you need to know, but it ultimately up you as a self-published author to ultimately define things like the size of the book, your page count goals, colors and fonts you like and if this book is going to define your brand image or you already have one you’d like to align with. 

What genre is your book? The book will have to fit into that genre. And things like key words…these define your book for life! These are important! Your designer can help you stand out as an expert in these key topic with a properly designed cover. And, as a self-published author the better you can communicate what you are trying to accomplish with your book, the clearer you are on the goals and objects, the more likely the designer is going to get you better results. 

A designer hasn’t likely read your book when you approach them so you will have to not just tell them briefly what it’s about, but more importantly, what you are doing with it. To align with your message and how you are showcasing or selling your book is even far more important than the content for the designer. A good designer will be creating a brand message. All the colors and fonts and images you choose will likely go into your business cards, onto your website, and be showcased from the stage as you speak. So all of this needs to be conveyed to the designer as briefly and concisely as possible up front.

A designer that has been doing book design for awhile generally knows how long it will take to complete your design so they can fix bid your job. But, the author has to understand how much time is typically allotted to maximize the results. A designer will not generally do custom artwork for your book. I know this sounds strange perhaps, but when you are paying a designer for cover design and layout they could spin their wheels endless trying to become an artist and charge you a small fortune or you can hire an artist for custom artwork… that then gets handed off to the cover designer and integrated into the over jacket design. A book designer, whether for a top New York publisher or for a self-published author is now leaning towards royalty free images for all cover designs. Check it out for yourself…go into Costco for example and open up the book and look at the small print for the cover images…likely from one of the top image websites. With self-publishing you can go through these images and choose the ones you want. A good designer will re-color, cut, crop, or layer images to get you the best result for your book cover. So, it’s not as if you have to pick a standard image and go with just that. After all, you don’’t want to find that same image elsewhere later…like on another book. 

The book cover design is generally where you will start with a designer, but once this is defined you will move into the jacket design and next into the book’s interior layout.


The Interior

Most writers know that a great cover is a necessity when self-publishing a book. It grabs a potential reader’s attention and tells them, in subtle and not-so-subtle ways, what to expect in the content. Unfortunately the inside pages (referred to as the book’s “interior”) are sometimes not given as much thought or attention.

A sloppy, rushed or mismatched book layout sends a bad message to the reader and can make the book difficult or tiresome to read. A strong book interior is pleasing and well-balanced in two important areas: typesetting (font, type size, space between the lines, and hyphens that break the lines) and layout (margins, columns, and illustrations and art).

The layout also will determine the page count. So, you have to keep in mind and communicate with the designer if you have a certain page count in mind for your final book. This is generally based on word count, but depending on your goals you might communicate that with the designer up front. I know for my Let’s Get Your Book Published book I wanted to have a smaller book and I kept my content down. I didn’t want it to appear cumbersome to learn how to write and publish a book, so this was planned from the beginning and I kept my word count in check.

The content that goes into the interior will be largely driven by the authors time with the editor. The specifics of the content are based on the material from the author, but sometimes the editor will guide and direct with more complex things like the footnotes, tables, charts and labels. Keep in mind that it’s not the designers job to validate the content or create many of these images, charts, etc. unless that’s been agreed to in advance. All images should be properly edited before they make their way to the designer, just like the entirety of the manuscript. Once the manuscript is imported into the designers program it will be harder to make changes. Be sure you’ve made all the corrections you need to make before you hand anything off to the designer.


In conclusion

Authors that are very clear about their goals can nail down the creative pieces very easily. Be clear on your purpose so that that you don’t delay the production of your book spinning your wheels with a designer.

If you take a look at the notes on this podcast or link over to the blog on our website you’ll find a link to a 45 minute YouTube video I’ve created to help guide you on far more details. It’s filled with examples and all kinds of valuable advice.

Go over to YouTube and watch the Angel Dog Productions Book Layout New Client Guide. Here’s the link:

There is far more information to be shared on this topic, but the video will really help you understand the role of the designer and how you work with them on your book project. I’ve been a book designer for many years and I’d love to work with you on your book when you’re ready!

OK guys, have a great day and keep checking back for far more information to come! When your ready we can get you going on your book project! 

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