Be sure to check out our podcasts and YouTube videos at the bottom of the page!

071 - Working With A Book Designer - Part 1 of 5

cover design Sep 25, 2020

What Does A Professional Book Designer Do?

Hey Guys! Nicole Gabriel here!

Welcome to a 5-part series on working with a book designer. We are going to begin with discussing “what does a professional book designer do”.

First, let me start by saying that I’ve been doing book cover design for more than a decade now. I came from a pretty intensive branding background having worked for all the top ad agencies - McCann Erickson, J Walter Thompson, Young & Rubicam, and in and around brand management for the first decade and a half of my career. I was in executive management in the auto industry in Detroit and sat in on some of the most fabulous branding strategy meetings in my day. I helped create the first websites for all our traditional brands over at McCann Erickson. A team of just 5 of us built the first Detroit Edison, Delphi Automotive, Buick, and GMC Truck websites ever in existence. I sat on the eGM team for GMAC and played roles in many branding strategy meetings for all the metro Detroit automotive brands. My executive roles were at General Motors, Ford Motor Company, and DaimlerChrysler. I tell you all this because, trust me, I know brand marketing and what it takes to make your book a success! I’m not just someone that fell into this job by accident, as many book coaches do. I’ve worked hard to get to where I am and let it be no mistake…I’m both good at what I do and I love my work and my clients. I know how to properly align you with the design and layout of your book.

So, I put together a 5-part series of podcasts to talk about what a professional book designer does. And please note, the following information is also presented in a video over on my Angel Dog Productions design business FB page… and on my YouTube channel. I created the visual because sometimes it’s easier to see samples. So…let’s get rolling and I’ll do the best I can to make this presentation audio…

A Professional Book Designer will always do far more than just a book cover.
Most authors don’t fully understand the role of the designer until well into the process. There are a lot of misconceptions about book design and because most authors are simply price-shopping the lowest price available for the most creativity (usually for the book cover alone) they really miss out on a comprehensive approach that saves them time, money, and energy in the long run. The book designer is kinda like your project manager. And, unfortunately for us, you really aren’t going to know what you’re missing until you’ve hired one…or tried to do their role yourself. Let me give you an overview of how this process works and what a designer does after you hand off the manuscript…Here is where we discuss the old adage about judging a book by the cover.

Here is where we discuss the old adage about judging a book by the cover.
In less than a second you can gain or loose a buyer. The key reason printed books are still around has to do with cover design, which can drive sales and send a distinct message for everyone looking at your book cover. Selling your book really starts with the look and feel of the cover design. We are visual creatures. You’ll want to create a unique message to stand out from the crowd. But, the cover acts to attract people to the book, not necessarily to sell it! Rightly so, most authors think of the front cover of the book, but don’t really spend much time thinking of the remainder of the book. But, here is the reality of cover Design…

It is unfortunate, but book designers don’t always get to create the kind of masterpieces they, or their clients desire. Designers allot a certain amount of time to working on your project…with clients before and after it. And a book designer isn’t just looking at the book cover…we honestly just can’t only look at this…if we really understand the business of book design, layout, sales, and marketing!

The Process
Let me talk through the process and see if we can’t get on the same page at the end of it…Before You Begin…

The Professional Book Designer will do all of the following:
Cover Design
Jacket Design
Compile All Assets
Interior Book Design
Create Consistency in Design
Work With the Editor
Prepare PDF Files
Work With the Printer
Prepare the Print Templates
Help You Get A Proof Book
Hold Your Hand into Print
Help You With an eBook
Assist/Prepare Marketing

Most of time the designer will start with the front cover of the book. Of course, this is the part most people want to hire a designer for…and so many think this is also all they do. You will likely want this completed so that you can begin marketing your book and doing pre-sales. When you start talking to the designer about laying out the cover, you have to make a few decisions before you begin:

Do you want a hardcover or softcover book?
What size is the book (typical sizing is 6 x 9 or 5 1/2 x 8 1/2)?
Are you going to need French flaps or a jacket cover?
Do you have preferred fonts or colors?
How about a brand image or look to match?
Have you chosen a front cover image or do you have a concept in mind for the cover?
Are you clear on the objectives of your book and how you wish the cover to convey this?
Of course, if you don’t have the title, subtitle, tagline, and author name defined…you’ll want to postpone the design efforts until you are clear. Time is money with design work.

Talk to a Printer
You’re going to have to talk to a printer to find out all your options.

At a minimum you’ll need to define the book size for your designer. Most business books will be 6 x 9 hardcover. You want to get your book to 45,000 words or more to give you credibility as an author (or to be picked up by a publisher later, if you so desire). If you’re on the lighter end of this, you may want to go with the smaller 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 size to give your book a more substantive look.

Sizing and the Costs Associated

You want to talk to your printer about standard sizes, and use standard sizes for the genre of your book. Once you define the size the designer can fine tune the cover design, but it’s far more complicated to change the book size once the book is laid out and you will insue additional costs from your designer and editor if you change this after it is already laid out. Here are some standard size options.

Standard Sizing:
Pocket:         4.25 x 6.87
US-Trade:         6 x 9
Digest:                   5.5 x 8.5
Comic:         6.625 x 10.25
Portrait:         8 x 10
US Letter:                 8.5 x x11
Landscape:                 9 x 7
Large Landscape:      12 x 9

Have Clarity!
Clients that are very clear about their goals nail down a cover quickly but those that are still not clear often lack focus or clarity and spin round and round with the design as a result. Often times a lack of clarity can make defining all aspects challenging, such as defining the right printing size or company or defining a brand image/identity, look, and feel. And if you are not clear, how will your designer be clear? Your entire project will only be as good as you guide it. Your Designer will produce an amazing cover if you know what you are looking for. It’s far more worthwhile to enhance an already good idea instead of continuing to try new ideas that lack clarity and purpose. Be clear on your goals and objectives! Identify your brand image, look and feel, and then contact your designer to work!

Be Clear on Your Purpose
If you are saving your cover design for the last step and haven’t given it some thought earlier on in the process it may delay the production of your book. It can be a rather tension-filled and ulcer producing process for everyone if you are not clear on the book’s message, purpose, or intent when you get to this phase because you need to know what these generally are in order to guide your designer.

Most designers are very capable and creative people but without proper guidance and input you will not get the best end result no matter how talented your designer is. But, a designer is also limited by time. Not many do custom work for your book cover, most will have you purchase royalty free images for your cover. It’s not to say there’s no customization, but most cover designers aren’t photographers, so they use stock photos. Images can be cut, cropped, re-colored, layered, and manipulated to give you a custom look and feel.

Royalty Free Images
Many books use what are called “royalty free” images for their cover. Many New York books are doing this as well. The image source is simply referenced on the jacket or interior. Sometimes it will say “cover photo: shutterstock #12345” on the book flap. In general, all sources for book elements are referenced nowadays as well. For instance, you’ll often find the designer, photo credits for the cover, the author photo, and the editor on the back book flap.

As far as images go, there are many royalty free websites where you can find photos for your book. The most common are Shutterstock, iStock Photo, and Adobe. The designer will typically count on you to buy the image and provide it to them when the time comes. You may also want to consider buying an image for the back of the book as well, otherwise the back will be blank. With a self-published book, the end design it’s ultimately your call. By buying these images, you can also use them for all your marketing efforts.

Designed for Your Genre
I know you want to stand out and be different, but this is where you need your book to conform. Many people don’t take the time to look at books in their genre to see how their ideas fit in. Go to Costco and peruse the books in your genre and get ideas for what’s hot now then educate your designer on what you’re trying to do with your book. You might even give your designer a list of “here are the things I’m trying to accomplish with my book” and gauge the final end product on whether it meets these needs or not.

Again, the professional book designer does so much more than just the front cover. Tune into the next episode where we will discuss how the book cover sets the tone for your book.

OK guys, that’s all I have for today…as always wishing you peace, love, and light.

Stay connected with news and updates!

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.
Don't worry, your information will not be shared.


50% Complete

Join Our Email List

When you join our email list you'll automatically get a free copy of Nicole's  
Let's Get Your Book Published ebook