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073 - Working With A Book Designer - Part 3 of 5

cover design Oct 02, 2020

Hey Guys! Nicole Gabriel here!

This is part 3 of a 5 part series on Working With A Designer. I may bore you with the details in this podcast, but we’re gonna plow through them because every author wants to know how this works when they get to this phase in the book production process.

There are a ton of elements that go into making a professional book cover. Obviously, the first is the artwork for the cover. But, understanding and collaborating on all the other elements are the things that divide the professional book cover designer from the amateur. The cover designer plays the role of project manager too, not by just gathering all the elements, but to understand all the working components and stay abreast of the latest technologies and trends. Let’s walk through a few of these vital elements that make up the book’s jacket…

ISBN, Library of Congress Control Number, Pricing Barcode, & Publishing Imprint
The ISBN number is the birth record of the book, but where does it come from? This is a unique identifier, and it comes from the publishing house you use or direct from a company called Bowker.

I recommend a New York publishing imprint to give your book a bit of credibility. You could also  create your own publishing label and buy just the barcode from Bowker. The problem you may run into with the publishing company being your own is a lack of credibility as it may become obvious the book is self-published.

If you want to get the best look, and one that doesn’t make your book look self-published, you’ll want to get one from a company in New York, as to give the appearance of a New York quality book. It’s kind of like the Gucci or the Prada of the book world to have a New York imprint. Just to help out my client’s, I created a small New York publishing company that is available for use to save all the hassle and to give my clients the credibility of the New York imprint. This way, when someone asks if you are self-published, you can tell them you are with a small publishing company in New York.

You will also want to get your book registered with the Library of Congress and get a unique control number. This is just a registration or numbering to catalog the book in the USA. Again, my publishing company can do that for you if you need.

The pricing barcode is generally combined with the ISBN number and would typically be given with the publishing imprint from the publisher. The price on the barcode is determined by you. Take a look at other books in your genre and be sure to consider page count, color inserts or pages, binding (hard or soft copy) and obviously the price to produce and price appropriately. Usually your publisher will give you an idea of appropriate sales pricing, but again, look at the other books in your genre because as a self-published author this is ultimately your call. It’s really up to you how you want to approach this and how you are marketing or selling your book. You can always lower the price when you sell it, but you can never raise it once it’s priced…so keep this in mind in your pricing strategy.

NOTE: You can go to print on your proof book without these and place them in the final print run when they come in if you have time constraints.

So, let’s rehash… you need to supply the designer the following…
Publishers Imprint
Barcode (your book’s personal ID #  and the price you are selling it for)
Library of Congress Number

You will want to purchase an ISBN number for each format you wish to produce. They will be listed on the copyright page in each format you own. So, that means you need one for soft cover, one for hard cover, one for the ebook and one for the audio book.

When you break down the ISBN and barcode you will find things like the country it’s sold in, that it belongs to a book (not a can of tomato soup), who the publisher is, the price, and the format.

How the Designer Works with the Editor…

Now let’s talk about the working relationship the Designer has with the editor and your role in that process.

I give you a sample in the visual format of this podcast…again, find it over on YouTube. I’ll link the video in the comments over on my blog. I give you a bit of a tour of how this looks from the designer’s perspective.

So, generally the editor creates a cover pieces document that the designer will use to populate the jacket template they create for your book cover design. Then, the manuscript is imported in the layout program. I use InDesign.

Each chapter gets a template applied with headers, footers, page numbers, fonts and margins defined…
All margins get set
All design elements get defined and placed…the chapter heading image (if used) and the look/feel
After the designer lays out the manuscript it will go back and forth with the author, editor, and designer until all the corrections are made and it’s ready for print.
The designer will export out a PDF file
Should you wish to make changes at this point they will get marked and highlighted by you and the editor. You want to keep this to a minimum at this phase.
You will no longer have a Word manuscript and both the author and editor now rely on the designer to make the changes. The fewer changes you make at this point the less you risk moving to an hourly rate for excessive changes.

Your Role in Interior Design
You’re welcome to give the designer lots of direct input or trust them to handle the process on their own (they are, after all, professionals). Remember, though, that the more involved you get, in layout, the longer the process generally takes.

While the font is the most discussed interior topic, there’s far more to layout. Much of it is highly designer-specific, but, as an author, you’ll want to be aware of where you can do some customization, especially if page count is important. Page count will determine your print price.

A Few Tricks
Let’s talk about of the tricks a designer can do with the books interior. These are good to know if you want more control over the look and feel of your book…they are not necessary to know and not many authors honestly even care, but I will touch on these nonetheless.

Maybe you’re stuck with a 45,000-word manuscript and the desire for a smaller, thinner book that packs and travels more easily. If the designer used standard practices—traditional margins, line spacing, etc.—you’d end up with about a 225-page book. A few tricks allow you to change the page count up or down fairly easily as the book is being laid out.  

The following can affect the page count:
The font size
The margins (top, inside, outside, bottom)
The line spacing
The character spacing
The amount of space for headers and footers and page numbers
Paragraph indentation
The drop down on the top for the chapter heading pages
Placement and spacing of header page quotes
Where pages end for one chapter and begin for the next
Placement and size of images
Initial first letter size and style
Any dingbats or images applied above the header and the applicable spacing used

If you were to tell your designer you want a book that’s more than 225 pages but less than 275 pages, there are a few things he or she could do to get you an ideal page count. It’s not always exact, but they can get you pretty close if your word count is within the optimal page range.

Here’s a very rough idea of estimated page count based on word count:
30,000 words = 150 page book
40,000 words = 200 page book
50,000 words = 250 page book
60,000 words = 300 page book

Check out or a few others on the web that will give you a basic guideline of the number of pages you might have. All of this changes with font, margins, etc. but it will at least give you a rough idea.

Cutting Costs, Saving Time, and Not frustrating Your Vendors
When it comes to interior layout, the less defined your content is when you send it to a layout person, the more expensive the bill will be.
You want to be passing a near final product along to layout. You’re doing no favors for anyone by sending over a manuscript that’s not complete, missing content, needs testimonials, still needs editorial review, missing an ISBN, or a Library of Congress Control Number. Just get it complete.
Once you pass along the manuscript to the designer for layout you do not want to change the page count or make large content adjustments! If it’s not ready to go to print it’s not ready to go to the designer for layout.

Charts and Graphs
There may be an extra charge for additional charts and graphs, so do your best to create these in high-quality images beforehand.
If a good majority of the content to be inserted is financial charts and graphs you will need to have these reviewed by your editor first. A designer will always change extra for creating these for you. Cut costs doing this work in advance.
Not only is this a huge undertaking, but the information is very specific and challenging for an editor to edit if altered. A full design company might have the staff to handle a project like this, but a smaller company would loose months of other work completing this project or has to charge accordingly for their time.
Do your best to complete all images before editing and layout.

After the Initial Layout
Your designer will import your manuscript into their design program and begin the layout process. You can generally plan on about a week for a basic no-frills layout if you’re next in line and no other clients or emergencies are in front of you or on the designer’s plate.
You’ll get PDF document file from the designer. This is a read-only file that you can’t manipulate.
At this point you’ll need to hold hands with the editor and the designer until project completion.
From here changes are handled by applying notes to the PDF. You, your editor, and your designer will go back and forth for as long as it takes to get the changes made.
If you’re a dedicated writer, and you’ve done due diligence prior to this stage, this process could be very quick. If you haven’t truly taken ownership or been hands-on in the process up to this point, then you’ll find this to be a bit more cumbersome or time-consuming to complete.
Your designer will be the only one who can implement the changes that get passed down from you and your editor. Changes are best lumped into one document and shared at one time. Can you see how this can be time consuming if you’re not on top of things here?

Going to Production for a Proof Book
After some back and forth, you’ll finally have a complete interior file. Once the editor gives the green light to go forward, you should consider printing a proof copy to make sure you’re happy with the layout, the print quality, and overall materials before going into full production.
Some editors don’t want to be involved in this phase, but honestly I think that is a bit irresponsible as this is the place where their editing work is seen and the advertisement for their work is showcased here in the final layout. We’ll talk about the editors role in another podcast I’m sure.
Be sure to include the editor in the final review of all materials before they go to print and any editing changes you make as a courtesy. Remember, their reputation is at stake when they put their name on the copyright page. This the place where their editing work is seen and the advertisement for their work is showcased here in the final layout.

There are a few interior layout samples in the video file for your review…again, a link to the video can be found on the blog.

Alright guys…are you exhausted with all these details yet? This was podcast #3 in the 5-part series on working with a designer. Stay tuned for the next podcasts to come.

Meanwhile…wishing you peace, love, and light.

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