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074 - Working With A Book Designer - Part 4 of 5

book design cover design Oct 07, 2020

Your Manuscript Layout is Complete - Now What?

Hey Guys Nicole Gabriel here! I hope you’ve listened in on the previous 3 parts to this 5-part podcast series on working with a designer. We are moving into part 4 to talk about what to do next once your manuscript is complete—working with the professional printer, editor, and the costs associated.

You are ready to print your book

  • You should have already had some dialog with the printer, but until you are aware of the final page count there really isn’t much they can do prior.
  • A general word or character count will give them some idea on the page count for quoting you a rough estimate of cost. But, you might need to discuss the size of your book prior to instructing the layout person.
  • You’ll just want to begin the relationship so they are not caught off guard when you call the printer and you’re ready to roll with your print job. Sometimes they do need to schedule you in, especially if they are busy printing holiday cards and calendars toward the end of the year.

The printer will have you define the materials for your book…

  • These will include some of the following:
    Paper color, weight, type, and size.
  • Colored end sheets or leaves. Traditionally these will be white unless you’ve discussed something different. I had a restaurant cookbook once use the checkered tablecloth pattern that matched what was on their restaurant tables. Some books have maps or animal footprints. These all add to the cost, so you’ll want to be sure you are willing to pay for embellishments and can still turn a profit.
  • Glossy, flat, or an embossed jacket. Some choices will add to costs.
  • Colored interior pages or photo inserts. Again, these are additional costs.

Getting the Files to the Printer

  • When your interior layout and cover designs are complete, your designer will request a template from the printer. The template will indicate the bleeds, folds, margins, the flap width, and the spine width. All of this is determined after you identify all the materials and details of your printed book.
  • Once this stage is complete, the designer will send the files over to the printer.
  • There will be one file for the interior, one for the jacket, and sometimes another file if you’re actually wrapping the boards under the jacket with a design.

Getting a Print Template to the Designer

  • Once all the items have been defined with the printer, they will be able to determine, based on page count, how thick your spine will be and can subsequently return a template to your designer.
  • The template will show the designer the spine width, the edge wrap, the space for lamination, the image area, the inside bleed, and the overall dimensions of the book, including the flap width. There may be a bit of back and forth with the printer and the designer at this point, depending on the complexity of your project. Once the specs are defined the designer can begin layout and get the final file to the printer for a proof or final book run.
  • As an author its not even likely you would ever see these templates, but once your file goes to the printer, this is what the printer would have for your designer. Again, this shows the folds, bleeds, and spine width.

Book Image or Board Wrap Template

Sometimes the boards under the jacket are wrapped too. The video I created (linked in the blog) shows the template for that.

It might be fun to do the board wrap under the jacket completely different than the jacket so that when the jacket is removed something special is revealed to the reader. Think about reverse colors or special images that would be seen when the jacket is taken off. Many New York quality books would just have writing on the spine and a cloth cover so that mass production costs are kept down.

Understanding Roles for Changes

There always seems to be a bit of confusion over who does what after the manuscript has been written and the book layout is complete. As a self-published author, the printer simply prints and ships your books. That’s pretty much it. Essentially their job is not to change the manuscript or to manipulate the content in any way. If you need a change, don’t expect the printer to do it. You always need to go back to the designer to design and the editor to edit.

Let’s Talk About Costs…

Let’s switch gears a bit and talk about the cost of a designer. It will vary, but you will pay a bit more for the good or busy ones. The expense for a designer really varies depending on skillset, hourly rate, the type of project, rates vary depending on the region, the time allotment for each client, and even the idea of the client returning for additional business.

Costs are usually broken up into cover design and interior design. For a book designer (it’s not easy to find a freelance specialist in all things book that really knows what they are doing, yet you will find a bunch of competition), you can expect to pay anywhere from $50 an hour up to $350 dollars an hour. If you pay less in the creative efforts you will get less. This generally means the quality isn’t as good, but it also means that you have to understand the placement of all elements and work to guide the designer how to do things. If your job is not to be a designer and you never plan to write another book…it’s best to focus on what you do best and hire a professional designer to do what they do best.

So, the next question might be “how long does it take to create a book cover or interior design? And, what does it cost?

Most designers who have been doing this kind of work for a while have a very good idea how long each project will take. You will generally get a fixed price bid for your project. Using the cost per hour (as mentioned earlier):

Hours Worked:    Rate:             Rate:          Rate:       Total:
10                          $50                $74            $350        $500 - $3,500
20                          $50                $74            $350        $1,000 - $7,000
30                          $50                $74            $350        $1,500 - $10,500
40                          $50                $74            $350        $2,000 - $14,000

With my design business (Angel Dog Productions)…we budget for about 20 hours for both cover design and interior layout. This basically means we plan to get in and get out. It keeps costs down. But, this also means that you have to come in with clarity on what you want to produce. We charge additional hourly rates beyond this time or for special requests like custom artwork for the cover, additional inserted images, charts and graphs, call out boxes, or something else that would require more of our time.

You always want to go to the designer like you are approaching the printer…in other words, know what you want or be prepared to pay hourly for re-work or custom work.

First time authors are a bit nervous so designers know they will have to compensate themselves for a bit more hand-holding sometimes.

Now, let’s say it takes about 40 hours to complete the interior layout. Again I’ll use a minimum ($50), this would be $2,000 for your interior layout. An experienced designer will always charge more than the minimum rate. The good ones usually have waiting lists, are raising their prices, or aren’t taking new clients. And, where a designer always takes a risk is in the idea you won’t have many errors or changes. Based on these figures alone, you can expect to pay at min $2,000-3,000 for the interior design of your book. If it took 20-40 hours for the cover design, you could potentially add another $1,000-2000. It breaks down to time. Time is money. A designer can do many fabulous designs but what is it worth to you for your custom-designed book and how much clarity do you have for it’s creation?


The cost of printing is going to depend mostly on the quantity that you print and the materials that you use. You will need to include shipping costs as well. This is a pretty average quote for 100 books:

soft cover book (Perfect Bound) with French Flaps

(flaps are attached to the cover and fold into the book much like the jacket on a hardcover book)
272 Page 6 x 9
perfect bound binding- flexible thermal glue
Interior pages 70# paper
4-color gloss lamination jacket
Total Cost: $760
(price per book cost: $7.60)

Hard cover book (Case bound)
272 Page 6 x 9
Adhesive case bound, printed case
Interior pages 70# Paper
4-color gloss lamination 100 # jacket
Total Cost: $1,540
(price per book cost: $15.40)

I want you to keep these numbers in mind for when it comes time to pricing, distributing, and selling your book…the profit margin per book starts closing in on you quickly here as you are likely seeing.


Printing Tips

  • Always print a proof book to review before the first printing. This can be casebound or loose. I find the loose is easier to review and it’s cheaper too. Expect to pay $80-600 for a proof book depending on the way it is bound, the number of pages, the quality of the paper, if there are special end sheets, and the printing equipment used to print it.
  • If you arrange distribution and ship direct from the printer to the distributor you can avoid double shipping costs. Be sure to set this up before you print and get an address to send a few boxes to.
  • A larger quantity will take down the cost per book, but always start with a small order at first and make sure all the errors are flushed out before mass printing. Share the books with close family, friends, and trusted colleges first.
  • Another little trick is that you can save money on printing if you know the right page count for the printing signatures. Your printer will educate you here.


  • Once the printer has printed your books, you are going to need them shipped. How you choose to have books shipped to you will determine the pricing. Obviously, if you’re in a hurry you’re going to pay more. Consider media mail. This is definitely “snail mail.” It may cost less, but it sure doesn’t come quick. It’s best to use this option for shipping and not rush any of this process. If you have done pre-sales of your book, you might want to get just enough books to fill those orders as well as a few books for family and friends then wait for the rest to arrive.
  • Most printers do not do distribution. They will be ship direct to you or the location you prefer. Although, if you have a distributor in another state they can likely ship a box to you and a box to them. They just won’t ship one-off books to buyers on demand. And, the printer generally doesn’t track sales or report figures to any kind of tracking agency, so…
    You can’t become a best-seller by just printing books!


Now that your book is off to the printer, you may be thinking about an eBook.

There are a few formats that eBooks are read in. Mostly an author doesn’t care what these are, but as a self-published author you are the one that manages the details for how you distribute your eBook so you need a bit of detail as you move forward.

ePub files can be opened in most e-book readers, including:

  • B&N Nook
  • Kobo eReader
  • Apple's iBooks
  • ScribD
  • Samsung

But, ePub files have to be converted before they’re usable on the Amazon Kindle. Amazon is it’s own beast. A good designer can help you out here, but let me explain how this looks as you go forward…

  • Generally a Designer can export a PDF, an ePub, or an InDesign packaged file.
  • This should be sufficient for most conversion companies to work with in order to get into the most of the ebook distribution networks…all but Amazon.
  • There are many types of eBook companies that offer a variety of services.
  • The cost to produce an eBook can sometimes outweigh the profits if you don’t find the right approach.
  • Be careful about the time and money you invest to be sure you get a proper return.
  • My Angel Dog Productions provides the eBook conversion and can guide you through how to upload the various files to the proper distribution networks and get you a working PDF version for your website.

Printing with a Print on Demand Service  - Let’s Do A Little Q&A

When is this the right approach to print in a digital print on demand system?

  • In my opinion its only the right approach when you are producing sales manuals, workbooks, memoire’s, and for some novels.
  • It is still sub-par in many ways and the end result is not going to be the most professional. I will always tell you to go to a professional printer first.
  • If you don’t want to store the books then find a distributor that will or just order fewer of them.

How do I get it formatted, who does that, and how much will it cost me?

  • Each POD system has different requirements and honestly, none of them are easy to understand and many take multiple proof printings to get the book clean for the final run. There isn’t much, if any, quality control so it comes off the digital machine and into the mailbox.

At my design company (Angel Dog Productions), we prefer not to work with the print on demand environment. I get called all the time with people “job shopping” for the best pricing. After we talk they call me a boutique shop. I’m totally fine with that. I’m not about to sacrifice the quality of my work for quick print jobs. I prefer to work with high-quality clients that are using their high-quality book to transform their platform and enhance their career. I’d remove my name from the book’s copyright page if the day ever came where I was forced to sacrifice quality. I don’t want to associate with sub-par production. It’s just not how I work.

On that note guys…we are moving on to part 5 in the 5 part series on how to work with a designer. Next up is the future of my book and where do I go from here?

Don’t forget to go over to the store on my website to get all my disclosed pricing and to sign up for my online book publishing coaching program. We’ve lowered the price during these unprecedented times to get you going on your book project.

As always…wishing you peace, love, and light!

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