What You Can Expect from Your Designer, and What Your Designer Expects from You

Excerpt from Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, by Katherine Pickett

For many writers, the design part of book publishing is mystifying. This excerpt from the chapter “Making It Look Good: Design and Layout” sheds some light on what to expect and what is expected of you when working with a designer.

What You Can Expect from Your Designer

Professional designers offer an expertise that most literary types don’t have: they know what it takes to make a book visually appeal­ing. That includes a wide range of aspects, from choosing appro­priate artwork (photo or illustration), colors, and fonts for your subject area or genre to knowing the best spacing to use on chapter- opening pages and where to place the page numbers and running heads. Further, your designer will be able to locate the correct art­work and, if you are self-publishing, may be able to help you secure licenses for using the art. For the traditionally published author, the publishing house most often takes care of licensing.

You can also expect your designer to understand good lay­out principles. That means knowing how to “twin” pages—that is, make sure that the tops and bottoms of facing pages align—and fix bad breaks. It also includes making adjustments to spacing, hyphenation, and justification to ensure that the last page of a chapter has enough lines of text (at least six lines is optimal; four is passable) and that there are no blank right-hand pages.

The design sample shows you how the interior of your book will look after layout.
The design sample shows you how the interior of your book will look after layout.

When it comes to choosing the design for your book, your designer will do his or her best to represent your ideas. It is helpful if you have specific ideas to share, rather than vague notions, but also be sure to listen to your designer if he or she is gently nudging you in a certain direction. The designer may have reasons for his or her ideas that you aren’t aware of, and, in my experience, if you don’t ask your designer’s opinion, you won’t get it. The designer will give you what you asked for, even if it isn’t his or her first choice.

If you are self-publishing, you will work directly with your designer to come up with design ideas that are appropriate for your book. Your designer will listen to your ideas and attempt to convey your vision for the book through the cover and interior designs. Although you may use a different interior designer and cover designer, or possibly a template interior and a custom cover design from your designer, you will achieve a more seamless look if the same person does both designs. Template interiors work best with all-text books such as novels, where it is unlikely that a lot of adjustments will need to be made. Self-publishing advocate Joel Friedlander sells templates for Microsoft Word through his web­site (www.thebookdesigner.com), while some designers offer tem­plates at a savings compared to a custom design.

Those working with traditional publishing houses should recall that although they have input on the cover and interior designs for their books, they very rarely get final approval. That means you can give your opinion, but you are not likely to get everything you want.

What Your Designer Expects from You

As mentioned, authors who have signed with a traditional publish­ing house will have little direct contact with the designer. There­fore, designers do not have many expectations from these authors specifically. Nevertheless, for all authors, a good working relation­ship with a designer requires a collaborative mind-set.

Designers working with self-publishers expect their clients to have an opinion about what the design should be. If you have researched the competition ahead of time, you are in great shape, as you probably already have thoughts on what you like and what you don’t. Designers are the creative minds, however, and do best with a little freedom. That is to say, if you let them, good designers will take your ideas, add a few of their own, and bring you two or three design options that look great and fit your needs. If you have not formulated your thoPerfectBound by Katherine Pickettughts on how your book should look—for example, you have not researched the competition and therefore do not know what the conventions are for your genre—your designer will have to come up with something all on his or her own. This may work out great, but it also may happen that although you did not know how to verbalize what you like, you did indeed have an opinion, and the designer has missed the mark. This will result in many back-and-forths that could have been eliminated if you had done some research beforehand. Conversely, if you know precisely what you want, down to the last detail, you leave your designer with no room to be creative. You may get exactly what you want, but you lose the advantage of having hired an expert, and what you want may not be what is best for the marketability of the book. Looking through other books to find the designs you like may take a bit of time, but it’s also a lot of fun. It means your idea for a book is getting closer to reality.

When it is time for layout, be organized. Your manuscript file should be clean and ready to go, and your artwork and captions should be numbered and organized. A “clean” manuscript is free of extra spaces between words or sentences, free of extra paragraph breaks, and free of extra tabs. The entire file is double-spaced and in one standard font, such as Times New Roman, Arial, or Courier New. All text is “normal”; there are no random style sheets applied via Microsoft Word. And any queries from the copyeditor have been removed, with all tracked changes accepted. If you supply your manuscript this way, the designer can focus on more import­ant issues and you will receive your page proofs that much faster.

Like this blog? Check out Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, available through Hop On Publishing, Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Left Bank Books, and other retailers.

Getting a Handle on the Art Budget for Your Book

Both publishing houses and self-publishers have a vested interest in controlling the costs of book production. Although artwork — and by that I mean photos, illustrations, line drawings, charts, and graphs — adds to the value of a book, it also can add significant time and cost. Why is that? Here are the biggest drivers:

  • Art-heavy books require a lot of manipulation during page layout so that the photographs and illustrations land near enough to the text that they belong with. Sometimes the text may need to be rewritten or captions revised in order to accommodate all of the artwork. Layout artists will charge more to account for the additional time. By comparison, most fiction and other all-text books require much less manipulation, as there are fewer special elements to disrupt the flow of regular text.
  • Photos and illustrations also require licensing. The cost of these licenses can vary from around $40 to upwards of $300 per piece. If you’re planning a different photo for each of the 20 chapters in your book, for example, that’s a serious cost consideration.
  • If stock art is not appropriate for your book, you may have to research museum and library archives or hire a photographer or illustrator. In the case of hiring an artist, in addition to licensing you also have to pay an hourly rate or a flat fee for the artist’s time. Researching archives may not add monetary costs, but it does add time, which is an indirect cost.
  • When artwork is introduced, another professional may also be introduced: the image specialist. This is the person who scans any prints and verifies that the images are of high enough quality to be used in a book. If there is no dedicated image specialist, this job falls to another player in the book production process, and the time for that person to do the work is added to the cost of the book. Publishing houses may have the production editor or layout artist perform these tasks. Self-publishers may have to do it themselves.

What This Means to You

With a large art program, you have to stay organized
With a large art program, it can be difficult to stay organized.

Okay, so having photos and illustrations adds money to your project. What does that mean for you as the author? Well, a couple of things. If you are self-publishing it means having to factor the extra money into your budget. You will use your budget to find the balance between how much to charge for each book and how many books you will need to sell to recoup the investment. The added time must also be factored into the publication date. Copyediting, layout, and proofreading all take longer when a book has a large art program.

If you are seeking a traditional publisher, you need to be able to say why this artwork is needed and why the cost is justified. Some types of books simply require photos if they are going to be successful. For example, a cookbook with photos sells much better than one  without. Depending on the target audience, children’s books usually require artwork also. The publisher may want the author to provide and/or pay for said artwork. (Providing means either creating it yourself or hiring and paying a professional.) Again, your budget will need to be consulted and adjusted.

But never fear, you have options for saving money.

How to Save Money on Your Art Program

When planning the art program for your book, the first question you should ask yourself is, does your book require artwork? If the answer is yes, the follow-up question is how much artwork does it require? Not surprisingly, having a handful of photos will take less time and cost less money than a book with many pieces of art or many kinds of artwork. If you can achieve the same effect with less, then use less.

Sometimes black-and-white photos are just as effective as color.
Sometimes black-and-white photos are just as effective as color.

Another question to ask is, do the photos and illustrations need to be in color, or will black-and-white accomplish the same goals? Color photos require premium paper in order for them to reproduce properly. The cost per book for 4-color books is also quite high compared to a 1-color book (i.e., black-and-white). Is the value that color photos add to your book equal to or greater than the expense of including them? In some instances, if the photos aren’t in color they aren’t worth having at all. A thorough check of the competition can help you make this decision.

Finally, ask yourself, do the photos need to be placed throughout the book, or could they be gathered together and placed in the middle of the book? This alternative to a full art program, called a photo insert, is becoming more and more popular. A happy compromise on cost and readers’ expectations for photographs, a photo insert is the 8 or 16 pages of photographs you see dropped in the middle of a book. This feature is cheaper than having photos placed throughout the book because (1) you only have to pay for a few sheets of specialty paper and (2) layout does not have to accommodate the images, yet you still get to have your photos. Perhaps an insert is right for your book.

Like this blog? Check out Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, available through Hop On Publishing, Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Left Bank Books, and other retailers.

Road to Publication: Page Proofs

What do you do when you get page proofs for your book from your designer? Quite a bit, actually. Here’s the rundown on all that happens when you have page proofs in hand, as I experienced it:

  • I received first page proofs for Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro April 15 via e-mail. I immediately printed four sets. My husband and I each had a copy, and two copies  were sent out for advance reviews. I e-mailed the PDF to three more people, one of them being the proofreader and the other two being more reviewers.

    IMG_1834
    The page proofs have arrived!
  • While the proofreader was working away, my husband and I were each reviewing our sets of the pages. I read the book from beginning to end, then looked at some specific problem areas, such as the table of contents, the running heads, and page breaks. I followed my own advice, as set out in a previous blog post.
  • Two and a half weeks passed while the pages were being proofread and reviewed. Then, a few days before the proofreading due date, the proofreader scanned and e-mailed to me the pages with her corrections. I then compiled her edits as well as my husband’s onto my master set. I looked through everything once again, resolved the discrepancies that crept up among the three of us, and sent the entire set of pages back to the designer.

Because my copyeditor and I had done so much work early on to get the manuscript in shape, the proofreader had limited changes and was therefore able to (1) finish faster and (2) avoid shipping the complete set of page proofs, saving me time and money on both counts.

  • The designer had ten days to input the changes and get second proofs to me. While that was happening, even more exciting developments came my way, namely, I received reviews back from three of the five people I had approached. Two reviewers declined to review the pages, stating that the book was not appropriate for their audience. But that was OK. The three reviews I received were terrific, and I promptly added them to the front and back covers.

    The final front cover with endorsement
    The final front cover with endorsement
  • The second round of page proofs arrived a day early, which was great because that gave the indexer an extra day to complete the index. Time was getting short and I was anxious to make sure something as routine as an index didn’t cause us to miss our desired pub date. The indexer had asked for a week to complete the index, and that gave us only a few days for final revisions. If any major problems arose, we would miss the files-to-printer date. Turned out my worry was for naught: the indexer completed the index in three days!
  • While the index was being created, I checked corrections from first pages to second pages and then checked the table of contents and running heads again. I also spot-checked a few areas, reading all of the chapter-opening and -closing boxes and rereading the introduction and epilogue. As always, some small errors had slipped through. Good thing I took the time to review the pages again.

If you are self-publishing, be prepared to go through at least three rounds of page proofs. For whatever reason, it often takes until the third or fourth set of proofs for a person to notice an error in display text.

  • Corrections to the revised proofs and the edited index were e-mailed back to the designer (yes, you have to edit an index), and, lickety-split, we had third pages. We were getting close now. One more round of corrections and, as of yesterday, the interior has been finalized!

The pace of book production, once you receive those first page proofs, is mind-boggling. Just when it looks like you will never finish on time, the stars align, designers and indexers beat their deadlines, and you start to wonder why you ever doubted the outcome.

Final files go to the printer on Monday. Next up will be printer proofs. The end is in sight! The end of production, anyway. As the author, you’re never really done with a book, are you?

Also in this series

MS2BK: The Road to Publication

MS2BK: Manuscript Development

MS2BK: How I Chose My Path to Publication

MS2BK: Copyediting

MS2BK: The Design Process

Like this blog? Check out Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, available through Hop On Publishing, Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Left Bank Books, and other retailers.

Save Your Reputation: Edit Your Writing and Hire Pros When Needed

It might not be clear to all aspiring authors that their reputation is at stake with everything they put out into the world. A typo in a cover letter, a small factual error in a novel, a few misspelled words in a short story — who will notice? Who will care?

The truth is, although many people won’t be bothered by little errors here and there, enough people will be, and it is often these people who are the most vocal or are in a position of power.

The repercussions can include having your query to an agent dismissed, your short story rejected from a literary mag, or your novel blasted on Amazon and Goodreads. Unfortunately, you won’t get a second chance with an agent, and those online reviews never go away. Furthermore, once your reputation is tainted, it can be a major feat to get it back.

The ease with which a writer can become published via an e-book has magnified this problem. With an e-book, you can bypass every other kind of publishing professional, upload your first draft to Smashwords, KDP, or any number of other e-book sites, and — voila — in 24 hours you have an e-book. There are no gatekeepers and no one to save you from yourself. You can put out a low-quality product and ruin your reputation as a writer with the click of a button.

Don’t let this happen to you. Take matters into your own hands and shore up your reputation by producing the highest-quality writing you can. Here’s how:

  1. Perform thorough self-editing. There are lots of tricks to this. You can read my take on it here.
  2. Work with beta readers. Belinda Pollard has a nice article cleverly titled “How to Find a Beta Reader” with some helpful tips.
  3. Hire a professional editor. Editors abound. Find a good one to help you with whatever kind of writing you do.
  4. If you are self-publishing, hire a professional designer to help with layout or, at the very least, buy a template from Joel Friedlander.

While the professional design won’t help with textual errors, it will help your reputation. When you are self-publishing, anything you can do  to improve the appearance of your book will also improve your perceived professionalism and, therefore, your reputation.

Given how difficult it is to get noticed as a writer, the one thing you have to rely on is your reputation. Respect, integrity, professionalism, follow-through — no kidding, good editing can help you demonstrate all of these important characteristics through your writing. Mind your reputation from the beginning so that you do not have to fight to get it back.

Like this blog? Check out Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, available through Hop On Publishing, Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Left Bank Books, and other retailers.

Road to Publication: The Design Process

UPDATE — May 15, 2014

We have a final cover!

The final front cover with endorsement
The final front cover with endorsement

 

Originally published April 29, 2014

If you’ll recall, I left off last time having successfully navigated the copyediting stage of book production. For four weeks the manuscript for Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro had been with the copyeditor, which was a welcome break from the revisions I had been doing. However, I wasn’t completely off the hook. The book still demanded much of my attention.

The same day I sent the manuscript to the copyeditor, I sent another copy of it to the designer. I had hired a woman I have worked with in the past on other books (not my own).  From that experience, I knew she had done great work on books similar to mine. My husband, Chris, was involved in the entire design process, and after reviewing the designer’s online portfolio, he agreed she would be a good fit. We requested a quote, and it came back within budget. We were set.

The manuscript had the design elements coded so that the designer would know what level the different headings were intended to be. The book has four kinds of boxes, and each kind received its own set of codes as well. I also sent a design memo explaining what my vision was for the overall tone and feel of the book:

I’m looking for something calm, clean, and friendly. This is a how-to for new authors who are likely overwhelmed with everything they need to know about book publishing. I don’t want anything too big or bold that will add to their anxiety.

I included the format (paperback and e-book), trim size (6 x 9), desired/expected page count (208), and pub date (September 2014). I then detailed what I did and didn’t like in other designs, providing links to competitors for reference.

I also gave my thoughts on the cover design:

I would like to have a road theme (photo or illustration) on the cover to set up the Pothole and Roadside Assistant elements inside. In addition to the title and subtitle, I was thinking about having four bullets on the front cover to distinguish this book from the 75 other books on publishing a book that are out now. Perhaps you can give me some guidance on whether or not that will look good.

My first choice was a little cramped.
My first choice was a little cramped.
Chris's first choice was gray and pointy.
Chris’s first choice was gray and pointy.

Ten days later I received the first set of cover designs. There were three, and to be honest, I wasn’t that thrilled with any of them. I was expecting to be wowed, unable to choose because they were all so good, but that wasn’t the case. There was one that I really liked, but Chris thought it looked cramped, and the one he liked I thought was too pointy and gray. After a lengthy discussion we gathered our thoughts and I e-mailed the designer with our ideas for revisions. All of the covers had photos, so we also asked to see one with an illustration.

By the end of the week we had five more covers to consider. For the revised covers, one was much improved, another I found just as underwhelming as I had the first go-round, and the third, well, the third was an example of too many cooks in the kitchen. Sometimes when you try to tweak a design, you end up with a muddled mess. That’s what we got. The one I had originally liked best was now tied for last place.

The one I almost ran away with
The one I almost ran away with didn’t match the tone.

However,  there was one I absolutely loved! It was so fun and vibrant and welcoming. It was a funky illustration that I thought captured my friendly personality better than the others had. It needed a couple of tweaks, but all in all, I was ready to run away with it. My husband liked it, too, and even if he didn’t, he knew it was going to be hard to talk me out of it.

Shortly before bed, however, he made a comment that I really had to consider. “Do you think that cover conveys the tone of the book?” I was dismayed. There was nothing wrong with the cover. It was great! But . . .

He might have a point, I thought. I slept on it and when I awoke, I realized he was right. Instead, the one I had marked as the runner-up turned out to be the one that best fit the book.

PerfectBound-cov1-600x900
The final cover showing the final subtitle

With the cover finally decided, we were able to really jump into the interior design.

I received the first sample and again, I was a bit underwhelmed. My desire for calm and clean had definitely been taken to heart. But this time, the revisions went much faster. To spruce things up, we incorporated the cover image into the chapter opener, enlarged the chapter-opening box to make it more prominent, and fixed the spacing on the A-heads.  I also asked for some different artwork for the Pothole subchapters, a different style of bullet for the bulleted lists, and a few other small adjustments. In ten days from start to finish, we had a final interior design.

The full design process took roughly six weeks, and I realize now that I should have started discussions about the cover before I even sent the manuscript to the copyeditor. However, with the copyeditor needing an extension and my final revision of the manuscript taking longer than I expected, we actually ended up with the final manuscript file and the final design coming together at the same time. We now have page proofs. I’ll tell you all about it  . . . next time.

P.S. We just received an outstanding review and have decided to add an excerpt to the front cover. Looks like the final, FINAL cover is still to come!

Also in this series

MS2BK: The Road to Publication

MS2BK: Manuscript Development

MS2BK: How I Chose My Path to Publication

MS2BK: Copyediting

Like this blog? Check out Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro, available through Hop On Publishing, Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Left Bank Books, and other retailers.