You have a manuscript. It’s been written, edited, copyedited, proofread, and shaken, not stirred. It’s time to turn it into a book. But taking a book from manuscript to market is not as simple as DIY publishing houses would have you believe, particularly if you want a print version. You want your book to look professional. You want the page design to reflect your voice and message. You want the design and composition process to run smoothly, with little distraction and no drama.
So you decide to work with a book designer.
You think you know everything about your book, every little detail—but do you? A book designer will start the process by asking you the following questions (some of them are pretty simple). Having the answers in hand will make things move faster.
- Is the cover design finalized? Cover design has a direct bearing on design elements within the book. Typefaces, title and half title pages (these come directly from the cover in most cases), even graphical elements at the beginning of chapters—all of these need to work together. Even if your cover is not finalized, you should have most aspects of it nailed down before you begin page design.
- What publishing platform will you be using (for example, CreateSpace, IngramSpark, Lulu)? Different platforms have different specs. Margin requirements of CreateSpace may appear to be the same as those of IngramSpark, but don’t let that fool you. A 1/16 inch variance or a bit of text over a line gets you sent back a step on CreateSpace, and it can take a day just to find out that you messed up.
- What is the proposed trim size? How big will your book be? 5 x 7? 8.5 x 11? 5.83 x 8.27? Not all platforms support all trims, plus you want the trim of your book to make sense in the market. Your book on business-building strategy shouldn’t be mistaken for a coffee table book about artisanal footstools.
- What is the word count of the manuscript? Word count determines book length, and book length (or page length) affects aspects of the design, like gutter and bleed. (A good designer knows what those words mean so you don’t have to.)
- What is your page length goal? No designer can—well, should—make a 140 page book out of a 100,000 word manuscript. But there are certain things we can do if you have a certain page length in mind. Margins, font size, leading and other elements can be adjusted, within reason. As with trim size, the market has to be kept in mind when setting a page length goal. If 1,000 page romance novels are currently trending, and you have one, great! If books on leadership that are longer than 400 pages get left on the shelf, you should keep that in mind.
- How many images do you plan to include in the book? This affects length and design, especially if the images you plan to use are explicitly referenced in the text. Working with figures or diagrams or photos that need to be on the same page as the text reference can get tricky, especially if there are multiple images per page.
- Do you have high-resolution files for those images, and do you have the right to use them? This is very important. Resolution requirements are typically 300 ppi in the CMYK color space. Your designer should always check this for you, so all you have to worry about is getting the images and making sure you have the right to use them. If you’re using stock imagery, your designer should be able to advise you on your purchase. If you are not sure if you have the right to use certain images, you might first read the FAQ on stockphotorights.com. And FYI, finding an image online does not mean that it is not protected by copyright laws.
Of course, there are many more details you’ll discuss with a designer as the project progresses, but these are the questions you should be prepared to answer right from the start. The answers will lay the foundation for creating a design that serves your goals and meets the needs of your reader.