by Michele DeFilippo (@1106design)
I met Michele online a couple of years ago. She and I share a commitment to educating authors for the challenges of self-publishing great books. As anyone who visits the site of her book design firm 1106Design knows, she is a very talented and experienced book designer. I asked her to share some of her wisdom that would help you as authors. Here’s her response:
The goal when self-publishing is to make sure that your book does not look, well, self-published. Your book should have a certain je ne sais quoi, a “look” that meets the industry standards set by books published in the traditional manner, and that means both the cover and the interior pages.
If you’ve done some research, probably you are aware of a few ways to get your book looking better than it does right now, but beware: not all methods will guarantee you the professional look that a book designer can get you.
So, bypass the free templates offered by some self-publishing companies (because nothing in life is free), turn down your young nephew’s offer to desktop publish it, and stop pulling your hair out trying to get Word to do what you want; it’s not meant for this type of work anyhow.
Instead, put the $1,000 you saved by not purchasing top-end design software towards hiring a professional book designer to design your book’s cover and interior pages.
At the project’s outset, a competent designer will ask you for some information to better understand your book and your needs, including:
- The manuscript (a draft is fine) or at the very least, a synopsis of your book.
- The book’s final title and subtitle.
- The author’s name as it should appear on the cover.
- Any logos that are to appear on the front and back cover.
- Insight into your intended audience.
- Your vision for the cover and interior pages.
- Any other information that you feel would help the book designer to understand what you are looking for.
Together you can talk about the “trim size” of the book—the finished cover and page size—along with paper color and weight, and number of colors to be used on the cover and the inside pages.
Based on the above information, the book designer will (or should) research other books in the same genre as your book and which appeal to the same audience. He or she should then present you with a selection of cover concepts, each of which should be distinctly different so that you have some clear choices about the direction you want your book cover to take.
A cover concept is not one cover image presented three different ways; rather the cover concepts should provide you with at least three major design directions for your publication.
So when you first talk to a book designer, it’s important to clarify whether or not the designer intends to show you a few cover concepts or simply variations on the same theme. In addition, make sure that the designer is not using a template that has been used for previous covers or interior pages, so that your book design will be one-of-a-kind.
The process of creating cover concepts can be time-consuming and therefore, may seem like quite an expense. However, a truly creative solution for your book design will benefit you many times over as your book will be truly unique, deliver a message targeted right at your audience, and stand out from the other books on the store shelf or on the Amazon web page.
Regarding your book’s interior, an experienced book designer will create pages that are visually appealing, hold interest, and are easy on the eye, factors that buyers consider when deciding to purchase a book.
Your designer should work with you to determine page size, binding, paper, page layout and typography, so that your subject matter is presented in an appropriate and attractive way.
” … a truly creative solution for your book design will benefit you many times over.”
You should be given samples of various alternative layouts using text from your manuscript. Work with the designer to tweak these until you are happy with the layout, because it is MUCH easier (and also cheaper for you in the long run) if you finalize the page layout now rather than request design changes once the entire book has been formatted!
When book designers lay out your text in your chosen format, they do much more than paste text into a document. Designers are aware of the many page layout conventions that are not perceptible to the reader, but when followed, give your book a polished appearance.
But even more than knowing the rules, it’s knowing how and when to break them on a case-by-case basis that makes the difference between an amateur layout and a professional one. Bottom line, buyers will gravitate towards books that are visually compelling and professionally designed, and that don’t look self-published!
Michele DeFilippo owns 1106 Design, a Phoenix-based company that works with authors, publishers, business pros, coaches, consultants, speakers . . . anyone who wants a beautiful book, meticulously prepared to industry standards. After helping almost a thousand authors make their books a reality, Michele has just self-published her first book Publish Like the Pros: A Brief Guide to Quality Self-Publishing (and an Insider’s Look at a Misunderstood Industry).
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