Book Production: 22 Top Book Designer Tasks for Getting Your Self-Published Book Into Print

POSTED ON Dec 14, 2023

Joel Friedlander

Written by Joel Friedlander

Home > Blog > Book Design, Book Production, Cover Design, Interior Design, Self-Publishing > Book Production: 22 Top Book Designer Tasks for Getting Your Self-Published Book Into Print

I frequently get asked what exactly a book designer does when it comes to book production.

On this website, we talk frequently about the need to hire publishing professionals, to get your book properly edited and designed to compete in the marketplace. If you’re self-publishing, understanding the conventions and best practices of book production is critical to creating a professional finished product.

In this article, we’ll run through the different functions of designers in the book production process and how they can help you get the best book possible.

In this article, we’ll cover 22 tasks that book designers can do for self-published authors:

All Designers Aren’t Created Equal

When it comes to book production, there are book designers and book designers. Many cover designers do only covers, that’s their specialty. Some designers do only interiors. Some designers do covers, websites, and marketing collateral. Then some designers provide a complete resource for self-publishing authors.

When I meet with prospective clients for the first time, it’s really the beginning of a relationship. By the time the books roll off the press, I may have been involved in many aspects of the book’s development.

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22 Ways Book Professionals Can Help with Book Production

Recently I sat down and made a list of 22 tasks that fall to the book designer in the course of a project. I hope that this helps self-publishers better understand what goes into the book design process.:

  1. Fine-tuning the finished product. Designers determine whether the prospective self-publisher can articulate a clear goal for her book and, if not, help her achieve that. Sometimes a self-publisher can tell you what they don’t want but not what they want. By taking the time to listen, I can help them pinpoint their ultimate goals.
  2. Product fit. Designers can help the client determine the category, niche, or target market for the book.
  3. Unique identifier. They can assist a client in obtaining ISBN, LCCN, SAN, ASIN, and publisher listings if needed.
  4. Printing. A designer can decide the best printing process to meet the goal and help the client select a provider.
  5. Formatting requirements. Designers can analyze the formats that will be needed in the finished book.
  6. Editing direction. They can direct the self-publisher to editing support if it has not been done.
  7. Set up a production schedule. Designers understand the book production process and can offer suggestions on the best schedule.
  8. Exterior book design direction. Designers are often connected to other book professionals. They can offer suggestions if cover design support is needed.
  9. Clean up. They can ensure that text files submitted by the author are clean.
  10. Interior options. Designers create sample interior designs, using a representative chapter and most if not all of the formats needed for the final book.
  11. Cover options. They create sample cover designs demonstrating the different ways the book can be positioned within its category.
  12. Revisions. Designers work with clients to adjust designs to fit their needs and aesthetics.
  13. Interior design. They lay out all the pages of the book, correct formatting where needed, and adjust the length to the right number of pages.
  14. Copyright page. They remind the client to finish the copy for the copyright page.
  15. Specs. They obtain a spine width calculation, cover template, and technical specs from the client’s book printer.
  16. Full cover design. They provide cover services from layouts to barcodes.
  17. Customized support. Sometimes books need extra support. For example, a designer can scan and adjust photographs for selected printing methods, if any are used.
  18. ARCs. Designers can prepare Advance Review Copies (ARC) for marketing and review purposes.
  19. Book finalizing. They can arrange for proofreading and indexing if needed.
  20. Book inventory. Some designers can advise the publisher about her packing, shipping, and storage options for offset books.
  21. Printing support. They can create reproduction files conforming to the printer’s specifications, and coordinate proofing and production with the printer.
  22. Personal support. Engaged designers will celebrate every milestone as one step closer to the client’s goal.

Final Thoughts on Book Production

Many of the tasks listed are ones that I’ve run across as I have helped clients. When I looked at this list, I realized why my favorite term for what I do is Book Producer. However, no one has ever called me up saying, “I need a book producer,” so I don’t use it. But that’s what it is, gathering the resources and talent needed to produce the book at hand, and making sure the project runs smoothly, and on budget, to a satisfying conclusion.

When it comes to book production, keep in mind that nothing in the list of 22 tasks above describes the biggest part of the designer’s work: creating the typographic container for the author’s work, and doing the actual fitting, pushing, nudging, aligning, sizing and organizing of the content into something that looks the way a “book” should look, that actually enhances the experience of reading.

And that, in the end, is really the most satisfying part of what I do. Most of the books we create, even if they are influenced by the current trends, will be around far longer than we will. As a designer sometimes I feel as if I stand between the 500-year traditions of bookmaking on one hand, and on the other hand, the potential hundreds of years some of these books may last. Not a bad place to be at all.

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Joel Friedlander

Written by
Joel Friedlander

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