Saturday Q & A With the Book Designer 05: Book Files

by | Jun 18, 2011

Who Owns Your Book Files?

This week we’re talking about the ownership of your book files. I deal with this constantly with authors who have gone the subsidy publishing route. I don’t hide my feelings about this situation in the video.

No matter who you’re dealing with, there are points to consider that will help protect you. And a few tips, too.

If you have a question you’d like me to address next week, leave it in the comments. (If you can’t see the video, please reload or refresh the page.)

In This Video

  • Do you know whether you can get the files used to print your book?
  • Common practices of subsidy publishers
  • Why you should read your contract


Top 10 Tips for Working With a Book Designer
Self-Publishing Basics: Four Ways to Publish Your Book
22 Top Book Designer Tasks for Getting Your Self-Published Book Into Print

If you would like a more complete treatment of these topics, make sure you’re on my newsletter subscriber list. You’ll be the first to hear when I issue new resources and e-learning materials.

These videos are examples of the kind of content I’m working on for my upcoming course specifically designed for new self-publishers, but it’s only going to be offered to subscribers. If you’re interested, get on the list now.

tbd advanced publishing starter kit


  1. Dana Ross Martin

    Another great video, thanks!

    In regards to last week’s show with Brian of BookBaby (BTW, another worthwhile video from the Book Designer!), I perused his site and noticed that BookBaby offers two different cover design services. One is for a “front cover only” – the other is for front cover, back cover, and insertion of ISBN/bar code, author pic, etc.

    My question is: An author only needs a FRONT cover for eBooks, right? The other service (with front & back cover plus ‘the other stuff’) is for a PRINT version of one’s book, correct?

    Thanks for the clarification,

  2. cj Madigan

    Hi, Joel,
    I’m not sure if your “why not?” was a rhetorical question or a specific one. As I said, I consider my InDesign files my working files and what I have contracted to deliver to the client are files for the printer. My contract is clear on this. There’s a clause that indicates that getting the working files can be arranged for an additional fee. However, I would prefer my clients to come back to me if they are going to revise the book, although the work I do – almost all privately published personal histories – is rarely revised. I have on occasion released the InDesign files – if I know someone else is going to use them, I may set them up differently than when I am working on them by myself.

    I have also had experiences where people get the InDesign files and then really aren’t experienced enough with the software to be able to make the changes. And they call me and want to know why “this isn’t working.” [Sometimes it’s because they have an older version of INDD than I used.] There are a lot of variables.

    I’ve also had situations where clients have taken the .pdf that was designed for one POD service – say – and uploaded it to where the cover dimensions are different, then are disappointed when they don’t like the results.

    As you pointed out in your video, the key thing is that the contract is clear and if there are concerns/issues they be discussed.

    Thanks for all you do making your information available.

  3. cj Madigan

    Hi, Joel,
    Excellent points. But I’d like to know exactly what files you are talking about. Are you talking about the final pdfs that are sent to the publisher? Or are you talking about the working files such as InDesign or Quark?

    My practice is to turn over the pdf files and the enhanced jpgs or tifs of images used in the book but I do not turn over the InDesign or Photoshop layered files that I used to develop the pdf.

    • Joel Friedlander

      Hi cj, thanks for the comment. I specifically meant the InDesign files and all linked files (excluding fonts, of course). I give my clients the PDFs (they can’t print without them, after all) and everything else if they ask for it. Why not?

  4. Wayne Peterson

    Thanks for the informative Q&A. I have a question you might can answer. I also watched your interview with the President of BookBaby. Did you happen to learn while interacting with him whether the standard practice for BookBaby is to return ownership of the files?

    • Joel Friedlander

      Hey Wayne, I did not ask Brian Felsen about this, but it would be interesting to know the answer, so I’ll see if I can find out.

    • Joel Friedlander

      Wayne, here’s the response from Brian Felsen:

      It’s no problem – we easily can send over the converted ePUB file at the author’s request, whether they leave us or not. We don’t want to lock anyone into anything. Cheers!

  5. jules older

    Nice one, Joel. Useful and pain-saving. Thanks.



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