Printers and publishers have a lot in common in terms of what their graphic designers will and won’t do. Today’s post will help you understand why.
First and foremost, I’m referring to hybrid publishers as opposed to traditional (trade) publishers here. When traditional publishers purchase the rights to publish your manuscript, they are also buying full creative control of the book. That means they will make all the graphic design decisions on your behalf. You won’t have much say in anything. But in the self-publishing and hybrid publishing business models, you retain full copyright ownership of the book. As such, you also retain your creative control and must make all the design decisions for yourself. (You can learn more about today’s three primary book publishing methods by clicking here.)
Printers and Publishers Won’t Make Graphic Design Decisions on Your Behalf
Twice in the last ten years, I took on projects from authors who said they had no idea how they wanted their book covers to look. I pressed them for details with various leading questions. But they both insisted they didn’t know what they wanted. They asked me to have my graphic designer supply them with two sample layouts to choose from without providing any real instructions ahead of time. I cringed. I knew where this was headed. But I obliged and asked my designer to create two sample layouts based on the little information we had: the type of book, topic matter, and stated demographic.
In both cases, the designers did their best and came up with what I considered to be beautiful, professional designs. But, not surprisingly, both authors hated the sample layouts. “That’s not what I had in mind,” they both complained. It had been a giant waste of everyone’s time.
You see, even if you think you don’t know what you want, you still do to some degree. And this is important information to provide the graphic designers of both printers and publishers ahead of time.
When deciding how you would like your book’s cover and interior to appear, it’s best to browse a bookstore (whether in person or online) and view the many different examples there first. What designs, colours, and fonts draw your attention? Write down the book titles and author names, so you can use this as a handy visual reference when it comes time to provide a description to the graphic designer. This will help the process run much more smoothly for both of you.
You can download the above book completely free of charge to obtain a check-list of the types of information graphic designers will need from you upfront. Just click on the cover image to be redirected to where it can be downloaded. I highly recommend you read it.
Printers and Publishers Won’t Choose Graphics for You Free of Charge
If you want to include any illustrations, graphics, or images on your book cover—or in your book’s interior, for that matter—you must ensure you have the legal right to use them. There are three ways you can do this: one, you can use photos, illustrations, or graphics that you have personally created and therefore own the copyright to; two, you can purchase them from someone else; or three, you can find public domain stock photos that are deemed as “free for commercial use” and download those. Either way, it’s best if you to provide these files to printers and publishers ahead of time. Otherwise, you’ll spend a lot more money paying them to create or find these files on your behalf.
Click here for more information regarding where and how to find public domain stock photos for yourself. Always respect another artist’s copyright. If you don’t—if you just pull any image file you find off the Internet and use that for your book without first confirming you have the right to use it—you may find yourself involved in an expensive copyright infringement lawsuit down the road.
Printers and Publishers Won’t Choose Paper Stock for You Without Some Input
I fully understand the inclination of an author to say, “Just use the standard interior and cover stock,” when asked what type of paper you want used for your paperback or hardcover books. I get it. You’re thinking that printers and publishers are the experts, so they should know what you need in this regard. Here’s the problem with that: there is no one standard.
As you’re browsing through the bookstore to determine your design preferences, take note of all the different types of books in front of you. Notice how some books are thicker than others. Some covers are glossy and shiny; others are dull. Some interior pages are thin while others are thick. The colours vary. The sizes vary. Everything varies! (Choice is a wonderful thing. But it can also be a bit of a nightmare at times.)
When you’re browsing the bookstore, take note of the types of cover and interior paper stocks that appeal to you most. Take photos of your preferences. Better yet, bring physical samples to show printers and publishers when it comes time to place your order with them.
Printers and Publishers Will Sit Down With You to Discuss All These Details and Make Recommendations
Here’s one more thing printers and publishers have in common: they want to make you happy. When you’re happy, they’re happy!
Once you’ve visited the bookstore and gotten an idea of what you’re looking for, your next best course of action is to book a graphic design meeting to discuss your findings. Ask questions, listen to the recommendations, then make your decisions from there.
Printers and publishers are here to help you create the best book possible. But they need you to help them help you by doing some homework ahead of time. Trust me, it will save you time and money in the long run.
Related reading: Why Do Authors Need Graphic Designers?
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