Self-publishing: the graphic design or typesetting stage

After your manuscript (MS) has been edited to the stage where there are no errors in the manuscript, it is ready to be  designed.

“Edited to the stage where there are no errors in the manuscript” means that your MS has been edited to ensure the structure, style and content is right, then has undergone a “final copy edit”. (Read about the editing stages here.) The final copy edit is essential, to ensure there are no errors in the MS prior to the next stage of graphic design, or typesetting.

Hiring a professional to design your book

Some people design their book themselves because 1) they believe in DIY, whenever possible, or 2) they do not have a budget, or a large enough budget, to design their book.

However, a DYI designed book usually looks DYI – i.e. not professional. A book designed by a professional looks like a professionally designed book.

Given the cost of editing and printing a self-published book, it is a shame when books are not designed professionally, because this can negatively limit the presentation, which in turn impacts readability and potential sales.

So, if you are producing a self-published book, and want it to look professional, I recommend that you hire a professional graphic designer to design (typeset) the inside pages, and design the cover. (Note: you may hire one designer to design the inside pages, and a different designer to design the cover.)

Before you hire a professional graphic designer to design (typeset) your self-published book, make sure you look at some of the books they have designed previously. A well-designed book looks eye-catching and reflects the essence,  main theme or content of the book. Both the cover and inside pages look as professional and pleasing to the eye as all those mainstream-published books on any bookshop shelf.

Obtaining a quote from a graphic designer

If you have decided to hire a graphic designer to produce your book – both inside pages and cover – I assume you have already obtained a quote or estimate from them, and have looked at their previous work to make sure you like their style. You may also want to speak to a referee (previous client) to make sure others have been happy with their methods and end product.

To obtain a realistic quote or estimate for designing both cover and inside pages, you need to give the graphic designer details such as 1) wordcount, 2) number of images and the size you want those images to be represented in the book, 3) any set ideas you have for either inside pages or cover images or design, 4) expected or required timeline, and (if applicable)  5) the printer or e-publisher you intend to use.

The graphic designer will ask you for more details in addition to the above. They may need to see the manuscript. They will then give you either an estimate or a fixed quote for typesetting the inside pages and designing the cover of your book. Make sure you read their quote/contract including terms and conditions, before you agree to it!

What happens during the graphic design stage

Once your MS is sent to the graphic designer, it is their job to make sure your book cover and inside pages are designed in exactly the right way. This means not only making sure the design is a good fit for the content/theme, but also that the design meets your personal taste (not necessarily theirs). After all, this is your self-published book and you are paying them for a service, so they need to make sure that you are perfectly happy with the end result.

To make sure your expectations are realistic, and met, and to ensure there is no miscommunication (that could lead to wasted designer time and expense), you and the graphic designer need to collaborate closely not only at the outset, but throughout the graphic design process.

If you wish to be involved in the design to a great extent, you can and should have  the opportunity to give your feedback about the following aspects of the design:

  • Cover: What images to use and where? Background colour/design. Fonts for the title and other text. Blurb placement. Barcode placement. Spine text.
  • Inside pages: What images to use ? Exact placement of images and  captions.
  • Inside pages: Font types and sizes for main content and different headings. Check order of front matter.  Page numbering, footers and headers. Representation of asterisks/other methods of creating a break. White space, margin width, gutter.

Hiring a self-publishing services provider to produce your book

If you want someone to produce your self-published book for you (including editing, graphic design and printing or epublishing), you can hire a  self-publishing services provider produce your book from go to whoa. 

A self-publishing services provider will give you either a fixed quote or an estimate for the graphic design/typesetting task. They will do all the necessary liaising and organising with the designer and printer, while involving and collaborating with you (as much as you want to be involved) in regard to design and printing decisions.

Image: Easter Festival, Bendigo. Copyright S W Kane.

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