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    How to Work With a Book Designer


    Lucky you! You’re self publishing, so you have creative control over every aspect of your book. If you had a big book deal with a New York publisher, you wouldn’t have any say in your book design. Creative control is great, but it’s no fun if you don’t know where to begin. You’ll enjoy participating in your book’s design a lot more if you know what choices are to be made.

    There are two aspects: the interior design, (largely predetermined by your manuscript) and the cover design. The cover, as the “face” of your book, is important, as it gets the most scrutiny. Authors, intent on words, may not have considered design. We’ll explain cover design in three steps.

    Step 1 is to decide on the big picture, the layout for the cover. There are five approaches, often determined by whether you have a powerful, emblematic image you want to feature:

    • a full-cover image with text overlay (called "full-bleed", as it bleeds over the edges)
    • a framed/ dominant photo (very popular in memoir and family history)
    • a smaller image element with text dominant
    • text only, with "high concept" text, or a colorful patterned background
    • text only, with mimimal design, if using leather binding

    *click on the image for a larger size

    Step 2 is the selection of the colors for your cover. If you have a full image, choose the color for your title text directly from the image. In other layouts, the choice of color will greatly influence the first impression of the book. You can find a color wheel on the web, or even visit a paint store and browse sample colors there. For family history, some authors choose a black and white or sepia cover. If so, make sure you have compelling, high quality images, or your younger readers may dismiss your book as boring. Color is very stimulating to the eye!

    Step 3 is all about the text - the title, subtitle (optional) and author’s name. We’ll need to choose the typeface, or font, the color of the type, and its placement on the cover. You can browse typefaces on your computer or on the web and list some that you like. Fonts have more or less distinctive styles, which should suit the contents of your book. As for the color and placement of the type, they are determined by the choices you’ve already made about layout and the dominant color.

    These are the basic elements, but you can go farther. Sophisticated book covers have many “layers”, some more literal, some more abstract. Consider adding a symbolic element that suggests the deeper meaning of your book. If you enjoy scrapbooking, you know that you can fit a lot on one page. We can create that same effect if you wish.

    Does this sound like work, instead of fun? Then don’t do it! You can take a shortcut for your cover design. Spend a pleasant evening browsing in your local bookstore, and choose a cover you love. We’ll use it as a model. Or you can give your book designer some very general impressions, and let us take it from there. We have lots of ideas for cover composition, color and typeface, and can make you a few sample mockups to consider, discuss and refine. 

    In any case, it’s an exciting process. Imagine the thrill when you see your book cover completed, your book project finally made real!

    See more of our articles