Book design is the step that comes after editing, before and after illustrations. It’s the careful integration of text and artwork without just slapping a textbox on top of the illustration or just having huge blocks of boring text on a page.
Let’s elaborate on that a little…
A book designer can have graphic design skills that allow them to go beyond formatting. Formatting is the process of properly putting together all the pages of a book and exporting final files for print and ebooks. There are ‘formatters’ that focus on just ebook formatting especially when it comes to adult novels/chapter books that need additional coding added to their ebook in order to be a beautiful reflowable ebook. A reflowable ebook is one that has live text that works on an e-reader, it can be interacted with (highlighted, font changed, size increased or decreased
A book designer can work with an author and illustrator during the sketching process to advise on the best layout for text placement, and typography choices, as well as ensure that illustrations are being created using proper dimensions. We then place the text on the finished artwork in a way that is perfectly integrated as part of the complete page design. Some designers, like myself, can also offer additional art direction throughout the project. Most illustrators do not do final formatting – it’s a very technical skill set and should not be expected from all illustrators, some of us do it all but it’s not common. In traditional publishing, it is almost always a separate role.
Working with Illustrations
I prefer to work with an illustrator from the very beginning of the project, I can work with finished art and place text in the allotted space. If proper space has not been left for text I (or the illustrator) will modify the artwork to make room (typically just nudging elements over a bit, shrinking them, or adding a color overlay to that area to increase contrast for better legibility).
*I DO NOT modify artwork beyond the illustrator’s original creation, nor do I make any claim/credit to their artwork. Any modifications I do are to enhance the page layout and provide the best possible outcome for your book.
If I do need to make changes I will let you know. To make this process easier I might request layered files for the artwork. These would typically be Photoshop files. If the art is created with traditional media I will use Photoshop to adjust manually as best I can.
Most illustrators are not typesetters. It’s something I want to make clear because it is a very different skill from illustrating and it’s not as easy as one might think. Choosing fonts is just one part of typesetting – which “is the way that text is composed using individual types — the symbols, letters, and glyphs in digital systems. It’s a crucial part of the world of design that requires an understanding of fonts, corresponding font sizes, and line spacing” (Adobe). A good designer will also be a good typesetter – we know how to properly create hierarchy and a seamless flow of text that is effortless and pleasing to the eye. We don’t want text to be distracting and take away from your story, let alone ruin illustrations. Typesetting can make or break a project, it’s the basis of every reading experience.
Choosing the right font for the project means matching the story, the age group, the illustration style, and taking any specific details into consideration. A book meant for adults has very different requirements than an early reader. A book for infants has very different requirements than one meant for school-aged kiddos!
Every font and typeface is unique and has its own built-in settings for sizing and spacing and a designer will source and set the right font for your book in the best layout possible.
Formatting comes after layout, typography, print format (hardcover vs paperback, etc.), your printer has been chosen, and all illustrations are completed. Some people are just designers and some are just formatters (and don’t do the fun pretty stuff) – I do both.
For design and final formatting, I use Adobe InDesign, a multipage document formatting program. Some may use alternative programs like Affinity Publisher, but InDesign is industry standard.
Professional formatting can take your book to the next level!
Final print files take multiple things into consideration. There is more to it than just choosing a font and making it the right size, we know and understand proper print settings and export files in line with those parameters. Setting up our initial project files and document settings is step one. Proper resolution, document size, margins, and bleeds all happen before any text or images are added to the document.
Afer initial document set up we place text and images, set text and paragraph styles, add small details, double and triple check that every page is perfect and then export your final files.
Exporting final files means saving the final book in proper formats for its intended viewing experience.
Print files – you will see multiple PDF files in your Print Files folder. This can vary from project to project depending on your needs.
- Each print format requires its own cover template. Hardcover vs Paperback and this also varies from printer to printer.
- Dust Jacket
- Interior Pages
You will also receive a low-resolution file for easy sharing – this file is exported as spreads and includes all parts of your book in one file.
Ebook files – you will receive an epub file of your interior pages and a jpg of your front cover.
Learn more about file types here.
I also personally include a Page Images folder that you can use for marketing purposes. These are single pages and spreads of your book in its final form with text on illustrations.
I also include 3D Mockups of your book. I send a few of the cover and a few select interior spreads for you to use on marketing materials. I’m also happy to help with any additional digital (social media posts/templates, ads, etc,) and print graphics (bookmarks, postcards, and flyers oh my!)
More questions? Check out my Book Design FAQ page.
Here’s my Book Design Checklist to get you started.