A first-time author (I’ll call him Joe ) hired me to design his suspense novel. He requested ebook, paperback, and hardcover versions. He had purchased an ISBN for each format. (Each different edition of your book needs a separate ISBN to identify it—one for the ebook, a separate one for the paperback, and another for the hardcover.)
Joe had created a cover idea. I like the concept and began searching for stock images before starting the designs. (Stock images are high-quality, inexpensive photos designers can use for various purposes, such as book covers.)
Book sizesDuring our initial Zoom call, Joe showed me a hardcover and a paperback to compare. Both were published by traditional publishers. He pointed out that the hardcover was larger than the paperback. I suggested that we make the paperback and hardcover the same standard size to eliminate the need for separate interior files for each size. He agreed.
Joe selected KDP and IngramSpark for printing and distribution. (Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) is Amazon’s book publishing platform. It is one of the top self-publishing companies and currently dominates the self-publishing book market. IngramSpark is an online self-publishing company that allows authors to print, globally distribute, and manage their print and ebooks.) I know from past experience that KDP and IngramSpark have different spine widths. This means creating separate files, one for each company.
Hardcover books also require a separate file and Joe planned on doing a dust jacket for the hardcover. (The dust jacket of a book is the detachable outer cover, usually made of paper and printed with text and illustrations. This outer cover has folded flaps that hold it to the front and back book covers.)
I wanted to know who were Joe’s target readers and would they buy a hardcover book? Ordinarily, I recommend that first-time authors concentrate on marketing their books and getting reviews. Joe said he would focus on selling ebooks and paperbacks.
Joe used a well-respected, local editor and sent me his final manuscript for layout. I created the ebook in Vellum (Vellum is a book creation tool for Mac that allows you to professionally format books for publication.)and the paperback with InDesign (InDesign is a desktop publishing software application produced by Adobe for creating flyers, brochures, magazines, newspapers, and books.)
I sent completed interior pages for Joe’s review. Joe called and asked what he should do next. I told him to proofread. Joe said his editor did the proofreading. These are two different jobs. Editors review book manuscripts; professional proofreaders review page layouts. (Proofreading is the last chance to find and fix errors before a book goes to the printer. Proofreading eliminates mistakes in grammar, punctuation, capitalization, spelling, and formatting.)
Lessons Learned Working with a First-time Author
- Realize that first-time authors do not know the details of the publishing process, and part of my job is to educate them.
- Terminology that I understand and use every day may sound like a foreign language to a new author. Explain anything unfamiliar.
- When an author says he wants something, such as a hardcover book, explore his reasons, and talk through them.
- Stress the importance of each step in the publishing process from cover design to final proofreading of the layout.
I’m sure Joe learned a great deal from this exercise, but so did I. The designer’s challenge in such a situation is three-fold: (1) Execute each step of the publishing process; (2) be sure the author understands what you are doing and why; and (3) incorporate the author’s ideas and preferences wherever possible.