Most people are curious and overwhelmed by self-publishing. At a recent St. Louis Publishers Vendor Showcase, local author-services providers, such as book designers, editors, book coaches, printers, and illustrators, had the opportunity to display our products and services and explain to authors what we do. Many aspiring authors stopped by my table and asked questions. Each time, it was much like conducting a mini-seminar on the graphic side of book publishing. Here are some examples:
Q: Did you do these?
A: (I thought this was a strange question, since this was a vendors’ showcase, I am a graphic designer, and there were many books displayed on my table.) Yes, I designed all the books you see here at my table. The cover designs reflect each author’s unique concept and subject matter. A book’s cover is very important. It must capture the reader’s attention and convey a message, all in a matter of seconds. The back over is like a billboard, containing a lot of information in a small amount of space. It has to be well designed so that the reader isn’t overwhelmed.
Q: What do you do?
A: I’m a book designer. Then I pointed to my poster, which listed the types of things I design: book covers and interiors, publishing logos, bookmarks, book-launch materials, eBook consulting, promotional materials, and briefly explained each one. My principal focus is book design, so I tried to stress that aspect of my work.
Q: Do you do insides? (book interiors)
A: Yes—from the title page to the index. Many designers specialize in covers and don’t do the interiors, but I offer the whole package because I believe that there should be continuity between the cover and the inside pages,
Q: Do you do book marketing?
A: There are hundreds of ways to market your book, including using social media. Yes, I can help you with marketing, but then I asked a few questions of my own: Are you on GoodReads? Do you know about Amazon Author Central? (Both are free.) Are you making use of social media? Do you have a blog? These are great ways to get started.
Q: What size should my book be?
A: If you’re a first-time author, it’s best to use standard size, which is more economical. Some standard sizes are 5-1/2 by 8-1/2 inches or 6 by 9 inches, but if you have a specialty book of some kind, there are other sizes you might consider.
Q: Can you recommend a printer?
A: The printer you choose depends on your specific book requirements. You have two alternatives: an offset printer for large runs, if for some reason you want more than five hundred books; or print on demand (POD), which is digital printing and best for shorter runs. For POD printers, I usually recommend CreateSpace and Ingram Spark.
Q: Have you done children’s books?
A: Yes, but I did not bring samples. I do design children’s books and have also done production for authors who needed technical assistance getting their books ready for the printer.
Q; How long does it take to design a book?
A: That depends on many factors, such as length of book, how many illustrations (if there are any), and whether your book is ready for layout. Ideally, when an author gives me a manuscript, it has been copyedited and corrected to catch as many errors as possible. Then, I am working with clean copy. It is difficult to give a ballpark estimate until I see the typed copy and the author and I agree on type size and leading (space between lines).
Q: Can you do bookmarks, postcards, and a business card for my book launch?
A: Absolutely! I have done that for many author clients and think it is an excellent way to begin branding your book cover or yourself, as the author. I can also offer high-quality printing at an affordable price.
Q: What if I’m quoting a specific poet in my book?
A: You should consult with a literary attorney. By the way, St. Louis Publishers Association is focusing on that topic in November and will have Jean Maneke, a well-know literary attorney in Missouri, as our speaker.
By the end of the night, I had met some very interesting potential clients. Most people love free information, and this was a fun venue in which to share what I know about book design with aspiring authors.