Last night I completed the final revision of What You Need to Know to Be a Pro, making the corrections Jane had suggested. Except for finishing the Resources page, the manuscript is DONE. It now goes to the Designer, who will turn the manuscript into a book.
A manuscript is the words on the page, but a book is those words transformed into the perfect font for readability and beauty. A book is also the cover, which should convey the meaning and tone of the manuscript in a creative yet understandable design. The book transforms the manuscript into a work of art.
Finding the right designer is extremely important. You need the best person you can afford (and it shouldn't be Aunt Judy who took a water color workshop two years ago). But how do you find and hire a designer?
1) What is my design budget?
If you don't know that, then you didn't do a thorough project budget. Go back to the beginning and figure out your production costs NOW.
If you do know what the budget is then...
2) Do I need to hire someone to design the cover, the interior layout, or both?
Good design is imperative to the overall readability and sales of your book. I am a big proponent of DIY (do-it-yourself), but part of making good choices about DIY is knowing when you need help. If you have excellent computer skills and a familiarity with InDesign, you can more than likely do the interior design yourself. Buy Pete Masterson's book Book Design and Production and study it. Here is a link to the kinds of things you'll need to consider while doing interior design, and why it's so important to study Pete's book.
The exterior takes a bit more skill. If you have a strong background in graphic design as well as excellent computer skills, you can probably create an acceptable cover design, but again only after studying Pete Masterson's book. A book cover is not just a pretty picture. You are trying to create a work of art that sells; a design so eye catching the reader will be compelled to pick up your book out of the thousands on the shelf.
So, to answer question number two, decide if you have the necessary skills to design the interior and exterior of your book (be honest). With a lot of practice, most people can manage the interior design, but the majority will need help with exterior. Take a look at your skills and your budget to decide how much help you need.
3) How do I find a designer?
John Kremer, author of 1001 Ways to Market Your Books, has a page on his website with links to hundreds of designers. That's a good place to start for ideas on what services are offered by designers and what kind of price range there is. Surf the different sites listed there to find several designers with a style you like.
There is also a book designers resource page on Dan Poynter's web site.
If you haven't already, join Small Publisher's Association of North America. They can help you find the right book designer for your publishing company.
4) How do I decide on a designer.
It comes down to price and style. What design do you envision for your book, and how much can you afford? Do you want a fancy cover design (with embossed lettering and luminescent imagery) or a more simple design, with just one photo and black letters?
As you surf the net exploring different designers, bookmark the styles that appeal to you, and contact that designer for a price quote. You want to get quotes from several designers to find the best person for your project. Don't just settle one the first one you talk to, shop around. You're also looking at how well a designer handles customer service. Do they return your calls quickly and answer your questions pleasantly? Do you feel that you can develop a rapport with this person? You'll be working closely with this person, so make sure it's someone you can communicate with.
5) How do I hire a designer?
Once you've gotten quotes back from the designers you like and have decided on one, request a contract. Always sign a contract whenever you hire a contractor (which you're doing by hiring a designer). The contract clearly specifies exactly what you are hiring the designer to do and how much you will pay them for that work. Every designer has their own contract, but their contract should include the full amount you will pay, the type of work being done (interior, exterior, both?), how many hours the designer thinks it will take, when the work is due, how changes to the design will be dealt with (do changes cost more, or if changes are included in the overall price, how many changes can be made before the cost increases?), when payment is due, if you should pay a deposit, and what will happen if you dislike the cover the designer creates.
Get as much help with the design of your book as possible. Pay as much as you can. Think of your book's design like the outfit you bought for your first date with that really cute guy you've been longing to meet for a year. He finally asked you out and now's your chance to make a great impression. Will it be love, or will you show up with bad breath and your boob hanging out because the dress is too small?
Again, I'm not saying you can't do it all yourself. With practice and research, you can design your own book. At Medusa's Muse, my husband is our designer, but he has a strong background in graphic design and over 15 years of computer expertise. He has the skills do be a good book designer. Do you?