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7 Tips to Finding the Right Designer for Your Book

by Tamara Dever and Erin Stark

Why do I need to hire a professional?

A book’s cover and interior design have a great deal to do with whether reviewers and buyers investigate a title further. In fact, professional design can be critical to your book’s sales success.

Design goes way beyond aesthetics. It’s a tried and true sales tool—a means of conveying information and getting the attention of buyers. When used properly, it reflects and elevates your message.

Because design is so important, you’ll want to be sure you work with an experienced designer who specializes in covers. Where can you find that person? What information do you need to provide to ensure the design efforts’ success?

DESIGNED FOR BOOKS

Just as engineers specialize in different fields such as electrical or mechanical design, graphic artists usually have more experience with one kind of project than another. Be sure to work with someone who specializes in book design. While most graphic designers could help you with at least some aspects of creating a book, one who specializes in books will be able to guide you through the whole process and provide the experience and knowledge that can help you avoid hassles and save you both time and money.

THE RIGHT ONE FOR YOU

How do you find that perfect designer to add to your publishing team? Ask other publishers and authors whose covers you admire. You can find many publishing association websites offering great resource listings. Most printers, PR firms, and editors can recommend the right designer as well.

  1. Look at many samples of a designer’s work. If you can’t visualize your book within that work, don’t hire her. Most designers have a range of abilities, but won’t be comfortable drastically changing their style for one project and your book will suffer for it.
  2. Talk to the designer and listen to your gut feeling. This may seem obvious, but if you don’t click right away, don’t hire them!
  3. Talk with other clients. Ask specific questions such as: Was your deadline ever in jeopardy because of the designer? Why? What was done to remedy the problem?
  4. How many front cover designs were you given? If you provided any initial ideas, were they built upon or discarded completely? (A good designer will do at least one layout using your idea and others with her own.)
  5. Find out how many years of experience she has and how many books she has designed. Does she know the elements of a book cover or interior? Does she know how designing a hardcover book cover is different from designing a paperback? Make sure the designer also has production experience. Can she handle getting the files into pre-press properly? Ask to speak with printers that have worked with the designer you are considering.
  6. Keep in mind that designers are not usually illustrators. Illustrators draw or paint custom pictures to be used on a book cover or within the text. Designers pull together all the elements of a cover or page — this could include stock or custom illustrations or photographs, embellishments, colors, and all text — to create an overall design that is visually pleasing and, above all, sellable.
  7. Sign a written contract with the designer. It is not wise to work with a designer who doesn’t use a contract. The contract should cover exactly what will be produced for you, the timeline for production, and the agreed-upon cost. Unless the contract specifically states that ownership is being transferred, the designer will automatically own the design he creates. Note that the design firm often reserves unlimited rights to use images of the cover and interior pages for their promotional purposes.

Have you seen a stereotypical “self-published” book? Don’t let your book become one of those! It’s tempting to spend a few hundred dollars for a finished cover, but…Don’t do it! Do you really want to find out that nobody wants to distribute, promote, or buy your book because it hasn’t been produced properly? Do you then want to spend more time and another couple thousand to get it done right the second time? Trust me, it happens all of the time and breaks our hearts. Expect to pay a flat fee of roughly $1,500 to $3,000 for a good cover and between $10 and $25 per page for quality interior layout. It IS worth every penny when you choose to work with a reputable firm.

MAKING A GRAND APPEARANCE

In all, you’ll get better sales results and the respect you deserve with high-quality cover and interior designs and great end-product becomes a sure thing when you hire a carefully-selected, experienced book designer paired with a gifted editor and a great PR team who, together, have your best interest at heart.

Tamara Dever is the founder of TLC Graphics, an award-winning book design and production firm with biblical values providing customized support to small publishers with big dreams. This premier team takes manuscripts through editorial, design, printing, and beyond to create beautiful, salable books. Tamara is a board member of SPAWN, mentors aspiring designers, and has authored articles and presented classes on book design and self-publishing for over ten years. You'll find their portfolio at TLCGraphics.com. Tamara resides in Austin, TX with her husband and business partner, Tom, their two children, two dogs and a horse.

Erin Stark is an award-winning interior book design specialist with over 18 years of experience. She is an invaluable member of the TLC Graphics team and has been presenting classes on book design and self-publishing for more than ten years. Erin lives in Olathe, KS with her husband Brian, has two children, and a number of foster kittens at any given time.

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