First and foremost, you should prepare a creative brief. Your brief should include:
- Your name and pen name
- Your address and billing information
- The book's title
- Any review matter you'd like included
- Cover copy (the text that appears on the back or inside flap)
- Your vision for your book
- Other books in your genre (for reference)
- Headshots, logos, or any other imagery that must be included (like awards the book has won)
- Have you ever formatted for XYZ company's specs before?
- Do you have a design degree? (While this isn't necessary, it doesn't hurt to know going in.)
- What software do you use for design?
- Can I see some of the other work you've done?
- Explain bleed to me. Bleed is the area of the image that hangs over the edge and is cut away during production.
- What is kerning? Kerning is adjusting the space between letters.
- What is tracking? Tracking is adjusting the space between a whole line of letters.
- What's the standard safety margin for live elements? Standard safety is .25" from the edge for books. Some production houses call for .125". Either answer is correct. However, CreateSpace wants .25".
If your designer nails all these questions, you've got someone that most likely knows their stuff.
What you can expect from your designer:
A good designer will give you three very different choices to start with. They'll ask you to narrow it down to one and give you up to two revisions on that one design. Once you decide on a cover, the interior should compliment fonts used and look and feel of the book. Again, I'll use The Bird as an example:
Watch out for the designers that mix two script fonts, two serif fonts, or two sans serif fonts in their design. This is a basic Typography no-no because it always comes off looking like a mistake.
Your designer should provide you with all files:
- Cover sized and formatted for digital uploads
- Cover sized and formatted for display on a website
- Entire cover for production house, formatted properly and in proper color space (CMYK ONLY)
- Cover in black & white
- List of fonts used
They won't give you the original files they built. Don't ask. This is like you writing a story and someone else wanting to tinker with it and release it with your name on it without you approving the changes.
Your contract should include:
- Statements saying the artwork is yours once the work is done and that you're free to use it in any way you see fit at no extra compensation for the designer or any third party.
- Deadlines and penalties for not meeting them.
- A guarantee clause stating all work is original and designed by them.
- A clause stating all artwork contained in the design is free from copyright by third-party entities.
- Number of revisions allowed at no extra charge.
- Payment arrangements in detail.
- Your name, their name, and all addresses associated with you both.
- Number of files you'll receive and sizes/specs.
This is protection for both you and your designer. They should never ever balk at signing a contract.
I hope this helps many indie authors get the quality and professionalism they deserve in a designer. Over on Joel Friedlander's blog today, there's an interesting post about judging a book by it's cover. I beg you to go give it a read.
Any questions? Leave a comment and I'll get back with you ASAP.
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Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!