Book Design Checklist: What Your Designer Wants to Know


1106 Design

November 01, 2020

We’ve talked many times in this blog about the process to self-publish a book, how to research book designers and self-publishing services, and how to avoid scams. Now, here’s our Book Design Checklist of what book designers want to know about your project so that you can get the most accurate quote possible.

In the past, we’ve encountered some authors who bristle at the idea of filling out the information we request on our Contact form. 

We’re not being nosy—honest!

It’s just that without knowing some critical information about your book, we can’t give you a solid quote for services that meet your needs and budget. 

In fact, we worry sometimes about authors who have obtained estimates from self-publishing service providers—book designers, editors, typesetters, etc.—that didn’t ask many questions at all. While fewer questions might make for an easier, more streamlined quotation process, not having all the information up front means the quote is likely to change as the project unfolds. The author is going to be unhappy when the final invoice reflects a different amount from the original quote! 

Look at it this way: to provide an accurate quote for building a new house, the builder needs some critical information. They are going to ask the prospective client questions about the number of stories, square footage, number of bedrooms, and the outside finish—brick, stucco or vinyl siding? Without these and many other details, not only won’t the finished home look anything like what the homeowner had in mind, but it could be twice the price as well!

“Of course!” you might respond. Well, that’s good, because, just like the builder, we want to give you an accurate quote. And that’s precisely why we will ask you a whole bunch of questions before giving you a price. We ask some of these questions on our Contact form and we will ask some more when we chat with you about your book. 

Here’s the Book Design Checklist

While the question “What will you charge to design my book?” seems very straightforward and simple, the truth is that no two books are the same, so it’s important to give your designer the necessary information to answer properly. 

Here’s a book design checklist of questions your book designer or publishing service provider should ask you. Have your answers to these questions ready before soliciting quotes.

  • What kind of book have you written? Is your book fiction, memoir, or non-fiction? Is it an illustrated children’s book, a young adult novel, or a technical manual? Is it a full-color coffee table book with many photos or illustrations?
  • How many words are in the manuscript? When you ask for quotes, you should be far enough along in the writing/rewriting process that the word count won’t change too much.
  • What’s the trim size of the book? Here are some guidelines from IngramSpark.
  • What services do you need? Publishing services (also known as author services) include cover design, interior page design, typesetting, editing, proofreading, ebook formatting, book marketing and more. Here’s a blog post from our archives on comparing publishing services from different service providers.
  • Is the book text-only, or is the material more technical in nature?
  • Does the book contain footnotes, foreign languages, or mathematical equations?
  • Does the book contain a lot of tables, charts, graphs, or sidebars? These types of additions take longer to design and typeset than text, so we need a good idea of the number of special characters and formats required.
  • Does your book contain photos or other images? If so, how many? Have you scanned them or would you like us to scan them?
  • When is your anticipated launch date? Here’s a recent article from our blog on the hazards of setting up pre-orders on Amazon and how traditional publishers typically schedule their projects and launch dates.
  • Do you want us to proofread the text after typesetting? (Hint: we include proofreading as part of our typesetting service, but other book designers and editors may not.)
  • Has the text been edited by a professional book editor?
  • Who will print your book? IngramSpark and Amazon KDP are the two print-on-demand companies to choose from. Here’s an article about the differences between the two companies. We provide support to authors in uploading the files to these platforms. If you are planning on printing some books via offset print (e.g., for a conference or as family gifts), we need to know that too.
  • What formats will you provide? Beyond print-on-demand and offset printing, authors typically offer their readers an eBook format. Audiobooks are increasingly popular as well. Do you also want a hardcover version?
  • What is your budget? You may just be getting quotes to help you understand what budget you need, and that’s OK. Knowing that helps us to understand what questions to ask to help you establish your goals, budget and project plan.
  • We also ask about the values you want in a publishing services company. We want to know upfront that we are a good match for you and you for us so that no time is wasted on either side. Establishing good communication upfront is key!

Why So Many Questions?

Designers are not trying to annoy you. Really. 

It’s just that the above questions (and more) affect the amount of time needed to complete your book, the level of services required, and inform the decisions that need to be made along the way. Asking a designer to give you a quote without the above information is like walking into a restaurant and asking, “What will you charge me for dinner?” without revealing the number of people in your party or which menu items you intend to order.

Designers who don’t ask these questions may be inexperienced. Or perhaps they don’t have a problem with “bait and switch” quoting…giving the client a low price to get the job and asking for more money later. (Want to find the right publishing team for you? Here’s an article from our archives.)

We don’t want that to happen to you. So please be willing to answer your designer’s questions. Once you get into the process, you’ll realize that book design and publishing is not quite as simple as you thought, and you’ll be glad when there are no surprises at billing time.

How can we help you along your publishing journey? Everyone here at 1106 Design wants to help. Post your comment here or email us using the Contact Us page.


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