How to Know If Your Book Manuscript Is Ready for Interior Design and Formatting

Every self-publisher or author is excited to finally see his or her book formatted for print. So excited, in fact, that the temptation is strong to jump the gun and send the book formatter a manuscript that isn’t quite ready for formatting.

Sending your designer a manuscript that is unfinished or missing information is a lose-lose: it’s expensive for the author and frustrating for the designer. Here are a few ways for you to avoid “surprise” costs by making sure your book manuscript is truly ready for the formatting stage.

If your book manuscript is ready for interior design and formatting, you will be able to answer “yes” to the following three questions.

Has your book been professionally edited and proofread?

I list this first because it is a complete must. Professional editing and proofreading is essential, not only for the quality of your final product, but also to keep the cost of formatting your book from exceeding what your book designer quoted you. Every book should be proofread again after layout, but at that point, the proofreader should only be finding minor typos or layout issues, not reworking paragraph structure or removing full sentences.

Have you merged your manuscript files into one Word file?

If you haven’t done this yet, merge all your various Word files, etc. into one file with your whole book in it — from title page and copyright to references and appendices. Having this all together (and waiting to send it until you have all the needed info) is the best way to save yourself from paying extra charges if your book designer has to bill for admin tasks like ordering and merging Word documents.

Have you collected the printer specs that the designer will need?

Your book interior layout designer can’t start on the layout without knowing the page size, or if there are any special requirements from the printer. For example, print-on-demand book printers like Kindle Direct Publishing (formerly CreateSpace) or IngramSpark have their own particular requirements listed on their websites. It’s good to get a quotation from a printer and show your book designer the specs you have given the printer — this means fewer surprises for both of you when the final layout is sent to the printer. Some designers will help you communicate with the printer; be clear with your designer if this is part of what you need his or her help with!

prepare your book manuscript for formatting and design.jpg

If you can answer “yes” to the questions above, your book may be ready for formatting! But yeah … I get it.  You’re anxious to see what your book will look like, and can’t wait to get started. Maybe the manuscript is still being edited, or the proofreader needs an extra week. There are perhaps two things you can get your designer to start on before your full manuscript is ready for formatting. They are:

Get your designer to start on the book cover design. It’s great to have your book cover designed ahead of time for marketing purposes. The front cover can be designed virtually any time after you have a finalized title and a book summary.

Get your designer to create a sample interior layout. Sometimes you may need a sample book interior layout to pitch your book to a publisher or as a sneak peak for your readers. Depending on how your book designer works, he or she may be ready to create a sample layout with a manuscript that is not finalized. For example, last year I created a cookbook interior layout sample for a client who then came back to me this year with the full cookbook contents ready for formatting. For any book layout, your designer should send you a few samples pages before the whole book is formatted.

You’re bursting with excitement (and so am I!) It’s wonderful to see your book in its final format! Hang in there — you’re close to the finish line! Don’t turn your final files over to your book designer until they’re really ready!

If you reached the bottom of this post, you must be pretty serious about finalizing your book manuscript and beginning the book layout stage. Let’s talk about what you should do next.

Expect Delays When Self-Publishing

If there's anything I've learned since beginning to work independently with self-publishers, it's this: self-publishing a book takes longer than you expect. Especially if it's your first book.

Photo by  Christin Hume

Photo by Christin Hume

A self-publisher often underestimates how many steps are involved in the publishing process. Maybe the photographer calls in sick. Or the editor needs an extra week. The proofreader can't work on the file right away because it came to her a different week than she expected. One small delay can have a domino effect, causing the whole project timeline to change.

When I am designing a full color book involving a lot of photography, usually the self-publisher works with me on a sample design or layout before the contents for the whole book are ready. The self-publisher talks to me about his or her ideas for the book, and gives me about ten pages of sample content. At this stage we establish the visual aspect of the book. Once the sample layout is ready, I wait — an indeterminate amount of time — until the full manuscript is ready for layout and design in the same style. On average, I would say that books come to me two weeks to two months later than the self-publisher originally intended, depending on the complexity and length of the content. 

I don't share this to be pessimistic, but to be realistic. If it's your first book, and especially if you're coordinating the project independently, I have three tips:

  1. Don't commit to a particular release date. You may have a release date in your mind, but you don't have to give that date to others. Your first book will almost always be completed later than you expected. (One of my clients shares about his experience with setting a firm launch date in this blog post.) Or, give a padded date...

  2. Pad your timeline. If you'd like to release your book in March, try to create a timeline that would have it releasing in January, to give yourself some wiggle room. If you give your contractors deadlines that are not your real, drop-dead dates, you won't be stressed out by every little delay that comes up.

  3. Don't rush the process. Skipping important steps at the beginning of your book project can be very expensive in the end. The full layout should never be done until the text has been thoroughly edited and proofread. Major changes after the book has been laid out or after the book has gone to press can unnecessarily blow your budget.

Self-publishing a book — especially if it is your first book — takes longer than you expect! But if you expect the unexpected, maybe it won't actually take longer than you expected!

Are you self-publishing a book? I'm happy to answer any questions you might have. Give me a shout through my Contact page!

Why Does the Color on My Ebook Cover Look Different Than the Color on My Printed Book Cover?

Recently a client sent me a screenshot of his print book cover and his ebook cover side by side, and asked me why he saw such a visible color shift between the two.

I explained to him that the ebook cover is in the RGB color space, but the printed book cover is in the CMYK color space. RGB is the color space used for on-screen images, while CMYK is the color space that printing devices can capture. As a basic explanation, the RGB images look brighter because they are being shown on a lit screen. It's hard to achieve the same brightness with ink on paper. As you can see in the chart below, CMYK captures a smaller range of color than RGB captures (and both capture fewer colors than our incredibly-designed eyes can really see!) 

Image by The Graphic Mac

Image by The Graphic Mac

My client's cover designer had always sent his bright teal cover to him in RGB, and suddenly before printing, he saw the teal for the first time in CMYK and was surprised at the significant color shift.

If you don't convert your images to CMYK before sending them to the printer, the printer must convert them to CMYK before printing. It's no big deal for them to make the conversion, but depending on the colors you are printing, you may notice that the printed piece comes back looking duller than you expected if you only saw proofs on your screen. 

The following two color spectrums help you to see which colors are hardest for CMYK to achieve. The duller quality of CMYK is instantly noticeable. 

Color spectrum shown in RGB

Color spectrum shown in RGB

Color spectrum shown in CMYK

Color spectrum shown in CMYK

Whether you're picking a color for a book cover or a logo, it's good to consider whether that color will be achievable both in RGB and CMYK. If not, you might want to consider adjusting the ebook color a bit to make it easier to match in print. Or, you'll just have to get used to the slight difference in color between your ebook cover and your printed book cover.

Thank you for taking the time to read this post! If you are needing a book cover design, please check out my Book Covers services page.

Should My Photo Be on the Front Cover of My Book?

This week a client of mine who is self-publishing a cookbook wrote to me with this question: "Should my photo be on the front cover of my book? Everybody says yes....[but I am not sure.]"

When I replied to her, in essence I told her two things:

  1. Having your face on your book's front cover is atypical in your genre. Looking at other cookbooks in the clean eating or vegan genre, I knew that it is not standard practice to have the creator's photo on the front.

  2. Sometimes having an atypical cover can make your cover win, but often it can make it lose. The decision to make an atypical cover needs to be a decision made for a deliberate marketing reason.

I went on to explain that the choice depends a lot on her businesses' branding. For example, if her business is very much about her face, her personality, her look, etc. then it might work well to put her face on the cover to further cement that idea that she is the one creating the recipes. However, if she doesn't show photos of herself a lot in her marketing, and focuses more on photos of her culinary creations, it would probably be better to do the same in her cookbook cover design...unless she's gearing up for a big change in her marketing methods.

Photo by Dan Gould

Photo by Dan Gould

After having written to her with my thoughts, I found two other answers to similar questions online, which I thought were worth sharing here. 

This insight is from Hobie Hobart:

Is it ever a good idea to put your picture on a book cover? 
This is contingent on many factors so the initial answer is, it depends. It IS a good idea, and nearly mandatory, to use your picture on the front cover if you are a Barack Obama, an Oprah, or a renowned superstar. Many authors think that putting their picture on the front cover will make them famous. This is not necessarily so. Unless you are well known in the media, bookstore buyers will not accept your book which pictures you on the front cover. However, if you are selling exclusively to a tight niche where you are well known, or your intention is to start branding yourself to a specific market, your photo on the front cover or the spine can be an advantage.

This is how Michele DeFilippo answered this question:

Should I put my own photo on my book cover? 
It depends. If YOU are the product, then your picture can absolutely be used on the front cover (think Dr. Phil or Suze Orman). If your book is non-fiction, you are a well-known expert in your field, and buyers would recognize your face, then your picture can be used on the back cover, along with a bio. Otherwise, your picture and bio belong in the back matter of the book.

Ultimately the answer is, "It depends!" But often the answer is, "No." Think carefully about your market and your branding before deciding to put your photo on your book cover.

Thank you for looking at this post! If you have a question about your book project that you'd like me to answer, leave a comment below, or write to me through my Contact page.