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Types of Publishers
The Publishing Process
Getting Started as a New Publisher
New Title Acquisitions
Meeting Editorial Needs
The Right Design
Marketing and Promotion
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Getting and Staying Educated
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The Right Design
The Interior
The Cover

A book's design gives the reader an idea of its intentions, its spirit, and the quality of its content. The designer's function is to give a manuscript a typographic and visual identity in harmony with the book's intent or function. Some publishers use the same designer for each of their books to maintain a consistent look, or to preserve the look of a series. Others hire different designers in order to create a more diverse image.

Shopping for a designer is an important undertaking, and involves the following:

  1. The publisher makes appointments with several designers, reviewing portfolios with an eye for work that reflects skill, imagination, and relevance.
  2. Publishers get character recommendations from previous clients.
  3. The publisher writes a clear contract that conforms to budget limits.

The Interior

In the book's layout, it is most important to give focus to the primary element. If the writing is central, for example, the artwork should not distract from it.

A book's typeface should be virtually invisible. Eccentric typography draws attention to itself and breaks the spell of reading. A good book designer will listen to an editor's sense of the book's function and tone, then translate this information into an appropriate typeface and design.

A book's interior is almost always organized into the following order (some items are optional, of course):

  1. Half-title page (title only)
  2. Series title or list of contributors or frontispiece or blank
  3. Title page(s). In addition to the title, this page common:
    • Subtitle
    • Author
    • Editor
    • Translator
    • Illustrator or artist
    • Publisher
  4. Copyright page. Usually found on the backside of the title page. Information common:
    • Copyright notice(s) and year
    • "All rights reserved...." A statement is sometimes added to describe the extent of rights held
    • Acknowledgments of editor, copyeditors, proofreaders, granting organizations, etc.
    • Acknowledgments of permissions to use quoted texts and images
    • Country where printed
    • Name and address of press
    • Library of Congress cataloging-in-publications (CIP) data
    • ISBN (International Standard Book Number)
  5. Dedication page or epigraph
  6. Table of contents
  7. List of Illustrations, list of tables
  8. Foreword, preface, acknowledgements, introduction
  9. Chapters
  10. Appendices, notes, glossary, bibliography, index
  11. Colophon page. An acknowledgment of the artist, designer, and typeface, the name of paper stock, and the printer

The Cover

A cover design serves several marketing purposes:

  • The cover art and title declare what the book is about. A strong cover captures the interest of reviewers, bookstores, and book buyers.
  • The title and author printed on the spine insures the book's visibility on the shelf.
  • The back cover material furthers the interest of bookstore buyer and reader. This material can include: a synopsis of the work, promotional blurbs by experts or reviewers, a brief bio of the author with his or her photograph, the publisher's name, the price, and the ISBN.

Before the designing a cover, a publisher needs to ask several budgetary, aesthetic, and marketing questions:

  • What does the competition do, and what does the market require?
  • What does the book's content require?
  • What is the book's audience?
  • What are the budget limits?

With these questions answered, an experienced book or graphic designer can work within budget to serve both aesthetic and marketing objectives.


The designer works with the publisher's edited manuscript in digital and hard copy form. This material also contains the editor's instructions for the designer. Titles, heads, sub-heads, text, illustrations, and captions are clearly marked. The designer uses a desktop publishing program to generate several prospective designs for the title page and text pages. The publisher and/or staff and designer review the various designs and decide which one is appropriate for the title.

The designer then creates a mock-up of the book. The editorial staff checks the page order, heads, subheads, and other elements for consistency. The book is then typeset and sent back to the editorial staff for a final proofread.

The corrected typeset manuscript, including the designer's instructions, is transmitted to the printer either in pages ("camera-ready copy") or in digital form. Digital form is preferred, and generally accompanied by a hard copy to avoid any confusion.

If you are using publishing software to do your own design, learn as much as you can by sharing your work in progress with friendly designers. An unprofessional-looking design will hurt sales.


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