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I'm Charlie
Book Designer & Self Publishing coach

Hiring a Book Designer

Design

February 21, 2021

Hiring a book designer that is right for you.

When you start work with a designer, understand that it is a relationship in which you both are vulnerable. You depend on each other to make the process run smoothly. This is why it is important when hiring a book designer that you find someone you are comfortable with. Your designer may be contracted to do a job that you can’t do with expertise that you don’t have. But you also know what you like and know what looks wrong to you. You want your designer to make the process easier—not complicate it further. If you are frustrated, it is equally likely that your designer is frustrated as well. Most frustrations arise with a misunderstanding of cost, scope of work, changes, and art ownership.

Where do I find a book designer?

There are numerous online directories and services like Upwork, where you can find book designers. But most of my clients prefer to meet face-to-face, which can make communication easier, but with mail and the internet, meeting face-to-face is really not necessary. Because this relationship’s nature is so personal, I really like to encourage people to find designers that come recommended by someone they trust and respect if possible. Many of my clients found me by word of mouth or saw my name on the copyright page of a book I designed. If you don’t know where to start, it may be worth your time to join a local writers’ or creatives’ Facebook group in your area and ask for recommendations. 

Hiring a designer that is right for your needs

The foundation of good book design is typography. Some designers are really illustrators at heart, so ask to see works using type. Here are a few things to consider when hiring a designer. 

  • You must be comfortable enough to ask questions and, if necessary, ask for changes and alterations. If you are uncomfortable or intimidated, it is probably better to find someone you are comfortable with.
  • Ask to see projects with multiple pieces or books with multiple chapters to see how the designer carries a look across a project or many projects.
  • Request to see work that illustrates an understanding of typographic hierarchy. Is the designer consistent with their hierarchy of heads and subheads? Do they set a style and carry through with it?

If you have found a designer you think you like, you may want to try working with them on a small project before committing to a large one. Maybe a small flyer or a bookmark for your book or publishing company, or even just a chapter of your book.  This way, you can see if your working styles are compatible before you are thrown together in a larger, more stressful project. But remember, the first time you work with someone, there are always a few glitches as you learn each other’s working styles. When hiring a designer new to book design, you may recommend that they visit my blog or take my course. Sign up for my mailing list to receive my class and workshop announcements.

When you can, you may want to work with the printer directly.

If you have the designer broker your printing, you can’t order your own books.  I highly encourage you to make your own arrangements with the printer and pay them directly. You can still have your designer work directly with the printer’s production department, but you will be on record with the printer as the person who is authorized to order books. 

You may choose to order printing through your designer because you do not want to go through the hassle of setting up an account with a printer. Many of my clients do. But realize you are dependent on your designer’s availability to order books. If your designer is also your print broker, they will mark up the printing. However, sometimes it is worth it having everything go through your designer, even with a mark-up. It can be a hassle setting up accounts with some trade printers. And some only sell wholesale. And your designer may have an account with a printer that offers a terrific price even with a markup.

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