Sunday, January 18, 2009

Building a Publishing House Series #2

Since the first book we produced was a book from hell, it can only go up from here. The only good things that came out of it was we learned a lot from the experience and we finished it!

The cover was designed by someone who was new to cover design. They hadn't followed the size specifications. Usually I would give any designer the benefit of the doubt, newbie or not, just because I have been a designer for 19 years now. But there were just too many things gone wrong. We didn't get the cover until deadline night and there were spelling mistakes. Just couldn't let it go to print like that, especially since it was our first book out. So, we made the call.

The designer was in, thank goodness. He made the change and resent, but then we noticed the cover wasn't the right size, so we made the call again. The designer said he had the right size even though I was looking right at the print out. He supposedly made the spec change, then resent. Then we had things missing from the file; like the author's picture and the bar code/ISBN number. Both were too important, so we made the call again.

By this time it was after 9pm and I still had the inside of the book to finish preparing to get printed. I don't think it was just the time of night, but when the designer stated he's been designing for 8 years and have never had mistakes and lost pictures on his files before, I seriously wanted to say I doubted this statement and that he should add another decade to his experience then call me again.

FOUR times -- it took four times to get the cover reuploaded. And "NO" we didn't get everything. I finally said to just email us the missing logo and author picture and I had a copy of the barcode.

What happened, you probably want to know? After some digging with the designer, it was figured out to be due to Adobe Illustrator's artboard. If you specify the file to the size of the cover and add crop marks, then the file will be too small, especially if you needed the file to bleed around all edges.

This same designer designed the second book we produced in December. This was someone else's book. Again, the size was wrong and this one was a larger book. The publisher attempted to make that call, but couldn't get thru. Not that it mattered, in my opinion. It was much easier to just copy the file onto a new Illustrator file and make the size change myself. The publisher asked me to do what I could to fix it, so I did.

I will never divulge the designer, because that's just not cool. BUT, this designer had turned around and slandered me and my company to the publisher, saying he had to help us get the cover printed and that we didn't know what we were doing! Now, I am going to say one thing about all this. Never burn a fellow designer because this business is not as large as we think. And from now on, we will not trust any file given to us by this designer.

Recommendations to all designers or authors about book covers:
First of all, authors should ALWAYS spend the extra money to have a designer do the cover for their book. The book will be more professional if a desinger designs it. Those two covers I mentioned before were both nicely designed, so these books will inevitably make more money. Books are judged by their covers first, the writing second.

The other point is that everyone HAS TO follow specs or it will cost you more to publish. If someone at the printer needs to fix something, then it will fall back on the author and publisher. If you are both the publisher and the author, then this will be an important thing to remember.

If money is really tight -- as it is for most people now days -- I can't stress enough, DO NOT CUT THE BUDGET WITH THE COVER DESIGN.

How much should you be spending? The minimum cost should be about $250-300 for a cover design with ONE edit. If you haven't thought out your text for the cover, do so BEFORE you pay the designer to start your cover. REMEMBER -- more changes cost you more $$$. A mock-up, hand-written is fine, is HIGHLY recommended before talking to a designer.

A custom cover with special artwork that needs purchased should be agreed to by the author and designer because they will need to charge you for this. So, the $250-300 cost just went up.

"Can't I just give the designer the cool artwork I found on the internet?"
Most of the time, no, because most internet artwork is set at a VERY LOW resolution; 72 dpi, when the print resolution needs to be 300 dpi. I could talk more about this internet and print resolution problems in another blog.

NEXT ISSUE: Inside book formatting.

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