DON’T Hire a Designer BEFORE Choosing a Publisher!

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At BookLocker.com, we assist authors with formatting their books at no additional charge. It’s simply part of what we offer.

An increasing number of authors are approaching us with preformatted books and covers – files they paid someone else to design for them…before they even knew which publisher they were going to use and certainly long before they received any specs from their publisher/printer.

Why would an author agree to such an expense? It seems there’s a growing number of so-called “professional book designers” out there telling authors they must have their manuscript professionally formatted BEFORE submitting it to publishers.

This is similar to a dressmaker taking a phone order from a bride, making the dress, and getting the measurements later. Of course, the bride is then going to have to pay the dressmaker to make adjustments to the dress. How backward is that?!

Like the gullible bride above, many of these authors must pay the designer for alterations to their files later. Why? Because most authors who get themselves into this mess have spent days, weeks or even months sending a variety of editorial corrections to the designer. In many cases, the so-called designer has used an expensive design program that the author doesn’t own and certainly doesn’t know how to use.

At that late point in the game, the author has unwittingly become married to that designer because, if they part ways, the author will lose all the work that’s been done on the manuscript to that point, along with their financial investment.

Two of our authors found themselves in this type of quandary recently.

The first, who I’ll call Henrietta, paid a so-called professional designer to design her entire book in In Design. The current, standard version of In Design costs $699. Henrietta was so excited about seeing the layout of her book that she sent her text and graphics to the designer weeks ago. The designer then designed the book to her own specs because there was not yet a printer or publisher in the picture. If she truly had the author’s best interests in mind, she’d have told the author to wait until a publisher was chosen so she could obtain the specs before the work began. Incidentally, she designed the book’s cover to her own specs as well.

The author got angry with us because we couldn’t accept the files. I had to explain to her that the files submitted were for a book size our printer doesn’t even offer. In fact, I don’t know of any POD publisher that does offer books that size. There was no way to make the files work. They’d have to be redesigned from scratch. Don’t get me wrong – the design looked really nice…but we couldn’t use the files – interior or cover.

Had the author and designer waited until a publisher was chosen, she’d have had the specs from the beginning of the process. As it stands now, the author can’t revert back to her original manuscript because she’s made so many changes through weeks of emails exchanged with the designer. She must proceed with that designer and, of course, pay the designer all over again for the redesign fees.

The second author, who I’ll call Gerard, found himself in a similar situation. He hired a woman to design his book, also in In Design. Not only are the margins different sizes, but some centered items aren’t actually centered (they appear crooked), and there’s no gutter (the inside margin of a book that keeps words from printing too close to the spine). The book was a mess. The stunning part was when he told me his designer didn’t know what a gutter is. What professional book designer hasn’t heard of a gutter?!

It gets even worse! He created a huge, manual index using the page numbers from her faulty design. After the file gets fixed (which he’ll have to pay her to do), he’ll then have to recreate that entire manual index from scratch. I implored him to send me the original manuscript and let me do the formatting for him (at no additional charge, of course) but he said there have been too many editorial changes for him to go backwards in the process. Another classic case of an author marrying a designer who then profits from his inexperience.

Real “professional book designers” and/or cover designers will warn an author they can’t begin work without having a specific publisher’s or printer’s specs. Any designer who wants to design a book or cover to their own specs, without knowing who the publisher or printer will be, is setting the author up for added expense later on, to the financial benefit, of course, of the designer. The cynical side of me can’t help but wonder if this double-dipping is intentional with some designers.

If a “professional book designer” or cover designer tries to lure you in by claiming you must have your manuscript / cover professionally formatted PRIOR to approaching publishers, they should be avoided at all costs. Heck, even traditional publishers have their own specs…and they also use their OWN designers!

Don’t repeat these authors’ mistakes. If you don’t yet know who your publisher or printer will be, do NOT pay somebody to design your book or cover.

Angela Hoy is the co-owner of WritersWeekly.com and BookLocker.com. WritersWeekly.com is the free marketing ezine for writers, which features new paying markets and freelance job listings every Wednesday. According to attorney Mark Levine, author of The Fine Print, BookLocker is: “As close to perfection as you’re going to find in the world of ebook and POD publishing. The ebook royalties are the highest I’ve ever seen, and the print royalties are better than average. BookLocker understands what new authors experience, and have put together a package that is the best in the business. You can’t go wrong here. Plus, they’re selective and won’t publish any manuscript just because it’s accompanied by a check. Also, the web site is well trafficked. If you can find a POD or epublisher with as much integrity and dedication to selling authors’ books, but with lower POD publishing fees, please let me know.”