Here’s a no-nonsense, plain English outline of how I approach my design work. For specifics about book design work, click here to see further down the page.
I am your primary contact point for all projects. If you need a meeting, it will normally be me who comes to your premises or welcomes you to my converted loft studio space. If needed, I might ask an appropriate project partner to also attend. This would normally be the case if, for example, a website has reached the stage where technical partners are involved or when a book or brochure uses the work of a particular illustrator or photographer. Occasionally, I might even advise that you make direct contact with them rather than having to relay technical information that might be better discussed with a specialist.
All billing will normally come from me. I am not currently VAT registered, so if you would like to reclaim any VAT charged on certain aspects of a project, then I can arrange for individual suppliers to bill you directly. This is often the case, for example, for large print runs.
I do not ‘mark up’ such items. I charge a completely transparent management and liaison fee, meaning that you benefit from considerable cost reductions and, I believe, quickly come to trust my pricing policy.
All projects tend to follow the same, basic pattern. If your deadline is looming, then some of the following schedule will be compressed.
- You call or email me and give a brief outline of your project and the timescales involved.
- I check schedules to make sure that I can meet your proposed deadline.
- Preferably, we arrange to meet face-to-face if possible, or spend some time on the phone or Skype if necessary. If the conversation is likely to be a long one, I recommend Skype (FREE phone calls between members, anywhere in the world). Other options, such as Google Hangouts, are available.
- At this meeting, we get to know each other a little better, and we discuss the project in much greater detail.
- You can ask me to prepare an estimate based on the information you have given.
- Alternatively, you can give me a fixed budget to work to, and I will report back on the best way to maximise the return on this investment. For book cover design, I work to a set scale of charges (see below).
- We agree on a schedule for your project, the deadlines involved at each stage and the named individuals who will be the official contact points for various aspects of the project. It is extremely important that I am given access to the right people who can make decisions.
- Once the budget is approved, we sign a mutually binding agreement for the project. You can see an example contract here (this one is for a website). It’s written in plain English, and is designed to reassure you that I will spare no effort to achieve outstanding results for you. It also defines the ‘chain of command’, which is especially important if you are a large company or organisation so that we can avoid confusion.
- You supply me with any ‘assets’ needed for the project, such as your notes, copy, and images. Don’t forget to give me any critical corporate identity guidelines to which your project may need to conform!
- For cover design, you need to send me around 6-10 images (or Amazon links) of covers that are both in your genre and that you like the style of, together with blurb and brief synopsis (a brief outline), as well as any elements from the book you feel would work on the cover. This will give me a good idea of what we’re aiming for.
- I will arrange appointments for copywriters (usually me), photographers, illustrators, database designers and any other specialists needed to consult with you and so on. In short, any team members who need specific information or to carry out particular tasks pertinent to your project will need to be accommodated.
- I will keep you regularly informed of progress on your project. Normally, I speak to or email my clients several times a week, and often daily.
- I will provide you with proofs of your project at appropriate times. These may be digital, in the form of PDF or JPEG files sent by email; or they may be traditional printouts or ‘wet’ proofs from print houses at later stages.
- When you get proofs from me, please act on them quickly, since I am normally unable to progress your project until I get your feedback.
- Depending on the size of your project, we will usually have agreed ‘staged’ payments. Again, I request that you honour whatever agreement we have made with you so that I can give your project my full attention.
- If you need to make changes, please let me know as soon as possible. Depending on the type of project, some changes will be easy to make (and therefore cheap); others will be more complex and require additional time or resources (and therefore more expensive). In every instance, I will be completely honest with you about the ramifications of a proposed change, so that you can make accurate and informed assessments of the likely outcome and financial implications.
- Once we have reached the stage where your project is completed and the invoices have been settled, I hope that everyone involved is delighted with the results and that even the process itself has been enjoyable. I usually find that this is just the beginning of a long and fruitful relationship, in which I hope you will feel free to contact me for advice and information, whether or not you have a specific project in mind. Some of my clients have been with me for many years, staying in touch through their own career moves and various incarnations of my business.
Whilst I appreciate that you might not have a specific idea of what you want for your cover, it would be extremely helpful if you could send at least 6-10 links to books on Amazon or other online booksellers whose covers have the style or ‘vibe’ you want for your own book. Alternatively, you might use Pinterest or something similar to collect images that you have found on the web expressing the kind of idea/s you want to get across. I also need the ‘blurb’ and synopsis of your book (just a brief outline will do), as well as any elements from the book you feel would work on the cover. (There might be some sort of important object, logo, person/creature or concept that features in the work.) This will give me a good idea and a starting point of what we’re aiming for.
2) SOURCING IMAGES
I then search the web and picture libraries for images that fit your criteria and are readily available to use. (If imagery isn’t necessarily required, then we may be able to skip this – you may prefer a more abstract or typography-only design, for example). I send the images to you, so that you can give me an idea of which ones you feel might work for you and the book. If you’re after something more specific, then we can work together on finding something suitable on online libraries such as Shutterstock or Pixabay, for which I will provide URLs. Original illustration or photography can be commissioned at additional cost, which would be provided after further consultation.
3) INITIAL VISUALS
Once you’re happy that we’ve sourced a selection of suitable images, you will need to send me all the information that needs to go on the cover (and back cover and spine, if applicable). At this point, I will then mock up two or three cover visuals for you to choose from.
4) FINAL COVER DESIGN
Based on your feedback, I then tweak your favourite visual and then proceed to the final design of the front and back covers and spine (assuming a book that is going to be printed – obviously not necessary for just an e-book unless you’d like additional marketing materials).
5) INTERIOR DESIGN/LAYOUT
This follows a similar procedure. Let me know if you have any preferences for the kind of interior design you prefer – plain or more elaborate, modern, traditional and so on. Obviously, the style should match your subject matter, and non-fiction books require a different approach to fiction. Of course, you must also let me know whether there will be illustrations, diagrams, tables and so on involved, which can increase the workload significantly. *Please note that interior design is always costed following a discussion about the type of style and content – I never give an ‘off-the-cuff’ price prior to discussion, other than to say a plain text interior layout starts at a minimum of £100, then from £5 per 1,000 words for dual formatting (i.e. for print and ebook) for simple, text-only layouts, and up to £10 per page or more for complex layouts containing images, fancy typography and so on. A clear brief is, therefore, essential! (E-book interiors require the text to be formatted completely differently to a printed book, using different software, often including interactive links).
6) PREPARATION FOR PRINT
Then I will need your final page count and the name of the publisher/printer, if you have not provided that already, so that I can use their spine width calculator to set the print file to their specific requirements (which means I also need to know the paper being used and so on).
7) FINAL ARTWORK
I can supply print-ready PDF files for your printer and a file at the suitable size for ebook upload, plus smaller JPEGs for publicity use online etc.
8) E-BOOK ONLY
If you want a cover image for ebook only, we can skip the stages of spine and back cover requirements and there will be a discount. E-book interiors, however, require the text to be formatted completely differently to a printed book, using different software, often including interactive links, so no discount applies.
9) COVER DESIGN COSTS
My usual fee is £380 for the design of a paperback+ebook cover (or £320 for an ebook-only cover, as there’s slightly less work involved), plus the cost of any images that we need to buy (some images can be sourced for free, but others – usually better quality – are charged at around £5 to £50 each, depending on the photo library and the size required). I won’t buy any images until you’ve approved the front cover because up to this point, we can use placeholder images. Please note that these ‘mock-up’ versions of the images which are at lower resolution and may have copyright/watermark symbols on them. As mentioned above, depending on what you require, it may be that we should commission original illustration or photography (please ask for a separate quotation as this can be a much more costly process depending on what is required).
10) SERIES DISCOUNT
If you’re writing a series where the books need to be similar in style, the first book is priced as above, then subsequent books in that series will be at the reduced price of £280/£220 (i.e. discounted by £100).
11) ALLi DISCOUNT
Members of the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) qualify for a 20% discount on all these prices.
I work on a fee structure of 50% payment up front either by cheque, Paypal or bank transfer, and then the balance once you’re happy with the completed design. I upload the print-ready files (or send them to you, whichever is preferred) immediately after payment. This usually works for everyone.
13) CONTACT DETAILS
If you’re happy with this, we can go forward. Obviously, I will need your full contact details including street address for correspondence. If necessary, at the appropriate time, I’m happy to have a chat via Skype or a phone call to ensure clear communication.
A design project is rather like a tennis rally: the time taken depends on how quickly you hit the ball back across the net! However, from start to finish, most projects are finished within 3-4 weeks, often much sooner, and of course, you will be kept abreast of timescales at every stage. It is conceivable that a book cover design could be completed within about 48-72 hours – but this has only happened once in my career, and the brief from the client was “do whatever you like”! (And to be honest, such a broad brief usually makes it more, not less difficult.) Realistically, allow about five working days for a cover. The design of a book interior obviously take longer, depending on the level of styling you require, and there should always be time allowed for accurate proofing. There may also be many images involved, which I work hard to ensure will be reproduced at the highest possible quality.
I will always make you aware of any potential delays in the process and anything that might affect the final cost of the project.
If you have any questions, please just ask.