Thursday, April 23, 2009

When Should You Design Your Own Book?

Or at least consider it: You should consider designing your own book when some or all of the following are in play:

  • When you have nothing better to do. Maybe you don’t have an important golf game to get to, but you do have a book to represent. You can find any number of people to professionally design your book for you. But you can’t—no matter what certain vendors will tell you—find someone to sell your book as well as you can. That’s where you should put your energy. On the other hand, if you’re doing that and still have tons of time on your hands …
  • When you don’t care what your book looks like. I’m assuming that you’re not a professional book designer, in which case your design and page makeup won’t look as good as a professional's. This sounds self-serving—because I do book design—and it is. I can spot a DIY job from a hundred yards—even it's a good one. However, you should know that, as a general rule, I place professional book design lower on the priority list than other factors, such as identifying the right readership, having a strong message, planning your book's shape and size correctly, writing your book clearly, and getting it edited well. On the other hand, having done all those things well, do you still care if your book doesn’t “look” completely professional?
  • If your design requirements are simple. Actually, this mitigates the second point. If your book requires a simple design—let’s say you’re writing a novel—you will have a much easier time coming up with a professional design and professional-looking pages than if your book is complex.
  • If you will enjoy it. If you’re the type of person who will enjoy the book design process, then it’s worth considering. If you know it’s going to be a pain …
  • If you have the talent for it. If book design appears to be up your alley—you need to be something of an artist with a love for words and an eye for detail—then it’s worth considering, especially if you think you might do this again.
  • If you have no money to outsource the job. Now that printing can be done in small quantities or even on-demand, you can get your book printed for almost no investment. However, you still have to prepare your book for printing—and that can cost a few dollars. If you don’t have it, you might consider doing your own design and page makeup, especially if some of the above factors are in play. Check first, though. A good design, especially if your book is simple, might not cost as much as you think.
  • If you can get good advice or coaching. If you take on your own book design or page makeup, you can increase the quality of your work by learning how to do it, either by investigating the rules of the road or getting yourself a coach. You can also get someone to help you come up with a design that you implement. The Publishing Pro.