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Design involves putting together the visual aspects of a book. Book designers consider how the tone of a book will inform its visual style and how the content (text and image) can be arranged to work in cohesion. They take into account layout, typography, text flow, reader experience, branding, accessibility and marketability.

Formatting is more technical: it involves creating the right file type for each printer or online distribution platform. Formatting considers file size and everything necessary for the book to print or display correctly (resolution, bleed, margins, etc).  

You should consider hiring a professional book designer if:

You intend to sell your book to the public. If you would like people to pay money for a copy of your book, what you have is a product that needs to compete with similar titles in the marketplace – including those from traditional publishing houses and other independent publishers. It’s a crowded market out there – whether on Amazon or the shelf of your local bookstore – and people absolutely do judge a book by its cover. Your story might be fantastic but a potential reader may never make it to the first sentence if you can’t catch their attention with a great visual first. 

Your illustrator is not a graphic designer. Here’s the thing: while illustration and graphic design are both visual mediums – and there’s a whole lot of overlap – they have their own respective skill sets. Yes, there are many talented people who can do both but it’s not the norm. If the illustrator’s goal is to create a beautiful piece of art, then the book designer’s goal is to make that piece of art work alongside other elements on the page in a functional and marketable context. We have some neat tricks up our sleeves involving typography, composition, colour theory, visual hierarchy and user psychology principles. It breaks my little designer heart every time I see a book cover with great illustration but a nearly-illegible title, or a book page where the text has been placed haphazardly on top of the artwork. If your illustrator doesn’t know what a gutter is or how to correctly use a ligature glyph, it might be time to hire a graphic designer.

If you haven’t worked with a graphic designer before, you might be wondering how the process works. The project will follow six key stages: Enquiry > Consultation & Contract > Rough Concepts > Design Drafts > Approval of Final Design > Delivery.

I use a client portal called SuperOkay so that we can both easily access all shared documents, files and feedback in a single place. The project stages are clearly marked in the portal. I’m always happy to correspond on email too.

• Stage 1: Enquiry
Choose the service that you’re interested from the Services & Pricing page and follow the link at the bottom to complete the questionnaire. I’ll get back to you within 2 business days with a quote for your project and let you know my next availability (this may be weeks or months ahead). If you’re happy to proceed, I’ll schedule your project into my calendar.

• Stage 2: Consultation & Contract
In the fortnight before your project’s start date, I’ll email you to receive the relevant files and arrange a consultation, which we can conduct over email, chat or a video call (please note that my timezone is UTC+8). This gives us the opportunity to discuss any thoughts or questions you have about the visual aspects of your book and any initial recommendations I might have. After the consultation, I’ll send through the contract for your project and an invoice for the 50% deposit. Once those are signed and paid, we’re ready to go!

• Stage 3: Rough Concepts
The first work you’ll see from me are rough concepts: that could mean sketches showing ideas for layouts, font treatments to choose from, or your assets loosely placed in the design – or a combination of these things. These first “roughs” are essential because we can play around with a few ideas before we settle on a definitive look for the design. You can provide as much feedback as you like at this stage. Once you pick a design concept you’re happy with, we’ll move on to creating the complete design.

• Stage 4: Design Drafts
Time to take that concept and turn it into a finished design! The work you see at this stage will look finished and you’ll have the opportunity to ask for changes via rounds of revision. (A “round of revision” is when you ask for changes to the design and then I implement your feedback in the next version.) Please note that I only offer up to 4 rounds of revisions so make sure you bundle all your change requests together in one go. This is also the time to double and triple-check that everything is correct in your book, from the spelling to the ISBN number.

• Stage 5: Approval of Final Design
At this stage we should have a completed final design that you love! I’ll send you a sign-off form to confirm your approval of the final design. You’ll also receive an invoice for the remaining 50% of the project fee, which needs to be paid in full before I can release the project’s deliverable files to you.

• Stage 6: Delivery
You’ll receive the files you need to get your wonderful book out there! (See each service for what you can expect to receive; deliverable files are slightly different for covers and interiors)

My core values are kindness, inclusivity and accessibility. I welcome book content that includes people from all kinds of backgrounds, abilities, ethnicities, LGBTQAI+ identities and religious practices. I won’t work on books that promote discrimination or antagonistic attitudes towards a particular group. I won’t work on books that promote harm or sexualize minors. I won’t work on books that use AI-generated images.

This is not a publishing company and I cannot help you get a publishing deal.

The standard way to be traditionally published is to submit query letter to a literary agent or directly to a publisher that accepts submissions. You might want to hire an experienced editor to review your manuscript before submitting. Reedsy has some good information here: How to Publish a Children’s Book: A Guide for First-Time Authors

Note: a legitimate publishing house will never ask an author for money. However, there are predatory companies that ask authors for payment in exchange for “publishing” their book. The packages that they offer are extremely expensive and generally produce low quality products – and no real marketing. If a company’s all-in-one publishing package looks tempting, take a moment to reach out to their previous customers for honest feedback. It’s also a good idea to compare it to quotes for individual services (editing, illustration, design, marketing) from trusted professionals – you may find that it’s more cost effective and the quality much higher.

It’s worth familiarising yourself with common publishing shams and scams:
Writer Beware
Book Publishers to Avoid (and Other Shady Author Scams)
What is Hybrid Publishing? Expectations vs Reality

If your goal is to secure a publishing deal, you don’t need to hire a book designer or illustrator.

When publishing houses develop books, they hire their own designers and illustrators to work directly on them. (That’s what I do when I’m not working with indie authors – I design books for publishers.)

I like to use Behance, Reddit and Instagram to find new artists. Keep in mind that some art can be technically well done but isn’t suitable to use as children’s book illustration.

When you approach artists, let them know your artwork budget, proposed schedule, how many pages of artwork will be needed, the trimmed page size and who will be retaining the copyright (expect to pay more if you are). If they have more than one style of illustration, be clear on which style you were interested in. Make sure you and your illustrator have a solid, signed contract that outlines both of your expectations and usage rights.

Pricewise, illustration can cost between $3000-$8000 for a 32 page book by a mid-range artist. Spend what you can, as your book’s artwork is one of the biggest factors in its sellability. Artwork takes time: expect your illustration to take anywhere from 3-6 months to be completed.

Fortunately there’s a wealth of information online about how to self-publish a children’s book, both free and paid. Here are some that I recommend:

• The Children’s Book Authors and Illustrators: Publishing, Marketing and Selling Facebook group is a fantastic resource and lively community. Make sure to use the search function to see if a question you have has already been answered.

• The Self-Publishing Made Simple with April Cox YouTube Channel

• Darcy Pattison’s Indie Kids Books blog

• Brooke Vitale’s Children’s Book Publishing blog