Basic Book Design Considerations
Using yesterday’s example, what lessons can be drawn from printing the book How to Make the Most of College, The Essential Guide for College Students?
First, the length of print run may have been ideal for a low unit cost, but the total, out-of-pocket cost of printing was too high. Maury never sold out her first print run. The books were either remaindered or given away as gifts. I still have two and gave one to my daughter when she left for university.
A shorter initial print run would have allowed the publisher to test the market’s acceptance of the book. It would also have allowed her to test her distribution channels and her direct marketing efforts. A shorter run would also have allowed her to obtain positive reviewer comments and add them to subsequent printers. The reviewer comments may have helped sell more books.
But even more fundamental than all this is that a shorter print run, while costing more per book, would have cost much less overall providing the publisher more money to spend on marketing the book. As short run book printers, this is where the opportunity lies. You can make money in two ways: printing the short-run books and printing marketing materials with the money saved from the longer print run.
Second, whenever possible invest in a good book cover designer for the cover and the interior pages. A book needs to be noticed regardless of how it is distributed. A good cover makes a difference—thus debunking the myth that a buyer doesn’t judge a book by its cover. The money a publisher saves on a shorter print run of books can be invested in the design and layout, which is a form of marketing.
Here are two simple, but effective rules of thumb for cover design. One, take the cover design across the room (at least 20 feet away) and see if you can read the title and judge if the design is appealing. If it is, then the design is good and will sell well through the distribution channels. If not, consider redesigning the cover. Two, reduce the digital cover art to the size of 1 x 1 inch. If the title is legible and the design is appealing at that size, it will also appeal to the distribution channels.
Third, always assume that the book will become a solid seller and may move from your print shop to a more traditional, long-run book printer. Advise the publisher to make the number of text pages for the book divisible by 16. Sixteen pages is the typical size of a traditional book printer’s plate. If the number of pages is divisible by 16, then the book will transition easily to a traditional book printer. Add extra, blank pages, notes, order forms or other material to increase the page count. This decision is the type issue to discuss with your customers. Maury’s book is 112 pages, which is divisible by 16. The number of traditional book printing plates needed to produce this book is seven.
Fourth, include an EAN barcode even if the book will not be sold through the trade book distribution channels. The barcode makes the book appear more credible and gives the publisher the option to sell through bookstores, should the opportunity arises. Adding the EAN is another service you can sell a publisher.
It should be apparent to you that selling book printing is a very collaborative sale. This is particularly true for small publishers and first-time publishers. Offering advice on how to construct the book may lead to additional opportunities to sell more services.