Design: Author Resource Center
You may have strong ideas about design, or you may be content to leave it all up to the pros. Your editor will want to hear any thoughts you might have at the beginning of the process. If you're not a design professional, explaining what resonates with you may be challenging. Here are some tips to help you articulate your vision:
- Reference the visual elements you like in other books or products (magazines, websites, album covers, gifts). Also reference the things that you don't like, as a point of differentiation.
- Explain to your editor how you see the text and art interacting on the page. Do you want them separate? Intermingled? Do you want certain pieces of art to be big and others small? Should certain information be called out in a particular way?
- Frame your design comments from the audience's perspective, not from your own. It is much easier to hear, "Small type is hard for this older audience to read," than "I just don't like it. Not sure why, but it's not working."
The Design team
Your designer will absorb your comments and run with them in ways you may never have imagined. It's really exciting. It may take some back-and-forth, but with good communication, Chronicle's approach to design can really make your content shine.
Our designers sometimes design themselves. Sometimes they hire outside designers. Either way, the process, outlined in the next sections, is the same. You'll need to be available to talk to your editor and review various design layouts during this time.
About 2-4 weeks after we "transmit" to design, your editor will show you a set of design layouts called "prelims" aka preliminary designs. These pages show how different parts of your title would look. For example, you might see a chapter opener, a page with a lot of text, or a page with only art. Everything from information hierarchy, to font decisions, and color direction are figured out at this prelim stage. Your feedback, along with your editor's, will be used to finalize the design approach.
Once the preliminary direction is nailed down, your designer will flow all the text and art into the design, giving a rough estimate of how long your title will be. This document is called a "cast-off." In most cases, the page count will be close to your editor's original estimate. Once in awhile, though, the page count is off, meaning you and your editor will need to discuss solutions. If yours is a particularly complicated visual title, use the cast-off to provide specific feedback on art selection, placement (of art, text, sidebars), and sizing. These kinds of changes are more expensive to make at a later stage.
You may not be able to judge a book by its cover, but many readers do. That's why your editor and designer will come up with a cover design that captures the content of your title, while quickly and clearly communicating the most important information about your title to the reader in a way that's graphically unique. Your cover may feature artwork you've created or supplied, or we may commission original artwork.
Our covers are reviewed extensively in-house—by people from editorial, design, production, sales, and marketing—to ensure that the cover we've created reflects the contents, will appeal to readers, and stand out in a crowded marketplace. We look closely at covers of comparable and competitive titles to make sure that our covers are unique and that they speak the right language for the intended consumer.
We'll review those cover directions internally, and then the editor will consolidate feedback and communicate out. Almost every cover approval process involves heated debate and strong emotions—not just between the author and the publisher, but internally as well. We get that you feel strongly about the cover, because we feel strongly about it too. It's our best chance to appropriately market the title. The best way to keep things copacetic is to focus on what's best for the reader.
About 6 weeks after the transmittal, your editor will send you a first draft, so to speak, of your designed title called the first galleys. This will be your first chance to see your text and artwork together with design. You'll have 1-2 weeks to review the galleys and offer your comments.
When reviewing first galleys, the more specific and clear you can make your comments, the better. If you want to delete art or copy, then be specific about what should go in that spot instead. If you want to switch two pieces of art, make a note on both affected pages. Vague comments—like, "can this image go somewhere else?"—will only lead to mistakes at the next round of galleys. Pay attention to how the design and text and art are interacting and make comments, as well. Do mark any suggested changes to image placement; but also be flexible and trust the designers to make the final call on design issues—they are the experts.
Also, this may be obvious, but first galleys are not the time to rewrite. You've had many chances to perfect the words (when writing it, after the developmental edit, after the copyedit, and after the revised copyedit). If you make more than an agreed-upon percentage of changes (check your contract), you will be charged for the costs incurred. So for your sake, and ours, please don't rewrite at galleys.
We will also send a set of galleys to a proofreader, who will correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors, as well as any mistakes introduced during the design process. Based on your comments and the proofreader's we'll make the necessary corrections and adjustments. Your editor will almost certainly call or email with a list of "author queries" for you to answer.
After changes to first galleys are made, our designers input the changes, and we proof the second galleys to make sure everything's been done correctly. This same process happens at the third galleys, which we call "final correx" (for final corrections). In most cases, you will not need to see second galleys or final correx.
When your title is ready, we send the final disk, all the original art and any other supporting material to production. This package is called the Mechanicals.