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The Indie Authors Guide for Understanding the Design Phase

Understanding the Design Phase

Being an indie author requires more than just a love for writing. When you set out to self-publish a book, you take on the responsibility for all parts of the project, especially understanding the design phase. Even if you have others helping to bring your book to market, your name is on the cover, so, ultimately, you are responsible for the writing, editing, publishing, and promotional phases. Learning about what is involved in each phase will provide a roadmap of understanding that will yield a positive experience and results.

Understanding the Design Phase

What phase are you in?

If you break up the self-publishing process into phases, the design phase is the third phase. By the time you have reached this point, you have completed phase 1, writing, and phase 2, editing, with the final phase being 4, publishing. As a marketing agency, we will make the case that phase 5 is the marketing phase and should be started during phase 1, but no later than phase 2. Remember, it’s never too early to start marketing your book, building a following of readers, getting your author platform built, and creating a marketing plan and timeline.

Each phase of the project is important and dependent on the other phases. Knowledge and careful planning will ensure that each phase supports the other, and when put together, creates a seamless process that can be replicated every time you want to publish a book. It’s worth mentioning that proper planning helps to avoid mistakes, delays, frustration, and wasting money.

Stay close to the norm in the design phase?

The design phase incorporates cover and interior design along with all of the elements for each. Creating an eye-catching book cover will attract readers. Readers expect certain elements to be present and consistent throughout the book. “The more you stay with what’s expected, the more your book is accepted.” ( it just rolled off my tongue.) – Rick Lite

Educating yourself on the best practices for designing a book will yield a better outcome. It will allow you to understand how a font type or size can support your story. It will help you understand how readers move through a book and why certain elements need to be organized a certain way. It will also empower you to make educated decisions when dealing with a designer.

The cover and typography communicate a great deal about your book. We’ve discussed the importance of the cover and how it is essential in grabbing the reader’s attention with a thought-provoking glimpse of what they will find inside. It’s all about luring the reader to take the next step in the purchasing process. We recommend a professional book designer for this task.

This brings us to the next important part of the layout: typography.  An example of typography is fonts and how they have different personalities and the ability to change the meanings of words and evoke strong emotions. It’s why graphic designers spend so much time choosing the perfect one. The font you choose for your title tells the potential reader a great deal about the words that will be inside of the book. You don’t want to lose a reader because you chose a font that was not appropriate for the book, or the reader couldn’t see, or read. But typography isn’t just about the inside of the book, it is also about the cover and the marketability. Here is an example of how typography is viewed. (TEDx Video-14 minutes)  Wake Up & Smell the Fonts.

Don’t overlook this part of the design phase

Since most authors will outsource the design work, it’s easy to become complacent when planning this phase. One area you don’t want to overlook is the necessity of receiving the master/native files from the book project once it’s completed. These files include the design files with all of the supporting element files linked. The most common self-publishing file formats include Adobe InDesign and Adobe Photoshop for the interior and cover, ePUB for the eBook, and WAV files for an audiobook. So, your native file should include the InDesign file for the interior and cover, a font folder, an image or illustrations folder, ( if appropriate) a document file including the print-ready .pdf files and a links file. It can also have other assets from the project. Keep in mind, the InDesign files cannot be opened unless you have the software.

Print on Demand (POD) makes it easy to revise or create a second edition for your book. Having a copy of your native files is necessary and gives you the flexibility for choosing a designer or making multiple changes. There are too many instances where an author needs to change designers or needs the files only to realize they have limited options. 

To have the options requires working with a reliable and professional designer who will include this wording in their agreement. You should never enter into a relationship with a designer without this topic spelled out clearly in the agreement. You should own these files outright and without any future obligation.

Not all designers want to release the original work but knowing this upfront empowers you to make a better decision. After experiencing this with our publishing company and hearing many stories from our clients, we will never engage a designer who won’t provide these files free and clear.

The design phase is a very important part of self-publishing a book, but so are the other phases we discussed above. If your writing is not up to par or you didn’t work with an editor to create your best work, the best design efforts won’t be enough. All phases need to work in tandem and support each other. To put your best work out there, work on your writing, always use an editor, find a reliable and ethical designer and start marketing your book while you are writing. Don’t let the process of bringing your work to market be anything but fun, rewarding, and stress-free!


Rick Lite of Stress Free Book Marketing, stands at the forefront of the ever-changing book industry. He is a seasoned book marketing professional with over 15 years of experience in the industry. Rick’s expertise comes from tirelessly working on new and innovative ways to market his own books and CDs with his company and parent company, Stress Free Kids. Embracing the core values of integrity, innovation, and growth, Rick works closely with authors to create custom, robust book marketing programs. His easy-going manner provides “stress-free” support and comfort to authors going through the book marketing process for the first time. Rick is quick to share his knowledge and “insider tips” for a successful marketing campaign that will lead to increased exposure, awareness and most importantly, sales.

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