Proper Document Preparation for Working with a Book Designer

If you are working with a professional book designer (or typesetter), there is no need for you to do tons of legwork. If you do happen to go crazy with formatting and styling on your own, then my question is why hire a designer at all? Part of the fee that you are paying your designer is for her creativity, market research, and intuition. (Need help determining if your designer is a professional?)


Although it may not always be feasible, before you start on your document, I suggest talking with your designer, especially if you are wanting a custom layout or if your document contains lots of images or plans for call-out quotes.

For my clients, the most succinct advice that I can give is to have them keep their Word document very simple. Bold, italicize, hyperlink, insert footnotes, and assign color where appropriate, but there is no need for them to do much more than that. I will handle page breaks, table of contents, title pages, headers, footers, etc.–all that fun stuff.

And whatever you do, resist the urge to use text frames or to create your own graphics in Word. This makes your designer think bad thoughts.

If they are feeling a little more adventurous, I love for them to use the paragraph styles in the right way. The “right” way means Heading 1 goes to the top level heading, heading 2 goes to the sublevel heading, heading 3 goes to the sub-sublevel heading, etc. The paragraph styles can be customized by the end-user, but that is not necessary. It’s really just the coding and structure I’m after, not the author’s design preferences. Design preferences are handled via a phone call and as the project develops.

Call-Out Quotes

For books that want to feature call-out quotes, there are two ways that this often plays out: 1) the call-out quote is a replication of existing text in a document OR 2) the call-out quote is used IN PLACE of existing text in a document.

Karen Engle’s book, “A People Chosen”, is a great example of a before-and-after for call-out quotes. She wanted her call-out quotes to be their own text, not a repetition of existing text. The inset image is her original Word document. She put all of the text that she wanted to be a call-out quote in double brackets. I then pulled those into their own text frames and styled them accordingly.



In addition to call-out quotes, we have the not-so-small matter of photos. If you like your designer and want to stay in her good graces, then you will NOT embed your photos into your Word document.  Instead, you will send her the absolute highest-resolution and UNaltered photos that you have (dropbox is awesome). You will name them accordingly AND put a notation in the document as need (example: insert chapter 2C photo here). If the image needs to be corrected and/or cropped, I will take care of that. Again, that’s all part of having a designer.

Here is an example of photo notation (“Use Image file Week2Day1.jpg).



Talking beforehand about my workflow processes enables the author to focus on her writing and key elements, while allowing me to focus on structure and design.

Every designer and author is going to have her own way of doing things. You will be spending a lot of time together throughout the book designing process, so take a few minutes upfront to get to know each other and ask about preferences and workflow processes.

Hopefully, this gives you some room to breathe if you’re in the midst of preparing your own document. When in doubt, stop what you are doing and schedule a phone consultation with your designer.

If you are looking for someone to format your book's interior, design a full cover, create marketing materials, or if you just need a little hand-holding, contact me today for a consultation or a quote.

I also admin the fantastic Self Publishing Support Group on Facebook and am happy to answer your questions there for no charge, and the rest of the group is also super helpful, bringing an array of experience, knowledge, and wisdom to the table.