How a Manuscript Becomes a Book

I never thought very much about all the decisions involved with turning a book into a manuscript, beyond recognizing that at some point someone had to design the cover. Things such as font choices, trim sizes, paper weights, etc., were all decisions that I blindly consumed as a reader without realizing all of the blood, sweat, and tears that went into making them. Then I joined the Ooligan team, and suddenly I got to play a part in making all of these decisions! That’s when I began garnering an understanding—and appreciation—for the beautiful beast that is the book design process. Now that I’ve stepped into my role as the manager for Ooligan’s design department, I’m learning so much more about all that goes into designing a book.

In this post, I will share what I have learned about Ooligan’s book design process; because methods and systems vary from press to press, everything here might not necessarily be representative of how other presses run their design processes. But let’s dive in!

The Components of a Book Design: Cover, Jacket, Interior, and Galley

The cover is perhaps the most self-explanatory element because it is the most widely recognized component of a book’s design—it is the chief element of a book’s design that is recognized by readers as being designed at all. A cover is indeed an extremely important aspect of a book’s design because it is what draws the attention of a reader in a bookstore. Therefore, it must clearly signal the genre while also ensuring that it stands out from its competitors.

The jacket is the full shell of the book’s exterior: it involves the cover, back cover, and spine. It also bears a significant amount of critical information, including the book’s title, author, publisher, ISBN, and description, as well as “extras” such as blurb reviews and pull quotes. If a cover draws the bookstore pursuer’s attention, it is likely the jacket that seals the deal; however, the reader is likely unaware of the amount of design work that has gone into creating it.

The interior is all of the pages that make a book a book. It includes front matter—the title pages and copyright information—and back matter—acknowledgments and such—as well as the story itself, which originates as a manuscript and is then passed on to the interior designer for layout. This interior layout process (the “interior design”) consists of the designer making countless design choices in order to uphold the spirit of the story and provide a positive reading experience. For better or worse, this means that a good design is invisible: if the interior designer has done their job well, the average reader will never once pause to consider the fact that the pages they are reading are in fact “designed” at all.

The galley is the early version of a book that is printed before the final rounds of editing are complete. It is distributed to advance reviewers as part of the marketing and publicity strategy for the book. Because the galley is not the final, published product, the expectations for the interior design are not as strict, but it still must be polished and readable in order to present the book well and demonstrate the professionalism of the press. The book jacket will also be different for the galley, and geared more toward intra-industry promotion by featuring content such as BISAC codes and publication date information as opposed to blurbs and pull quotes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.