From the Page Plan to the Dummy and Print Book.

Book Formats.

The first thing you have to think about is the literal shape of your book.

The publisher may well insist––for cost reasons––on using US letter size, 8 1/2 x 11 inches.

Remember that no other countries use US letter size––or even inches––apart from the US and Canada. The UK uses the old imperial measuring system of feet and inches colloquially, and in some limited areas such as on the road, but in publishing the metric system adopted by pretty much everyone else has been the norm since the 1970’s.

Most printing for the US is done overseas but, even so, the US is a big enough market that entire printing works are calibrated towards the US measuring system.

While we’re talking about printing and overseas markets, the text of your book will be set on a different printing plate to the art, and nearly always designed to be printed in black ink.

There will be a black ink plate for the art too (along with cyan, magenta, and yellow), but this is separate to the text plate.

This makes it easy for the publisher to print foreign language editions of the book. They can print up the art, exactly as if it was being printed in US English, but then they can have a separate plate made up just with the text, for example in Spanish, or more likely Korean.

In some Asian countries they will also reverse the page order so that the book can be read right-to-left.

If you’re lucky the publisher will come up with a page size just for your book, and this can sometimes happen even for debut authors. My first picture book, PAPER PARADE, was printed 12 x 12 inch, which is by no means a standard (or economic) size.

When you submit a dummy––digital or physical–– you will obviously need to select your page size. It makes sense to use a standard size. If you want to mail a physical dummy then half of US legal size makes the most sense, as it makes the dummy easy to make, and it’s a comfortable size on almost every level: big enough that nothing needs to be cramped, yet small enough to be easily mailed.

You could also use US tabloid size (11×17), which is double letter size. Tabloid is nice if you really want to give yourself room to play with the art and design of the dummy, and will give you a real sense of the size and shape of the final book.

For a digital submission a letter-size PDF can leave with you with a very large PDF, that may be to big to send, or too lo-res to look good, plus you might annoy an editor by jamming up her email system with your giant PDF. You might also be blocked by the publisher’s server.

Personally, I tend to use 6 x 9 inch for digital dummies, as it seems to work well whichever way you’re going to submit, and I like to print out my dummies even if I’m eventually going to send them as digital files.

I like the idea of mailing as it slows everything down. You can’t mail a dummy at the push of a button, so it makes you think more carefully before you send––if you’re the kind of impetuous picture book creator, which I am.

Obviously you need to check that the editor or agent you are submitting to accepts physical dummies.

VERY IMPORTANT: never mail original art. If you’re sending a physical dummy you will probably never see it again. When I first began sending out dummies I made beautiful and elaborate constructions that are gone for ever.

While you’re working on a physical dummy it will be a complex mass of cut and pasted bits and pieces, and this in and of itself is a work of original art, so you should scan it, and composite it to the printed page.

There are simple formulas for printing out dummies, once you’ve composited them.

Formats for a Self-Published Book.

Last Saturday at the Agent panel there was talk about the conflict between self-publishing and the novelty of a debut author.

If you self-publish a book and make it available to the public with an ISDN code then technically it is a publication.

If you later on actually publish a book with a house then you will not technically be a debut author.

So, if you do a self-published book you should––and can––make it available only to yourself.

You can still order multiple copies for yourself and hand-sell them without having them appear on Amazon.

Contrarily you can try to market your book on Amazon if you wish.

There are several good self-publishing sites out there, but I’m going to use Luluxpress as an example.

Sizes: Luluxpress has a lot of choices of size and binding (they boast 3000 configurations) but the requirement of a 24 page minimum and full color interior limits the available choices.

Sizes: US Trade (6 x 9), US letter (8.5 x 11), Small Square (7.5 x 7.5).

There are other shapes such as A5 and 8.5” square.

The physical size of the book doesn’t seem to affect how much the individual books cost, but 24 page books can only be printed coil bound, or case wrap (hard-cover), and these are around 10 dollars per copy, so there’s little scope for selling them at a profit.

32 page books can be printed perfect bound, which is paperback, and the cheapest option (they can also be case wrap if you like). Most of the formats are between 2 and 3 dollars per book, so you could actually sell them at a small profit if you wish (or give them away at a small loss).

Next: Compositing a Picture Book Dummy in Photoshop.