Dreaming in Book Design

This one is going to be a short post. I had an interesting dream last night about book design. I can’t get away from it. I know.

I won’t get into the details of the dream, but it got me thinking about something I haven’t touched on yet in this blog series. If you’ve been receiving this by email, it might seem confusing and out of order, so I’ll try to keep it concise and as reasonable as possible. Here goes.

When were talking about book design, we can be talking about a lot of different things. We can be talking about design that simply looks beautiful and brings a sense of feeling to the person looking at it. I think that’s what most design blogs are usually talking about. The art of design. Clever design. Or really talented designers coming up with some amazing work.

What we’re usually talking about at flotsampoetry is design that’s going to help your book in the marketplace, most notably in Amazon sales. Forget bookstores. They’re dying a quick and painful death.

I forgot to mention that another thing that has actually happened to me as a result of a good book cover: Amazon will actually email  out to people recommending your book, so as it comes to inbox from Amazon saying you might like this. Which is again they can only do that targeting if they have enough numbers to crunch, which is where the free giveaway is super powerful.

You sold me paid and in so great look forward to seeing you on the inside. Also I think I will yell at me for not investing in this training, I don’t know if that’s true.

I think you’ll get a lot out of it with some of the more advanced strategies. Because I’m actually going to be taking some notes on the different things. This is great because they are really covering the whole spectrum here. Someone that’s first getting into Kindle publishing you are going to be going, really into detail about that stuff. Then you also go into the more advanced stuff which it’s going to be useful for people even at a higher level.
There is really nothing else out there like I said before that you probably going to be able to come across a deal like this that I can imagine.

I think for you and for me in the sense that, if you are reading the blog you get to consider questions in real time and get answers that you are not clear on. First you get those two bonus sessions like at mid point and the end point of the blog. We do the roundup and catch up on anything at all. It’s also good for me because it means I can create a better blog. I can tailor even more to because I know what I want to teach you. I can make sure that I’m giving you exactly what it is you want to be able to make rapid progress. Make sure there is no questions that are hanging in the air which are not getting answered because you’ll be able to just come to me directly with those questions.

Present Publishing Pieces

What are the basic pieces of the publishing pie? Too many to fit into a single blog post, but here’s a start.


ISBN (International Standard Book Number)

The International Standard Book Number, or ISBN, is the identifying number given to every book ever published. Each book has a unique number and is used for tracking by stores and libraries, much like a soc sec number for people.

For those who don’t have their own ISBN numbers, the publisher will assign an ISBN for, sometimes for free, sometimes for as much as $25. Every version of your book (Kindle, hard cover, paperback, etc) and every new edition of your book will require its own ISBN.

Back Bar Code

To sell a book in stores, it has to have a bar code on the back as part of the book cover template. It’s the white box with the black lines and numbers that cashiers use to scan for the book’s price. Most publishers will put this on the book cover as part of the service and publishing costs.

Books in Print

This is the largest independent book database in the world. It’s officially called Bowker’s Books in Print, and though registration with them is not required for book sales, it makes it possible for any store or vendor to find your book so they can order or stock it.

What do you think?

Part of the Publishing Puzzle

Before we enter into designing layouts and book covers we first need to look at what the book publishing pieces are. Here are three more items to consider before going any further.

Book Wholesalers

Retail stores will not order books directly from the publishers. Instead, they use a simple system of ordering all their books through two or three wholesalers and then can have them shipped to the store in a couple of shipments. This is much easier than having hundreds or thousands of shipments from every publisher out there. Ingram is the biggest book wholesaler you can find. Baker & Taylor is the next largest. Most self-publishers have relationships with one or both of these wholesalers. They are the only two that matter. You’ll need to have your book lined up with at least one of these wholesales if you want to sell it in actual bookstores. If you don’t work with Ingram or Baker & Taylor, your book will never be seen on those bookstore shelves. This is very important for many writers, so be aware of it.

Registration with Online Bookstores

Don’t use any publisher who can’t list your book for sale at Amazon.com. Additionally, they should be able to list it at other online stores, including Barnes & Noble.. As we mentioned before, online sales from Amazon are going to be the best source of book sales. That means the Amazon distribution channel is an absolute must.

Of course, this is something to understand. A complete book will have to be submitted before any of this can happen. An effective book design and layout will hopefully be accompanied by a designer and some form of book cover maker, either automated or manual.

LCCN (Library of Congress Control Number)

United States based libraries will require an ISBN number for placing orders of your books. Without it, you cannot your your book into libraries, which can be a big one time sale.

You don’t have to pursue library sales to be successful, and not all books are appropriate library material. However, libraries still maintain spending budgets for purchasing newly published books each year. Your book may be something that libraries will be interested in and it’s something to think about. It may just be worthwhile to get an LCCN number just in case you need it later. The good news is, you can get these numbers for free, so it doesn’t cost any extra to add this to your book sales and marketing plan.


Wholesalers charge money for the service they provide bookstores and publishers. They work as a sort of middle man and are necessary for in-store book sales. The trade discount is based on a percentage of the retail price. It’s the amount the retail price is discounted for the wholesale price. It can range from 40% to 55%. If you want your book in stores, you’ll need a 55% trade discount. Unfortunately, this cuts right into your royalties.

The best of both worlds is to find a publisher that sets different trade discounts for your book based on the type of retailer, rather than one sweeping discount for all retailers. By doing this you don’t have to publish two different versions of you book and try to get away using the same book cover design. For example, Amazon.com will allow as low as a 20% discount which leaves a lot possible for royalty earnings. CreateSpace works with a 40% book trade discount which works out to a very generous payment to authors. They have a separate program for book store sales where you can sell your book in stores, but you don’t make as much in royalties because they have to give a 55% discount, leaving little money for you. The upside is you get to do both, with maximum benefit to you.

I’ve had a surprising amount of success with the CreateSpace program for bookstores. I’ll never make nearly as much as I do on Amazon, but I won’t argue with an extra 10% per month.

If you’re trying to decide on an option and find yourself in a tough position, go for the lower trade discount. You’ll make more money on your book sales that happen on amazon, which will be roughly 80% of your sales. You’re book cover designer will be sad to  miss out on the publicity of bookstores, but you make pennies on those sales anyway and they’ll be far and few between. Give up your pride about “seeing your book cover on a shelf” and put a lot more money in your wallet.

If you have goals specific to bookstores, you’ll have to bite the bullet and accept very little in royalty payments. Your book is one of the most important projects you’ve ever worked on, so honor what’s true to your heart. It will make the right decision.

Inexperienced writers often pay little attention to trade discounts because they have no idea how much it affects the bottom line. That, and they’re hard to understand at first glance. Take a slower more deliberative approach to your research. You’ll be glad you did.

Elegant Poetry Books

Changing directions is never easy but is often necessary to grow and expand, to move out of one’s comfort zone. This change in focus involves an interest in designing beautiful poetry books for a potential commercial market. Book publishing is now something a lot of people are doing and is no longer a distant dream or unattainable goal. Before diving in, a lot of ground is to be covered by those exploring this new, wonderful possibility. People need the information for three reasons:

1. Publishing a book is a common goal of writers

2. Poetry writers have different requirements when it comes to publishing their writing.

3. There are a lot of frustrations often met with finding nice layouts and cover designs.

This is why we ultimately want to become a favorite resource for finding graphics, book cover images, interior layouts, and publishing companies that have a high degree of respect and reliability. Additionally, we want poets to be able to sell books where ever they want to. Amazon.com is the biggest bookstore in the world and is also the easiest bookstore to get into. Getting the ins and outs of selling books on Amazon could be an entire blog, not just a post.

See this video for more information on preparing the initial book layout.