What Do I Charge for Book Design?

JDERO's picture

I am new here and found this site when I was searching for an answer to my subject question

I recently was asked to help with the design of a 100pg, 10X10, hardcover book.
All photos and what is going to be the text will be provided. I am only providing

*cover design
*font
*all layout
*find book printer

I am more of a graphics/branding guy so this is new for me. I do not want to turn it down because it could help me and the person who asked is a friend. This would be funded by a company and they want to make 1000 books.

If anyone could help I would greatly appreciate it. Ask me questions as well if needed.

Thanks

baskervillebold's picture

I would look into the Graphic Artists Guild - Pricing and Ethical Guidlines book. I believe there is a section regarding book design.

JDERO's picture

thank you for that.

mondoB's picture

In November, 2006 I asked that question of Typophile stalwart pattyfab, aka book designer Patricia Fabricant, who replied:

For an illustrated book for a commercial publisher, I usually charge between $40 and $50 per page. That includes design, layouts, typesetting plus one round of revised, additional corrections at $50/hour. Does not include picture research, scanning, retouching art, or dealing with the printer.

For a non-profit publisher or university press I’d probably charge the lower end of my scale - i.e. about $40/page (with the caveats above) for an illustrated book. For a non-illustrated book either around $20-25/page all in - plus extra for aa’s.

charles ellertson's picture

For a non-profit publisher or university press I’d probably charge the lower end of my scale - i.e. about $40/page (with the caveats above) for an illustrated book. For a non-illustrated book either around $20-25/page all in - plus extra for aa’s.

No university press I know of would pay that much, esp. for a non-illustrated book. Typical design fees for the interior of a university press book with a few illustrations range from $600 to $850 for a complicated text. This for a 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 trim, with anywhere from 500,000 to 1,500,000 characters.

Composition is around $1.50/M characters, with a $0.50 per-page make-up fee. If you're setting a 2,800 character page, that would sum to around $4.75-$5.00 per page if the manuscript is supplied editorially correct on disk. We get a rather hefty penalty if there are fewer than 400,000 total characters. Placing illustrations with caption is around $2.50 each. Improving the usually terrible images is rather more. Alterations around $1.35 per occurrence (not line, that went out with repro). Paper proof sets extra.

A rather well-known designer (whose book on design is often recommended on Typophile) has a minimum of $800 for a text interior -- that's design only, composition would be extra, but along the lines of the paragraph above.

The jacket is on top of that.

I guess things are far different in the commercial world; I've noticed students graduating from design school seem to expect a higher starting salary than I get now.

An illustrated book can be far different, it depends on what is needed.

I've been doing the composition bidding for my company since 1980. We use more or less the prices I've mentioned, and we are considered a little pricey. We only deal with university presses; I don't feel comfortable venturing guesses about commercial publishing. They do require faster schedules.

I do know of museum catalogs going for $20,000 back in the late 1980s (just design & layout), but you could count the number of people who got that kind of work with available fingers & toes.

pattyfab's picture

My fee quoted above includes the cover design.

I don't do a lot of non-illustrated books and those I do are usually for trade publishers, not university publishers. I have done art books for university presses (Yale and Princeton) and their fees are commensurate with what I quoted above. I do have one publisher client who pays a bit less - more like $30/page but their books have very little text, they are mostly picture/caption, so once you have the grid and sequence it goes very quickly. I do a lot of cookbooks, where the composition is far more involved than, say, a novel.

It's much more common to use a per word rate than per character for text-only books. It can range from 3 to 7 cents a word depending on the publisher. I used to do a complicated x per page + y per picture + z per word type of formula but life is too short for that.

I charge a fairly hefty fee for dealing with the printer basically because I hate doing that and would rather the publisher/client take care of it themselves.

Charles's quotes seem low to me. Even 10 or 15 years ago you could get $5 or more per picture. But like I said, I find it easier to establish a page rate all in. Seems to work ok for me, as long as there is some flexibility on both ends.

charles ellertson's picture

It’s much more common to use a per word rate than per character for text-only books. It can range from 3 to 7 cents a word depending on the publisher.

Again, must be a difference between trade publishers and university presses. I've bid a lot of jobs, including long-term contracts prepared by the presses, and never seen a per-word quote. (We too work with Yale Press; but I'd guess Patty works with the Mary M side.)

The reason image work costs rather more is that you can be asked to spend so much time on each one. If you are given a picture, told where to crop it, how big it should be, where to place it, etc., it doesn't take much time. That's the $2.50 price -- actually, the $2.50 is just to place it with the caption, we also charge a minimum of $5.00 more to deal with as an image.

If you are given a picture and have to do that work yourself, the time can rise sharply. If you are asked to improve the image quality, the time can really rise. My partner does the best image work at our shop; and to fix a color image takes at least 1 hour, and that's just to correct the color balance & enhance detail. Black & white can take 20 minutes each. None of our customers will pay the costs of this work, it has to be "subsidized" by the text profit. & BTW, our shop time is a bit higher than Patty's. When all is said & done, if we have to scan the image, prepare it (includes "image enhancement") & place it, our typical charge is about $15 for B&W continuous tone, and $25 for color. That still doesn't quite cover all our costs, the text subsidizes the art. If there isn't much text, you (well, we) would have to charge more. But it doesn't sound like you are being asked to do that amount of work.

And yes, dealing with a printer can be time consuming. Esp. if you do the color management work (and you'd better; the number of printers who do a good job of this is quite small). You can ask for their numbers, but about half the time what they give you is nonsense. Then, if you care, there needs to be a test & you have to work out the numbers for them. If it's color job, work to their proof system; they can be expected to get their presses to match their proofer -- well, not all can at first, but it's a good starting place.

etc.

EDIT: I'm sorry, one of the reasons I got off on this & gave such detail is that it points out there are different markets, different pricing structures, different rates, and different schedules. When you are starting to work in an area, a book dealing in generalities like the one referenced above, can be misleading. It all depends on a particular market.

pattyfab's picture

I think the Graphic Artists Guild book mentioned above skews VERY high in its suggested fee structures, at least for books. If I insisted on those rates I'd have no clients. I only use that book as a hammer with recalcitrant clients who try to nickel and dime me.

will powers's picture

Let me confirm what charles_e says, but from the other side of the table. The press where I am design & production manager is not located at a university, but we publish in that realm, and are active in the Association of American University Presses. Design fees for trade or scholarly books start a bit lower than the fee charged by the well-known designer Charles mentions and go to about that upper limit: design fee only, for which I get specifications and a Quark or InDesign file upon which the compositor can base its work. Shops I hire for trade or scholarly book composition charge pretty much what Charles notes. Most of those shops give us a per-page charge and a photo placement charge. Illustrated books are considered individually: a 4-c book throughout, with tint bleeds, might get a different fee than a duotone book with photos placed on white. & jackets or covers are of course additional.

The highest fees for museum catalogs I have heard come from one of the top-flight Manhattan designers of this sort of book. Six years ago, when I was trying to establish a fee for a freelance job, I had no idea what to charge. I consulted this pal, who told me a decent fee would be about $20 per page, to include design and composition; editorial alts to be extra. Knowing that my university press client would not pay that I came in at around $12 / page, plus air fare for two trips to the campus to work on photo sequencing and design. I felt like I was making huge bucks on that.

The only time I see the sort of fees Patty cites are when I approach big-dog designers on special projects. They tell me the fee they’d charge for a corporate book, and then we negotiate down. The prices I get are still pretty stratospheric for my market, but we at times pay them for this kind of expertise.

I don’t pay folks to deal with printers. That’s my job, and is dependent in large on relationships built over many years, relationships I cannot necessarily count on freelancers to have.

powers

pattyfab's picture

Interesting. I'm certainly not a top-flight designer, but generally have no problem getting the rates I quoted above, or only slightly less. I have heard of designers getting as much as $100/page. And as I said above, my page rate does include the jacket.

Charles - yes, I did work with Mary M.

One of the reasons I like book design is that there is a structure. There are editors for the editing (altho an eagle eye designer is always appreciated) and production managers to handle the printing. Schedules are *generally* reasonable. The scope of your job is clear, and the fee structure is also transparent. When I do work for other types of clients I often find myself having to pick up far more of their end than I want to. They don't always understand or appreciate exactly what I do. And furthermore they think they own you, that it's ok to call friday evening and expect something first thing monday, failing to grasp that you have other jobs, other commitments, and perhaps even a life. The art directors, editors and production managers I deal with in book publishing generally have the same investment in the project that I do - we all want to make the book the best it can be, but it isn't our "baby". Or, that is, we have a lot of babies and have to find time for all of them. Most of the time when I stray outside of book design I end up regretting it.

pattyfab's picture

I just picked my copy of the Graphic Artists Guild book - it is so old (1997) that it discusses cutting up galleys and distinguishes between the "dummy" and the "mechanicals". Back in those days they estimated $8-25 per page for dummy; $15-40 for mechanicals, exclusive of jacket or design. Since these two processes have now folded into one, I'd be curious to see what this book recommends as a per page rate for illustrated books.

charles ellertson's picture

Will,

I'd point out one large difference; Patty is including the jacket with the charge for the interior. A jacket design would add at least another $800 to the book. The two are usually separate in university press publishing -- for example, I'll design an interior, but will not touch a jacket. There are people who will do both, but there are also people who prefer to do just jackets, or occasionally, like me, just interiors.

If you sum the costs, say $800 for the jacket, $700 for the interior design, and $2,500 for comp, thats $4,000. If it is a 250-page book, that's $16 a page. That would cover about 20 images, text size B&W. That is a little less than what Patty's talking about, but I imagine the art books she deals with have rather more image requirements.

Ah well, back to taking apart & re-doing Arno. It would add 4-6 hours for every job if I don't re-kern & re-write the features. With Arno, it'll take a week, but after the first 10 books, we'll be money ahead.

Charles

Edit:

Will, good duotone work costs more than 4-c work. At least from us. Note I said "good."

pattyfab's picture

The jacket is inseparable from the design of the book's interior in my line of work. I realize that's not the case in other types of publishing. I found that it was easier to get a publisher to wrap their mind around a flat per page rate all in (and much less work for me) than if I broke it down too far. I can do that if they ask to but they don't. And it would come out more or less the same.

Jackets can command more like $1500 from trade publishers. More if you are doing custom work - photoshop, commissioning illustration, hand lettering, etc.

And yes, I work on books that often have images on every page, or several. Each page/spread requires individual attention.

Charles - are you working in Quark or InDesign? As I am sure you know, Quark lets you save your kerning tables for other jobs.

JDERO's picture

WOW, thanks for all of that!

I will take this all in and see what I come up with.
I was shooting for $30 per page.

I have never done this but am comfortable with layout and dealing with the printers and all of that. The photographer and creator of this book idea has provided me with alot of references and design ideas but these are only suggestions and I shouldn't take anything off the end price just because if that, right?

Is that standard? To receive a guideline for the design, or references of how they want the final product to generally look like?

Anyway, I appreciate your responses and I will check back later.
Thank you

Justin

pattyfab's picture

Is that standard? To receive a guideline for the design, or references of how they want the final product to generally look like?

In my experience this is neither standard nor unusual. It can be very helpful, especially if this is your first illustrated book design. You should definitely not lower your price just because they have given you some ideas to work with.

charles ellertson's picture

Charles - are you working in Quark or InDesign? As I am sure you know, Quark lets you save your kerning tables for other jobs.

We now work in InDesign. Before 2007, we worked with our implementation of TeX, which let us have almost all the features of OpenType. The problem was dealing with color management, and it was almost unsurmountable. Too, both Larry Tseng & I are getting on, as they say. Using TeX made us dependent on Larry, and our database fonts made us dependent on me.

We now use only OpenType fonts. I have never gotten a font from a foundry I considered adequate for our work, at least not economically adequate. But I've said this before, just rehashing old news. Arno needs work with the punctuation, and the superscripts for note calls. Too, I have never liked Adobe's too-tight kerning. IMSLTHO, Arno needs other touches, like separate arithmetic operators (plus, minus, multiply, etc.) for lining versus old-style numbers. What comes with the font is a compromise in size & height, not right for either figure style. Etc.

will powers's picture

>> I’d point out one large difference
It’s all a matter of how you parse it, Charles. There’s really no difference. We just calculate our costs differently. I don’t bring design & composition costs for a jacket or cover into calculations of per-page costs for text design & comp. That’s all.

>> The jacket is inseparable from the design of the book’s interior in my line of work.
I entirely agree with that, and that is the way most of our books are treated. Again, I was relating some accounting practices.

>> good duotone work costs more than 4-c work
I was only relating design costs as I have experienced them, Charles, not the work it takes to make duotones print well. Designers I work with will often give us a lower rate if they are doing a design that is only two colors, and does not involve a range of page tints and type colors. It does not mean that design of duotone books is not quite complex and even difficult; it just reflects what I’ve been charged. That’s all.

>> I’m certainly not a top-flight designer
I’m not sure that’s true, Patty. I just looked at your www site. You get a lot of good work, work a lot of book designers would like to do, if only they had the skills to master those kinds of design. (I speak from very close personal experience here.)

I also am very happy that I’ve restricted my work to book design. I have done other sorts of graphic design work (ad agency type director), and none gives me the satisfaction book work does.

And many others feel the same way. There is no dearth of designers who want to concentrate on book work, despite its lower wages. & some are very good. I have just recently met with several recent design school grads who wish to eschew the allure of flash and color and work with books. At times I have hired some, and gotten good work, but work that comes only with a good deal of mentoring.

Justin: good luck with this project; have fun.

powers

pattyfab's picture

I have just recently met with several recent design school grads who wish to eschew the allure of flash and color and work with books.

And I not too long ago put a roomful of design students to sleep telling them about the glories of book design. Maybe I'm just a lousy teacher... and in truth one girl did come up to me afterwards to ask me for help getting her foot in the door.

charles ellertson's picture

Patty,

Look for the ones that don't wear black. There may be some hope for them.

I believe Rich Hendel, Jill Shimabukuro, and Amy-Ruth Buchannan are going to teach a design seminar in North Carolina later this summer. Told Rich the thing to impress on them is that it takes great skill to tart things up without doing harm. If they're young, they seem to have to be *very graphic*; the trick with books is learning how to get through that period without damaging everything you touch.

typehunter's picture

This is a great thread. My background is mostly in magazine design, but since I started my own business 6 years ago. I have started to do more book projects. Of all the work i do, it is the most interesting, but least lucritive part of my business. The company I do most of my book work for produces some pretty nice, high-end, design, art & architecure books. But they have a take-it-or-leave-it price policy, that doesn't make any adjustments for complexity of the book that goes like this: $1000 for the cover; $800 for the dummy design that can include 8-10 spreads; and then $20 per page for production (and there are at least 2-3 rounds of edits that are included in that). The rates haven't changed in at least 6 years. On some with little text, and large photos (they take care of all prepress and production) this doesn't work out TOO bad, but on others, they get so complex, and someetimes they have so many changes, that I end up making nothing. They will almost never pay more for extra work or complexity. Hence, i don't do that many projects for them any more, even though i would like to.

Alll my other projects, i quote a rate.

Since I do like doing books, I plan to actively look for new book projects this year. I really would like to have a better idea what other publishers pay. Will have to do some math on Patty's numbers, because while it seems a lot lower that these guys pay, since it sounds like the cover and initial design stage are included in the page rate, maybe it's not quite as bad.

Patty, your work l;ooks great, by the way.

typehunter's picture

This is a great thread. My background is mostly in magazine design, but since I started my own business 6 years ago. I have started to do more book projects. Of all the work i do, it is the most interesting, but least lucritive part of my business. The company I do most of my book work for produces some pretty nice, high-end, design, art & architecure books. But they have a take-it-or-leave-it price policy, that doesn't make any adjustments for complexity of the book that goes like this: $1000 for the cover; $800 for the dummy design that can include 8-10 spreads; and then $20 per page for production (and there are at least 2-3 rounds of edits that are included in that). The rates haven't changed in at least 6 years. On some with little text, and large photos (they take care of all prepress and production) this doesn't work out TOO bad, but on others, they get so complex, and someetimes they have so many changes, that I end up making nothing. They will almost never pay more for extra work or complexity. Hence, i don't do that many projects for them any more, even though i would like to.

Alll my other projects, i quote a rate.

Since I do like doing books, I plan to actively look for new book projects this year. I really would like to have a better idea what other publishers pay. Will have to do some math on Patty's numbers, because while it seems a lot lower that these guys pay, since it sounds like the cover and initial design stage are included in the page rate, maybe it's not quite as bad.

Patty, your work looks great, by the way.

pattyfab's picture

Thanks. I think some of the high end art/architecture/design book publishers get away with a lower rate because they know everyone wants to do their books. Phaidon for example is notorious for low pay. But they don't use American designers anyway. And they don't care if you can actually READ their books.

jupiterboy's picture

And on an alternate note, I've seen book designs pay twice the rate Patty mentions. However, the services can extend far beyond typesetting, and could even include multi-month stays at an artist’s studio to sort out and arrange photography for new works created specifically for a show or publication. Add to that the changes associated with donors and availability of works and you have a much different sort of project.

alight2's picture

This thread is great!

I have about 31 years of graphic design background in the corporate, publishing, everything world and have just recently shifted my focus to designing memoirs and books on spirituality, art and poetry.

Patty, I used your pricing methods on a memoir I completed over the summer, but that was for a pretty high end client.

I am working now mostly for individuals from the private sector. Not companies. I'm unclear as to what to charge these folks.

I looked at your site, Patty. I think your work is gorgeous.

Any thoughts from anyone on pricing for this market?

Thanks.

LisaJacksonDesign's picture

My guess is $3,000 if they want rights for the entire U.S.A. for just a run of 1,000. If they want another run, charge more. Why do I have to guess? Because I've not done it yet! Pay more attention to the answers of the people who've actually done it a few times. They know how much work is in it!

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