Publishing models

There are three main publishing models that can be distinguished that have a different role for the designer.

Model 1  the mainstream conventional model used in the large publishing houses

Writer – Publisher – Editor – Designer – Production – Printer – Distribution – Retail

The writer’s manuscript is the main source. The designer’s input comes between editor and production and the design and production of the book involves predominantly dialogue with these two departments. The production department of large publishing houses most often deals with the printer, but in smaller organisations, or for freelance book designers, this role is often assumed by the designer.

Model 2 design-led (eg artists’ books)

Artist/Designer/Author – Publisher – Editor – Production – Printer – Distribution – Retail

The ‘author’ is the designer (or photographer/artist/illustrator) and it is their concept, content and vision which drives forward the book from initial stages through to completion.

Model 3 Print on demand and self-publishing 

Self-publishing is the publication of any book or other media by the author of the work, without the involvement of an established third-party publisher. A self-published physical book is said to be privately printed. The author is responsible and in control of entire process including, in the case of a book, the design of the cover and interior, formats, price, distribution, marketing and public relations. The authors can do it all themselves or outsource all or part of the process to companies that offer these services.

  • Print on Demand
  • Vanity publishing
  • Electronic (E-book) Publishing

In all cases it is essential to have a good understanding of how the book will be printed. In the first two models the designer will need a good working relationship with the printer, as this will provide valuable guidance about the best way to print any individual book eg technical parameters including format, page size, paper stock, binding methods and print finishes. In Print on Demand there are also usually choices to be made, some of which have cost implications depending on anticipated volume of sales, but it is easier to change later with the next print run.

Project 5.1: Reflective practice