ISO Advice on 200 Page Coffee Table Photo Book

Hello Cool Designer People, I am new on this forum. I am a freelance GD with 28 years experience in-house and freelance – mostly small print jobs and brand identity. I have just been asked to quote a 200 page book design for a historical neighborhood non-profit group. I have never done anything large on my own and I am probably freaking myself out more than I need to be. I once worked on large coffee table book with a team at Sony Studios and that was about 16 years ago.

The request: “Full-color, high quality, 200 pages, probably 400+ photos, possibly 20,000 words of text, and depending on pricing-soft cover maybe hardcover? We have a neighbor who is an architectural photographer and a historical researcher on board. Size-wise 9x12 and timeframe November 2020. We hope to sell as a fundraiser during the next home tour. We are a 501c3 and we are all volunteering our time.”

I am looking for advice on how to quote this, questions I should ask before quoting, etc. My initial thought is to account for an average of 1 hour per page with the possibility some pages that may take longer and some much less. I am sure file organization is going to be a bit tedious and I hope the photographer is well organized. I know one questions I have is, will the photographer be doing all the color correcting before submitting images to me and will they manage the press checks. I know very little about hard cover and book jacket design and will have to do some research in that area. Also contract advice would be greatly appreciated too.

I welcome any advice anyone has to offer who has experience in a large undertaking such as this.


When you have finished your estimate, tack on another 20%. These large-scale projects always take longer than you think.

So true and I often do that. Great reminder. Thank you.

I’ve designed and built several of these large coffee table books over the past few years. Two were rush jobs where I spent about 15 hours per day for about a week running to get them done.

You mentioned “full-color.” On a book like this, you need to find out what full-color means. Is it straight four-color process or are there also spot colors involved? Will it be printed with a 150-line screen or higher. Standard CMYK rosettes or stochastic halftone dots? What resolution should the placed photos be? 300ppi is the norm, but if they’re printing at a higher screen resolution than 150lpi, the printer just might suggest the photos be higher than 300ppi. And what about media coatings — varnishes, aqueous coatings, etc. Sheetfed press or web? Coated or uncoated paper? Lots of details.

It all depends on the book, of course, but the important part is thinking through and designing a layout with grid variations and style sheet elements that can easily be repeated from one page to the next. This usually covers a good 90 percent of the pages, leaving things like various oddball pages, the table of contents, cover, index, etc. there to break up the sameness. Approaching it this way, not only makes it go faster, the consistency unifies the look of the book into a cohesive whole rather than an assortment of individually designed pages.

A whole lot, though, depends on how well the photos are prepared and the text is edited. Photos and words invariably need to be cropped, left out and compromises from everyone need to be made If you’re working with experienced photographers, writers and editors, it should go well. If not, good luck.

In some ways, it’s not all that different from planning out a magazine (which I’ve done lots of). It’s a matter of thinking it through, figuring out the gotchas, making sure all the pieces are there, then building it up gradually until you’re certain everything’s going to fit, at which time, you can start the final positioning and tweaking of all the elements. Don’t get hung up on any one page at first — just flowing things into their rough places and leaving it flexible is the way to go until you get to the point where you know for sure that you can lock the pieces down and dive into the detail work. A goal is to not waste any time having to redo what you’ve already done due to insufficient planning.

As for the layout, don’t forget to account for a larger inside gutter than you might be used to. Whether hard bound/sewn or perfect bound, that inside gutter takes up a bunch of space and needs to be wide enough for the images to be seen and the copy readable without breaking the spine of the book though having to open it too far. It would be a very good idea to speak directly with the publisher/printer/binder too — some I’ve worked with have very exacting specs — bleeds, color profiles, RGB or CMYK photos (some printers prefer to do the color space conversions themselves), etc., for how they want the artwork and files prepared.

Finally, the size of the spine is important, if you’re also designing the cover — you need to know how thick the book will be, which only the printer/binder can tell you.

1 Like

Thank you so much for taking your time to offer all that information! Very helpful!

Just B gave you a great answer. Here is something I wrote on another post for basically the same question:

  1. Typesetting: “$#” per page If the pages are already typed and I just need to flow the text, it’s relatively cheap, but I charge 10x as much for text that I have to type out myself.
  2. Photo correction: Usually $5 per. (doesn’t include custom photography or front & back cover art.
  3. Design services (layout): $# per page
  4. Cover pages - standard Illustration and design service cost x2 (front and back)
  5. Photographic Services - (whole other list dependent on equipment / product / models…)
  6. Presentation Services
  7. Peripherals

©2019 Graphic Design Forum | Contact | Legal | Twitter | Facebook