Most readers of this weblog can imagine what a book cover designer does. But an book interior designer - what on earth is that? India Amos explains in a recent post: Making castoff
Last week I attended a reunion of people who used to work at a certain nonprofit literary organization. Some are in publishing now, many are writers, and all are bookish people who buy and read books—past page 18—regularly. Yet I was asked several times, while catching up with folks, what it is that a book interior designer does. “So, like, you pick the fonts?”
I am used to being asked this question by normal people, civilians, but I expect more from those who read and promote literature. One friend who asked if I pick the fonts is now the executive director of a literary organization whose mission is to promote reading, an organization that publishes its own series of books. I attacked him—”You, of all people! Haven’t you ever looked at a book from Knopf and noticed that it looks nicer than one from [earnest but tasteless poetry publisher]? Haven’t you ever noticed that some books are more inviting or more readable than others?”
I’m feeling my way around at the new job and having to actually think about what I’m doing from time to time, so now seems like a good moment to try to put into words what I do. I learned to do what I do from reading books (crazy!) and Just Fucking Doing It, so my methods may not be the most scientific and I may not be able to explain them very succinctly, but I’ll try to touch on the basics.
When I’m designing a book now, the most important thing I have to do is make castoff. This means figuring out a way to fit enough words on a page so that the book comes out to the number of pages that were budgeted for. The page count is determined very early on, by people who’re more concerned with profit and loss than with beauty, and it’s intimately tied to the price of the book and the projected sales. Some books need to be stretched so the publisher can justify charging a certain price; many, many more need to the crammed so that they don’t cost more to produce than sales are likely to recoup. I do not have any input into this decision-making process. I just receive a stack of manuscript and a standardized worksheet showing how the page count was estimated. This worksheet shows not only the total number of pages but also the number of characters per page that will be needed to hit said length.
Because of the way printing is done, pages ideally come in groups—signatures—of thirty-two. Theoretically you can tack a sixteen-, eight- or four-page signature onto the end of a book, but it costs more to print 8 pages than to print 32, so many publishers won’t allow it. So a book might have 304 or 320 or 352 or 384 pages, but not 316. And most publishers avoid leaving more than four blank pages in the back, because blanks make the buyer think he’s being cheated. There are certain pages in the front of a book that can be added, reshuffled, or deleted in a pinch, but the goal for the designer is to make everything fit just so without reorganizing anything...
Ther's plenty more in her post.