When do you create the page layout for your children's book?
Laying out your book is quite often left until the very end of the process when you start to think about printing options however it should be considered quite early on as it is a major part of the creative process. The way your book and story flows is very reliant on the graphic design of the pages. By getting on top of this early you can direct your illustrator more successfully and end up with the text and images working together on every page.
I think the perfect time to start thinking about your layout is when your story is written and you are starting to make up little dummy books to finalize your pagination. This allows you to get creative with each spread, figure out what pages need illustrations and which pages can be purely text.
Before you start make sure you know what size your book is going to be exactly. If you are unsure contact the printer you have decided to use and ask them what there standard printing sizes are. A lot of printers will be more than happy to supply you with a template or some print specifications to work to.
There are two options for creating a layout for your book, DIY or hire a professional graphic designer. There are pros and cons to each which I will discuss.
Doing it yourself is always the cheaper option however it comes at a cost. Graphic Designers are very highly trained professionals who know how typography and graphics work. By doing it yourself you are at risk of creating a book that looks completely amateurish and self published. This can make your book that much harder to sell. However I understand that some people don't have to budget for this so I will run through the way you should go about it.
Typography is very important in the overall aesthetic of your book so choose wisely. Don't use more than two typefaces in your entire book, this is important in keeping your design consistent. Don't just use a typeface that came with Microsoft Word, explore type libraries and websites for something that suits your book, especially for the cover. The page copy will need to be a typeface specifically designed for young children learning to read. If you use a typeface that doesn't aid literacy you are jeopardising your chances at getting your book into schools.
See my post: Typography for Early Readers
Margins and Grids
If your illustrations or graphics are going to go right to the edge of the page you will need to add bleed to your layout. Most printers have specific bleed sizes they want you to stick to so check with them first but 3-5 mm is pretty standard. Your pages will be trimmed anywhere between the bleed line and the page edge so your illustrations must continue to the bleed line. This is just because paper shifts during the printing process and can be up to 3mm out, so bleed makes sure this is not noticeable in your artwork.
Set yourself margins around the edges of your page. These should be the same on every page of the book. Your text should never run outside of these margins. The bigger your margins the more space your layout will have to breath and the better it will look. Consistency is key.
Hire a Professional Graphic designer
Your other option is to hire a professional graphic designer. Like anything the price ranges however there are many options that are quite reasonable. Freelance designers are what you are after not agencies, if you call up a graphic design agency and ask them to layout your book you will be paying thousands. However freelancers work for themselves and often need small jobs like book layouts to keep them busy between large contracts and jobs. There are many websites which allow you to post your job and designers will bid on it and then you choose who you would like to complete the job, it can be very affordable. Be specific about what you want, look at loads of children's books and choose some you like and attach these to your brief. This way the designer will be able to see your expectation.
A good one I use is elance.com and I am sure there are many more.
Post any questions you have about book layout and I will do a follow up article to answer them.