I am over in North Central and North Eastern Iowa this week, having meetings with printers who rely on us for edition binding services and professional photo labs in relation to our new service for photobook manufacturing services.
I started the day early and as you can see in my photo to the left, there was a dense fog hanging over the farmlands as I made made way across Iowa at sunrise this morning.
I mention fog as somewhat of an analogy here. When I started the idea of a series of articles related to Book Design, it was in hopes of helping expand the knowledge base for self publishers who often ask me questions outside the scope of my company’s services. But over the past few days, through an overwhelming amount of feedback from my contacts in the book design industry, I too, have learned many tips. I have always tried to avoid that term “expert”, and in this case, I am truly a “student”, just along for the lesson and ready to learn. The combination of good book design, coupled with the perfect choice of paper, binding and other manufacturing techniques create that magic that draws us all to love the “book”. Nothing can replace it! Today Judy will “lift the fog” on book design with some insights on her craft. as a book designer.
MP:So please tell us a little bit about your background!
JA: I attended Parsons School of Design in New York, and began my publishing career there directly following college. The proximity and access to major publishing houses was enormously helpful during those fledgling years. Working on staff, where I could fully immerse in the publishing process, was simply invaluable for learning the ropes. As a result, seeing the entire publishing process in action — —from editorial to production — —is something I now recommend to everyone who’s considering a publishing-related career. Working in New York also established valuable professional relationships that still are serving me well 20 years later.
The beauty of book design, however, is that once that foundation is set, location truly isn’t an issue. After over a decade in the NY area, I opened a book design studio here in Pennsylvania and continued to work seamlessly with the same publishers and art directors. With e-mail, FTPs and teleconferencing, we chat and exchange files as quickly as when I was around the corner. Relocating had the bonus of expanding our client list to include outstanding local publishers such as PennPress (University of Pennsylvania). We’ve done a number of coffee table books together and they’re producing absolutely beautiful tomes.
These days, I work with clients in a wide variety of locations. I’d say about 75% of our calls are from NY. The balance are a mix of midwest publishers, small presses, local self-publishers and even a globally recognized Geneva-based organization.
MP: What can you tell a self publisher about choosing a professional book designer.
JA: Book designers are well-versed in the myriad details that relate to this specialty, from aesthetic to technical printing concerns. For covers, their expertise is producing book jackets that truly resonate with readers, create a memorable complement to the text and perhaps most important, which sell. They have real-world experience with how particular papers and cover finishes hold up under use. That means they’ll know if the varnish or die cut you’ve requested will show every fingerprint or will rip once it’s actually in your readers’ hands.
For text design, book designers will be able to guide self publishers toward the best layout, appropriate fonts and book length (which they can adjust by altering the text setting). They’ll advise on durable papers for the children’s books and cookbooks, both of which need to survive more vigorous use. Above all, they know how to hit just the right design note for your book. I often use the word “timbre,” for good reason: it’s a huge factor in what makes a successful book design. The book designer’s forte is a particular responsiveness to the literary tone of your manuscript and the skill to translate it graphically. It’s something that can truly elevate the book.
MP: What tips could you share with a new publisher on some of the pitfalls to avoid when choosing a book designer?
JA: I’d simply encourage them to hire a professional whose books they’ve personally seen and admired. Look at actual books, since they’re a much better reflection of the work than any online portfolio can show. Designers’ credits are typically placed on the jacket flap (for covers ) or the copyright page (for text designers), and one can easily Google them online.
Hire the best you can afford. (I did precisely the same when art directing and commissioning designers.) Some self publishers either forget to budget for the design or, alternately, deliberately under-budget that aspect in order to save money. Unfortunately, there’s nothing more disappointing than a finished book that has a distinctly amateurish, awkward look. We’ve all seen them at some point or another, and it’s heartbreaking: one knows that months or years of work went into the manuscript itself, yet an unprofessional package can instantly degrade the authority of the book in the eyes of potential readers.
Judy wanted to remind me on a specific point in regards to “book design”. Book design embodies the whole project from cover to cover….not just the cover!
JA: Just one minor addition / clarification, Martin: I noticed you’d characterized my work as designing book covers (probably as simple shorthand ), but a more accurate description of my work is that I’m a book designer. Some designers only do book covers: in the industry, we call them cover designers. I’m a book designer, which is a bit different. It means I design the entire book package — cover, text, endpapers, the entire item that you purchase on Amazon. So while some clients may indeed commission me to only to their cover (which I enjoy), I’m considered a book designer. I hope this helps clarify the mysteries of publishing!
MP: Do you interact with printers/binders and other aspects of the book production?
JA: Yes, part of my design services involves production and working closely with the printer. Self publishers can decide exactly how involved they’d like me to be with production for their project, and we scale the fee accordingly. For example, some clients may commission me to simply design a book cover, while others may opt to have my studio handle the entire book package: designing the cover and interior, typesetting the entire book, and liaising with their printer. For certain jobs, it can be helpful to get the printer involved early in the design process so that they can contribute to the design dialogue. That’s particularly the case when working with unusual varnishes or die cuts.
We once created a private, limited edition hardcover for a well-known financial firm that included custom, archival-quality book boxes. It was quite a beautiful result: The books were beautifully presented in linen book boxes whose interiors were lined with marbleized paper that we’d coordinated to the color of the book binding. We created a custom foil stamp for the front of each book and book box.
I’d say the best thing that printers and suppliers can do to aid the process is to establish a solid, familiar working relationship with designers. The best results happen when printers aren’t simply be the recipient of the final files but rather an integral part of the bookmaking process.
MP: With that, I agree whole heartedly! That wraps it up for today, but we are not done talking more about Book Design. whether it’s Cover Design, Interior Design, Paper specifiying, Font Choices, Choosing Cover Materials, Foil stamping considerations, Special finishing and laminating techniques or more, I want to continue onward with this. I hope you have found this article helpful, and encourage you to contact Judy Abbate. Any comments to me on this article are also welcomed. [email@example.com]
Book Designer Spotlight: Abbate Design
As a book binder, I get many calls from self publishers that often end out asking me about topics outside the scope of services that we provide. Frequently, I get questions about choosing and working with a book designer. I am also a big believer in communication across the lines of the supply chain. So how often do book designers get to talk with the bindery? Not often enough, but I do welcome it! When the bindery gets involved earlier in a project and has good communication with the book designer, projects tend to move along better for everyone concerned. When a designer understands the parameters we have to deal with in final finishing of a book project, it is very much appreciated and leads to a more successful project for everyone concerned.
This week I corresponded with many of the professional book designers in my network to have them answer a few questions that would be specifically helpful for self publishers.. I had so much enthusiastic feedback from this group of designers, that I cannot include all of their comments in one article. What I promise to do is to break it up into sections over the next few weeks to allow each as much input as possible, because everyone has had such great feedback on the topic. I also have a few book designers that were on Holiday or unable to immediately answer me, but I will definitely be including in the next segments. I will list a mini- directory of sorts at the end, so you may directly contact any of the designers I will be featuring here.
The article here is not going to discuss what book designers charge for their services. I firmly do believe that you get what you pay for in this area, and the value of experience will clearly offset the cost of trying to do something “on the cheap”. Read on to see what they had to say.
Their positive comments clearly indicated to me (from the book designer perspective), that Self Publishing is a vibrant and growing wide open market and they are alll very interested in serving this market.
Here’s the group of 6 book design professionals, who answered a few questions I posed.
1. Tell us a little bit about how the local area you are based out of plays a part in the work you do?
– How much of your work comes from a close proximity and how much is from farther away?
– What’s the particular vibe of the book publishing industry in your area?
For space considerations, I will condense the answers here. Jane is based in Barcelona, Spain and Cathi is from Canada, but both produce most of their work for customers across the USA and elsewhere. Dick and Stephen are from the New York area, but both mentioned that they do most of their work from out of state clientele. Michael, from the Chapel Hill area of North Carolina also stated that about 3/4′s of his projects come from long distance customers, and the other 1/4 as a result of contacts withiin the local publishing community surrounding the university. Suzzanne, formerly based in San Francisco, (now in New England) also stated that with all the file transfer technology in place, she is able to serve customers anywhere throughout America and Europe, and that her location plays little part in where her customers come from.
2. As a professional book designer, what can you tell a self publisher about choosing a “professional book designer” vs just any old graphic designer who might not have ever designed books before.
Stephen: It makes no sense to hire a graphic designer, no matter how accomplished, who is not experienced at book design. Most importantly, it’s your dime, your investment in the making of your book; so you might as well get someone with the skills and know-how to make your book the best one it can be. (That goes for editors, proofreaders, and anything else you might contract out.) See examples of Stephen’s book design here.
Suzzanne: In my own personal experience, there is a pretty significant difference in hiring a graphic designer versus a book designer. Someone looking for their book designed has an incredibly emotional attachment to the material; it’s their dream and their ambition to see it come to fruition. It requires the designer to know not just design theory, but how to tell a story, and how that story needs to unfold and how to pace it. More importantly, the designer becomes a sort of marketing partner to the client in interpreting how the material will visually appeal to the target market, and how the material will translate to other print and digital formats. And of course, all the other questions, such as: Do you need/have an ISBN number? Who’s you’re target audience? How will you market this? Will you want this to become a digital file, etc.)
See the work of Picturia Press here.
3. What type of things do you like about the whole “self publishing” revolution. ( if any)
– How does working in the area of self publishing differ from working with traditional publishing houses?
Michael: I have a number of self-publishing client-authors who do not use an editor. Fortunately, I am also an editor and know freelance editors, to whom I contract work, so I advise the client to use the services of an editor and learn how to work effectively and efficiently with the client. I wrote Thinking Like a Designer: How to Save Money by Being a Smart Client for the self-publishing author who doesn’t go through a regular publishing house staff.
Here also, is a link to Michael’s website. Dick: I like the soup-to-nuts aspect of it. I’m not a cog in a larger wheel, worried about slips and communication snafus. I work directly with an author sometimes from the concept or rough outline stage all the way through to books (or e-books) in hand. I get to exercise a wide variety of interests and skills, from all levels of editing through to negotiating with printers. There’s a lot of satisfaction in seeing a finished product that both I and my client can show proudly. In the work I do for traditional publishing houses, I’m just the guy who weighs the pepper for the guy who adds it to the meat before he gives it to the guy who puts the meat in the sausage grinder. It’s hard to hold up the finished sausage and point to the part I played in its making.
4. What tips could you share with a new publisher on some of the pitfalls to avoid when choosing a book designer?
Jane: They make sure that they are able to work with printers/binders and take full responsibility for the project as well as having nicely designed books in their portfolio, also talk about schedule and numbers of rounds of proofs/corrections allowed for at the start of the process not halfway through, and have a clearly defined outline of the expectations and deliverables See examples of Jane’s book design here.
5. What is your process for a typical book design project? How long, what steps involved, what to expect? Everyone had a few different things to say here. Jane’s answer the most concise.
Jane: After initial consultation I send a proposal defining budget, schedule and deliverable items, I usually start with sample pages and get those approved before doing the bulk of the work. As my projects differ wildly in scope each one is approached as an individual set of circumstances, 80% of the time i am responsible for the manufacturing as well as the design so setting budgets and schedules at the start is crucial.
6. What can self publishers do to make the designers process smoother?
Stephen: Get back to me with feedback on samples and actual pages as soon as possible. The great thing about working with a self-publisher is that it’s easy to speak with the decision-maker, as there is no chain of command between that decision-maker and the designer.
Suzzanne: Have an idea of what type of book size you would want, and how much content you have for your project – this helps us enable to make the right choices for you and provide you with a clear quote. Be realistic about timelines (a 500 page book can NOT be done in 24 hours). Have your assets ready to go, adding content later can really impact the design. Meaning, if we do a lay out that works, and a few days later you ask to add another paragraph of text or image right in the middle…that can cost time, money and affect the design. Remember on timelines, there is design time, proof /revision time and then when the book goes to print, there is printing/shipping time. If possible, have your editing done ahead of time, preferably done by a professional editor. Ask questions, ask for guidance, ask for input.
7. Have you done much in the area of e-book design? How does it compare to traditional book design? I had a few straight out “no’s” on this, as I expected. A few also mentioned that e-book design is something they will start to move into in the near future.Dick Margulis elaborated in a straight forward manner on this.
Dick:Different strokes for different projects. For print books that are then converted to e-books, I just make sure I do good clean work in the first place, so that there are no hitches in creating the CSS for the e-book or in linearizing the text. For books that are going straight to e-books, I focus primarily on the editing and text markup, because the “design” is going to be the device default, under user control. The only graphic element is the cover. But as with any book sold online these days, the cover has to work at thumbnail size. So I’m used to that part. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Cathi sent me one more book cover that she really wanted to have included. As I am recently on a new fitness regimen, I can only wish I had abs like Donny! Way to go Cathi- now I will have to run 5 extra miles this week just because of this! I hope you all have enjoyed this article and found some information of value. I plan to continue with more design related articles with insights and tips from these and more book designers in the very near future.
Please also look at the listing of designers I have included below here. If you call the designer as a result of seeing this article, let them know where you heard about it!
Copyright 2011 Martin Pugh All Rights Reserved.
Tips for Self Publishers Choosing a Book Designer
Book Designers to Contact:
www.michaelbradydesign.com/Blog/ | firstname.lastname@example.org
www.twitter.com/typehuile | www.linkedin.com/in/typehuile | www.facebook.com/typehuile
Dick Margulis Creative Services
284 West Elm Street
New Haven, Connecticut 06515
Book Designer, Page Compositor & Layout Artist
tel. & fax: (631)284-3842 / cell: (631)764-2487
iChat screen name: email@example.com
Picturia Press www.picturiapress.com
Jane Darroch Riley