Self-Publishing IV – Chapter Books

When I was approached by a children’s writer to do a chapter book, my first inclination was to say `no’. Really, I much preferred to stick with picture books because that’s what I think I’m best at and what I enjoy most. But wait … I’ve never designed a chapter book before, how would I know? And that was the start of working on The Last Rhino with  Deb Stevenson.

A chapter book is different than a picture book in many ways. The interior is in black and white with color on the cover only; it appeals to an older child; it is significantly longer and broken into short chapters; and sets up differently as it most resembles a small novel.

One of the things I have loved about working with the authors I have is that they care. In this case, Deb cares about the fact that the rhino is slowly becoming extinct, and is donating a portion of the book’s proceeds towards rhino conservation.  (Read more about The Last Rhino.) My job was to create a book that didn’t depend on bright, colorful illustrations, but invited children to read this touching story and to appreciate the wonderful art of the illustrator, Morgan Spicer, in black and white. Morgan’s drawings were sometimes full page, and sometimes partial, sharing the page with text.

The Last Rhino was more of a collaborative effort than other projects I’ve worked on where I was the only one with a background in publishing. This was sometimes a challenge, but ultimately a good experience in working in a different environment.

Likewise, I was challenged to learn new skills in preparing files for press by the online printers, particularly Ingram Spark, whom Deb chose for some of the copies of the book.  This publisher had requirements that I’d never met before in all my years in file prep and printing, and so I searched, learned, and conquered!

The placement of Morgan’s full and partial page illustrations was largely determined by the text, but utilizing her art here and there as spots throughout the book  and on the back cover (the front all but designed itself), was a really enjoyable part of doing the layout. Designing chapter divisions and setting up the backmatter section was also a pleasure.

As it turns out, my concerns about what might be difficult in designing a chapter book  were completely unfounded. Like any new project, it required me to think a bit differently than I had on other books I’d done in the past and, in the end, I have the knowledge of what designing and setting up a chapter book entails. We are all thrilled with The Last Rhino in every way, and it is now another skill that I can confidently offer prospective clients.

Have a chapter book you’d like to bring to life?  Contact me and let me know because I can now promise you a stunning chapter book!

 

 

 

Graphic Designer as Detective

As designers, we wear many hats … layout expert, font wrangler, photo magician. But one most people don’t think of is detective. And to be a good graphic designer, you have to be one. Maybe even a super-sleuth.

One of the things I hear from time to time is `I want something new.’ Great! I love to do new. But do they really want new? This is more likely with a client with whom you’ve been working for quite some time, and often pertains to a job you’ve been doing for a while – a regular newsletter or other publication, perhaps a brochure, etc.  Here’s where the detective part comes in.

This is how the cover of a magazine I work on looked in 2007. In previous years, it was 2/color – a color masthead and only BW photos.

I ask if they have any ideas how they’d like it to be different because, of course, I want to do something they’ll be happy with. “No, not really,” they say. “I’ll know it when I see it.”

If you’re a designer, you’ve heard that many times. If you’re the person who wants the new design, you know that feeling. Here’s the reality – I can do designs for you til the cows come home, and may never hit the mark, and in addition, we’ll have run up a hefty bill. Here’s another reality – most people are not visually oriented. This realization came as a big shock to me many years ago (I think I was in college.) I thought everyone could see like I saw. Definitely not true.

HNcover-Redesign1-2

This was one of my ideas when it was decided a redesign was in order, but it wasn’t what they were looking for.

So … how does a good designer make a client happy? By being a detective. Whether for a new project or a makeover of a longtime project, I need to do two things. One, I need to ask questions, and a good designer can’t be shy. I ask the client if they have anything particular in mind. Do they want something lighthearted and fun or maybe more spare and elegant. How do they want people to react to this project? Will it be raising money? awareness? providing information? go only to shareholders? And here’s a good one – how much do they want to pay for this (re)design? Even though I have a standard rate that I will happily discuss, and will  work up a quote, you’d be surprised at how much or how little a client may be wanting to pay! It’s an important starting point for a conversation about working together.

This is a variation of how the redesign looks nowadays – 3 or 4 featured animal stories and seasonal background and layout. This is a Holiday 2017 issue.

Here’s the second thing I do to make a client happy. I think about them. What do they like? What have I seen them respond to in the past? Do they have a color palette they’re particularly fond of (even if it makes you scream a little inside)? This is where being a detective pays off … for everybody. Because a happy client = a happy designer and paves the way to working together again in the future. If we’ve worked with someone in the past, we actually have a pretty good idea of who they are and what they will like.

So … make your client happy, keep your creative self interested, have fun, and get your Sherlock on!

 

Growing in Our Fields of Interest

One of the things that’s important in any field we care about is growth. Are you growing in what you do, in what you care about, in where you want to go?

Based on the true story of the author’s Frenchie who defied the odds in agility

To this end, I think learning more and being involved is important in our being the best we can be, no matter what our interest, professional or otherwise. I am a regular attendee at SCBWI events (more on this sometime soon), but recently had the pleasure of being a guest speaker on a panel for an Animal Writers Workshop. Obviously, the commonality shared by both speakers and participants was our love of animals and writing. My fellow speakers shared their experiences in their writing process, road to publication, inspiration, and the difference in writing for a non-fiction vs. fiction reading audience and more. I spoke on the importance of good graphic design in self-publishing.

Flyer/program cover for the workshop, my design

With so many aspiring writers and illustrators turning to self-publishing nowadays – in addition to or instead of traditional publishing – there are new challenges to be faced. One of them is the importance of a well-designed product, which is where I, as a graphic artist, come in. My talk focused on some of the elements of good graphic design and how they come together to create an appealing book, and especially an appealing cover. I stressed how hiring a good graphic designer is every bit as important as a good illustrator, editor, and printer in publishing.

An adult novel from the point of view of the horse that changed the author’s life.

In a highly competitive field, now expanded due to self-publishing, you have literally seconds to grab the attention of a potential purchaser. A good portion of my talk included show-and-tell using examples to make my points. I brought along a bunch of particularly attractive children’s books from my own collection, had my fellow panelists hold up their well-designed books, and also showed a couple from my local library where I had tasked our librarian to find me some samples of poorly designed covers. I knew we had the right examples when I held up one of them and there were audible gasps from the audience!

It was a fun talk to an interested and interesting audience, with more opportunity for discussion afterwards at tables in an Authors Alley. Panelists and additional writers were  set up for book signings and a get-to-know with attendees.  What made this event so much fun was the sharing of experiences with fellow writers whose passion was our love of animals. Certainly, I had plenty to share, but I also found plenty to learn. And that’s what makes workshops and conferences both fun and important in our lives.

One of the books published by the event coordinator and moderator

If you have a dream, a passion, I encourage you to find opportunities to expand your knowledge and connect with others who share that passion. You will grow in many ways, some unexpected, and be inspired. Of course, if I can help you bring your dreams into fabulous visual format, just contact me and I’ll be happy to help.

 

Self-Publishing – III

One of the major differences between self-publishing and being published by a mainstream publisher can be in the imagery. When you sign on with a publishing house, you, as an author, will be paid for your story and unless you are an author/illustrator, they will make the arrangements and hire someone to provide the artwork. When it comes to self-publishing, you’re pretty much on your own to provide the images.

If you, as an author, wish to pay an illustrator you will find that it’s not an inexpensive proposition. Creating art takes time – and talent, of course – and may be beyond the financial wherewithal of the average author. For this reason, particularly in picture books where images are critical to not just the look and feel of the book, but also the understanding of the story, there is a preponderance of photography used in the self-publishing world.

So what can one do about that? Why not be creative with the photographic images? Pictured here is Daniel, Dog Camp Champ! by Loren Spiotta-DiMare, a picture book for an older picture book reader. Loren wanted more than  straightforward images cropped to accommodate the square format, so I had some fun with them and used a variety of techniques in Photoshop. Most of them were quite simple, but made all the difference in the variety of images from one page to the next.

In the image above, I used two simple techniques – I silhouetted the two dogs on the top, dropping out the background of the photo, and softened the edges. I placed the image low on the page, giving the feel of the dogs sleeping on pillows on the floor.

Another technique I used here and there throughout the book was to combine photos which were not originally related. So on page 9 we have our energetic Welsh Springer Spaniel having a great time romping on the shore of  the lake at the doggie agility camp. Was he ever there? Not at all. but with some handy silhouetting, combining,  and juxtapositioning … he is now!

Silhouetting can also be a very powerful tool in evoking a feeling from an image. Daniel, our little Dachshund hero, is fearful of participating in the agility challenges. Each time he tries one of the obstacles, he becomes afraid. He is more comfortable watching from the sidelines. I think silhouetting this particular photo is a strong way of showing that Daniel is not just looking on but may also long to be a part of the fun. It also removes background that may have nothing to do with the scene being written about. Again, I’ve used the soft edges as I have through much of the book.

This was a fun project to do. I had the opportunity of playing in Photoshop and designing a book that relied on photography have more of the look and feel of illustration.

The cover, at top, was also fun. Daniel, the trophy cup, and the biscuits were all separate photos combined for an image that tells a story by itself, but even the title font added some playfulness.

One could go and purchase a wood-y font that looks like summer camp, but why, when you can create something similar in Photoshop? Photoshop is any artists’s dream tool and with minimum effort, the letters can look like carved wood. This isn’t any major magic, just playing around with some of the program’s variables to get a result.

For those who are self-publishing a picture book but do not have the availability of an illustrator, consider the photos you plan on using – might they lend themselves to some creative effects to make your story more attractive and readable? If you think so and are looking for overall lovely book design, please contact me and we’ll talk!

p.s. Should you wish to talk design in person, I will be a guest speaker and panelist at the Animal Writers’ Workshop to be held on April 28th in Oldwick, NJ. There’s still time to register and tickets are still available. Read about the Workshop here.

 

 

Self-Publishing – II

As discussed in an earlier post, print-on-demand has allowed more people than ever to see their dreams of being published come true. And while it has given many this opportunity, it still hasn’t changed the responsibility of putting something worthwhile out into the world. Of course, that’s just my opinion.

Certainly, well-crafted writing is still in demand, and putting forth a product that is visually appealing and which appropriately complements the text is critical. What makes someone want to pick up a book?  I think most would agree  —  it’s the cover.

Not long ago, a writer friend and I came across a self-published book written by someone we know. I don’t know who did the cover, but it did a huge disservice to the writer, so much so that neither of us were really excited about knowing what the book was about. It was actually off-putting. And that’s where good graphic design comes in. Your cover – and the graphic design of your book – can make or break you. Want someone to open your book? Make it look good.

The book featured here is one I designed for a client who wrote it for an older child reader. She wanted to make it look less like a typical picture book, even though it is rich in photographs. It is about a northern water snake named Bo. He lives by a pond where all his animal friends have families of their own, what Bo dearly wishes for himself.

Everything in this 32-page book has been carefully thought out from the title page (right, top), to chapter beginnings (bottom), to every page in between, whether there is one or multiple images. All elements serve to create a coordinated look that moves the reader along seamlessly from page to page, and allows them to enjoy each of the photos.

I really enjoyed working on this project for the same reason Becky created it – to appeal to an older child reader. It looks more grown up with the novel-like page layout and the 6″ x 9″ format, clearly not a book for a 5 year-old. I was excited, also, by the many beautiful photographs I had to work with, and even to research a few more that really enhanced the story.

It takes a lot to bring a book to life, and a good graphic designer is one of your best investments if you plan to self-publish. If you want your book to draw people’s attention, please contact me and let’s see what we can do together.

Looking to Self-Publish?

 

Welcome! You have arrived at my official graphic design website. I hope you’ll take the time to become familiar with the many services I can offer you. Looking to self-publish? Let me help. It really does put a smile on my face when I can bring my design skills to your project and you are happy with the results. Need bookmarks? Swag for events? Let’s talk.

Self-publishing has become so big nowadays because people have discovered that it’s actually possible to have their own writing produced in real live book format and made available to the public. Prior to the concept of print-on-demand, there were really only two options – submit to mainstream publishers and wait to hear or keep your local copy shop very busy with projects with not very professional looking binding. Now all that has changed.

Here’s a recent example of a picture book I worked on:

Paisley, You’re Crazy is a 24-page picture book, published through Amazon’s CreateSpace.  In this project, I did the layout and design plus pen and ink drawings of the various items which I hid in the paisley columns placed at the outer edge of each page. Basic counting skills can be learned with Paisley the rabbit and his toys, food items, brushes, etc. as well as the opportunity of finding hidden objects. The book became twice as much fun for little ones with the help of the author’s adorable bunny. Paisley is an example of the unique look I could bring to your project.

You have big dreams for your books and/or other graphics projects, and I’m here to help.

Please check out more of my graphic design projects.