I'm excited for our next interview with Joel Friedlander, "The Book Designer." I've been following Joel on Twitter and through his blog and am impressed by the quality of information he shares freely. He provides tons of great resources and "practical advice to help build better books" through his blog titled, "The Book Designer."
Joel is the proprietor of Marin Bookworks, a publishing services company in San Rafael, California that has launched many self-publishers. He is also an award-winning book designer, a self-published author, and blogs about publishing and book design. His new book, A Self-Publisher's Companion, will be released next month.
1. Welcome Joel to the interview! Thank you so much for taking the time to share your expertise and insight with us. To get started, share a little about yourself and how you first became involved in the publishing industry.
Shelley, thanks so much for having me. I grew up in graphic arts. My father was a printer and a teacher of printing so, from an early age, I was visiting the print shop and playing with the big type specimen books around the house.
I moved into the design side of the business, and then became the director of production at Aperture Books, a photography book publisher. But since I also always intended to be a writer, somehow the idea of self-publishing seemed very natural to me.
2. As both a book designer and an author, you understand both sides of self publishing books. From your experience, what are the 3 biggest challenges facing self published authors today?
First, authors have to try to understand the changes taking place in the publishing business, and make sense of how that's going to affect them now and in the future.
Second, authors need to take responsibility for their own careers. What this means is learning about the online tools at their disposal and the ways that we can make social media work for us as authors.
Third, authors need to think like publishers. And by that I mean as marketers. There's no point writing books that no one wants to read. If you have an audience, figure out what you can do that will be satisfying to them. Learn to look at publishing from the reader's point of view.
3. Authors are now publishing the same book in different formats for both print books and electronic books. What details should authors consider prior to having their book cover designed in order to be best prepared for all formats?
For virtually all self-publishers there's no difference between the print book cover and the ebook cover. I say that because few self-published books are sold in bookstores. If you plan to market and sell mostly online, your concerns are the same for both editions: you want a cover that looks good at the thumbnail size that shows up in Amazon and other retailer's search results screen, and even better at the size used on the detail page.
Covers that do well online are often very different from covers that do well on print books. The best strategy is to concentrate on making your book cover effective in the environment in which it will likely be seen. And if you are selling in stores, do two versions of the cover if necessary. As long as you use the same elements and typography, you can create an alternate cover for display online. Why not?
4. As you know, a book cover can make or break an author's book sales. You only get one chance to make a first impression with your book, and many people will decide whether or not to buy your book based on the book cover alone. Therefore, share an example of one of your favorite book covers and explain what we can learn from its design to apply to our own book cover projects.
I'll give you two examples. As a hardcover print book, "Cleopatra" by Stacy Schiff has a jacket that's just stunning. It shows how artful book cover and jacket design can become, it has gorgeous color reproduction, it implies what's in the book, and gives prominence to its famous subject as well as its well-known author, at the same time tantalizing us by implying how little we really know about the historical figure.
A cover I wrote about in an article on good and bad book covers in Amazon's Kindle store is "A Visit From the Goon Squad" by Jennifer Egan Despite being simple in design, it looks great at every size, the title is readable without hitting you over the head, and it gives you a good idea of the kind of book you'll be reading. I think it's a delightful cover for a popular novelist.
5. It's amazing how a book designer can transform the interior of a book from blah and boring to something that really stands out. Do you have any before and after examples of your work that you can show us to demonstrate the difference professional design can make?
Sure. I just prepared these examples for the publication of my new book, "A Self-Publisher's Companion," which will be out in a few weeks.
Here you can see a page not unlike some of the books I've seen from subsidy publishers. The type is set rag right instead of justified, and it's in a sans serif type that I would find fatiguing to read for any period of time. My revision of the page uses classic book typefaces, careful spacing and attention to detail to turn the page into an enjoyable experience to read.
6. What is the most common question you get asked from self publishing authors...and what is your response?
What should I do next?
No matter where authors are in their journey to publication, it seems difficult to keep all the editorial, design, production, distribution, marketing and sales tasks they have to accomplish straight.
Many of these authors are also delving into social media for the first time and trying simultaneously to make sense of that. My response is, "Where do you want to go?" From that, everything else falls into place. What I mean by that is that authors need to decide what it is they hope to get from publishing their book, and make decisions accordingly.
7. There are many tools available online that authors can use for book marketing. What are your top 5 favorite book marketing tools?
1. Twitter, where you can connect with people and build a real platform.
2. BookBuzzr's widget for showing your book online.
3. Wordpress software, because there's no more powerful marketing tool than blogging.
4. Scribe, the search-engine optimization software from Copyblogger Media, because it turns your writing into powerful content marketing.
5. Press releases, which are an under-utilized marketing tool among self-publishers.
8. Joel, thank you for such an interesting interview. I know our readers will want to stay in touch with you. What is the best way for people to stay in contact with you and hire you for your book designer services?
Well, Shelley, the best way is to go to www.TheBookDesigner.com and sign up for my blog. You'll get articles about self-publishing, book design, book marketing and all the other things we've talked about in our interview delivered right to your inbox. Thanks to you, Shelley, for having me, I've really enjoyed it.
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