Bringing a book to life, the journey
In the early part of 2019 I was involved in a sketchbook challenge that given to the members of the Art2Life Academy by Kerry Schroeder and Susan Melrath. We were challenged to create sketchbook entry everyday. Something quick, fun, and unrestrictive in process and thinking.The goal was to open up and be completely free in our work and make observations about what showed up.
At that time, I didn’t have much experience working in a sketchbook so I used the opportunity to discover more about my own creative voice. I entered the studio every day with the mindset and joy of a 5 year old child. I played, had fun and I held judgement about what I created. There was so much pleasure in this honoring my inner kid and one sketchbook entry led to the next.
While sharing my results on social media my images “caught” the eye of author / writer Laurie ShoulterKarall. Laurie lives on the other side of the world from me in Chicago. Laurie saw stories in my images and she began her own daily writing challenge using my images as her muse. I was delighted to find her stories beneath my images in facebook and the fun continued well beyond our initial 30 day commitment.
Nudged by friends and colleagues, we compiled a group of 30 stories and art. Here’s a glimpse into the process.
Which Images? Where are the files?
Over time Laurie and I had quite a collection of stories and images so we had to decide what we would include. Laurie had taken good care of the text files but my image files were another story. Because these images were organically posted, there was no official archive. It was quite the challenge to find the matching image in full resolution to match the story.
I printed out all the images and began pulling out and arranging my favorites to establish a visual flow.
Choosing the printer and getting help
Once I had decided on the specific content I had to research printing and distribution. I also had to find someone to help with design.
- I chose Blurb from my online research and reading artists reviews. Blurb offered two choices:
- use their online software or
- upload a pdf created in an external graphic design program (such as InDesign).
Although I had no knowledge of InDesign software, in my experience, online templates could be very “wonky” and not easy to customize. I had to teach myself InDesign but it was a more professional approach and gave me more flexibility.
I went ahead and set up the book layout and populated it with the images and text. Once content was in place, it needed proper formatting and style. It needed to be wrangled it into something more presentable and visually appealing. I recruited my artist friend Kim Laurel – who also does graphic work under the name Brevity Code Visual. I was happy she took the project on.
Once Kim started on the project, she found that the images I had populated the template with had to be a higher resolution. This meant I had to dig to find the original files or take new photographs. My archive for random images was not very organised so once again I found myself digging for images. Finally Kim had what she needed. She reset the images, reflowed the text, adjusted margins, fixed the pagination and added many industry details such as copyright information. She added some color blocks, balanced out the images and text and voilá, the book was starting to develop a personality. Although we didn’t have a cover yet, but I ordered a print copy to see what it looked like in print. The print copy looked very different than how it looked online and I was somewhat disappointed.
Overcoming Unforeseen Complications
The next step was to get the book printed and ready for market. Setting up the book for print was not easy as Blurb suggests. You are not able to get an accurate cost until you have created your book and uploaded it for print. I came to find out the cost was much higher than anticipated but I didn’t have many options but to use their service. The format was not common with other print on demand services so I would either need to use Blurb or begin the design process all over with a new template from a different printer.
There were other issues to consider:
- Was it cheaper to order on from blurb.com (in the US) or blurb.fr (France)?
- How did the exchange rate of euro vs. US dollar compare and how would that affect the end price
- How many should I order, the price goes down the larger the quantity.
- Laurie wanted books to distribute in the US. This means we could get a better price on a larger quantity but then I’d have to ship them to the U.S.
I spent hours trying to figure out how to compare these options and was so frustrated I avoided making any decisions for as long as I could. Finally I realized I had to take action and hope for the best. In the end I ordered the books I would distribute myself from Blurb Eu and I ordered Laurie’s books from Blurb U.S. Online distribution would be available for both Europe and U.S.
Reminders for next time …
- Get a graphic designer involved at the beginning. It would have been so much easier, more efficient and a much more pleasant project if I had hired a professional first thing.
- The online platforms can be deceiving and tricky to figure out. Spend the time to really research the costs as they are not always upfront.
- Try to figure out audience distribution in advance.
- Put together a timeline with lots of small deadlines to keep moving.
- Keep in touch with your designer… make decisions promptly.
Lessons and insights
- Appreciation for the people collaborated on this, Laurie ShoulterKarall and Kim Laurel. I really owe them a debt of gratitude for their creativity, guidance and support while I fumbled my way through
Probably the most valuable discovery I had during this process was not surprising. Much like what I’ve learned about my process of creating art, it’s always scary to do something new. I always seem to want to control the outcome. I always question my decision making process out of fear – fear of doing it wrong. I’m proud of the work I did to complete this book, at times it was a real challenge, but I did it. As with all my creative endeavors, it’s so much more about the journey than the end result.