Friday, 9 March 2012

Making a book

I've been a rather poor blogger for a while now - so many things to do. Normal service should be resumed shortly. I'm having a break from course work at this time to complete a book for the project I am working on with my artist friend Antonia Rolls. The book is part of the Graceful Death project. It will contain Toni's paintings exploring the end of life and serious illness, with some additional material about the exhibitions. I will share some of my learning points and struggles as I work through this project.

I want the book to showcase the pictures, so that it can be used as a meditative resource for readers. The plan is for there to be very little text around the pictures (maybe none - still swithering about whether to show titles opposite pictures or at the end) so the pictures will speak for themselves. There will be some additional material at the start and end of the book giving a little background information.

The book will be square in format as that ratio is closest to most of the pictures, and my plan is to have most pictures on their own on a spread - the only exception will be for images that are part of a set - e.g. diptychs - which will face each other.

The picture at the top of the page shows my working design for the cover, and the one immediately below shows a rejected alternative.

I had initially intended a full bleed cover but couldn't make it work somehow. I tried a huge range of text options and placings but nothing looked right. My alternative plan was to have this image as an inset and that is what I settled for in the end. The inset option somehow gives the picture more space and changes the feeling of the cover quite significantly. It seems to me to better capture the quality of reflection that I want the book to have.

A quick word about text

Getting the text right has been the single most time-consuming part of making the cover spreads. I have so much respect for designers who make this look effortless. I have changed the text fonts, size, shapes, spacing, so many times. I tried no caps as I wanted very quiet unemphatic text, but the very round letter forms at the start of these three words all mingled into each other and the overall effect became less balanced and less readable. After much trial and error I settled on this combination (the font is Euphemia Regular). This version irritates me because the text is almost aligned with the picture but not quite. But when I made it bigger and exactly aligned, it become too dominant. So I went for the version at the top, where the text is notably smaller than the picture. I might change my mind again...

Before starting I looked again at Blurb's excellent webinars, which give great advice on colour management, layout and design.

More to come...
I will write future posts about:
what went into the book and what didn't, and why;
output options (sizes, prices, and related considerations; and
some technical considerations such as proofing.


  1. I think this works pretty well, Eileen. I very much like the minimalism of the cover/cover photograph - those empty slippers say it all, and there's a real poignancy about them.

    I understand what you mean about the text not quite lining up; I'm sure it looks absolutely fine to most people but your perfectionist side will notice these things. I'm just wondering if a deliberate offset would work better? - eg, move the text so that some of it is left of the photo, which would balance quite well with the shoes. I'm not at all sure about whether that would work or not - it's so hard to tell without trying these things - and of course it may not fit with the formatting for the rest of the book. I find this sort of thing incredibly difficult to get right. I look forward to seeing your future posts about it.

  2. Thanks very much Gilly. I tried offsetting but it really didn't work either. Oh well, it's all good learning!

  3. This sounds like a really interesting project. I hope it goes well and I plan to follow your progress with interest. Will you be photographing the paintings for inclusion in the book...this is quite a technical challenge in itself and would be a great learning opportunity. Most of all though the learning will come from working out how to make the book work.i can see the dilemma over how much text to include. Too much and the meditative quality may be lost in the reading. Too little and the opportunity to guide the viewer's thinking will be removed. Good luck.

  4. Hi Keith. Yes I have photographed all the artworks, but that isn't a new thing for me as I have been taking pictures of artworks for print and reproduction for some years. Making the book work will indeed be challenging. Must stop playing around online and get back to it now!

  5. I think you've chosen the right self publisher, I've completed seven or so books with Blurb and their quality is excellent, but more importantly their customer service is very very good. Once I got the softproofing workflow sorted the technical side was relatively straightforward. Looking forward to seeing the result - will you post the book to view?

  6. I agree with Gilly. The empty slippers are very small in the frame but their placement commands attention. I know this is an important book for you and I'm sure that your hard work is going to be very successful and create a wonderful piece of work. I'm looking forward to future posts on this.

  7. Thank you very much John and Catherine. I will post the book to view here, and will be grateful for crittique and suggestions for improvement (on this site for preference, rather than the Blurb sales page). Happy to have suggestions for improvement even after it is finished, as I have plans to start some more books of my own work later this year and it is all good learning. I have some time to go before I reach the dizzy heights of your seven books John - are they listed somehwhere - I don't recall seeing them on your site?

  8. You can view a couple of them from the "books" link on my website and I think from there you can "see" others. A couple have been "Wedding books" - not from the wedding photographer perspective, rather the "friend or loved one".