Help me figure out what my book will look and feel like

Like you, I usually do my work in a vacuum. I’m here at my computer each day working by my lonesome, although terribly in touch with people in the virtual world.

My book has been the result of this solitary work. But it’s time to get a little more feedback. I want to know what you like and don’t like about your business and business of art books.

How do you feel about the covers, the interior layout, the density of the text?
What led you to your purchase in the first place?
What would you like to see more of or less of?
What would make your books easier to use?
Which illustrations do you like? What illustrations are missing?
What seems frivolous or gives the book a “hobbyist” feel? (This is something I’m trying to avoid.)

My book is not intended to hold all the answers to self-promotion. It is primarily about communication tools and “rules” for promoting your art. The title is I’d Rather Be in the Studio! The Artist’s No Excuse Guide to Self-Promotion (revised).

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21 comments to Help me figure out what my book will look and feel like

  • Hmm, are you self publishing and will be designing it yourself? I’m a book designer and I gotta say that these things are a bit more complicated than simply saving a Word document as a pdf file. I mean, you can do that. But your book will look self published in the worst sense of the term. It’s easier to have more creative control if you design your book in Quark or InDesign. In terms of book design for these sort of projects, I like the design for The Artist’s Way. It’s graceful and easy to use. Julia Cameron has clearly branded herself through the design of this book and its subsequent sequels — which is what a good book design does. Which brings me to an important point: Think of using your book design to extend your brand. It’s not an isolated product. In terms of practicality, the most important thing a book design should possess is readability and elegance. Think about what you want to communicate — the typeface you choose has a particular feel, a “voice” if you will. And here’s a personal picadillo (forgive me for mentioning it!): Whatever you do, don’t doublespace between paragraphs, like folks do in an email or on a website. It’s really hard to read in a book and looks unprofessional. I see this all the time in self published books — it’s kind of a pet peeve of mine, as you can tell. Okay, I will step off my soapbox now! As you can tell, I’m very passionate about good design. And good luck with your book — I’m sure it’s wonderful!

  • Kris: Yea! So glad you stopped by. NO! I’m not designing it myself. I want to be very clear to whomever I select that this should not look anything like a self-published book. I, too, like the layout of The Artist’s Way books. I’ll have to be-bop over to your site.

  • PS: Only a professional book designer will get their hands on my book. I understand clearly that book design is very different from other typees of design.

  • Alsyon – As an author, one of the key elements I look for in other books is a great index. In fact, whenever I’m looking for a book on Amazon, I select the Search Inside to see if the index has the topic I’m looking for. Most people don’t read a book from cover to cover: they scan it, browse through it, and look at the Table of Contents and index to see exactly what they’re looking for. So make information really easy to find. The “Dummies” line of books have great Tables of Contents: they have two versions, the first being a highlight of what’s inside, then behind it is the everything you want to know TOC with all the details. Hope this helps! BTW, I have a publisher interested in my book! It’s there right now, and I’m waiting for the book selection committee to meet. And I will be having to switch from iWeb to either TypePad or WordPress for my blog (just as you recommended. I wasn’t ready to hear that, and I’m still kicking and screaming). I’d love to hear your experience with TypePad and how you figured out how to do all the cool things with it on your blog. I’m asking my own readers for their experiences and recommendations.

  • Your book title grabbed me! It’s what I’ve been blabbing (really more like whining) about on my personal blog. Now with a space for artists and everything about Open Studio (including getting IN them!) I eagerly await your book and the chance to blog about it! Your first 6 points look good – I’ll ponder your questions and stop back later with my thoughts.

  • I love beautiful books…gorgeous pictures of paintings, intricate covers, thick paper that makes you coo with delight, fonts that are large & old fashioned and easy to read, hard covers that you can read in the bath tub …something that you want to keep forever & give as gifts to friends …I mentioned in an earlier post a book with a ribbon tying it closed…I find art business books often are spare in the visual department – which makes them slightly dull…at least to visual people…your market is people who like pretty pictures…if a picture is worth a thousand words, well…I think a picture is worth a thousand dollars in sales…or something like that…(free bonus gifts attached always get me too -like a coupon for something good, or a little paintbrush or a pull out poster of a painting or …you know… a gimmick, but a good gimmick…)

  • Hi Alyson – As promised, I’m back! I got a little break from my son, so I’m typing fast and I apologize in advance for my ramblings! a bit of info…I’ve worked with a couple of great book designers and negotiated a successful book contract a few years back for a photographer… For a book for artists, a few things I look for out the gate are good resources for pursing more information, real world examples, integrated promos (working your postcard, mailers, eAnnouncements, press release, website and other pieces together with a unified theme or imagery) Too many artist marketing or artist business (in the studio!) books go over the same old 101 stuff that is good for an introductory chapter, but doesn’t necessarily gain the artist the visibility they are seeking or give them much new information if they are seriously looking. Perhaps a sample plan for different levels of budget and goals – plan 1, 2, 3 and ad elements and additional suggestions that show artists not only how to promote at ‘plan 1′ but also how to get to plan 3 or more when they are ready. Boy, I’ve got a lot of hot wind! excuse me!:) As for design… large books like Julia Cameron’s, The Artist’s Way work beautifully for the workbook style. However, if you are going for a bible, dog-eared, like a ‘carry-me-with-you-I’ll-help-you-when-you-need-me’ book, I would go for a smaller format, good layout and indexes and a simple ‘say-what-it-is’ design. Images are great if they further the purpose (a snapshot of a good press release, postcard – example of an integrated package, etc.) Comic illustrations are nice at minimum where comic relief is needed (when stuff gets too left-brained!) And finally, your title suggests that the book contains ways that artists can EASILY do promotion and get BACK in the studio – is that right? Here is a reverse look at that idea – and perhaps, if you like it, include a section for it if you haven’t touched on it yet… One of the best ways an arist can accomplish promotion is to produce good art. Artists that continually seek to perfect their technique, break boundries, produce art with heart will naturally draw collectors and critics (not so dismiliar to watching athletes with bad attitude – you just want to turn off the game! But, if you see an athlete with heart – you’ll cheer them on – even if you don’t like the sport!) Whew.. anyway – good luck with your book! Let me know when it’s available and I’ll do a post on the http://openstudioevents.blogspot.com and http://openstudioaz.blogspot.com (might merge these two… I’d love to talk to you about these new blogs at another time).

  • Hi Alyson, First of all, congratulations on your book so far. As a former graphic designer, I am glad to give my 2 cents about good design. I agree with others that the size will be an important decision and will depend on how you see the book used. I personally don’t care for oversized books as you often have to put them sideways on the shelf. This is a practical book, I wouldn’t think you have to go the route of “gorgeous pictures of paintings, intricate covers, thick paper that makes you coo with delight.” For a practical book, I appreciate simple, elegant fonts that are easy to read, a book that is easy to navigate and a size that I can easily take with me to my sons’ lessons or sporting events. If costs permit, a hard cover is especially nice. (As in Jeffery Gitomer’s “Little Green Book”). However, I would avoid like the plague his use of cartoons and various-sized type. It feels gimmicky. With the extra thought and effort you are putting into the design, I have no doubt that your book will turn out just right! Good luck.

  • Mark Sarty

    Hi Alyson: Would you be looking for beautiful art of other artists but have failed in the PR department. My art seems to please others but it has rarely ever been seen. I’m offering you my art if you would like to use any of it in you book. Just Email me back and I’ll send some pictures . The Best of Life, M.E.S.

  • Ethel Hills

    Hi, Alyson — What a great idea! And you’ve gotten some great responses so far. Here are some of my comments. I’d like it to be spiral bound to make it easier to work with and to have a very sturdy cover like your Cultivating Collectors book. Depending on the size of the book, that might not be practical. I’m guessing that you’ll include forms that can be copied. It would be nice to have that on CD as well as hard copies in the book. I like the idea of having plenty of white space. Books that are designed that way leave lots of room for your own notes and I think they’re easier to read. As I get older, I prefer larger print also. I’d like to see a summary section at the end of each chapter, including a summary of the chapter, a list of action steps and resources specific to that chapter. I think for illustrations, cartoons might be a good way to go, but that clearly depends on what you’re trying to illustrate. I think the overall design should tie into it being a book that you will be working with over a period of time, not just reading and putting on the shelf.

  • Glad to hear that you’ll be hiring a book desiginer and doing your book “right”! In terms of art and such, I ditto what someone wrote upstream about avoiding cartoons. I’ve love to see sidebars with case studies of artists who used your suggestions to grow their business. You could show their art as examples. This would be an organic way to feature art/illustrations within your book. Another suggestion: though I love the big workbook feel of The Artist’s Way, I also like small books that you can carry with you everywhere, with room to write lists and stuff like that. They make it easier to incorporate the book into one’s life. Sort of like the Zagat guides. I’m not a fan of hardcover books except for gift books, art books and the like. Softcover makes a book more approachable somehow, as well as lighter to carry around. They’re also cheaper to produce, which makes your book available to a larger audience (esp. since so many artists are often not as rich as they’d like to be!).

  • Maria: Thanks. I actually hadn’t considered the Index until reading my latest book, “The Well-Fed Publisher” by Peter Bowerman. You’re both right . . . I get really frustrated when there is no index. And I know librarians rely on them. As for Typepad, I’m quite happy with it, but I might choose WordPress if I were starting all over again. It’s free and can be integrated into your site. I’m wondering why you have to switch formats?

  • Sari: Gimmicks are good. I received a couple of ideas in the mail today. I’m open for other suggestions! Roxanne: You’ve given me ideas for five more books! Thanks for your suggestions. Ethel: I’m with you on the white space. But I can’t make it spiral bound. I’ve been warned that spiral binding just doesn’t look serious and makes it hard to get into bookstores. A future workbook, however, might have a spiral binding with a hard binding wrapped around it.

  • Hi Alyson, This has been great feedback you have gotten! I would only add that there is a certain series of black cover art business books that I would avoid looking like. There is a lot of info … but so repetitive from book to book and then I feel like I never really get great substance. I agree that Julia’s books are great – but for a different purpose – I agree have smaller than hers and somewhat denser. And I agree – avoid the cartoons. And I would keep the copyable forms to a minimum. Heavy cover paper – but not super-heavy. I would go for the mid-range in most everything. Bigger type than tiny, but get a lot of info in there. Just remembering a lot of us are getting older, but still with enough per page that we feel we are getting a lot for our money. It is a working book rather than a gift – but a high quatlity working book. And a brightish cover – not the gloomy dark ones that look rigid. That is my 2 cents worth. Good luck! ~ Diane Clancy http://www.dianeclancy.com/blog

  • First of all: Content is king! Have a lot of new material that isn’t already available elsewhere. (I assume you’ve read all the other art marketing books out there.) Keep boilerplate filler to a minimum. I do like the “plan 1, 2, 3″ idea mentioned above. Artists are a very heterogeneous bunch. There is no ONE RIGHT WAY for everyone. Give us lots of options, and spell out which seem to work best in which conditions. I really like the sample letters and forms in Paul Dorrell’s “Living the Artist’s Life”. It’s easier for me to learn from a simple example than a lengthy description. Bright white paper (but not too glossy). Dull recycled newsprint feels cheap and turns yellow with age. An accent printing color (see Cay Lang’s “Taking the Leap”) can look snazzy, but I don’t think it adds enough value to be worthwhile. Similarly, pretty color pictures of art make nice eye candy but probably wouldn’t convey enough useful information to make the cost worthwhile. I vote no cartoons. Everyone seems to use pithy quotations from famous artists, but I’m not convinced they add value. Maybe you can come up with a completely unique visual gimmick to help distinguish your book from all the others. Absolutely perfect editing. I can’t tell you how disappointing it is to read a book with typos. Ample margins for note-taking, but not so much blank space that the book seems padded. I like to have a couple blank pages at the end for notes too. Please avoid too much summarizing and repetition. Personally, I find chapter-end summaries patronizing and over-simplistic (and a waste of space). I can draw my own conclusions, thanks! I would go with softcover for affordability. I think medium size (about 6″ wide, 9″ tall) is best (like the books by Paul Dorrell, Daniel Grant, Lee Silber, and Cay Lang). Too large (8.5 x 11″) is unwieldy. Mass-market paperback size looks cheap and therefore not serious.

  • Hi Alyson, So many choices. I like the idea of a good index and soft shiny cover that is eye catching. I like the idea of side columns inside with photos or art and a title or a poem. I was reading a different blog where you mentioned a poem inside the cover. When I read ladybug, I thought that was perfect. It is small, not always noticed, but due to it’s bright color, you are able to see it if you look. What if you had a slick red cover with raised dark brown and black typing. Add a simple diffused raised image of lady bug dots ( large) behind the typing. Now and then a tiny ladybug could appear on some of the pages inside as a reminder of where we long to be. I am certain the ladybug would rather be in her studio (the flower) than anywhere else. There are so many professionals that know about books and covers, and have great ideas. Mine may be too unprofessional, but it is my idea! Thanks for “listening”. Reveille http://www.reveillekennedy.com

  • Hi Alyson–After reading all the comments I looked at the books I like and use all the time. They are simple, straightforward and packed with useful information and dogeared from constant use. Yes, a beautiful book is lovely but a well used and well loved book full of really good information is the best. Years ago I read all the Paul and Sarah Edwards books which were designed very simply but very effectively. I still use their “Getting Business to Come to You” and it’s one of the most easily accessible books I’ve ever seen, both in content and in layout. The book isn’t beautiful or full of pictures but it’s beautiful in that it is readable, approachable and does exactly what it says it will….The Success Princi[les is another example of simple, good design…good luck, have fun! Can’t wait!

  • Hi Alyson, It appears you are going to get opinions as diverse as the artists you represent. Having been in the graphic design field for over 15 years I have definate preferences in this area. I agree with a lot of the other comments. Just a couple of quick ideas though. Having met you in person at one of your workshops, I think that your personality alone will prevent your book from being “frivolous” or “Hobbyist” in look and feel. Your a classy person and your book will naturally follow. But I also think that you are more left brained than a lot of the artists you represent and probably gleen more information from large bodies of text than we do. So I would like to see you continue the compartmentalized format that you use in your news letters, with sub headers, succinct paragraphs and unlike one of the other opinions, I like how you summerize and list action steps. that is the area I will constatntly return to as I am making my own goals. If cost is not prohibitive I would like to see colored examples of other promotional pieces and other art work. I can’t speak for everyone, but I am definately more inspired visually than verbally. I think most of your clients would be happy to submit images for a single tag line. I look forward to getting your book! good luck, Layne

  • I love the title, Alyson. One of the big things that prompts me to buy a book about business advice for artists is a sense of trust. If I was able to find them easily on the internet for one, they must know something about marketing and be able to teach it. Trust goes even further now for me to include a “relationship.” If they blog, I get to know them and will buy the book because I prefer to buy from a “friend.” Even if it is a virtual friend.

  • Amber Hope

    My favourite cover style? Taschen (publisher) books, ICONS series, hands down. Check them out if you haven’t already. They are to die for and highly collectible. Wow. What an incredible brand they would make if you’re planning a series. I know i’d be looking into them if i planned on publishing. You have to handle them to see the difference. Dull (non-shiny) cover with shiny title. Wrapped around the edges makes a more solid, durable soft cover. I don’t know if this style of cover is transferable to a larger format, but their books are top end quality at a really fabulously cheap price (so surely it can’t be that expensive to make this style of cover). But what do i know? Other than i LOVE them! :-)

  • Dear Amber (or is it Amber Hope): We are thinking along the same lines. This is exactly what the group came up with. Now, I just need that fabulous book cover designer to make it happen.