It takes a team to create a children’s book. In this case study, the team consisted of an author, an illustrator, and a book designer, all of whom worked collaboratively on the project.
First-time author, Jon Ferry, commissioned me to design his book, Across the Battlefield: A Pawn’s Journey. He wrote, “I am nearing the point where I will be ready to hire the illustrator to do all the internal drawings for the book, as well as a book designer. Would you be available and interested in working with me?”
I replied, “Yes, I am available and definitely interested in helping you.“
Jon selected illustrator Caroline Zina for the project. He hired me to design and art direct the book. As the art director, I coached the author and illustrator through the book design and production process.
The first of many decisions
One of our first decisions was book size. We decided on 7×10 inches—a comfortable size for children aged seven to twelve to hold and read. With these measurements, Caroline’s artwork would be accurate when I placed it in my page design.
Jon requested three versions of the book: a paperback, a hard cover, and an ebook. He decided to use print on demand with IngramSpark and Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP).
Putting the pieces together
Jon and Caroline had in-depth discussions about the scenes on each page. Jon wanted to know how much room Caroline would have for the illustrations, given the text and the chess diagram. I did a very rough layout with Jon’s manuscript and the chess diagrams in place. This answered the questions, “how much room for the artwork?” and “what needs to be adjusted?”
Each step of the way, Caroline sent rough sketches to Jon and me for critique and direction. Altogether, Caroline did four rounds of sketches—from very rough in black and white to rough sketches in color. Caroline asked how big the chess diagram would be so that she could account for the space it would take up on the page. Each time Caroline sent me sketches, she asked, “Is there anything here that needs to be tweaked?” I appreciated her concern and gave her suggestions. We discussed color, spacing, and placement of characters.
Accommodating the hinge
At one point, when Caroline was almost finished with the cover illustration, we realized we had to adjust the cover to accommodate the hinge—the section of the book between the cover boards and the spine. It’s the part that bends when the book is opened. In order to ensure that no critical parts of her artwork, such as faces, were in the hinge area, I sent her IngramSpark’s template with the dimensions and bleed areas.
The cover illustration was amazing! I enhanced it with typography, starting with the book’s cover title and subtitle. House of Cards and Alverata Irregular fonts were the right combination. The title is on a slight arc. Underneath is an ornamental arrow to separate it from the subtitle. The author’s name is in a red banner. The interiors pages use two typefaces, so the reader would know the difference between the story and the chess explanation.
The final illustrations fit beautifully and are very impressive! There were only a few minor things to fix, such as removing a tree that was too close to the text or moving the characters up, so they were not bumping into the trim. Asking questions and knowing the placement of the text and chess diagram really paid off at this stage.
The team worked together
Our book design journey started in November. There were many questions throughout the process. We scheduled several meetings and sent dozens of emails, working through all the details. We made a good team!
As I write this post, we have finished the layouts. I have helped Jon with setting up the title, uploading the file, and ordering proofs. I acted as a coach, walking him through every step of the process. Now he has learned the process and become familiar with the KDP site.
Jon says in his book description: “Learn the strategies and techniques it takes to win in the game of chess.” I feel that is also good advice to produce a winning book design!