Introducing Chris Molé of Book Savvy Studio. As one of Ashland’s top print and book designers, Chris has been providing professional book design and creative services in Ashland for the past 20 years. She specializes in book cover design, interior layout, and marketing guidance for today’s self-publishing authors. Chris offers outstanding covers, engaging interiors, and smart marketing direction to help authors stand out online and on bookshelves. I spoke with Chris to learn more about her book design services.
Chris, thanks for having me over and taking the time to talk with us today. I’m excited to learn more because I know creating a book can be a huge endeavor and we have many local authors in Ashland who are engaged in the process at this very moment.
It’s true Shields that creating and publishing a book is a bigger undertaking than most first-time authors realize. There’s a steep learning curve, as well as many advantages for authors who choose to publish independently. This learning curve can be daunting for an author whose focus and skills are typically not in design, publishing, and marketing.
Most authors have already invested an enormous amount of time and energy to arrive at a completed manuscript. Once they have decided to publish their book on their own, where do they go next?
Editing is the next step – a finished manuscript must be fully edited by a professional editor before it’s ready for layout.
Next comes cover design. A strong, professionally designed cover is essential to catching the eye of readers and compelling them to pick up your book or notice the book online. An important part of the cover impact are title and subtitle, the back cover “blurb” or description, and the price. A particular book may have life-changing content, but if it doesn’t have a compelling cover design and title, it’s likely to be overlooked—or worse, a poorly designed cover can undermine the author’s credibility and work.
Then comes interior book design with decisions such as trim size, type of paper, color and texture, binding, font style and size, layout and usability considerations. Who will print the book, obtaining ISBNs and LCCNs, how will it be distributed, e-book and audio versions – these are also on the list.
What do you see as one of the biggest potential pitfalls in the next stage of this process for authors?
Authors should understand that no matter how they decide to publish their book, they must retain their excitement and involvement all the way through marketing. Their job is not over when the manuscript is finished! An independent author will get the best result by remaining positively and creatively engaged in the design and marketing of their book. That engagement will be evident in the final product—they need to finish strong.
I like what you are saying about “finishing strong.”
As you said, a book is a huge investment of time and energy just to get to the final manuscript. However, this is not the time to hand over the design of your book to a distant author-services company and hope for the best.
The author has an important role in the success of the design and marketing phases of their book. This can be an exciting, creative and collaborative process for entrepreneurial self-publishers and will make all the difference in ultimate book sales.
How do you work with local authors to help them navigate this next stage and what are some of the services you offer in assisting with reaching a final product?
I invite the author to share their expectations for the book and we’ll talk about the niche or readers for whom they’ve written. The cover design is usually very important to an author, so we’ll talk quite a bit about potential imagery before I get started. My job is to bring out the visual essence of a book and design it to be both appealing to the author and highly marketable.
I offer complete design and production services, and will refer an author to established copy editors, proofreaders and other local publishing services as needed, and oversee these services if the author wishes.
You’ve shared with me that you not only love doing book cover design, but that you also enjoy collecting books for their own unique and elegant designs. Can you please tell us about a few of your favorites?
One of my favorite book and packaging designers is Louise Fili, who is famous for her retro Italian style – very stylish and classic. I love the smoky, foreboding covers of the Dresden Files series and Kat Richardson Greywalker novels because they really hold together as a series. There are so many gorgeous and impressive covers, most of them created by unknown designers. I’m constantly inspired by what I see on the shelves.
Chris, walk us through your own process for designing a fabulous book cover and then show us a few of your recent works.
After talking and going through a discovery process with an author, I’ll review the book for keywords, key scenes, imagery, and important concepts that can be used in the cover design. I’ll get a feel for who the book is speaking to and the impression it should convey, and I’ll discuss these ideas with the author before going ahead with concepts.
We’ll meet again over 3-4 cover ideas, choose a direction, and then it’s a process of refinement and bringing the cover to the place that feels just right. The final cover is typically comprised of typography and digital photo illustration made from composited photos, or custom illustration. If a series of books is planned, then the initial cover is designed with a layout and elements that will carry through the series.
In addition to cover design, you also work with authors to do interior layout. Can you give us an overview of what this entails?
A book’s interior design should be designed for readability, accessibility and communication – it should be a pleasure to behold and read. The size of the book, its structure, fonts, ornaments, illustrations, choices in chapter heads, and how parts or sections are handled, all come together to communicate the content. Novels are usually pretty straightforward, but non-fiction interiors are always unique and may include photos, graphics tables, sidebars, notes, photos, appendices, indices, footnotes, and glossaries.
What are some of the top mistakes you are seeing being made these days by new authors when going out to publish and market their new book?
I would say one of the biggest mistakes is investing too much money in inventory. There’s a big advantage to simply self-publishing through one of the print-on-demand (POD) providers at little cost, then working with the support and online tools available to increase your sales. Amazon, one of many, is invested in providing tools and platforms to help authors succeed. POD publishing through CreateSpace (now KDP) is inexpensive and fast, and authors get an instant visibility on the Amazon website plus the convenience of drop shipping. These inexpensively published books are marketed through other online bookstores and displayed equally with every other title. POD paperback book quality is comparable to traditionally published trade books. It’s a great way for an author to get started without a huge outlay of money.
The important controversy over Amazon vs. independent booksellers notwithstanding, let’s face it, a new author will be able to sell more books through online booksellers, and online direct-to-consumer methods than through brick and mortar stores – and printing this way doesn’t need to exclude selling through local bookstores! My advice is to get your book out there and invest time in learning and working a marketing system that will put it in front of readers. I can’t stress enough that authors need to take control of their publishing outcomes.
Talk to us about your pricing.
I work on a fixed fee basis for book design projects: cover design, interior book design & layout, and collateral material. My fees are mid-range for each of these services … full covers range from $750 to $1200, and include help with titling, back cover blurbs, and cover art for e-books and audiobooks. Interior layouts are priced at a per page cost depending on complexity. These fees include all communications and meetings, revisions, and file preparation for printing.
I offer a range of other services including account setup and uploading for POD or offset printing, e-book formatting, logos for imprints, and marketing collateral such as posters, bookmarks, business cards, postcards printed either locally or through an online printer, depending on quantity and budget.
Working on a fixed fee removes the tension over final cost and allows us to work as a team, doing what it takes to create and produce a beautiful and well-crafted book.
Chris, where can we find you and what’s the next step in getting started in working with you?
Because I work primarily from my home office outside of town, I schedule meetings with clients in my office in Ashland on Williamson Way. I offer a free introductory meeting to talk about the project. If it feels like a good fit, I’ll send a proposal of costs and we’ll get going.
Authors can visit my website to look though an online portfolio: www.booksavvystudio.com and give me a call at 541-488-6869 to schedule a meeting.
Book Savvy Studio
415 Williamson Way #7
Ashland, Oregon 97520
Home office: 541-488-6869