Whether you are an established author looking for more control over your creative efforts or you have just finished your first manuscript, massive changes in the publishing world have opened a variety of options to authors for self-publishing. If you decide to take advantage of these new opportunities, you will be facing the challenges of cover design, interior layout, and online marketing, which might seem like a daunting task. Sure, you have seen online publishing offers that make big promises to design and promote your book, but will they really produce the results you want?
These important decisions will determine the success of your book. If only there were an easier way to achieve a professional outcome! Introducing Chris Molé of Chris Molé Design. As one of Ashland’s top print and book designers, Chris has been providing professional book design and creative print services in Ashland for the past 15 years. She specializes in book cover design, interior layout, and marketing guidance for today’s self-publishing authors. Chris offers a variety of services that help authors to stand out in a competitive market with outstanding covers, engaging interiors, and smart marketing direction.
I headed over to Chris’ studio 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.
You’re right, Shields, creating and publishing a book is a bigger undertaking than most first-time authors realize. There are many more choices, as well as terrific opportunities, for self-publishing authors these days. The economic downturn along with the introduction of print on demand (POD) and advances in desktop publishing and the internet have radically changed the industry and given authors numerous direct marketing options that didn’t exist even five years ago.
Most authors have already invested an enormous amount of time and energy to arrive at a completed manuscript. Once they have their manuscript, where do they go next?
Once the manuscript is fully copy edited, the first step in self-publishing is cover design. Nothing is more essential to selling a book than the impact of the cover and the shopper’s first impression. The cover must be intriguing and professional, but most of all irresistible. Just observe your own experience next time you visit Bloomsbury. A particular book may have life-changing content, but if it doesn’t have a compelling cover or title, you’re not going to pick it up unless you’ve heard about it from someone else.
Next is interior design and with scores of 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, ISBNs, how will it be distributed, epub, Kindle and audio versions – these are all decisions based on budget, genre, and the author’s network, marketing abilities, and resources.
What do you see as one of the biggest 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! The 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 the design of your book to a distant author-services company. They’re often staffed by inexperienced designers, with limits on time allowed for a particular “bundled” project. The author has a pivotal role in the success of the design and marketing phases of their book. This will 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 open up about what they’ve written and encourage them to share their expectations for the book and the niche or readers for whom they’ve written. The cover design is usually extremely 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. Really, 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 skim and read 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 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.
Here are some examples of how covers were created for several local authors:
Honoring Missed Motherhood is Kani Comstock’s second book. The cover we decided on illustrates the grace and irrepressibility of life arising out of loss and difficulty. Kani and her coauthor Barbara Comstock are examples of authors who have a pre-established network and outlet for marketing, by virtue of being well-known instructors in the Hoffmann Process with many interested readers.
Their brother, Bruce Comstock, has a soon to be published memoir, A Life in the Air, and this is an example of a book needing an authentic photo for the cover. Bruce is a world-class balloonist and well-known figure in the ballooning world. His memoir is both a fascinating story and a record of his achievements and experiences in the sport over a 30-year period. Luckily, he had the perfect photograph and we worked with the typography to complete the cover.
Kit Crumb writes thrillers and his book, Body Parts, was the first in the Rye and Claire series about fictional Rogue Valley EMTs who become involved in sinister events and danger in the course of responding to emergencies. We’ll carry through background imagery of an ambulance in the Northwest woods on the cover of each of his books.
Co-authors Pia Orleane Smith and Cullen Baird Smith were updating Conversations with Laarkmaa and wanted to redesign the cover, along with designing a cover for a brand new book in the Laarkmaa series, Remembering Who We Are. I designed both covers to include common elements and each with a clearly defined theme.
Phoenix-based business columnist and humorist Dale Dauten’s first novel is written in a witty and self-deprecating first-person style. We wanted a, wry, understated look to match his title, The Weary Optimist. This book called for a custom, cartoon-style illustration and specialized, handwritten typography.
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 must be consistent with its content and this influences overall layout, decisions on font styles and sizes, ornaments, choices in chapter heads, and how parts or sections are handled. Novels are usually pretty straightforward, but non-fiction interiors are always unique and may include photos, graphics tables, sidebars, notes, photos, appendices, indices, 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 the top mistake is spending too much money on printing and marketing the book through third parties, and wanting to cover every base completely at the start. Methods and opportunities for marketing are changing daily and there’s much to be said for simply self-publishing through one of the many POD companies at little cost, then working with the support and online tools available to increase your sales. Amazon, for instance, is deeply invested in providing tools and platforms to help authors succeed. POD publishing through CreateSpace is inexpensive and fast, and royalties are up to 70%. These inexpensively published books are marketed through Amazon and displayed equally with every other title. The paperback book quality is comparable to traditional publishers. 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 Amazon and online direct-to-consumer methods than through brick and mortar stores – and marketing primarily through Amazon 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.
Let’s talk about having a consistency in brand and identity. Most people won’t necessarily think of having their website designed at the same time as the cover of the book or posters. What are the benefits of working on everything with one designer or team?
It’s most efficient to work with the same designer or team consisting of editor, designer, publicist or social media expert, and stay with that team all the way through marketing. As the book designer, I will have invested a great deal of energy and developed a vision for the cover that should be carried through to collateral material and website for consistent branding. With more than 25 years of experience in print design, I have a lot of knowledge and many resources to put to work on behalf of the author.
Talk to us about your pricing.
I almost always work on a fixed fee for the services I offer: cover design, interior book design & layout, collateral material, and website/social media presence. My fees are mid-range for each of these services, generally in the $1000 to $1800 range. Along with design, this fee includes all communications and meetings, revisions, file preparation for printing, uploading for POD or offset printing, or Kindle – everything from design to successful printing. Promotional bookmarks, business cards, postcards and posters are 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, what’s the next step in getting started in working with you?
Call me to schedule a meeting. We’ll talk about directions and options based on budget, expectations, and interest in managing your marketing via social media, book signings and events. This “get to know each other” meeting is free. Visit my website to look though an online portfolio: www.ChrisMoleDesign.com and give me a call.
40 Water Street