5. DO YOUR HOMEWORKGo to your local bookstore’s photography section, and see what you like and don’t like about various designs. Bookstores and libraries are perfect places to get a feel for what works and what doesn’t in book design, and to discover what appeals to your aesthetic. When you see a book you like, try to analyze what about it attracts you. Check the websites of the various online book publishers, and note what you like and don’t like about the books they produce.
6. CUSTOM BOOKSIf you feel you have very strong design skills and want to make a statement with the design itself, creating a custom book is an option. Marc Smith explains why he decided to go the custom-book route: “When I began working on my book, I didn’t want to be limited by a template. Although there are plenty of good online ‘build-a-book’ sites, there’s nothing that’s going to allow you as much freedom as something you design yourself.”
Smith created a book of images from his series on Lucha Vavoom, a show in Los Angeles that combines Lucha Libre wrestling with burlesque dancing. Either discipline on its own would be an intriguing subject to explore, but together they created an alchemy, or a “chocolate in my peanut butter” sort of thing.
Says Smith, “The first thing I did was to find a book design that had templates for both single- and double-page layouts. Then I created a Photoshop file with the given dimensions for the two-page template and configured the book the way I wanted, keeping in mind the page fold in the center.
“Next, I created the title pages by layering photographs, type and drawings in Photoshop, and uploaded them into the book using the single-page template. Finally, I saved the files into a JPEG format as was required by the book-building site, but I also had the layered PSD files so that I could make changes or update the layout for a revised edition. At that point, all of the hard work was done, and the actual uploading of images took no more than 15 minutes. The only thing left to do was wait for the book to come in the mail.”
For those designing their own custom books, the basic specifications to keep in mind as you’re laying out each page include leaving an eighth of an inch on all sides for a bleed margin (borderless). It’s recommended to keep all text a quarter of an inch from the edge of the page. The spine width and cover size will depend on the kind of paper chosen and the type of binding required. Double-check these specs with your service as they may vary, but remember that margins are critical!