Recent Book Design Projects: A Book for Fitness and Inspiration

Scenic Fit San Francisco is one of the most interesting and fun recent book design and production projects to come through the office of Design For Books. If you are contemplating creating a “how-to” or self-help book on any topic, this book is an excellent example of how it is done. Scenic Fit San Francisco is the vision of Tracy Hicks, a super-fit trail runner, mountain biker, and above all, expert personal instructor with over a decade of experience instructing outdoor workouts for groups.

People always say that if you want to be a good writer, write about what you know. That Tracy has done. Her book is a perfect combination of her passion for fitness and her brilliant vision for how to help others get fit and stay fit. San Francisco is her home where she leads workout classes in beautiful scenic locations. This book made me quit my gym membership. Exercising outside is way more motivational. Tracy shows the way to making fitness part of a quality lifestyle experience.

Scenic Fit book cover design
Scenic Fit book cover. This is a full-color offset-printed paperback book.

Her book is an easy-to-use resource for both long-time locals and visiting tourists who want to stay fit while exploring the city. There are workouts on beaches, in wooded parks, incredibly beautiful gardens, and historical locations. Just following these workouts will help you discover some of the best locations and views in San Francisco.

Page design for exercise book
Scenic Fit page design example for workout instructions.

Book design is an important way to add value to a publication and help it stand out among the competition. How the content is developed is very important to how well the design process will work. With clear content development the design will help readers get value from a book without having to read the whole book or struggle to find the information they want. Each type of information category can have its own distinct appearance. These design features become visual tools for navigating the book. This enhanced navigation is created by features such as photos in the table of contents that match the large chapter opening photos and consistent information categories that enable recurring content to be easily recognized.

Book design table of contents
Table of contents with photos coordinated with each chapter opener image.

The book’s well thought out planning and organization shows in the easy-to-follow instructions, custom maps with point-by-point workout routes, beautiful location photos, and enough historical background information to allow you to make a connection with the city. But the book features don’t stop there. The book includes everything you need to make the workouts successful outings and to create a visually interesting book:

  • Area highlights
  • How to get there information
  • Individual route maps
  • Information for parking, restrooms, hours, etc.
  • Public transportation options
  • Things to know before going
  • Exercise benefits
  • Exercises for different levels
  • Time and distance
  • Warm-up instructions
  • Exercise instructions with photo illustrations
  • Links to online workouts
  • After workout stretches
Scenic Fit page design example
Scenic Fit page design showing custom route map, location information, workout benefits, and tip box.

While working on the project we ran into a roadblock trying to find a photographer who could do the scenic location photos within the budget and schedule. Eventually, I suggested my son, Lorenzo Rohani, who was already a young award-winning wildlife photographer. It seemed to me, scenic urban landscapes was easily within his skill set, so it wasn’t long before we were on the assignment while enjoying San Francisco on the side. Visiting the locations in the book while my son was taking the photos convinced me that Tracy’s book is a good guide to San Francisco even if you didn’t do the workouts. San Francisco is definitely one of America’s most beautiful cities and to experience it, you will want to see the locations in her book. I have visited the city three or four times before, but this was the first time I really felt like I was getting to know the best spots.

Page design with photo
Page spread design showing the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco. Photo by Lorenzo Rohani.
Page design with photo
Page spread design showing a long exposure photo of the Golden Gate Bridge at night. Photo by Lorenzo Rohani.

As part of the project, I also designed created online web pages for Tracy that allow people to access the workouts anywhere with their cell phones. These online pages help users find the scenic locations and complete the workouts with audio instruction and exercise photos. The workouts in the book include links to this web content.

Cell phone showing exercise workouts
Online workouts for Scenic Fit San Francisco

If you get a copy of the book, you’ll likely want more and that’s coming. The book is a component of a larger body of content Tracy Hicks is developing that include ten additional scenic workouts for a second volume and the Scenic Fit website and blog with many interesting features on their way such as fitness inspiration and delicious recipes. Next time you visit San Francisco, be sure to get a copy of Tracy’s book.

Self-Publishing Success Story: Pacific Northwest Wildlife

Pacific Northwest Wildlife is another interesting self-publishing success story. I met the author and photographer, Aaron Baggenstos, at Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge. I was there because of my son, Lorenzo is also wildlife photographer.

Coffee table book design, book jacket design, photography book design, self-publishing
Jacket cover design for Pacific Northwest Wildlife
Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge
Aaron and Lorenzo at Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge

As I got to know Aaron, I learned he was transitioning to a new career as a photographer. Making a living as a photographer is a hard thing to do, and I was skeptical that Aaron could sell enough photography. But his vision included the idea of leading wildlife and photography tours. For that I thought, he certainly had the right personality and skills, and I knew I could help him. A beautiful coffee-table wildlife photography book would be a great marketing and promotional tool for letting people know about his skills and talents.

As time passed, we stayed in touch, and Aaron’s portfolio of wildlife photography grew in quality and size. When Aaron knew he was ready to create a book to showcase his new work, he came to me with a project idea.
Early on, we needed to discuss the budget, because one of the biggest challenges of creating a color coffee-table book is the print cost. It is a significant amount of money when you’re just starting a business. There are cost-saving strategies for both state-side and off-shore printing, but it is essential to not sacrifice quality. The book marketplace is competitive, and buyers have plenty of good choices. The book needs to be unique and immediately recognizable. Above all, it needs to be high quality. Looking at the costs, we calculated a cover retail price of $34.95. This left some room for occasional discounts and the retailer cut (usually 40–50%).

Before investing any money in printing, Aaron pitched the book to Costco, the largest American membership-only warehouse club. Generally speaking, getting a book into a store that is not bookstore is a great opportunity, because there are fewer books to compete against and the buyer rightly assumes the books are cherry-picked for the audience. To increase the book’s chances, we were careful to make it conform to important Costco criteria and use good presentation images. They agreed to take 1700–2000 copies, and he could be at locations to sign books. Even with a 50% distributor cut, that could be worth more than $30,000. This one arrangement could cover all production costs and hand Aaron a nice profit. Plus he would still have copies remaining that he could sell and use to promote his business. Most businesses have to spend money on advertising; few get to sell that advertising for a profit! Publishing is one form of content marketing that pays back.

Aaron took my advice and agreed to follow publishing best practices—professional editing and proofreading, design, a marketing strategy, and a printer who specialized in color books. As a designer, I focused on creating a product with a high perceived value that would showcase both his work and introduce him as a photographer. To achieve this, I would do a number of things, including creating custom maps and chapter icons. The maps reinforced an important concept behind the book—travel across the Pacific Northwest—the region where the wildlife habitats are located. This would help communicate the “tour” aspect of his business. The maps were both decorative and functional. The first map is designed to create a distinct and striking table of contents spread at the start of the book. It is a very simple depiction of the Pacific Northwest and shaped to suggest the contour of the globe—no labels or markers. The second map is more functional, giving names and details of the various locations for National Parks and habitats found in the book.

Coffee table book design, page spread design, custom map design, self-publishing
Table of contents design showing custom map design for Pacific Northwest Wildlife




Coffee table book design, page spread design, custom map design,self-publishing
Page spread design showing custom map design for Pacific Northwest Wildlife


The chapter icons represent Aaron taking photos. It is a small touch, but it helps convey and remind the reader that Aaron is the person behind all the beautiful photographs in the book. It also helps communicate to the reader that photography is a skill and an adventure activity that they too can experience.

Coffee table book design, page spread design, chapter opener design,self-publishing
Chapter opener design showing custom icon and text wrap.

Rather than simply “self-publish,” Aaron set up a publisher identity, making himself an independent publisher. He could use this identity for the book and any future projects. I redesigned the logo to create one that would go with the perceived value and elegant style of the book—simpler and cleaner. The new logo was also more functional for applications on book products.

Coffee table book design, title page design, self-publishing
Title page design of Pacific Northwest Wildlife and publisher logo design for Nature’s Prime Publishing.


Coffee table book design, publisher logo design, title page design, self-publishing
Book jacket showing publisher logo design for Nature’s Prime Publishing.

The story of Aaron’s book got interesting again when the Costco buyer changed her mind. While we were working on the book, Costco had agreed to carry a new anthology from a very well-known and famous wildlife photographer. This was not a huge problem because the book would sell. But it was an unfortunate setback. However, I was reasonably confident that if he took a copy of Pacific Northwest Wildlife and showed her how nice it had turned out, the original offer would hold together. It worked. Once they saw the book, the show was on again.

Coffee table book design, page spread design, self-publishing
Page spread design in Pacific Northwest Wildlife

It is a lot of work promoting a book, doing the book signings, and managing the fulfillment with the stores, but Aaron did it, and it paid off. The book remains an important showcase of his photography work in the Pacific Northwest. His tour business grew and now includes amazing trips to Africa, Costa Rica, and Alaska. He has expanded his portfolio vastly and is now an Award-winning wildlife photographer, recognized by National Geographic, Nature’s Best, Outside, NANPA, and the Audubon Society. Recently, several of his images were chosen for both final rounds in the prestigious 2015 & 2016 BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year. As someone who knows Aaron personally, he’s exactly the kind of guy you would want leading your tour and helping you with your photography skills. When I met him, his goal was to earn of living selling photography. Now, he does the photography he loves, but he also makes his living doing something just as valuable—creating memorable life experiences for his tour clients.

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Market Yourself with eBooks: Volume 2 (Free ebook)

Market Yourself with eBooks: Volume 2

Volume 2 in our new free ebook series Market Yourself with eBooks is now available.

Like volume 1, you can get it for free now and you don’t have to give your email address or fill in an opt-in form. Just click and download. Share the link with whoever you think will be interested.

Volume 1 explains the concept of publishing as a form of content marketing. Volume 2 shares six features of great ebook for marketing purposes. This information is useful to anyone developing a content marketing campaign, especially for business professionals who can benefit from an ebook strategy.

Content marketing, ebook marketing strategy, content development, ebook design
Volume 2: Six Features of great eBook for Marketing Purposes

CLICK HERE TO GET YOUR COPY: Volume 2, Market Yourself with eBooks: Six Features of Great eBooks for Marketing Purposes

If you like it, let us know. If you would like an ebook for your business, give me (Michael) a call at 425-771-2905.

Don’t forget to subscribe to my blog and follow me on Twitter to get more publishing and content marketing tips.


Market Yourself with eBooks (Free eBook)

Market Yourself with eBooks

Take a look at our new free ebook series Market Yourself with eBooks. Get it for free—you don’t have to give your email address or fill in an opt-in form. Just click and download. Share the link with whoever you think will be interested.

Volume 1 explains the concept of publishing as a form of content marketing. This is useful especially for business professionals who want increased credibility and speaking engagements. It includes ten ideas for how to market yourself or your business with ebooks.

CLICK HERE TO GET IT: Volume 1, Market Yourself with Ebooks: An Introduction for Businesses, Entrepreneurs, and Authors

Content marketing, ebook marketing, business promotion

If you like it, let us know. If you would like an ebook for your business, give me (Michael) a call at 425-771-2905.

Want more? Check out Volume 2, Market Yourself with eBooks: Five Features of Great eBooks for Marketing Purposes.

Content Marketing, free ebook, business promotion

Don’t forget to subscribe to our blog and follow us on Twitter.