One of my recent book design projects is Navigating Change (Flame Lantern Press). This was a fun project and it was a great pleasure to work with the author, Christine Warren. This book, as I will show, illustrates some important things to consider when designing a book.
Christine is a presenter of transformational workshops, a consultant, life coach, and speaker. Her book brings together teachings, stories, and tools to help people move through life’s changes or transitions. In her words, the goal is to help people move through “life transitions with magnificence.”
Her book shares the principles and practices found in her workshops. Her presentation is divided into four phases represented by the four points of the compass in this diagram.
Pacific Northwest Wildlifeis another interesting self-publishing success story. I met the author and photographer, Aaron Baggenstos, at Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge. I was there because my son, Lorenzo is also a wildlife photographer.
One of the great things about my job is that I get to work with decision-makers and experts in a variety of fields, people who make a positive difference in the lives of others or who are on their way to becoming influential. Jackie Brewton is one of those accomplished people—she is the go-to person for people and institutions who need a motivational speaker and teen relationship expert.
If you’re a teen or a parent of teens like me, her book, 7 Secrets Guys Will Never Tell You: A Teen Girl’s Guide on Love, Sex, and Relationships has obvious value.
When I got the call from Jackie, she had already worked with a designer on the cover, but the production values were lacking. This seems to be happening to a lot of authors. In the last two years, I have seen an increase in calls from people who have hired designers who, it turns out, could not complete the project in a satisfactory way or who have simply gone missing before the job was finished.
I love self-publishing success stories. Sometimes success comes just by chance and sometimes by thoughtful decisions and a commitment to quality. The book, Living Large in Small Spaces: The Cottages of Lake Worth is the latter case.
I knew from the start I was working with smart people who had a brilliant idea and a lot of great content. Too often self-publishing authors are thinking “sell globally” on the Internet when, in fact, success is much easier when you start with “sell locally.” If you’re selling a coffee table book that is $32.95, like The Cottages of Lake Worth, direct sales for even a small print run of 3500 books, adds up to $115,325.
As Alex Shephard recently wrote in the New Republic, what sells books is discoverability. “Guiding audiences to a book is the key to successful bookselling. Word-of-mouth buzz can turn a book like The Girl On The Train into a cash cow, as can reviews and other media coverage…” Obviously, Word-of-mouth buzz is much easier to start locally than nationally or globally. That’s good to know, because it can steer many aspects of a book project.
The group behind The Cottages of Lake Worth book project were themselves cottage owners and an award-winning photographer, which is why there are so many excellent photos in the book. The book brings together popular topics that are of interest to audiences everywhere—inspiring cottage photography, garden design ideas, and solutions for living in small spaces. But getting almost instant success comes from having many local advocates, beneficiaries, and stakeholders such as the cottage owners featured in the book, the Cultural Council of Palm Beach County, and various supportive individuals and local businesses. There are also many local venues and opportunities for selling the book. So, not surprisingly, I received this email shortly after the book was published:
Hi, Michael—“Can you believe it, we are going for our second printing of our book? On Monday, the board gave a collective thumbs up for more books. . . . We are down to fewer than 150! Thank you again for making our book so, so successful!”
Yes, I could definitely believe it. Their success had nothing to do with Amazon or national bookstores—which they didn’t use to sell the first print run. In fact, it was mostly word-of-mouth marketing and commitment to creating a quality product.
A big part of the book’s success comes from the creators’ decision to go beyond self-publishing. That started with creating their own publisher identity to become an independent publisher. They carried this through, following publisher best practices with the editing, design, branding, printing, and marketing strategy. They were receptive to professional guidance and made decisions guided by marketing ideas that you would expect from an acquisitions editor at an experienced publishing house. The result is a book that anyone would find interesting and enjoyable to look through. Not only does it not look “self-published,” it is easily competitive with the best books in its category.
“. . . it was wonderful that we chose to work with you after receiving a recommendation from mutual friends. Our book has been a huge success and you are a great part of that success . . . People love it and smile when they look at it. You were always available to talk to us and guide us through some important decisions . . . AND the book is beautiful, thanks to your design! We could not have asked for more . . . By the way, we are selling so fast that we are depleting our supply of hardbacks . . . We should have listened to you when you wanted us to print more! The Best to You.” —The Cottages of Lake Worth Book Committee
“Well, it seems we ALL did a great job on our book. The public loves it, and they are selling fast.” —Janice Snearer
Here’s a video that shows the spot varnish effect:
The photographer who created the photos in the book was kind enough to send me this nice endorsement:
“Michael Rohani . . . guided us through the production of the book . . . Without him, we are certain, that our book would not be the successful tribute to Lake Worth and its cottages. His sage advice saved us money and helped us make good decisions to ensure that we produced the most beautiful coffee table book our region has ever seen. In four months, we have sold 80% of our print run. I wish Michael could hear the wonderful comments from those viewing the book. He would hear praiseful words such as “wonderful,” “professional,” “gorgeous” and “spectacular.” We always say, “Well, the best decision we made was hiring Michael.” We appreciated his warm, patient and personal approach through the laborious process of getting our book to print. . . . He completed his tasks quickly and expertly, and our pages reflected his immense talents. We can’t recommend Michael Rohani more highly.” —Taylor Jones, Photographer for Living Large in Small Spaces: The Cottages of Lake Worth
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Fantastic news! The Next Generation Indie Book Awards has just named The Cottages of Lake Worth book a finalist under the Coffee Table Book/Photography category! I’m very happy to have had the opportunity to design this book and work with talented photographer, Taylor Jones, and the team who made this project happen.https://indiebookawards.com/fpreview658349862