How to make a book - part one

For those who might not know, in November 2016, we successfully crowdfunded our very first children’s book Bat Dog’s Forever Home. We’re now only a few weeks away from seeing it in the flesh, so we thought you might find it interesting to hear a little bit about the leg-work that goes on ‘behind the scenes’ when getting a book ready for publication.

Having worked in publishing for quite a while, I tend to forget that not everyone knows about the various ‘bits and pieces’ that have to be in place before a title goes on sale. But, trust me, there are a fair few!

So, apart from writing the story, what have we been doing to prepare Bat Dog’s Forever Home for its big day?

Physicality

Before commissioning the illustrations for Bat Dog, we had to think about what size the book was going to be.

Page count, dimensions, and paper weight must all be taken into account when planning a title because just the smallest tweak can affect printing costs in a big way. For example, because of the way the paper is cut, it was cheaper to have 28 pages than 24 (page count must always be divisible by 4), and it was cheaper for it to be A4-size than square.

In terms of paper weight, it’s important that a children’s book is durable and that the illustrations look their best. And then there’s the decision of whether to laminate the cover or not. So, lots of little things that can have a big effect on both the cost and the look of the finished product.

Luckily, our contacts at Zenith Print Group are wonderfully helpful and sent us a couple of plain-paper samples so we could judge the exact finish.

I can’t emphasise how important it is to have solid production advice if you’re not experienced in this area (my own experience is primarily in marketing and editorial). A good printer will advise about what is most appropriate for your needs.

Layout

Before the crowdfunding process began, I had a rough idea of which bits of the story would fit on which page. I also knew I wanted to have a ‘dedications’ page at the back and that there should be room for what we call the 'imprint' page, which lists copyright details and ISBN, etc.

Once we were successfully funded, however, the fun really began!

I gave illustrator Jessica my ideas for the text and she roughed out the pages. Her ideas then influenced the decisions I needed to make about editing different sections and moving bits around.

This was all done relatively quickly as we needed to crack on and get the finished artwork completed, but it was particularly interesting for me to see that some sections of text became irrelevant in the light of Jessica having illustrated them so well. For example, describing Bat Dog looking sad was unnecessary when Jessica captured her expression so beautifully. And the joy of children’s books is that this is something parents will be able to discuss while reading the book with their children… ‘Oh look, why do you think Bat Dog is sad?’, ‘How do we know she’s sad?’ etc.

Typography

I have plenty of publishing friends who geek-out over fonts. But for those who live in the non-publishing universe, it’s probably not something you think about very much. Which is precisely the key. Readers tend to only notice a font if it’s particularly bad or incongruent with what it’s being used for - the trick is to make them ignore it!

Choosing font for a children’s book is perhaps more tricky that one would imagine, as it needs to fit the whimsical nature of the story and illustrations, but must still be legible. Children need well defined, un-quirky letter design i.e. a ‘d’ needs to look like a ‘d’ and not be confused with a ‘b’ or a ‘p’.

In order to decide which font to use (and I admit I’m still not 100% sure about this), I took one page from the book and re-designed it with ten different fonts, then printed them all out to ruminate over for a while. I’ve narrowed them down to my favourite three, but may do a test with my young nieces to see which they’re drawn to before I make my final decision.

Bat Dog Gallery

After seeing so many positive comments from our backers about their own experiences of rescuing ‘Bat Dogs’, we thought it would be super-special if we could have a Bat Dog Gallery next to our dedication page.

Since starting to receive your gorgeous photographs, we’ve been playing around with layouts as we’d like the page to remain fluid with the rest of the book. We don’t want it to just look like it was plonked on the end, so we might use some of Jessica’s lovely fairy-tale elements like flowers and trees to decorate the page.

Next time...

In How to make a book - part two, we’ll be talking about the nitty-gritty of setting up a title so it can actually be sold and we'll dip into process of organising rewards for our ‘crowd’.

Team Bewick

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