ART DIRECTION AND BOOK DESIGN FOR SELF-PUBLISHING CHILDREN’S BOOK AUTHORS
If you are self-publishing a children’s book, it can be very overwhelming at times, very simply, because you likely don’t have the knowledge, experience or skill set to take on all the different functions involved in publishing. There is so much more to it than you initially thought, right? In traditional publishing, there are many different roles and people involved in making a book happen; the writer, possibly an agent, the publisher (aka the investor), the editor, the art director, the book designer, and then the illustrator (and of course marketing, sales and public relations people for after the product is ready). Each of these roles requires unique knowledge, experience and/or skill set. Now, some of these roles you can learn how to do pretty comparably by increasing your knowledge and know-how, such as how to market your book. But roles that require a unique skill set and experience, such as illustration, art direction, and design are much harder to “fake.” Most self-publishing authors know they can’t draw and hire an illustrator. That’s usually a no-brainer, right? But where many self-published children’s books far short, and to be honest, a majority of them do, is in the overall visual development, design and aesthetic of the product itself. It is a product after all, a visual retail product. Successful books do not happen by accident. They are developed, designed and strategized from A to Z to appeal, reach, and “grab” their ideal client. This is just branding.
What these books, that fall short, are often missing is art direction and design, two extremely crucial, and often over-looked, roles in publishing. This is where I come in. Long before I was an illustrator I was a brand developer and graphic designer. I have run my own branding and web design studio at Natalie Merheb Design for ten years, helping creative entrepreneurs and small businesses with defining their business identity, figuring out who their ideal clients are, developing a brand voice, and creating a visual identity that will resonate and connect with their ideal clients. All of this experience and the unique skill set I have developed, along with my illustration know-how, translates into me being able to create a children’s book, or visual retail product, that does not fall short in comparison to how books that are traditionally published look. I can’t help you with writing, publishing, and selling, but I can help with making your book look the best it can be. People do judge books by the covers and how they look. That is what makes or breaks a sale. Unfortunately, most authors do not know enough about art, illustration and design to take on these roles themselves and they also do not know how to brief, guide, and critique the work their illustrator or designer sends them. They sometimes know they like or don’t like something, but can’t articulate to the illustrator why something seems off or how to fix it. Or they let their personal preferences and sentimentality (especially when the story is based on a personal experience or circumstance) get in the way of making a sound business decision for developing the book’s aesthetic.
Let’s face it. For the self-publishing author, commissioning an illustrator can be an enormous cost. And even though most illustrators are still underpaid, I do recognize it is a lot of money for one person to come up with. Not every author can afford or come up with a way to pay the standard $3000-5000 USD (or more) for a professional illustrator of quality (although I highly recommend crowd-funding through Kickstarter or other platform). Many authors recognize the quality of work that I put out for my clients and inquire into my children’s book illustration services. However, I am not always available to take on a full book project, because my hand can only draw so many illustrations each year, or I am too expensive for their budget, or in some cases, I decide my illustration style is not suitable for their manuscript. I know my strengths and weaknesses as an artist and am happy to point an author in another direction if I know I cannot produce what they need to my typical high standard. By hiring me to art direct and design the visual aspects of your book project, it is my hope that it will open more doors for authors to be able to hire aspiring or more budget-friendly illustrators, but without sacrificing the expert eye that is needed to produce a good-looking retail product.
PACKAGE #1: ART DIRECTION & BOOK DESIGN PRO
- Initial consultation session (either by email or Skype), where we discuss your vision for your book and overall plan for your self-publishing journey.
- Recommendation of the illustration style(s) and medium(s) that would work best for your manuscript.
- Assistance in finding or vetting an illustrator. I will help you in your search for an illustrator who works in the recommended illustration style and within your budget, or I can vet a few illustrators you have have already narrowed your decision down to. Vetting includes reviewing the illustrator’s portfolio, identifying strengths and weaknesses, and guiding you in commissioning a “sample/concept art” piece from them, if needed, as well as critique and analysis of any commissioned samples.
- Creation of a visual Mood Board. A mood board is like a collage of pictures used to guide the illustrator in how you envision your book, to include aspects such as: style, texture, layout, composition, perspective, typography, color palette, etc.
- Creation of a Creative Brief. This is a document of summaries and descriptions used to guide the illustrator in how you envision your book, such as character design and scenery, as well as technical requirements for printing (i.e. how large do they need to create the illustrations), etc.
- Initial layout and typography set-up for the illustrator to use as a guide for the illustrations (so they know how much space the text will take up and where it will be in the placed. It will also help them in determining if a page requires a full-bleed, spot or vignette illustration).
- Review and critique of the initial character design.
- Review and critique of the rough thumbnail storyboard.
- Review and critique of the refined storyboard/line drawings.
- Review and critique of the first finished colored spread.
- Review and critique of the finished illustrations.
- Book Design. Upon completion and handover of the illustrations, I will finalize the book design and format the book so that it is ready for printing.
INVESTMENT: $799 USD
PACKAGE #2: ART DIRECTION BASICS
- Initial consultation session to: A.) Discuss your vision for your book and overall plan for your self-publishing journey. B.) Recommend the illustration style(s) and design elements that would work best for your manuscript, and 3.) Feedback for the project as a whole, from an illustrator’s perspective, including, identifying things that I see will work to your benefit and things I see that might pose a challenge to the illustrator and designer.
- Review and feedback on your chosen illustrator or final two that you have narrowed your decision down to. I will review their portfolios, any commissioned samples, and identify any strengths or weaknesses I see, with recommendations for how to move forward.
- Review and critique the initial character design.
- Review and critique the refined storyboard.
- Review and critique the first finished colored spread.
- Review and critique the finished illustrations and book design (the “finished” pdf of your book including all illustrations and text)
INVESTMENT: $399 USD