Things are getting back on track here as I get back into the swing of things following my vacation to New Hampshire. It was my intent to share more about my book design work before I got sidetracked with my busy schedule! Finally, I have found time to put some things together. I thought I would share my story of how I came to be a book designer.
I was hired to my first job as a book compositor a few months after graduating college. I had a general art degree, and little to no experience with books, so I had a lot to learn! After a short training period, my main task was to perform edits to books that had already been laid out. The company where I was employed had a variety of publishers and books they worked with, from textbooks to novels to children's books, so I got a lot of experience. As time went on, I gained more responsibilities and was assigned more complex tasks. Eventually, I was able to typeset books from scratch, starting with the author manuscript. At this point, however, I was not designing the books, but rather following templates already created by a separate designer.
At first, I did a lot of work in Quark Xpress, but the work eventually transitioned to almost exclusively Adobe Indesign. Thus began my experience with that program, which is the main software I use today.
This continued for many years. At first, I worked across the spectrum of publishers included in my company's clientele. As the company evolved, though, so did my role in it. In my latter years, I worked mainly with Scholastic books, which was a lot of fun for me since I have a love for the YA genre.
Diving into Book Design
When I left the company and began freelancing, I started offering my services not only to typeset, but also design books. Having so much experience as a compositor helped a lot. I now knew by experience the general layout of a book, how to tweak the text to create a high-level composition, how to optimize files for printing, general knowledge of typography, and just what looks good in a design. Having the technical knowledge allowed me to use my artistic intuition to guide my design decisions.
I initially did some work on simple titles for self-publishers. My first big client was Atlantic Publishing, a small publisher out of Florida that I still work with today. The books I do for them, mainly in the nonfiction YA market, are a lot of fun to design. I get to have a lot of fun with typography and sidebar elements within the text. This is also when I first started working on covers, whereas my main experience up to this point was with interiors.
Besides Atlantic, I now work regularly with several other companies, including some design work with my old office, as well as the occasional odd job for a self-publishing author. While I am now venturing into other areas of work, such as illustration and surface design, I think books will always be a part of what I do.
My journey into book publishing wasn't planned, but I'm sure glad it found me. It has been a great ride so far, and I can't wait to see where it goes in the future.