Project Spotlight: Book Design

How do you go from crying tears over InDesign during your first week of class to voluntarily redesigning your book over Christmas break? Last semester I took Lisa Diercks’s Intro to Book Design class, and had two goals:

  1. Get through it
  2. Hold my book in my hands (finally)!

I know “get through it” sounds dramatic but I’m not a graphic designer. I’m not very technological. And Adobe InDesign is no basic level beginner’s program. When I read through the syllabus, I was excited but a bit daunted. And in the first week, Professor Diercks had said that she had yet to have a student not be able to create a book during this class. So I was hopeful. I mean, even though I’m not technological, I had enough faith in my abilities to not be her only student ever to not complete this project.

Diving into Book Design

I’d love to say that once I opened up Adobe InDesign, we were fast friends, I was a total natural at it, and I’m now thinking of being an author and book designer. That isn’t what happened. In one of our first weeks, I remember an assignment that was pretty straightforward; we had to create a book grid.

To me, it sounded like the most fundamental part of the whole process. I had the textbook, I had tutorials online, – and I still couldn’t figure it out. I was looking at what my classmates had turned in and I could not for the life of me figure out how to do it, too.

I worked on it for hours and hours, sent what was basically the job done wrong over to Lisa, with a note that the assignment had completely stressed me out (possibly made me cry) and I had no clue was I was doing… and her response was so kind and she worked with me until I understood that assignment. So began a semester of working very closely with her on each aspect of the course, especially the items that I could not figure out on my own. Her door was always open, and I knocked pretty often.

I’m taking the online MFA program, and one of my worries with doing the program online was that when struggling with material or assignments, I might struggle alone. But I was definitely not alone – and haven’t been for any of my classes. As the semester progressed, I had to call on Lisa’s help a bit less, because InDesign and I were getting on pretty well.

I shocked myself when, during peer critiques, I was able to explain something to a classmate who didn’t understand how to do it. And my classmates did the same for me.

As Fall rolled right into the holidays, my book came together and I was so excited to receive it in the mail as my final. I was happy to have it and hold it. But… I wasn’t happy with it. I realized I’d made a few errors early on in picking my trim size. In choosing the size font I had wanted, my page count was not where I wanted it to be, and the company I used for the printing of the book did a decent job, but they did not have all the options that I wanted. The pages were white, not cream, and the cover was glossy, not matte. But I’d done the assignment and didn’t turn out to be the first student of Lisa’s not to be able to create a book.

honeymoon alone book design

Falling in love with the process

When the program was completely wrapped up, I had some weeks with no classes and I got right back into InDesign and got to work to create the book all over again. I worked with the trim size I wanted, changed the cover a bit, and decided to print via Ingram Spark. There’s a higher cost to doing it through them, but the result was so professional that I’ve already decided to use them as my Print On Demand company should I self-publish. When the book came in the mail, I was euphoric. It was exactly what I wanted!

Someone asked me why I redid it after the fact – since the course was over, and I’d done well in it. And it’s simple; the book is a reminder of what I am working toward as I workshop my novel, continue rewriting pages, and continue with the MFA program. I see it every day, and the way it looks now really helps me clearly imagine it published. And that, honestly, is invaluable.

About the Authornicole diebold

Nicole Diebold is a Popular Fiction Writing and Publishing MFA student. In a past life, she worked in television in Los Angeles. She now manages the corporate social responsibility marketing of global tour operator, Collette – a job that has taken her all over the world. She’s currently finishing her debut women’s fiction novel. If she’s not traveling, writing or marketing for CSR, she can probably be found reading somewhere, halfway through an iced coffee.