In this episode
Michele DeFilippo is an indie book publishing mentor who educates authors on better self-publishing, and author of Publish Like the Pros. She’s also owner of 1106Design, which was recently named as the only full-service book design firm recommended by IngramSpark.
Season 1 Episode 8: Michele DeFilippo on Book Design
How did you get your start in publishing?
I started in the 1970s when I started in this business typesetting was done with melted lead on machines called Mergenthaler typesetters. It wasn’t much different than Gutenberg, but back then it was considered high technology, it was faster than any other way that had been done before.
By the 1980s, personal computers were coming onto the scene, and have since offered authors a lot more flexibility in writing and producing books. But this also means the market is saturated with books that are very poorly done, which makes it challenging for those of us who’ve been in the industry for any length of time.
Today, everyone uses Microsoft Word and Photoshop to put words and images together. They end up with a product that looks something like a book, but not like a book that’s been professionally designed.
How does typography affect the reading experience?
I tell people all the time there’s much more to designing a book than just picking a font and a font size and deciding that you want the margins to be half an inch. There are many more issues involved in terms of what we call the color of the type.
Browsing through a book a sensory experience. There’s something about that book that draws your eye: the cover, the back cover, the pages all give a subliminal impression about whether or not that book contains credible advice.
You don’t really think about this on a conscious level, but something tells you that this book is serious, that it’s going to help you, that it’s worth the money and then you choose one and you bring it to the register and then you hopefully go home and enjoy it.
Competent book design has been clinically shown to increase reading comprehension. If you’ve gone through all the time and trouble to research and write a book, you certainly want people to understand what you’ve written.
How does cover design affect the bottom line?
If a potential reader is distracted by poor typography or poor design they may put the book down and they may not get your message at all, so it’s a really big risk not to hire an experienced book designer to give your book that package that is going to help people understand your words.
Book design is important is for yourself; you’ve written a book, so you’re going to be promoting the book, so you need to be proud of it. You need to know that it’s the very best it can be because that will come through in your tone of voice and in your smile and in every other aspect of your behavior when you’re telling people about your book.
There’s an abundance of service providers that claim to help authors cut costs and still produce a professional product. What are your thoughts?
I don’t actually blame authors for doing it that way because there’s a host of self-publishing companies and other so-called experts telling authors they don’t need to hire a book designer. They should format their own book, design their own cover. The company will give you a template and you can do it for free.
These companies cast a wide net and pull in as many authors as possible who have not done any research. Before they find out that they’d been scammed, the companies are out there servicing the next batch of authors that they reeled in.
It’s quite astonishing and very difficult for anyone like myself who’s been crafting good books for a long time. It hurts the authors and now in some instances I hear authors telling each other not to self-publish and that it’s a scam.
But self-publishing isn’t a scam if you do it correctly and if you follow the best practices of book design that have been in practice for hundreds of years. A major publisher would never tell an author go ahead and format their book in Microsoft Word. That advice is just downright silly. But if you type self-publishing into the search engines that’s the advice you’re going to find.
Barnes and Noble will soon allow self-published or indie published books to be sold on their bookshelves alongside books that have been traditionally published. Thoughts on that?
It really isn’t all that different than the small publisher program they’ve always had. But these books still need to be properly designed and edited. No bookstore can afford to have merchandise on the shelf that doesn’t move. A bookstore cares only about what the cover and the interior look like. Barnes and Noble is a retailer and like any other retailer they want to put products on their shelf that look good and that will attract buyers.
Tell us about Mentoring Monday
Every Monday morning except for federal holidays I get on the phone, and have a conference call with Judith Briles who is known as the book shepherd. She’s another expert in book publishing and author of 30 books, some traditionally published. She now spends her time coaching authors at the very highest level.
Calls are Mondays at noon ET every Monday and you can dial in to 218-632-9854 and the access code is 1239874444. Judith and I will answer your questions about anything related to publishing.
What books can give listeners more information on typography and typesetting?
Here’s where you can learn more about Michele: