For my entire professional life, since the mid 1970s, I have been a book designer. But back in 2008, my two best textbook publishing clients suddenly stopped using freelancers, and the bottom dropped out of my business just like that. So I scrambled for a new way to make some money as a book designer.
A big change from book designer to writing and teaching
The first thing to do was to get a website going. So before starting one, I studied those of other book designers, and just about at the top of the search results was Fiona Raven. Her site was impressive, and she looked so friendly that I contacted her. I figured she lived at least 3000 miles away, so she might not mind hearing from a potential competitor.
Fiona was immediately encouraging and urged me to find self-publishing authors to work for. She even referred some of them to me when she was overwhelmed with requests. We corresponded for a couple of years via email and became good friends.
One of the things I did to promote my new business was to teach a three-hour intensive adult education class on self-publishing in a couple of nearby towns. I did find a few new clients that way, but the biggest benefit was the knowledge and confidence that I gained from teaching for the first time. (Read other blog posts about publishing here.)
In the meantime, Fiona had started a book called Book Design Made Simple, and advertised it on her site. When I inquired, Fiona admitted that she was stalled, and frankly too busy to work on the book, so I offered to review whatever she was ready to show me. I was immediately impressed. She had done a wonderful job of breaking the book design and production process down into a series of steps and describing the first few. This was going to be a very useful book.
A bigger change: becoming an author
Then one day, a year or so later, Fiona asked me to become her co-author. I can’t express how flattered I was, and how terrified. Me? Write something? But I realized that I had written my website and people seemed to like it, so maybe it would be possible. I dismissed my fears and accepted the challenge.
I decided to start with something simple, so I wrote definitions for the book’s glossary. As I went along, I added more and more terms. (If you buy the book and it seems to weigh a ton, you may wonder if book design really is simple! Forgive me—I think I’ve defined every book design and production term there is.) Then I took a stab at the preface. Okay, so after nibbling around the edges, I decided to get to the meat of the matter and worked on one chapter after another, following Fiona’s outline, so that the entire book page design section of the book is just about finished. After several revisions, it’s now worthy of being called a first draft, and you can check out the Contents here.