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  • 03 Feb 2016 3:04 PM | Elizabeth Lorayne (Administrator)

    We are thrilled to interview book designer and new board member, Jenny Putnam of J. Putnam Design for this edition of Learn from Your Peers.

    1. When did you know you wanted to be in publishing as a book designer? What does a book designer do - what are their responsibilities?

    I think I always wanted to end up in publishing. I grew up in a family of bibliophiles - my dad is an editor and a writer, my grandfather was the law librarian at Harvard Law School for many years, and my great-grandfather was the head of the composing room at Riverside Press, so I guess you could say it's genetic. (laughs)

    A book designer brings a book from manuscript form to a fully-formatted, print (or eBook) ready file. Basically, we make a book look like a book, instead of a pile of typed pages. The responsibilities of an independent designer generally include cost estimating, creating and maintaining a production schedule, designing and creating templates for interior pages and covers, image research, creation and correction, 'pouring' a manuscript - that is, formatting the manuscript into the design templates, print buying, and print management.

    The following page samples are from the upcoming book, Cooking Through History by Claire Cabot.

    2. What does your designing process look like?

    I prefer to first meet with a prospective client in person, if possible, to discuss their vision of the finished book. We talk about trim size, the cover, how and where images will be placed, the design and printing process, some basic administrative issues, and I try to answer any questions the author may have. Next, I work up a detailed price quote based on our discussion.

    Once the quote has been accepted, I will create a formatted sample chapter for the author's review. It may take a  few iterations to get to exactly what the author envisions; once the design has been finalized I will format the rest of the manuscript and return a pdf for proofreading. Often I will also be finding and/or manipulating image files before adding them to the layout.

    Simultaneous to this process, if I am providing print management as well as design services, I will be gathering printer quotes for the author. Once a printer has been chosen and the book is ready to go, I will act as liaison between the author and the printer.

    3. Tell us about one of your projects. What does a typical timeline look like?

    I'm working on several projects right now that I'm really excited about. One is the memoir of a woman who married a man from another country and subsequently spent twenty-five years living and raising a family in a different culture. It's a fascinating story and I feel so privileged that she's trusted me to help her bring it out into the world.

    There really is no typical timeline. It very much depends upon an author's timeline and style. Each of the three authors I'm working with right now have very different ways of working: one is very methodical and prefers to receive a proof of each chapter separately, so that he can take his time over the proofreading, another is anxious to have her book printed as soon as possible, and the third is fairly laid back.

    Generally, however, the process, from initial meeting to the author having a bound book in their hands, will usually take from four to six months, depending on the complexity of the manuscript.

    4. How long have you been in the publishing industry? When and why did you decide to go off on your own?

    I've been in publishing for about 15 years - I've worked at large publishing houses like Houghton Mifflin, and tiny houses with less than 10 employees. I had been considering going out on my own for several years when, in late 2013, I was laid off from the last place I worked. I took it as a sign from the Universe that it was time to take the leap, so I got myself a business license and never looked back.

    5. How do you find your clients? And how do they find you?

    I talk to EVERYONE! (laughs) Word-of-mouth and networking are very important, but so are trade shows and conferences. I have a website, but use that mostly as an online portfolio. It's really about getting the word out there, so I just try to make myself as visible as possible, and people do find me.

    6. Are there organizations beside IPNE that have been helpful with networking?

    Bookbuilders of Boston is a fantastic networking resource. There's also the annual New England Author's Expo, presented by Pear Tree Publishing - I met the three authors that I'm currently working at this conference. The Newburyport Literary Festival is also a wonderful place to meet independent authors.

    7. How do you balance being a mom and an independent book designer?

    Obviously, any parent who works full time can find it difficult to balance home and work life. I'm lucky because I can make my own hours, up to a certain point. In my line of work there will always be deadlines - that's unavoidable - but I have some strict rules for myself to adhere to when I'm not on a deadline. I always stop work at 5 PM, no matter what I'm doing. The evening is devoted to my son - homework, dinner and spending time together. As a divorced mom, I have a bit more freedom, in that my son is with his dad every other weekend. This is great for me because I can work non-stop if necessary on the weekends when I don't have to be mom, and then dedicate the entire weekend to my kiddo when I do have him. The best of both worlds!

    8. What advice do you have for other independent book designers?

    Train your authors well!! (laughs) Seriously though, the more you can de-mystify the entire process for authors, the more likely they are to trust you with their precious work. Always remember that you are there to bring the author's vision to light.

  • 31 Jan 2016 11:16 AM | Brian Jud (Administrator)
    You’ve heard, “Ask and you shall receive.” But you have to ask the right question to receive what you want. Google founders Page and Brin didn’t ask, “How can we create a search engine?” They asked, “How do we organize the entire world’s information and make it accessible and useful?” Don't ask, "How can I sell my book?" Ask, "How can I deliver a message that will help my readers transform their lives?"

  • 28 Jan 2016 9:01 PM | Brian Jud (Administrator)

    Many publishers first create a book and then look for ways and places to sell it. A better strategy is to first research the conditions that are best for growth and then define the product.

    Before he launched Amazon, Jeff Bezos evaluated the opportunities for creating an Internet business. He believed that E-commerce was the natural solution for a fragmented market with an enormous number of SKUs, a small ship-able product and a stable supply chain characterized by many sellers served by a few, dominant middlemen. He was not an experienced publisher, but opted for books as the product for Amazon.com because they were the rational choice under those conditions. And the rest, as they say, is history!

    Apply this concept to your business. Do not simply choose a manuscript first, and then debate the form in which you will publish it: printed book or ebook and where it will be sold. Instead, evaluate the opportunity in five categories: market conditions, competitive activity, marketing opportunities, consumer needs and potential outcomes. Then make the choice of product form (pbook, ebook, audiobook, vbook, app) and where, when and how you will sell it.

  • 25 Jan 2016 9:26 PM | Brian Jud (Administrator)

    This directory can help you find the right local event where you can exhibit books and reach new readers. 

    On the website (click image) you can choose your state from the left column. Basic access is free, but extended access requires a $50 annual subscription.

  • 20 Jan 2016 4:01 PM | Brian Jud (Administrator)

    Book marketing is like an iceberg where bookstores are the visible tip, and special sales the unseen, larger opportunity. Sell your books in hidden markets to increase your sales, revenue and profits. 

    Review the recording from Jan 21 to talk about how you can take advantage of special sales!

  • 15 Jan 2016 3:05 PM | Brian Jud (Administrator)
    There is a unique way to trap monkeys in the islands of the South Seas. The natives drill a small hole in a coconut, hollow it out and fill it with rice. Once a monkey puts its hand in the coconut to get the food, it cannot remove its clenched fist. Refusing to let go of their prize, the monkeys are unable to escape.


    Book publishers can get caught in a similar trap if they become conditioned to avoid risks and persist in using strategies that were successful in the past, without evaluating whether they are still relevant today. Their grasp on this comfortable feeling of security yields the same result as that of the island monkeys. Instead of duplicating past efforts, introduce new titles using a different game plan, like selling to non-bookstore buyers.

  • 05 Jan 2016 9:46 AM | Brian Jud (Administrator)

    As you finalize your 2016 marketing plan, try writing your goals differently to find new ways to reach them. A goal to “Sell X0,000 books by December 31, 2016” places your focus on selling books. If you say “Reach net revenue of $X00,000” you expand your focus to profitably selling your content through books, booklets or other formats. And you could increase revenue through corporate sales, consulting and/or speaking.

  • 23 Dec 2015 8:38 AM | Brian Jud (Administrator)

    Planning is like laying track for a railroad -- it establishes a solid foundation, provides a path to your destination and controls deviation. And it helps you move forward when uncontrollable events occur. But just as the track does not propel you forward, neither does your plan. Your passion and productive action provide the fuel for the engine taking you on your journey to success. Create your plan for 2016 during this relatively slow period before the end of the year so you can start the new year full steam ahead.

  • 09 Dec 2015 5:38 AM | Robert McCarty

    IPNE member Barking Planet just negotiated a 3-book contract with a Chinese distributor. 

    "And now, our foreign rights rep, Deanna Leah, has contacted me about a deal with Storyplayr" bubbled Barking Planet publisher Robert McCarty.  Leah is US-based and attends the London and Frankfurt book fairs. She promotes books with a better world theme. 

    McCarty has found this rep to be "knowledgeable, hard working, honest and very good to work with." There is a fee involved. If you believe in the foreign rights potential of your books, he recommends starting with HBG.

    Deanna Leah
    HBG Productions & International Publishers Alliance
    PO Box 5560 Chico CA 95927
    (530) 893-4699

  • 15 Nov 2015 1:59 PM | Charlotte Pierce (Administrator)

    The New England Publishing Collaboration (NEPCo) Awards, which honor excellence in publishing collaboration, were held on November 10, 2015. Judges selected three winners, and an additional Audience Choice winner was selected by online voting at the event.

    The judging panel:

    Amy Brand, Director, The MIT Press

    Sanj Kharbanda, Senior Vice President, Digital Markets, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

    Sanders Kleinfeld, Director of Publishing Technology, O’Reilly Media

    Amit Shah, Executive Managing Director, Six Red Marbles


    First Place: Harvard University Press (collaborating with archives across Massachusetts)

    Second Place: Aries Systems (collaborating with Copyright Clearance Center)

    Third Place: American Meteorological Society (collaborating with Second Nature)

    Audience Choice: Kudos (collaborating with several publishers, including Emerald Group and the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery)

    Finalists described their projects live on stage in rapid-fire multimedia presentations. Live judging followed, and winners were announced at the event. Special guest Ian Condry, author of The Soul of Anime, spoke at the event: Professor Condry’s book describes the role of cross-industry collaboration in the success of anime.

    Photographs of the winners are at www.nepcoawards.com, and presentation videos will be available soon.

    About Bookbuilders of Boston: Bookbuilders is a non-profit professional group founded in 1937 to serve the needs of New Englanders working in the publishing industry. Its mission is to provide educational and networking opportunities to members, which include publishers, vendors, and individuals. For more information about Bookbuilders, visit www.bbboston.org. For more information about NEPCo, visit www.nepcoawards.com.

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