How I did it

 

At Blurb, we make making high-quality books easy. People from all walks of life––with and without professional design experience––can use Blurb to create the book of their dreams. In an ongoing series of interviews, we talk to people who have followed their dreams to make some amazing books.

We hope you’ll find these interviews chock full of imagination, inspiration, and motivation.

 

 

Interview: Zoe Heslop


Zoe Heslop’s Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy Guide To Student Cooking shows how Blurb can help you create a recipe book that’s a delight to look at and a source of practical information for students.


BLURB: What inspired you to make a book?

ZH: As part of my final year on a illustration and design course at university, we were allowed to do anything we liked. Food illustration was something I always wanted to do and being a student at the time it felt appropriate to combine the two. I felt that the usual student cookbooks were very basic with pictures of perfect food which in reality is not how it actually looks. So by illustrating [the cookbook], it would be different and the slightly "messy" naïve style would appeal to the student type.

BLURB: Why did you choose Blurb to make your book?

ZH: I chose Blurb because it had always been recommended to me, I'd heard the quality was very professional looking, and the process of making it would be simple too.


BLURB: What was your book-making process like? Did you plan everything out or was it more organic?

ZH: As there was a deadline for completion, I personally preferred to have a rough plan for when certain things would be finished by, so experimentation with illustration techniques and choosing recipes came first, then choosing what backgrounds would look best [came next], and then I drafted rough layouts of the pages and began final illustrations before placing them into Photoshop and into an InDesign layout. Finally came the last minute changes and amendments and it was ready to be sent off.


BLURB: What challenges did you face along the way?

ZH: Sometimes the layouts and compositions I had on paper didn’t come together on screen so rearranging them and even having to redraw things was time consuming and at times stressful but eventually worked out.


BLURB: What did people say (your spouse, children, parents, extended family, friends, co-workers) about your book? What was the most memorable comment and why?

ZH: I've had a lot of positive feedback from family and friends about my books. However, as I'm trying to become a successful illustrator, the best comments have came from people within companies—and a few even said they would buy it from me! Having a professional-looking book has definitely been helpful in helping me get freelance work.


BLURB: When you think about the process and the end-result of your book-making experience, what was the most surprising? Were there any unintentional consequences—good or bad?

ZH: When I think back, it felt impossible at the time to create a fully illustrated book. However, I did it and looking back it was good experience as it has helped me with hand lettering and illustration techniques, page compositions, and layouts—which will all be very important and useful for next time.


BLURB: If you could redo your book, would you do anything differently?

ZH: There are a few layouts and illustrations I'd like to change. I also wish I'd had time to do more!


BLURB: What would you say to encourage someone who lacks a little confidence about book-making?

ZH: Start now, as once you begin the process it gradually becomes easier and easier to think of page composition and what to put on the cover and slowly your book will start to come together. Then you can go back and change the bits you don’t like. You could even create a book with the minimum amount of pages and that way, once you've completed that, you'll have an even clearer idea of what to do next time. You never know until you try.


BLURB: Do you have any plans for more books? What are they?

ZH: I'm considering creating three mini baking booklets to sell as I now feel more comfortable and confident with food illustration, layouts, and book making—and a clearer idea of what these will look like. Close

Interview: Jay Tanner/Kevin Grossman (Fall 2013)


This duo’s You Can Do What A Toucan Can Do Too! is a fun, colorful lesson about turning a bad day around––and it shows how you can use Blurb to create beautiful children’s books.


BLURB: What inspired you to make a book?

JT: I had always wanted to illustrate a children’s book. I have a series of limited edition prints called Toucan King of the Yucatan. In 2006 I showed them during Santa Cruz Open Studios. My friend, Kevin Grossman visited my exhibit and said he had always wanted to write a children’s book. And that was the inspiration.

KG: I worked with Jerry for years in high-tech marketing and always enjoyed his artistry. When I saw his toucan art for the first time, I knew we had to do a children’s book together, which was a couple of years before I had children of my own.


BLURB: Why did you choose Blurb to make your book?

JT: A co-worker told me she had made a recipe book using Blurb. She said it was easy. So, I checked it out and had to agree. It was pretty easy!


BLURB: What was your book-making process like? Did you plan everything out or was it more organic?

JT: The book was carefully planned. It had to be in order to be sure the words and images would appear just the way we wanted them.

KG: Yes, we went through many revisions in order to [make] the most enjoyable book we could.


BLURB: What challenges did you face along the way?

JT: I don’t recall any challenges that stand out.


BLURB: What did people say (your spouse, children, parents, extended family, friends, co-workers) about your book? What was the most memorable comment and why?

JT: People were quite impressed. Rather than a comment, the most memorable experience was having a repeat customer who buys my book for friends’ children on their birthdays.

KG: The story was fun and lesson-laced, but it was Jerry’s vivid toucan imagination and colorful layouts that won the hearts and mind of friends and family.


BLURB: When you think about the process and the end-result of your book-making experience, what was the most surprising? Were there any unintentional consequences—good or bad?

JT: I was pleasantly surprised by Blurb’s quality and satisfaction guarantee. They have replaced books with no questions asked.

KG: The price points were higher than anticipated, but the book quality was fantastic. My daughters still love to read and look at the book today.


BLURB: If you could redo your book, would you do anything differently?

JT: I don’t think I would change anything.

KG: Just write more books!


BLURB: What would you say to encourage someone who lacks a little confidence about book-making?

JT: I would tell them that my experience with Blurb was fast and easy and that I’m sure their templates would make it even easier.


BLURB: Do you have any plans for more books? What are they?

JT: I don’t have any immediate plans, since my personal life is quite busy.

KG: One of these days! Close

Interview: Matt Tkocz (Fall 2013)


Matt Tkocz’s Rotation: 81 and Style & Moves show how you can use Blurb to create stunning graphic novels.


BLURB: What inspired you to make a book?

MT: I wanted to put together a portfolio that presented my work in a way that made it look better than it really was. At the same time it's an affordable way to make a ton of copies, which I then could give away to clients so they would have something to remember me by.


BLURB: Why did you choose Blurb to make your book?

MT: Truthfully, I chose Blurb because it was the only self-publishing service that offered landscape book formats at the time. For some reason, almost every single format out there is portrait.


BLURB: What was your book-making process like? Did you plan everything out or was it more organic?

MT: The process of [the] first Book I made (Rotation:81) was rather organic as I still had to figure out the best way to go about putting something like that together. By the time I made the second book (Style&Moves) I was already more familiar with the process which allowed me to plan ahead more, streamline my pipeline, and work out the kinks more efficiently.


BLURB: What challenges did you face along the way?

MT: Looking back, I probably should have downloaded the Adobe In Design [plugin] earlier in the book-making process, which would have allowed me to plan the aspect ratio of my illustrations to perfectly to fit the spreads. Instead I ended up having to crop many of the paintings to fit the chosen dimensions.


BLURB: What did people say (your spouse, children, parents, extended family, friends, co-workers) about your book? What was the most memorable comment and why?

MT: The reactions were pretty darn phenomenal. Many people even thought I was a published hotshot author.


BLURB: When you think about the process and the end-result of your book-making experience, what was the most surprising? Were there any unintentional consequences—good or bad?

MT: Before I finalized everything, I ordered a proof print of my book to make sure the colors and cropping would turn out the way I planned. That gave me a chance to make final adjustments before sending my finished files off to the press. I'm not a fan of surprises.


BLURB: If you could redo your book, would you do anything differently?

MT: Obviously as I evolve as an artist/designer/illustrator over time, prior work quickly becomes dated and obsolete, so yes! I would do everything differently!


BLURB: Do you have any plans for more books? What are they?

MT: I do have many ideas for books and interesting ways to present my work. Unfortunately these things take time and I'm still in the very early brainstorming stages. Stay tuned I guess. Close

Interview: Vincent Poke (Fall 2013)


ABC Animals by Vincent Poke is a refreshing take on the classic children’s book––and he made it with Blurb.


BLURB: What inspired you to make a book?

VP: I lived in Japan and taught English for a couple of years. I saw a need, and an opportunity, to create a book that would assist with teaching kids (and adults!) the English alphabet. I was influenced by the plethora of cartoon characters and mascots that are literally everywhere in Japan. I decided to draw a set of animals that would hopefully appeal to Japanese people. I also added adjectives to those animals so that students could learn more than just the names of animals in English.


BLURB: Why did you choose Blurb to make your book?

VP: I chose Blurb to make my book after trying a couple of Print-on-Demand sites. I found Blurb’s books to be of excellent quality without the premium price tag. I didn’t expect people to pay $100 to buy a small children’s book—no matter how good it was!


BLURB: What was your book-making process like? Did you plan everything out or was it more organic?

VP: I’m not a qualified graphic designer or illustrator so for me it was very much an organic process. I had an initial plan for my drawings, sketched them out, and then did final illustrations using markers. I had a friend in Japan with a large printer so I got a limited number of really basic copies made. I discovered Blurb when I was back in Australia. When I knew I would use you guys I wanted to make my book look more professional. I decided to re-do all my pictures in Adobe Illustrator to make them bolder, brighter and more consistent. There was just one catch: I had to learn how to use the program! Then I showed it around to a few teachers for more feedback. I did have a typo after all that! Through a lot of trial and error I eventually finished it and put it out there.


BLURB: What challenges did you face along the way?

VP: As I mentioned, learning a new graphics program to illustrate my book was a fun challenge. I sent my book (before Blurb) to a couple of publishing companies and was rejected every time. It was a challenge to keep on trying. Blurb was a good solution to having both a budget and experience level of zero.


BLURB: What did people say (your spouse, children, parents, extended family, friends, co-workers) about your book? What was the most memorable comment and why?

VP: Everybody loves it—or says they do. Some are probably just being polite! My wife has always been very supportive and encouraging. Some good friends are selling the book in a baby gift package from their online store; that’s a pretty good compliment. Most memorable was when my three-year-old son who can’t read yet just rattled off most of the names of the pictures yesterday when I was browsing through them on the computer. “Crazy Crab, Dad!” To me that’s what it’s all about.


BLURB: When you think about the process and the end-result of your book-making experience, what was the most surprising? Were there any unintentional consequences—good or bad?

VP: The end-result is the quality of the book. It is very satisfying to see your creation go from pencil and marker on a dodgy printer to a fantastic professional-quality bound book. It has now inspired me to go back and study Graphic Design.


BLURB: If you could redo your book, would you do anything differently?

VP: Not really. I enjoyed the experience. It was a steep learning curve but I gained some valuable lessons out of it all. The biggest thing I’ve learnt is if you are going to put a product for sale out to the public make sure it is the best possible product you can do. Ask yourself: would you be willing to buy it?


BLURB: What would you say to encourage someone who lacks a little confidence about book-making?

VP: I just read this the other day on twitter from illustrator Dave Mottram (@dmott70): “Just do good work. You’re gonna get seen, honest.” Simple advice, but so true.


BLURB: Do you have any plans for more books? What are they?

VP: I have two young sons and a full-time job. They’ve taken up most of my time over the last four years. My boys especially love animals so I have some plans to make a book about dangerous animals—when I get the time! Close

 

 

Interview: Laura Holmes (My Family & Food)


To capture the legacy of her mother and grandmother’s unique home recipes, Laura Holmes’s My Family & Food used Blurb—and inspired us all.


BLURB: What inspired you to make a book?

LH: I grew up in Donovan, Illinois--a small mid-western, farming community--and in my family, we learned at an early age that food is best when it is homemade. We also learned how to cook and bake at a very young age. I can thank my mother and grandmother for this gift and for my love of food—especially sweets. I love my sweets.


My mother and grandmother were my inspiration for creating this family cookbook—a collection of recipes that have been passed down through my family and new ones we’ve adopted along the way. It was time to put all of those family gems that we enjoy when we get together in one place!


BLURB: Why did you choose Blurb to make your book?

LH: I wanted to have full control with the design of my book and once I saw Blurb offered the InDesign/PDF feature, I looked no more. In addition to my love for baking, I also have a passion for design and photography. Being an Art Director at an advertising agency, I knew I wanted to design my own layout and photograph the recipes.


BLURB: What was your book-making process like? Did you plan everything out or was it more organic?

LH: I had a general plan of what I wanted. First step was to collect the recipes and then categorize into chapters. I found a lot of design and photography inspiration online as well as magazines. Once I had a pretty solid design direction and style in place, I planned a long weekend with my mother and grandmother to cook and bake with them. After collecting over 100 recipes—I was feeling ambitious--I knew we weren’t going to get them all done in a weekend. I focused on the ones I wasn’t as familiar with making. It was important for me to document exactly how these recipes—especially the ones handed down through family generations--are made because they never quite turn out the same when you make them yourself. We spent four full days in the kitchen at my grandmother’s house and probably knocked out about 25-30 recipes (testing recipes, food styling and photographing).


Now, you’re probably thinking I’d stop with those 25-30 and finish out the book with text-only pages for the rest, but I like to see a picture for each recipe. Am I right? I tested, styled and photographed all 112 recipes I collected. Well, almost. I did use a couple pictures from family because they turned out really nice. But it was more than just the recipes, it was about the family history and stories. I made sure to sprinkle that into the entire book. It took me around two years from start to finish. However, it was my pet project and I wasn’t able to work on it full time.


BLURB: What challenges did you face along the way?

LH: Finding a cutoff point for recipes, for one. And two, trying to not over design it. When you put something down and come back to it, new ideas would pop into my head. What if I did it this way? Or, how about a layout like this? I had to pick a direction and stick with it otherwise I never would have finished. What can I say? I’m a perfectionist.


BLURB: What did people say (your spouse, children, parents, extended family, friends, co-workers) about your book? What was the most memorable comment and why?

LH: My immediate family was so thrilled when it was finally ready. I still remember the Memorial Day weekend I went home to celebrate, cracked a bottle of champagne and handed them out (My husband and I live about 2 hours north in southwest suburbs of Chicago). My grandmother purchased a book for each household in my family (siblings, parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins). My husband, Jon, was proud of my accomplishment, but deep down I knew he was happy it was over. Now I can spend more time with him versus working on the book!


My co-workers were equally as impressed with the book and many of them purchased their own copy – which I was not expecting. It felt good!


There were many memorable comments, but this one stuck out in my mind from my cousin Shana:

It's so much more than we could have asked for and we are all so thankful for Laura's eye for perfection and detail and her endless desire to make a great family keepsake for all of us to share. To be honest, I used my cookbook at least once a week, cooking and baking foods that I love. My favorite is when each time I open it to see the faces of those I hold so dear. At least for me, it allows me to keep a bit of home with me wherever I go.


To read her full blog post about the cookbook go here:

Family Food Part I

Family Food Part II


BLURB: When you think about the process and the end-result of your book-making experience, what was the most surprising? Were there any unintentional consequences -- good or bad?

LH: I started posting pictures of the recipes on Facebook part way into the book making process and I was surprised at the amount of responses and comments people had. It was great to hear the positive feedback and support. There were many who offered to be taste-testers.


BLURB: If you could redo your book, would you do anything differently?

LH: - Start with a smaller collection of recipes

- Record videos and take more pictures of the prep work, steps and ingredients

- Include more family photos with the recipes

- Start a blog to capture the experience


BLURB: What would you say to encourage someone who lacks a little confidence about book-making?

LH: Stop thinking and start doing. Or is that Home Depot’s tagline? Sorry, I can’t help it. I’m in advertising.


BLURB: Do you have any plans for more books? What are they?

LH: Nothing planned right now, but lately I’ve been fascinated with making homemade ice cream. Who knows what will happen. Close

Interview: Moe Takamura (Guide to the Foreign Japanese Kitchen)


In both Swedish and English, Moe Takamura’s Guide to the Foreign Japanese Kitchen makes it clear in both languages how creating a cross-cultural food book on Blurb is as easy (and delicious) as pie.


BLURB: What inspired you to make a book?

MT: The book was made during my thesis project in industrial design. The theme was about exotic food culture (Japanese food culture) in [a] foreign environment, and I decided to make a cookbook as I wanted to promote a [unique] food culture, instead of [only a few specific] food items. It also felt that [a] cookbook was something I could create in limited amount of time; many industrial design projects are only about concept proposals. As planned, the book is now sold both online and offline, has reached hundreds of readers, and I am really happy about that.


BLURB: Why did you choose Blurb to make your book?

MT: When I was ready with my file, I printed it with a few self-publishing services, and Blurb was the one that gave me the best result for the price. I also liked that there are many sizes and papers to choose from, you offer paper samples, and it was so easy to install the plug-ins for screen calibration and format for InDesign. That gave me more control over my creation.


BLURB: What was your book-making process like? Did you plan everything out or was it more organic?

MT: As it was a part of my thesis project, I planed pretty much everything before starting making the book. I planned the menu, the informal content, the design/layout, and the timeline.


BLURB: What challenges did you face along the way?

MT: It was a low-budget project, and I photographed everything on my kitchen table with natural lighting. It was [a] constant struggle with weather and time. [And it] was not always easy to keep the consistency of the photographic color tone.


BLURB: What did people say (your spouse, children, parents, extended family, friends, co-workers) about your book? What was the most memorable comment and why?

MT: Many of my friends pre-ordered my book when they saw the test print from Blurb, and that was great feedback and encouragement from them.


BLURB: When you think about the process and the end-result of your book-making experience, what was the most surprising? Were there any unintentional consequences -- good or bad?

MT: I really understood why celebrity chefs have many assistants. It was lots of cleaning, doing dishes and all that –– in between photo shoots.


BLURB: If you could redo your book, would you do anything differently?

MT: I'm quite satisfied with the result, so I wouldn’t really [do anything differently].


BLURB: What would you say to encourage someone who lacks a little confidence about book-making?

MT: Although I used Photoshop and InDesign before, I learned a lot during the bookmaking [process]. [I also learned a lot] about photography skills.


BLURB: Do you have any plans for more books? What are they?

MT: I am actually making a second cookbook at the moment. The topic is [a] secret for now. Close