Hit the Books with Dan Milnor: Big Decisions in Bookmaking

For most creatives, the “why” of bookmaking is obvious. The “how” can be more of a mystery. Whether you’re selecting the right image, design tool, or typography, every decision can feel enormous. Some days you’ll want to focus on the big picture, and other days you’ll dive into the details. Either way, you’re bound to make some exciting discoveries that will help your project take shape. Now let’s get to those questions.

1. What makes a good photograph?

This is a question I receive on a regular basis but one that is somewhat tricky to answer. For me, a good photograph is one that evokes an emotional response, informs me of something I don’t know, or informs me of the artist’s personal vision. I see there being a right and wrong with what makes a great image, and technical aspects have little relevance. Does a picture make you feel?

2. What is the best way to make a bilingual publication?

I have two suggestions. First, think about creating a typography style that is unique to each language. This could mean the color of the text, the density, or even the typeface. This way each language has its own look, feel and consistency. Or, think about making two publications of the same size, shape, page count, etc. each for a specific language.

3. Should I use BookWright or Adobe Lightroom? ­­­

My advice is to test drive both pieces of software and gauge which feels most comfortable. They both offer advantages but feeling at home in a software can make the bookmaking experience all that more enjoyable. Adobe Lightroom is hyper-efficient allowing you to work your images and your book in the same piece of software, but BookWright offers more tools. I typically use BookWright, but remember I’ve made hundreds of publications using this software so it feels like home.

4. What is a field guide and how do you use it?

Put simply, a field guide is a publication you carry while working in the field that illustrates the work you have already completed on a given project. A field guide can be any size, page count, style. It is evidence of your skill and style and proves your commitment to a project or story.

5. How do I choose a trim size for my publication?

Work backwards from your goal. Is the goal to sell your publication? To people you know or people you don’t? What is your budget? Will you need to carry the publication or mail it? Or will it sit on your coffee table? Answering these questions will allow you to narrow your options. A large photo book might look great on a coffee table but be expensive to ship and cost more than your audience is willing to pay. Consider a trade book or magazine for a more accessible, cost-efficient format. Creating for your audience and your ultimate goal is key.

6. Should I use the Blurb Bookstore?

Making your book available for sale is a personal decision but using the Blurb Bookstore is effortless and free. The bookstore is also a global center for selling your book. Once a book lands in the store, it is viewable by an international audience. If you have a following for your work or an audience, the bookstore can be a wonderful way to sell your work. It also functions well for selling books to clients without having to do the shipping and receiving yourself.

7. Are there any general rules when it comes to typography?

Typography is a language all to itself. There are many rules and ideas that come to mind,  like type hierarchy, style, density, and size, but perhaps the best suggestion is to limit the number of typefaces within your book. Using more than two typefaces, three at the most, can be very confusing to the reader. Also, choose typography that fits the book’s content, the style of project, and feels relevant feel to the work being displayed.

8. What are the key elements of selling a book?

Wow, this could be an entire Q&A by itself. Selling requires a plan. First, gauging what your audience is interested in and determining how much they are willing to pay are key elements. A presale plan is also a smart move, especially when distributing your book via Amazon. Offering a presale discount is another option. And telling the story of you, your work and your book as you go can really bring people closer to the project, making it easier to sell. Finally, make the best work you possibly can.

9. Is it okay to make a book from film photography?

Of course. In fact, I have always felt that film translates to paper incredibly well and in some ways is far easier to prepare for print than digital photography. A simple mid-tone bump is often all that is required to make those film images shine.

10. Should a book project be broad or narrow?

I’m a fan of the narrow. The human attention span is getting shorter not longer, so whatever we as storytellers can do to make our projects more understandable is going to be key to their success. Working narrow also allows for depth on that specific topic. For example, a story relating to humanity might best be told by focusing on ONE single human being.

Ready to launch a new project? Choose a format and get started today?


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