Category: The BA Band

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The BA Band: Michele DeFilippo

 

Madison Utley speaks to 1106 Design founder Michele DeFilippo about how she got into the business of book designing, what seems to most surprise people about what it is she does, and why she’ll be forever grateful for the Catholic nuns of her youth. 

 

Q: To start, can you give us an overview of what it is 1106 Design does?

A: We provide authors a variety of services to self-publish their book when they don’t want to do the work themselves–and we do it with traditional publisher quality. I started my career at Crown Publishers in New York and every person on my team has 20 or more years of experience in the publishing industry. That’s how I’m able to say with confidence that we’re equipped to go about producing a book the way a publisher would with careful editing, careful proofreading, and collaborative design. 

When it comes to self-publishing, there are unfortunately a lot of providers out there now who will just slap something together, but we know that our authors have put their heart and soul into their books and it’s important to us that we handle their project with the highest level of care. 

Doing a good job with this work is a balancing act; our team takes the lead, making each step clear and driving the process, while also ensuring the author understands they have full freedom to collaborate and are encouraged to use their voice to tell us what they do and don’t like. We always hope our clients listen and respond to our experience, but ultimately what matters most is that the author feels able to execute their vision for the book and is happy with the final product. 

Q: What do you most enjoy about this line of work?

A: Authors put so much of themselves into their books. When they’re done with the writing process, a lot of them are scared to death. They have this treasured manuscript and they’re not sure what to do with it. They’re overwhelmed with all of the things they’re finding online about how to publish a book. They’re worried about how they’re going to manage the design process when they’ve never done anything like it before. 

When we step in, we like to think we bring a sense of control and calm to this internal chaos. We’re able to say: “Don’t worry. We know you don’t have the experience. We know you’re going to have a lot of questions. The good news is we do have the experience and we do have the answers. All you have to do is communicate with us, and we’ll guide you through every step.”

Q: What do you wish people knew about the work that you do?

A: Authors are often surprised by the amount of time, effort, and interaction it takes to produce a book. I think the perception before they come to us is that you just click a few buttons and everything magically comes together. When I recently gave a quote to an author she went, “You can’t fool me! I know it takes 15 seconds to make a book cover. You just slap a title on a picture and you’re done.”

That’s obviously an extreme example, but it does seem like a lot of people underestimate the time designers put into each job. The truth is that we’re analyzing every aspect of the process continually, trying to come up with a cover design and an interior design that’s going to best serve the author and most appeal to the buyer. 

There are so many pieces to that. Somebody has to decide how the book is going to be formatted and why, down to the smallest detail. We consider questions like: What’s the book about? What’s the mood of the book? What’s the age of the audience? That one is particularly important with typesetting because if your audience is older you don’t want to use type that’s too small and make it difficult for them to read. The point is, there are a lot of considerations that go into this process that can be overlooked if you don’t know to address them.

Q: What’s something you’re most proud of about what you’re doing at 1106 Design? 

A: We don’t take a commission on each book our clients sell like some of the other entities in this space do. Many other self-publishing companies structure it so authors’ books are sold through their account, meaning that they take the revenue from every book sale, keep a portion of it, and then pay the writer a royalty. The way we set it up, all of the financial transactions go directly to and through our clients. 

This is something we encourage authors to be on the lookout for. These companies might quote a lower price up front, but unless you know to ask explicitly, they won’t make clear that they will actually be taking a couple of dollars out of your pocket every time a copy of your book sells. I have to give some credit to the nuns with this one. I survived Catholic school, but I believe the nuns who taught me–and taught me well–are still watching so I wouldn’t dare do anything that’d upset them. At 1106 Design, we believe the author can and should control their own finances when they decide to go into publishing.

Book Architecture Turns 20

Madison Utley speaks to Book Architecture Founder and Principal, Stuart Horwitz, upon the 20th anniversary of his independent editing business; how did he reach this milestone, what has he learned along the way, and what’s in store for the future? 

(No, he does not get special treatment simply because he’s the boss. My new interview format is my new interview format). 

 

MU: Initially, what appealed to you about a career as an independent editor? 

SH: I was speaking to my colleague, Anita Mumm, about this and she told me that one day she had an aha moment about wanting a writing life. I think that’s what hits all of us independent editors at some point. I wanted a life that has to do with the thing that I love, which is books and writing and words. There are more traditional routes and less traditional routes to getting there; for me, heading towards independent editing had to do with avoiding any more toxic bosses than I had already experienced. It was terrifying to have my life in someone else’s hands, for them to be able to handle my well-being whimsically–especially as I got into my thirties. 

 

MU: How did the vision that you had in your mind for what your business could be 20 years ago match up to how it has actually unfolded? 

SH: I didn’t expect Book Architecture to be my full-time job; originally, it was supposed to be a way to make money while I went to graduate school in East Asian studies. My goal was to become a professor of Buddhism. But over time, I came to find that the academic future I pictured was an image that I had for myself rather than my actual path. 

Concurrent to this realization, there were changes happening in the industry that were radically increasing demand for independent editors. The advent of self-publishing, the profusion of e-books–it was sort of like buying a stock at the right time. I was doing better financially than I would have as a professor, but it wasn’t just that; I was also getting a much broader context of exposure to the world through the projects I was doing. It was all just happening, and some of that is certainly luck. If I sit here and look at the last year, two years, five years, twenty years, it’s clear that nothing is clear. Book Architecture was just meant to happen. I figured it out before it was too late; that’s the only credit I feel like I deserve. 

Stuart’s former office in Providence, which had red walls because he wanted red walls. His current office is in San Diego, because he wanted it to be in San Diego. // Alternate caption, sourced from SH: “I am my own man.”

 

MU: Where did the name Book Architecture come from?

SH: I did an architecture course during my first master’s degree. There was so much more artistry to it than I realized, in the proportion and emphasis and repetition of stylistic icons. It struck me as a symphony in stone, something creative but also solid. That’s what I wanted to bring to my business; something beautiful, but also built to last. That is book architecture. 

Book Architecture also represents hope. The hope that you can structure your octopus of a manuscript in progress, that there’s some kind of clarity and sanity to be found. The hope that your voice is enough, that you as an author are enough. The hope that the critics in your head saying you can’t do it can be silenced and your creativity is inexhaustible. That hope has become my mission of sorts, to help strengthen the roots of confidence within others and myself. 

 

MU: Something we’ve talked a lot about is the intensity of this job, in being brought into clients’ worlds and entrusted with the details of the most meaningful and, often, the most painful parts of their lives. Can you talk about how that’s been? 

SH: These are the things that make for the best books, so if I’m in a situation in which things feel flat or uninspiring, I’ll usually start digging to see what we can liberate. But truly, in these situations of working with a client before they go to prison or a client with a terminal cancer diagnosis who is aware they’ll die before the book comes out, it is a profound privilege to tell their story. Some of the books I’ve worked on with these kinds of stressors have impacted me profoundly and changed the way I view the world. Experiencing that was part of what validated my leaving academia; this work became better than more formal education. The courses I take now are all one-on-one, they’re more varied, and there’s a richness, an immediacy, a real-lifeness to them.

When you’re in the groove and collaborating together with someone, it feels like a multiplication and not an addition. So, being able to be in the creative process with people of quality, and getting paid for it, and setting my own hours? Yeah, sounds good. 

 

MU: How has helming Book Architecture impacted your personal writing endeavors? 

SH: One of the best things about this job is that it has allowed me to work on my own writing concurrently, whether that was my three theoretical books on writing, my memoir (which is in a very exciting phase), or the novel that I’m currently working on, which is incipient but glowing. I think there are some people who feel like they can’t work with words and then also do their own writing, like somehow they’ll be using up their talent or it’s too much in the same headspace. I can empathize with that. For many years, I thought I had to wait tables, because that way I would have my creative energy all to myself. That makes sense in theory, but in reality I was existing in a toxic and draining environment. While my creativity may have been safe and untouched, nearly every other kind of energy was being sapped, which seriously inhibited my ability to sit down and write effectively. 

Committing to my business full-time and being in control of my own destiny has had a huge impact on how quickly I’m able to clear my mind before a good writing session starts. Now, there’s a lot of cross-flow between the work I do for Book Architecture and the work I do for myself. I can do my job for five hours and then I can take a break, exercise, meditate, go to the coffee shop, whatever, and then write at night. I’ve created the context and learned the tools I need to access that headspace.  

 

 

MU: What are you most excited about moving into a new decade of Book Architecture? 

SH: In thinking through my answer to this question, I realize that Book Architecture is able to fit with everything that I want to do with my life moving forward. My wife and I are anticipating opening up a retreat center for writers in the next two years or so, and I fully intend for my work as an independent editor to continue through that. If there are areas of life that I’m more interested in learning about, I can seek out those clients. If I want to work more, I can get more clients. If I want to work less, I can get less clients. If I want to go be a digital nomad, done. I’m there. Over the past 20 years, it seems Book Architecture has become intrinsic to my identity and my lifestyle–and I don’t expect that to change anytime soon.

 

The BA Band: Lisa Tener

We’re excited to share that friend of Book Architecture and industry stalwart, Lisa Tener, has launched her new book, The Joy of Writing Journal: Spark Your Creativity in 8 Minutes a Day.

When the Covid pandemic hit, Lisa’s personal journaling practice expanded as she threw herself into the pursuit with renewed vigor. Her daily writings infused the otherwise largely challenging time with beauty as she experienced rich inner growth and tapped into a new source of free-flowing creativity.

Having rediscovered the power of journaling for herself, both as a healthy processing mechanism in hard times as well as a gateway to previously inaccessible creativity, Lisa felt compelled to spread the wealth. Today, September 22, the fruit of that labor is being presented to the world; a resource created to uplift, spark creativity, and help guide readers towards fulfillment.

The Joy of Writing Journal contains creative and multifaceted prompts to helps users’ get their thoughts onto the page, whether in the form of a blog post, short story, poem, essay, book, or simply as a means to have fun and learn more about themselves. Better yet, the journal is interactive, containing QR codes which, when scanned, link to video and audio-based guidance and inspiration from other writers.

It has been a pleasure to witness Lisa pour her heart into this book, driven by a clear passion to equip others looking to access joy through their creativity with the tools to do so. The journal captures some of Lisa’s most valuable writing advice in a concise, innovative, and fun format. Sound up your alley? Ours too! Grab yourself a copy of The Joy of Writing Journal here

The BA Band: Molly Regan

 

Madison Utley speaks to Book Architecture’s favorite graphic designer, Molly Regan, about how she expanded into book design, the process of creating the cover for Stuart’s second and third books on writing, and the best and most challenging parts of working with authors. 

 

Q: Talk to me about what it is you do/the scope of your services within the book sphere. 

A: My main jam is logos and branding, but I also do a lot with brochures, posters, packaging, and signage. Stuart was my gateway to book cover design, which was something I’d always wanted to try. When I first did a cover for one of his clients, I realized it was really just poster design, but on a smaller scale. It can be hard to make a cover compelling enough that people pick the book up, while keeping all of the info legible, especially if there’s a big title and/or longer subtitle, but I’ve found I really enjoy the challenge of a tinier canvas. 

I also expanded into interior graphics for books. Trying to make charts and graphs interesting can be really fun. I especially like infographics. Right now, I’m actually working on some “loose illustrations” for a glossary of terms, and I will admit it’s challenging! I’m not really an illustrator, but it feels good to exercise different creative muscles. 

 

 

Q: How did you first get connected to Stuart? 

A: Alright, well, this is a little embarrassing. I had an old college project/poster listed on Craigslist, that I really thought someone would buy only for the frame. The poster featured some 1950s Olivetti typewriter ad graphics, which is how Stuart came across the listing as he’s a big typewriter collector. Anyway, he ended up buying it! And, some time after that, he contacted me to do a book cover… Craiglist unites!

 

Q: Tell me about the process of creating the covers for Stuart’s second and third book. 

A: They were both super fun projects. Stuart’s second book was my introduction to the Book Architecture method – the series, grids, rearranging scenes, etc. In our meeting, I remember him saying he was imagining something Mondrian-esque, which really complemented the grid process outlined in the book. It came together pretty organically; just playing with forms, sort of ‘painting’ in shapes. We both felt good about the cover we came up with. It’s geometric, but also lively.

For his third book, my initial designs were too tame and not the vibe Stuart was going for. With his input, I turned towards more of a comic-book style – which provided a good framework for featuring stills from the stop-motion videos that were released in tandem with the written book (!). It was the right look for the tone of this book, and definitely more fun.

 

Q: How do you go about figuring out a client’s vision and getting it down onto the page?

A: When a client comes to me with a clear idea that they’re already set on, I accept that brainstorming is off the table and instead focus on making a good design out of what it is they want. When they’re more open, I’ll shoot around ideas of what I think they might want or need and, if they connect with something, I’ll run with it. It’s always fun when a word or doodle I come up with during a meeting or from the notes I keep becomes the driving force of a project.

 

Q: How does the process change when working with a hard-to-please client?

A: It is sort of heartbreaking when you present a good idea and the client passes, especially when their reasoning is unclear. It’s rare, but there are times when you have to let go of any creative input and instead simply become the facilitator of your client’s vision. I think of those projects as ‘work-work’ and not fun work. That kind of work will definitely never see the light of day in my portfolio, and that’s okay.