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.