Self-Publishing Case Study: Nonfiction

POSTED ON Dec 10, 2010

Joel Friedlander

Written by Joel Friedlander

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Case Study: Music, Healing and Harmony: How Music Can Improve Your Health, Enhance Your Brain Power and Help You Relax by Sally Fletcher

Design Brief: The author is a harpist who has been selling CDs of her music as well as a book she self-published a number of years ago. She was now ready to publish her second book.

Constraints: Although the book was complete, it was also somewhat short. I would have to find a way to compensate for the length of the manuscript.

Sally-Fletcher self-publishing

Raw Material: Sally had a complete manuscript that needed a clean-up edit to make it publishable. She was referred to a book editor and we started the design process while editing was going on.

Production Goal: Because the author was familiar with publishing and online selling, she planned to print offset to get the best quality at the lowest unit cost, maximizing her profits. From experience she knew she would be able to sell an initial printing of 1,000-2,000 books in a reasonable amount of time.

Challenge: Create an inviting environment for the author’s ideas, keeping the tone light and personal.

An Open and Inviting Reading Experience

After prototyping a few ideas, we settled on a very open and spacious page layout. I wanted to keep the book small, both to compensate for the short manuscript, and because it seemed like a book that would benefit from an intimate size.

After layout, we proofed the book at 4.875″ x 7.25″. Although it was charming, the proof showed that it was smaller than the author wanted to go. It also demonstrated how useful digital printing can be, since we were able to prototype the book quickly and without a lot of expense before committing to an offset run.

We then headed to a local bookstore and spent a pleasant half hour looking at books while I measured them. Eventually we agreed on the 5″ x 7.75″ trim size, and I reformatted the book to accommodate the new size.

Music, Healing and Harmony by Sally Fletcher
Chapter opener. Click to enlarge.

I found an old line drawing of a lyre—the instrument of Apollo—and it worked beautifully on the chapter openers. The page was designed with deep margins and generous leading. I also used ornamented drop folios to further mold a page that would amplify the manuscript.

Book Typefaces

This is another example of a book that uses only one typeface: Warnock Pro from Adobe. I only recently discovered this design, through book designer Stephen Tiano, and I’ve been enjoying its versatility and readability. It was easy to create a page design with lots of character and color with variations of this one typeface, and the whole design holds together more easily because there is no dissonance at all in the typographic design.

Music, Healing and Harmony by Sally Fletcher
Spread. Click to enlarge.

Book Cover Design

After several rounds of designs we focused on a cover that featured an energetic and color-saturated photo of the sea at twilight. The overall tone and the little crescent moon high in the sky give the cover an air of mystery. The title type is Goudy Old Style.

Music, Healing and Harmony by Sally Fletcher
Click to enlarge.

Because we printed offset, I was able to specify a matte lamination for the cover. This finish, unavailable from print on demand suppliers, instantly marks the book as not PoD, still an important distinction for many buyers. It also modulated the color of the cover, which would be almost slick with a glossy finish on it, not the look I was going for.


It was a pleasure to work on this book. The author is an experienced publisher, and was open to any design ideas I came up with. The finished product has the look of a “classic” that could well stay in print for many years.


Buy Music, Healing and Harmony on Amazon (affiliate link)
Buy Music, Healing and Harmony and Sally’s beautiful harp CDs on her author website
ISBN: 978-0-9615513-0-8
Size: 5″ x 7.75″, 166 pages
Price: $14.95
Typography, book layout and graphics in Adobe InDesign and Photoshop.
Typeset in Warnock Pro
Offset printing by McNaughton & Gunn, Saline, Michigan

Joel Friedlander

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Joel Friedlander

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