Behind-the-scenes of my book design process (book update no. 4)

Behind-the-scenes of my book design process (book update no. 4) — Paper + Oats


I’m back! After a little blogging break this summer, I’m gearing up for some new posts this fall, and first up is a fresh update on that book I’ve been writing. Today, I’m gonna cover all things book design! We’re talking the outside cover and the inside layout. All the things. As a designer (and a former book designer), this is the part I’ve been most excited about in this process. So let’s dive into a lil’ behind the scenes of my complete book design process, plus some release date info, a quick Q+A on some common things you guys have been asking me, and what’s coming up next in the self-publishing process.

Designing the book cover

Any designer will tell you, they are their own worst client! It can be super difficult to design something for yourself, because you’re extra critical of everything you create. I went through a lot of variations of the cover, trying a lot of different styles and experimenting with some out of the box ideas (stitched thread for the text, anyone?). This book is so personal to me, so I knew I wanted the cover to reflect that same sentiment. The title is Strong Girl, Brave Girl (there’s a story behind that, but you’ll have to read the book to find out what it is!), but I was very weary of it being taken as a bold, feminist book — nothing wrong with those types of books at all, that’s just not what this one is. So I wanted the design to lean more towards the softer, muted, minimal side to counter that.

The most special part of the cover is the watercolor paintings. My daughter Poppy loves to paint and draw, and I got to looking closely at one of her paintings one day. I wondered how I could incorporate it into the cover, and so I commissioned some work from my little 4-year-old resident artist. At first I tried to art direct her color choices, and you can probably guess how that went. I finally loosened up and just let her have free rein, and the outcome was perfect. I took a photo of her finished piece (see below), adjusted the brightness and some coloring in Photoshop, and started playing around with cropping and shapes she had created. What resulted was some accidental abstract florals that I absolutely love, and I knew I had landed on a winner.

I wanted the text to be a little rough and hand drawn to mimic the theme in the book about being a work in progress, not being refined, etc. But readability was super important, so I was very selective in the one I chose. To counter the organic feel of the watercolor and the title text, I used a clean san serif font for the secondary text. (For more info on how to pair fonts like a pro, read this post!)


Designing a book interior template

The edits on the book aren’t quite done yet, so the full interior design hasn’t started yet, BUT I did get a jump on things with a process I perfected back in my book design days. I’m using Adobe InDesign for the interior layout (duh, don’t you know me at all?!), and I found it is SO much faster on these larger InDesign projects to start with a template first. I played around with some text options, font sizing, spacing, hierarchy, etc. in a mock setting and landed on a layout that I’m really pleased with. Once all the details were nailed down in this smaller setting, I created master pages and paragraph + character styles from the settings I had decided on, so now when I go to layout the entire final manuscript, it’ll be a breeze. All those big design decisions will have already been sorted out, so I can cruise through my layout with far fewer hiccups.


For more info + resources on how I work smarter, not harder, in Adobe InDesign, click here!


How + why I chose my release date

Next up – the release date! The book will be available to order on October 21, 2018. No pre-orders, just regular order-orders! I’m self-publishing, so it will be available only on Amazon for now. Although some fun giveaways will be going down leading up to the release, so be on the look out!

But Kelsey, October 21 is a Sunday. What’s up with that? So glad you asked. As you’ll read in the book, October 21 is a pretty significant date for me. I have a weird thing for dates, and this one seems to keep coming up for me each year it rolls around. October 21 is the day my now ex-husband asked for a divorce. The same day, I found out I was pregnant with our first child. A year later as we worked through divorce negotiations, we were randomly assigned a court date to finalize everything, and can you guess the date? October 21. The next year, I started my first post-divorce dating relationship on that same date – October 21. A relationship that would be almost as difficult to end as my marriage did. This date felt like my curse for a lot of years, and as I started writing this book and laying out the timeline, I decided to redeem the date. I decided to launch my book on the same day as all these heartbreaking memories for me, giving me a reason to celebrate that date instead of dread it.

So I’m not going to ask you to save the date for the book release, I’m going to ask you to redeem it with me. And you can start by downloading the full Introduction at the bottom of this post! 

Common questions I'm getting

Last but not least, I’ve had some great questions come up over on Instagram, so here’s some quick A’s to your frequent Q’s about the process so far… 


How did you decide you wanted to write a book and actually publish it? I wonder because I find the process of writing a book so intriguing, but I'm all like, "Who would want to hear my story??" So, how did you know it was time?

I’ve always loved writing, and always wanted to write a book some day, but I really had no clue what I would ever write about. My favorite kinds of books were memoirs and life stories from seemingly ordinary people. So when my husband asked for a divorce the same night I found out I was pregnant, and as I learned to be a single parent, I started sharing more about my story on social media and my blog. I didn’t realize it would resonate with so many people, but it really did. I had more and more opportunities to share about how it’s changed me, what I’m learning along the way, etc., and I knew a book was always on my back burner. For a long time I was waiting for the right time to write it all down in that way, like I was waiting for it to be more tied up with a bow and have a clear ending. But I’m most definitely still in the middle of figuring it all out, and realized that writing from that place could be even more powerful than writing about it after it’s all said and done. It’s been a lot harder to drum up all those emotions, so I took my time with the writing process. It’s not just writing a book, it’s been a healing process. I’ve paid my respects to past mistakes and choices and versions of myself that have come and gone. It has not been an easy process, but it’s one I’m really proud of, and can’t wait to see how it helps other women going through The Middle part of their own struggles. (This post also talks about sharing your story, and might shed some light on this, too!)


Do you plan to self-publish or do you have a book deal?

I’m self-publishing! I had no idea what this process would feel like for me, how long it would take, maybe I’d get to the end of it and be like nah, I don’t feel comfortable sharing this stuff. And for that reason I chose to self-publish. My plan is to look into some literary agents and pursue traditional publishing after the book is released. I know that’s a little backwards, but I just felt more comfortable doing it my way, on my own timeline first. And if that’s a turn off to publishers, and I only have it self-published, I’m not mad about that at all. The book still served it’s purpose.

What’s your favorite part of the book?

Ohhhh, tough one! I’m really proud of the whole darn thing 😃 I think a piece of it that I’m especially proud of is the chapter on parenting. It includes lots of stories about me and my daughter, Poppy, trying to figure each other out. It’s raw, it’s our real, daily struggles of a single parent household, and it includes some really sweet moments that her and I have had together that I don’t want to forget.

Will you do a book tour or a release party?

A book tour won’t really fit in my with schedule or budget (or maybe my introvert personality!), and a release party terrifies me just slightly, too! But I will be speaking at my first live event, The Bravery Board, a local quarterly gathering, the week of the book launch, so I’m going to count that as my release party, deal?

What's next?

Up next in the process of self-publishing this book baby — 

  1. wrap up edits with my editor; we’re so, so close!

  2. finish up the interior design using that template I talked about earlier

  3. launch planning for the release; already dipping my toes into these plans!

If you missed the first few book updates, click around below to catch up!


Can I send you the Introduction?

Signup below and I'll send you the full Introduction from Strong Girl, Brave Girl, plus I'll keep you in the loop with the latest book news and how to order your own copy. (Or you can just do that now.)


Kelsey Baldwin

Graphic designer + blogger providing design resources to help creative entrepreneurs navigate the world of design + branding for digital products so they can share what they know.

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