Monday, August 2, 2010

Lauren Rille - How Designers Bring Your Book To Life

Lauren walks us through the making of SOPHIE PETERMAN TELLS THE TRUTH by Sarah Weeks and illustrated by Robert Neubecker. SPTTT was the first book Lauren got to work on from start to finish at Simon & Schuster. I can't recommend this session enough. Totally eye-opening, Lauren's slide show made us feel like we were there with both the editorial team and the illustrator — like we were helping make the book.

Once the manuscript is approved, Lauren usually paginates the text out for the illustrator. As far as artistic direction is concerned, though they might say "keep it young" or mention they prefer one of your styles for the project, Lauren and her editor want illustrators to honor their talent and vision as they make the art and try to give the illustrator room and time to go wild.

Typically, Lauren actively works with an illustrator for about six months. In that time the illustrator will do sketches, revisions, and final art. For SPTTT, Robert Neubecker received the manuscript and did sketches for the book's spreads.

As soon as Lauren received these sketches (via emailed .pdf), she sent a copy to the editor. Both Lauren and the editor go through the pages. Lauren is looking for composition, character consistency, variety of layout, room for type, things falling into the gutter. The editor is looking for big picture issues.

A few slides of Robert's character design sheets are shown. Making sure the characters are consistent (especially if they age a few years within the book like in SSPTTT) is a big issue for any picture book. Lauren and editor will sit on character studies for a few days to a week, and then send back the studies with notes and sometimes photoshopped changes to help explain what they are looking for. If the work is all digital, it is often easier for Lauren to go in and tweak something than to write out the explanation.

Illustrators can ask for a galley, which is the final trim size and text placed by the designer on the page for you to work your art around. Once the characters are nailed down, and text is fairly set, Robert does a full sketch dummy. Lauren and editor go over every page of these dummy sketches with notes for the artist. Sometimes, changes are as simple as moving the eyebrows or moving feet around. The pink note is from Lauren on Robert's initial dummy sketch page.

Does the above feel intrusive? Lauren says, "It's not a gallery show, it's not just you putting your work up, you are working on a team." Plus, Lauren and her editor are RIGHT. All of the changes they requested, when viewing them in the before and after spreads in Lauren's slide show, are changes that helped clarify the tone of the book, or direct the eye, or better express a character's emotion.

Other notes for Robert included "More underwear, more underwear, kids love underwear."

After sketch revisions, the book goes to "first sketch check," the first step to routing (routing the work all the way to the printer in China.) All the pages get printed out and given to a copy editor.

Some things you don't think about when making an illustration: one of Robert's spreads included candy bars. Those candy bar names had to go to the S&S legal department to be vetted. I hope vetting includes sampling said candy bars.

Easter Egg! There's an homage to HAROLD AND THE PURPLE CRAYON in SPTTT.

Picking the cover has even more voices involved. Besides designer/editor/illustrator/copy editor, there's also sales teams, marketing teams, Barnes & Noble. Covers Meetings are 50 people in a room. Sometimes you hear weird things in cover meetings like, "Barnes and Noble isn't buying any white jackets."

Once the cover and final artwork are done, Robert sends everything to Lauren. Lauren's InDesign files with this final art and text are sent to China.

Three sets of first proofs of the book come back. The artist gets a copy to look for color, one set goes to author, and the editorial team goes through their set. This is the last chance for any changes to be made. And then it all gets sent to China.

Then F&Gs come back, and from there the book starts getting into the hands of buyers and reviewers and Lauren's work is mostly done. She opened the floor to questions at this point and showed us a few spreads from WHAT IS YOUR DOG DOING (which is ADORABLE, but I can't find any links to it.)

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