February 24, 2014

What I Want From an Art Book. AKA: How to Book

For the longest time I've really wanted to make an art book. I have numerous reasons for this:

  1.  It would give me the chance to make a lot of neat artwork.
  2. I can sell these artworks as separate prints, you know, in case the book thing goes down
  3. Print sales are sometimes on the decline and I've heard a lot of semi-older folks complain they're running out of room on their walls, so don't want to get more prints, but they love books!
  4. I collect artbooks myself! And LOVE them. :)

One might even say I have a problem.

So the first thing I do before heading off into any large endeavor such as this is to scope out the "competition" as it were. (it's a really bad term, maybe cohorts? fellow artists?) As I visit and vend at conventions I'll see other artists with artbooks up for sale at their table, and if it's a cost effective item for the book, I'll pick them up. I've picked up "sketchbooks" and "artbooks" alike (one is mostly sketches, the other has more "finished" pieces, and some are a mishmash of the two).

I've liked some of them (and I've picked those ones up, especially if it's an artist I know personally or their art techniques really strike a chord with me), but I'd say a majority of them I just set back down and never came back to. And I had to think about that. Why was it that I wasn't interested in buying an artist's book? I mean, most of them have beautiful artworks inside! I narrowed it down to a few reasons:

Cost Did not Match Product

It sounds weird, but this is usually the main reason I would set a book back down and not purchase it. I have no problem plunking down 20-35 dollars for an artbook, but to me, this better be worth my purchase. The biggest offenders of this rule is when the artist will spend copious amounts of out of pocket cash to get the book made - hardcover, pretty printing on front, nice nice paper, but to make up the cost their book will end up being upwards towards $35. Okay, I'm cool with that. What I'm not cool with is when the book dimensions are no bigger than half a sheet of paper (5.5x8.5), and there are maybe a total of 15-20 singular pages in the book. 
I understand the time and love it takes to make artwork, I do. But the size and amount you're getting in an "artbook" has to equal the price a layperson is willing to pay for it.  
Other offenders of this particular rule I've seen them make staple bound books, try to sell em for 25-30. Black and white insides only, Half Page sized. Usually these are no thicker than maybe 25 separate pages?  
NOTE: These are also considered "sketchbooks" I've seen some artists provide. They work really well for about 10-15 depending on the size of the finished book.


This is why I made the decision to have my book be at least 90 pages, but that turned into 100 pages (so it's about 50 actual pages thickness, and will end up being almost a quarter of an inch thick, but at this rate, I think it might get bigger).

No Descriptions

This has happened in a couple books I have, but I let it go for the time because they were relatively inexpensive. But one of the big things I love about getting official art books from a favorite series, or artists, is knowing what on earth the pictures are. I will admit, it's hard when some of the descriptions are in Japanese, but I let that go (I have mostly manga/anime books). 
Even just captions! A single sentence! HECK I'll even take random scribbled words next to doodles in the books. PLEASE tell me about these amazing pictures you've made! Are they your own characters? Did you want to draw a pretty mermaid? Were you inspired by another artist? PLEEEEEEASE TELL MEEEEE. 
Now, this isn't to say make me a wall-o-text, but if you've got a story, TELL US! I like knowing what's going on in an artist's brain, or if there's something in particular that you really liked about a picture. Or maybe something you are attached to with a character or design.


I wanted a book with good descriptions or captions, so I thought, what better timing to use my old game characters! (It would also let me have the chance to redesign some old ones, which are SADLY in need of it)  
I would like to do one for my comics, but I gotta draw more pages of those before I can do those ones. :)

Bad Layouts

Hrm. This one's difficult. Because not everybody has access to awesome software I try to be accepting of some book's shortcomings. We all can't hire layout artists for us, and we all don't have access to InDesign (which I'll talk about later). But sometimes a book's layout can KILL a potential sale.
And layout could mean a lot of things: General Layout of Text, Fonts, or Resolution of Images. AKA: Things a lot of people don't talk about when making books.
General Layout
I don't know about you guys, but I like a clean look. I want the pictures I'm looking at to be clearly demarcated from each other. I want breathing room between your sketches. Give me space between paragraphs and images, give me margins to breathe in. As much as I want you to cram in as much artwork as possible, please, PLEASE give my eyes some space to rest between pictures. Offenders of this particular "rule" are usually the ones with lots of "sketchy" kind of works, so they cram them all onto a bunch of pages to make it look like a "sketchbook" but really, it just comes out as a confusing muddled mess. (UNLESS it's from a page in a sketchbook that is actually just all those sketches - in that case, a CAPTION will work wonders)

I always feel a font can make or break a book. I've picked up and looked at books who want to use a really scripty font, or a really grungy looking thing, and they keep using it for their body text (main regular text). If I can't read your text, I probably won't want to buy your book. There are recommendations out there (use a google search!) that can tell you what works best for body text - your headings and subheadings, well, those are all you.

Image Resolution 
Resolution of an image can also be seen as "how much information of a picture can I fit into one inch of space on my picture?" For reference the lowest Resolution you should print images at is around 150 dpi (dots per inch). Web-ready pics? Those are at 72 dpi. I've had art books I've picked up with the idea of buying but put them back down due to the fact that half the images were pixelated or blurry. Or they were put into a particular filetype that left artifacts (jaggies) on things. Unless you're actually doing pixel art, your art should be sharp and clean. I don't care if you're just doing sketches. I'm not gonna buy it if you can't be bothered to clean up your artwork to sell.

I can't express how much I love this program.


I'm one of the lucky few who have InDesign. It actually came with the Adobe suite I bought 3-4 years ago now, and I never had a use for it. BUT NOW I DO. I also thankfully took a class in it several years ago, so it's still kind of familiar to me. I've been scanning in all my pics for the book at 600 dpi, and I've been obsessing over fonts for a while now. I keep doing research and trying new ones. I will assume the font will change several times before I find one I like.


Not to sound super lame, but I find artwork should be a labor of love (in a way). Yes, it's business, but at the same time, I kind of hope that the people who are making art really love making art. Even during the sucky times of artist's block. So when I pick up an art book, I want to see the artist really come out in it. 
Really, what it comes down to is pretentiousness. I hate pretentiousness. When I look at this book, do I see you? Do I see your characters? Do I see what you enjoy? Or does it all look like you churned it out to make a quick dollar? 
Did you do a collaboration? TELL ME. I want to know the artists who are in these books. I came across a book once that had like 3 different artists, but there were no names, no descriptions, heck, no captions. It was just a bunch of pretty and similar looking artworks sort of with a theme? Either way, it didn't entice me, so I gently put it back and complimented them on their work and skittered off.


My books and my artwork I think will always be an extension of myself. I can't help it, I just love all my things and I want to give that love to others. I don't think I'll have a problem with this as long as I keep my sense of humor and wits about me! :)

With all these ideas in mind, I set off to figure out just what I wanted in an art book, and how I thought I could use that knowledge to make a product that I'd be proud of and other people would want!

COMING SOON: "I Have Absolutely No Idea What I am Doing" AKA Deciding what to put in there!

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