In both of my teaching lives (the Academy of Art University and the San Francisco Center for the Book) last week my classes and I discussed “how to plan a book.” In both of those discussions I used the actual examples from the current NewLights project What You Will. I also made a new handout (based on one from my previous professor, John Risseeuw) that lists and explains the different stages/mock-ups that go into planning a book. So what follows, in this extra-pedagogical “Production is Reception” post, is based on that handout and these discussions with my classes.
General sketches of ideas for the layout of the book. Can by physical or digital, often both.
A series of small drawings showing the individual page spreads, either with sketches or text labels to show which content goes where. Used to determine the sequence of the pages and the amount of pages necessary. Done in pencil for flexibility.
A simple, 3D sketch version of the book, usually on newsprint or bond paper. The content of the pages is indicated with sketches or labels. This mock-up follows the binding structure of the final book (same number of pages grouped into same number of signatures) but is not actually bound. This mock-up can later be used as a guide for composing your final pages.
A fairly precise mock-up showing the actual compositions of individual page spreads to scale. This may take the form of a working digital file, or could be done on flat or folded sheets of paper that are the actual size of the book. This mock-up is to get a sense of the actual composition of the pages and how they function in sequence. There can sometimes be several working mock-ups (or one that is changed many times) as the book develops.
A mock-up of the book at actual size with the actual materials that you are planning on using. This mock-up goes through all of the steps of the actual binding, from the initial cutting of the paper to the final trimming of the book. It is used to test the materials and to check measurements. If something is wrong or is not functioning properly, this mock-up is adjusted and redone until everything is right.
Three important notes about these stages: 1) they do not necessarily proceed one right after the other—there is often some back and forth (say between the storyboard and the rough mock-up) and sometimes several steps are done simultaneously. It’s important to let the book grow and change through the process, instead of locking it all in when still in the early, abstract plotting stages. 2) There may (and will probably be) other steps and mock-ups between these. 3) This is a condensation of my own practice; other artists have other processes that work better for them. So the best thing to do is to be attentive, both to what others do and what you need, and adapt & synthesize your own processes.