If you’re feeling the pull to see your name on the shelves of your local bookstore, you’re not alone. In BOH magazine’s Fall 2021 installment of The Handbook, designers talk about what it takes to push a monograph into the world.
case study: corey damen jenkins
One decade after launching his firm in 2009, New York–based designer Corey Damen Jenkins landed his first book deal. The resulting tome, Design Remix: A New Spin On Traditional Rooms, was published last spring, and provided the framework for his MasterClass series, which debuted in August.
Define the book’s purpose. You think, “OK, what do I have to offer? How can I make this book different from other coffee table books?” For me, the whole thing was: If I’m blessed to climb the ladder of success, I want to leave the ladder down so others can climb. The book explains how to design in a very bite-sized, approachable way. Each chapter has takeaways. It was absolutely essential that I came with some sort of presentation [to get that format approved], or they would have defaulted to that standard pretty book filled with pretty pictures.
Express yourself, but also welcome your co-writer in. I love to write. I have a point of view and I love to articulate that on paper, so I did a lot of the writing myself. My co-writer, Caitlin Leffel, was there to make sure what I was writing made sense and that it was cohesive. She also understood word counts for captions—I could get very expressive, and she would be like, “That is lovely, but we only have room for 80 words here.” She kept me on a tight leash when it came to verbiage.
Photograph your work in a consistent style. In the early days, I hired different photographers to shoot different homes based on who was available. Some photographers shoot the room with every chandelier and lamp turned on; other photographers are more editorial and they shoot the house with all the lights off. A good portion of my photography did not make it into the book, or we had to go back and reshoot some houses in the same vernacular as the vast majority of my portfolio. Unfortunately, some of my best work couldn’t make the book, because either the clients had moved or the homes weren’t available—a problem that was exacerbated by COVID.
Plot the project like you would a client’s. The time aspect of working on a book needs to be taken seriously. Your book should be treated like it is another client in the system you use to track your projects because of the amount of time you’re going to be putting into it—dozens and dozens of hours every single month. You really have to be robotic about it, because if you aren’t, your client projects can be compromised.
Get ready for all the social media. We did a lot more promotion on social media because of COVID. Although I would’ve loved to have a launch party back in March, debuting the book with the help of digital platforms is still very helpful—and the good thing is, you get a much larger crowd. We would have hundreds of people from around the world on Instagram Live at one time.
Prepare for inquiries to roll in. About 90 percent of our projects from new clients in the last few months have come directly from the book. People get so attached to you because they are literally reading your thoughts. We had so many people reach out and say, “I bought your book, and I just can’t imagine doing my house without you. Are you available?” I never expected that.
Homepage image: An eclectic mix of traditional and tropical brings this sitting room by Jenkins to life. | Marco Rizza Studio