Sunday Mailbag

October 27th, 2013 | Posted in Mailbag

Q: I have a question about the art of book writing.

I own your book “The Mad Art of Caricature” and I love it, but I would like to know how you went to produce it. I understand that you use Photoshop for your work and you incorporated it in the book to show examples, but did the publisher you go through to produce it give you a set template? For example, did the publisher tell you where to place the page numbers and headings you see on each page, or was that part of your design for each individual page?

I’m using Illustrator for the artwork and Word for the text. I’m curious on how to go about writing a book (Like caricatures, I’m fairly new at it) I have an idea, some finished pages (24 completed), but that’s about it.

A: I self-published The Mad Art of Caricature, so I am the publisher as well as the author, illustrator and designer. I also emptied the trash and made coffee for the staff.

What you are really asking is not how you write a book, but how you design a book, i.e. the layouts, typography, etc. I did that all myself but couldn’t begin to explain how to do it in depth, as I sort of “flew by the seat of my pants” when doing the book design. It was a combination of research and trial and error.

I did the production in Adobe InDesign, which was a bit of a learning curve as I had never used it before. There are many tutorials and guides online as well as some books on how to use it. By doing some research, I was able to learn enough to create the layout and produce the book. For the really hard stuff, I asked some artists friends of mine to suggest an InDesign expert to me, and I paid that person to come over and give me a three hour lesson, specifically on how to do some of the things I wanted to do that I could not figure out on my own. Through that combination of resources, I got the book put together.

As far as design goes, what I did was look thorough my library of books on cartooning and “how-to-do stuff” looking for ideas. I liked the 2 column page, unbalanced layout that I saw several examples of, which had the flexibility of leaving the outside column on a page empty for extra images, cropping the text to a half page or any desired depth, or doing a single top to bottom column with extra room for images, or going text-dense. I came up with the color coded chapter headers as a way to easily distinguish chapters even with the book closed, and played around with text wrapping for image placement.

Look around for design inspiration at your local library or bookstore, and think about what the purpose of your book is and what would be the best way to present your words and pictures to serve that purpose. It will take some research and learning on your part but it’s entirely possible to put together a well designed and produced book on your own thanks to available software and know-how.

Thanks to Ethan Keister for the question. If you have a question you want answered for the mailbag about cartooning, illustration, MAD Magazine, caricature or similar, e-mail me and I’ll try and answer it here!


  1. N Gomes says:

    And not to forget, this website, which is very well designed too!


New profile pic courtesy of my self-caricature for the Scott Maiko penned article “Gotcha! Mug Shots of Common (but Despicable) Criminals” from MAD 550

Workshops Ad

Dracula ad

Doctor Who Ad

Superman Ad

%d bloggers like this: