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From Karen Saunders

Your Branding, Marketing & Self-Publishing Coach

How to Make a Memoir Intriguing and Enduring Through Great Design

This month I’m shining the spotlight on a recent client project, and to explain how to make a memoir paint an exceptional picture of someone’s life.

Gene Rhodes wrote a comprehensive memoir of his dad, Billy Rhodes—an adventurous spirit who passed at a relatively young age. Gene meticulously compiled his dad’s diary, letters, old photos, documents, hand written notes and log books into a 320-page record of Billy’s life.

Gene came to us in 2011 for help with laying out the book interior, designing the cover and to learn how to make a memoir rise above others through excellent design and production techniques. Kerrie Lian my senior designer, worked closely with Gene to create the book cover and interior format.

Here is the final cover design:

How to make a memoir


This is the back cover:

How to make a memoir


Kerrie Lian Explains How to Make a Memoir Speak through Design, Photos, Imagery and Page Layout

“I love the opportunities and challenges being an artist affords. We have the privilege of portraying symbolically—using type, images, and color—what our clients are passionate about and want to tell others. Their enthusiasm for their product/service is infectious and throughout the design process, it’s easy for us to become as eager to tell their story as they are.

I love book design. I get the privilege of walking in the author’s shoes, listening to their story. This is a critical step in the design process to make sure the cover and interior layout exactly convey what prompted them to write their book in the first place.

Some Clients Are Very Involved in the Production Process

Clients come to us with varying degrees of desire to be involved in the design and production process. Some release much of the designing to our team’s discretion, while others have very specific ideas about the appearance of their book. Gene fell in the latter camp—he wanted to learn how to make a memoir an outstanding piece of work. Gene worked with us every step of the way and wanted to learn how to make a memoir the best it can be.

He had done his homework—reading books on the development of writing & publishing a book, reviewing countless biographies to find the “look” he wanted for his memoir, interviewing family members and friends to ensure his portrayal of his father was as accurate as possible. Even during the proofreading process, when it’s easy to assume everything is correct, Gene reread his manuscript copious times.

We Help Our Clients Learn How to Make a Memoir Look Fabulous with Old Photos

Desirous of cutting down on costs where possible, Gene worked closely with Karen who advised him how to correctly scan his photos so they were print-ready. After receiving his first proof from the printer, Gene wanted to further improve the appearance of some photos that became flat (loss of contrast). The type of printing, the printing press used, and the paper type and color all affected the appearance of the book. As a result, he rescanned a number of the photos and went through several more rounds of proofs until the final proof met his approval.

We Use the Most Appropriate Creative Elements and Style of Design to Support the Story

Billy was born in the late ‘20s, so for one of the initial cover comps, I used a limited color palette to match the sepia-toned photo of Billy, and incorporated paper that had a high fiber content for the background to lend a vintage feel to the cover. Later, this would be replaced by the current sky background—since he was a pilot—and a more formal picture of Billy.

Gene skillfully wove significant aspects of his father’s persona and that era in history together. He selected and meticulously reworked black & white photos, even choosing not to enhance certain damaged photos, preferring their ‘authentic’ appearance. His addition of some of Billy’s important documents, autograph book, poems and especially old photos, greatly enhance the reader’s understanding of who this man was.

Gene’s warm portrayal of his father’s antics and adventures captured a time of innocence, resourcefulness, and devotion to family and country which earmarked that time of history. Far from only being a tribute to his father, Gene allows Billy to speak timeless truths that will teach generations to come.”

— Kerrie Lian

Here are a few pages from the book interior:

How to Make a Memoir


How to make a memoir


This is what Gene has to say about our team’s effort on how to make a memoir:

“As a first time independent author one of the best decisions I made was to contract with Karen Saunders & Associates for professional help with my book. Kerrie Lian, as a team member, designed the book cover and interior layout. She reviewed the manuscript and captured the essence of the story with the cover.

The interior is equally attractive and reader friendly. Karen and Kerrie were just an email away and always provided prompt service. The finished product met my high expectations and at times exceeded them. It was a good experience working with Karen and Kerrie on this project. I often thought they both had the patience of Job! The best feedback for Karen Saunders & Associates are the readers who are now saying in various ways “a job well done.”

— Gene Rhodes

The book has become Billy’s legacy for his family. Here is a quote from one of Billy’s grandchildren:

“I thoroughly enjoyed reading your book. Read through it in a day. Even though I knew how the story ended, I wasn’t ready for it to be over just yet. I was brought to tears at the end. Even though I never met Granddaddy, I felt I was able to get to know him through these stories. Thanks for taking the time to write the book and sharing it with us.”

— Joanna Warfel