revival western novel

Durango Outlaws

Book cover, layout and typesetting | A life reimagined

A preface: I included this book in my catalog as a warning. A warning to myself about observing red flags when accepting a project. And a warning to authors to be reasonable about their expectations when starting a publishing business.

Durango Outlaws is ostensibly the second in a three book western series following the exploits of an eastern bred young man as he reluctantly travels west in the late 1800’s (or maybe early 1900’s) as a boy, and somehow finds his way, embracing the west as a gunslinger then lawman in Arizona (Gunslinger Durango, first book) and later moving to Colorado in this book. Durango, Colorado.

Durango Outlaws, Final Cover mockup by Paul Nylander Durango Outlaws, Title Page mockup by Paul Nylander Durango Outlaws, TOC Page mockup by Paul Nylander

The playful Heartland (both regular and “spurs” variety) by Ukrainian type designer Andrey Sharonov offers a western-inspired look for both the cover and chapter openings. Reminding me of a cowboy’s rope work, the author’s name on the cover as well as chapter opening drop caps utilize the swishes and swashes of Reidfork Handdrawn by Indonesian design firm Swistblnk Design Co.

Durango Outlaws, Chapter opener mockup by Paul Nylander Durango Outlaws, Body pages mockup by Paul Nylander

The author insisted on Bookman Oldstyle 14/17, and I made the best of this classic font set in large-type size—it did push the book to the 100pp. minimum required by CreateSpace/KDP for spine text. And to be perfectly honest, if the book were printed at 75% scale, with the Bookman at 10.5/12.75 and the page size is closer to a traditional paperback at 4-1/2 x 6-3/4, this book visually works fine. After a couple more rounds of editing, it wouldn’t be half bad.

The cover image is a retouched stock photo, reimagining the cover image of the author’s first book, Gunslinger Durango, designed by the folks at Mill City Press. The crossed gun motif was also a nod to the first book’s design. Not much a fan of guns myself, I made an exception based on my period research and the history of the “Gunslinger” six-shooter.

Lessons Learned

For me, this project offered lessons beyond the usual technical or typographic … lessons in the reality of the business of publishing, and limits of contracts with self-published authors.

Without being too unkind, in this case the author thought he was a better writer than he was. Despite paying a vanity publisher on the first book, it went to press unedited. Still on a tight budget, I reluctantly agreed to do some content editing in this project—someone had to, it was unreadable in its original form. Although we agreed about costs in advance, he balked at the money he was spending to “change” his story, and so the editing was never really finished.

Money concerns are not unjustified by self-published authors. Many find it surprising what it costs to produce, publish, promote, and distribute a book. As in this case, many do not really fully appreciate that they are, in fact, starting a small publishing business. And while there certainly is money to be had in publishing, it is not the way to “get rich quick” as some seem to believe. No one gets famous overnight, or without putting in the effort to promote their work. No one.

Explore Other Projects…

Design is process of creative problem solving as applied to challenge of controlling how a user (i.e. a reader) interacts with their environment (i.e. the book). While Book Design isn’t writing, editing, or illustration, it affects the success of all three. It is part production minded, and part visual story-telling.

learn more about paul nylander and illustrada design

I encourage you to step through my recent projects and learn for yourself how I have applied a design process to a variety of different challenges. Or jump back up to the overview.