I want to make my own special edition book

Nine leather-bound books on bookshelves. The books are in different colour leathers -- some brown, some green, some dark blue. They all have gilding of some kind and designs of varying intricacy. Some have the titles visible: there's the Mistborn trilogy, The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson, Outlander, and Drums of Autumn.

Nov 19th Update: I did it! Read the follow-up post.

Last week I read a post where someone documented how they created their own leather-bound edition of Gardens of the Moon. Safe to say I became obsessed. I want to do it too!

My favourite book series is Tairen Soul by C.L. Wilson. I’ve always been a bit upset that the books were only ever released in mass market paperback (no hardcover!). Maybe this could be a good opportunity to create my own snazzy leather-bound edition?!

I’ve started digging a little into what this process would entail. The above blog post is extremely useful, but I still had a few questions.

Do I need permission?

If I want to reprint a copy in a larger hardcover size (not just re-bind an existing edition), do I need permission from the author/publisher? Keeping in mind it’s just one single copy for private/personal use and will never be distributed. I still don’t know the answer to this!

The book is published by HarperCollins. They have a very useful permission request form, but they explicitly say:

Our permissions departments do not advise as to what is or not “fair use”. If you determine that the selection you wish to use falls under “fair use” guidelines then you need not place a request here.

I’m not sure if this use case would be fair use. On the one hand, this is completely private, non-commercial, and I’m not selling or distributing the books in any way. I also own the paperback and ebook (which I know doesn’t necessarily give me the right, but would make me feel less bad about it). On the other hand, we’re talking about reprinting (not photo copying) the entire book.

I could fill out the form to be safe, but then assuming they approve the request, I am committing myself to paying $100 minimum.

I’m still not sure how to proceed with this yet. I emailed the author for her permission and haven’t heard back yet. (Fingers crossed!)

I taught myself InDesign

One of the first things I did was start an InDesign trial. This is one component I wanted to tinker with myself. I knew I wouldn’t be able to bind the book myself or draw awesome artwork for it, but surely I could make InDesign work.

I spent several days reading articles and watching YouTube videos on how to generally get this working. I think I have something going that works now. (If this ended up being insanely painful I would have put an end to the idea right then.)

I researched:

  • Book sizes
  • Margins
  • Font sizes / families
  • Book layouts (where to put page numbers, etc.)
  • Chapter headings (fancy or plain? I’m leaning towards plain)

I’m sure a professional could do this way better than me, but if I’m going to do this I want to be able to say I contributed something myself.

Interior artwork – hard to find!

I also love the idea of commissioning some artwork to include in the book. Turns out this is… really hard! (I’ve never commissioned art before.)

I started talking to some artists to get a sense of pricing and timelines. Pretty much every artist I’m interested in either hasn’t replied to me (yet?), doesn’t take commissions in general, or is so booked out that they aren’t even putting new people on a waiting list. I have a whole new respect for any author that’s able to commission a gorgeous, illustrated book cover. (If you know of an illustrator, feel free to let me know!)

I still have a few leads and I’m hoping one will pan out. Right now my expectation is to have to wait 3-4 months before an artist would even be able to start.

Finding a printer who will give you the time of day

Another hard one. I only want one single book printed, which is a complete waste of time for most printers. I was rejected by two three right off the bat (count increased while writing this post lol). I do have a couple leads now, but it’s challenging. It doesn’t help that I’m being a little difficult by not wanting a “standard” paperback or hardcover. I want no cover (so it can be leather-bound separately), tip-ins, and custom endpapers! This means I have to talk to pre-sales for any site I can find (I can’t use one of those “just pick your book format and upload your files” services, because I have special requirements).

Rereading the book

Paperback of Lord of the Fading Lands by C.L. Wilson with a ton of mini post-it notes bookmarking various places of the book. The post-it notes have handwritten labels (not all clearly legible though). Some of the labels are "Sariel", "Tairen", "Threat", "Quote".

I also reread Lord of the Fading Lands (my sixth read of it!), taking notes along the way. I bookmarked character descriptions and scenes that I’m potentially interested in having illustrated.

It’s been less than a week since this idea first took root in my mind, but it feels like it’s been a year. I’ve been through so many ups and downs, from:



I can’t find an artist anywhere! This project is never going to happen! It’s DOOMED! I should just stop all my research now!

(Dramatic, I know.)

I still have a lot to figure out, and there’s a chance I’ll give up along the way. But I really hope I manage to make this work!

Photo of Ashley
I'm a 30-something California girl living in England (I fell in love with a Brit!). My three great passions are: books, coding, and fitness. more »

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