Dave Wofford – Interview 2-13-15

2015 Pamlico Writers Conference and Competition

March 21, 2015 8:30am to 6pm

The Turnage Theatre

150 W. Main Street, Washington, NC 27889

Horse & Buggy Press Todays interview is with printer/publisher Dave Wofford of Horse and Buggy Press. During the conference, Mr. Wofford will begin the day as one of a three person panel discussion on Launching Today’s Writer. He will discuss cover and interior page designs and all that it entails. Later, in a breakaway session, Mr. Wofford will present a workshop on Book Design for the Self-publisher. His talk will center on design philosophies along with sharing content from recent H&B titles and stories from collaborations. Side spurs and tangents will also be explored and audience participation is encouraged. He will have a selection of books for his audience to see and handle. This workshop should prove interesting and helpful for all who attend.

Dave Wofford - Horse and Buggy Press 




Dave Wofford



As a book designer who has run Horse & Buggy Press as a one person design and letterpress company since 1996, I enjoy working on a wide range of books for small and large publishers (art books, novels, history, poetry, memoirs), and directly for writers who are self-publishing, either because they want a more collaborative experience seeing their work brought to the final form of a physical book, or because they don’t want to deal with shopping a book around to publishers and waiting on all that entails.

Q.   When a new writer comes to you with a manuscript, what do you do with the book that will save the writer time and frustration?

A.   When I first sit with a writer who is hiring me to design and produce their book, I ask them to share with me the background of the writing of the story, where did it arise from; and also where do they plan to place it so the reading public will discover it, and who do they see as the main intended target audience for the book? I try to find out as much as possible about how the writer sees the story and the hopes of its presentation before I read the manuscript myself and conversation covers not only design but what are marketing plans/goals.

I explain some of the parameters about book production options (edition size, page size, paper types) so the writer understands some of the big picture parameters before we start talking about design possibilities. I believe it almost always makes sense to figure out and explain the production route the book will go through (digital vs offset, soft vs hard cover, standard page size versus something a little out of the ordinary) before starting to focus on design, typography and style issues.

The big thing of course that a good book designer does is make reading the book more enjoyable by creating a beautiful visual artifact, and preferably in an engaging style that is harmonious with the content or type of writing within the book. Personally, I always design a book from the inside out. The cover is the last thing I work on for many reasons including I might get cover design ideas while working on the “meat” of the book.

Q.   Can the writer provide art for the cover or is that discouraged?

A.  I enjoy it when authors understand how to brainstorm, that is they bring ideas to the table (and occasionally even a piece of art to be considered for the cover or frontispiece) but they are open to hearing totally different ideas and responding with specifics about what they like or don’t like in seeing what I come up with, and they don’t look at me like a tool to just execute any idea in their head or that they have seen done elsewhere. On a good project, there will be enjoyable conversation.

Q.  How finished should the manuscript be when the writer brings it to you? (In other words, should it be edited, proofread, and no more changes required unless they happen in the formatting?)

A.  It is best if I don’t start designing a book until the manuscript is done, edited, and proofread (it definitely makes things more efficient which also helps keep costs down) but it is of course not that big of a deal to fix a few typos here and there after design has begun. Occasionally for larger book projects, and especially ones that have a number of illustrations, captions, sidebars and accompanying info I might design a chapter and stop, sharing it with the author to make sure they like the visual strategy before running it through the entire book.

Q.  What do you do that will make the book more marketable?

A.  When I finish designing a book, my job is not over as I am also the production coordinator and I ensure that the book manufacturing goes well, problems are avoided, schedules are maintained, and there are no unpleasant surprises seeing the design turned into a physical artifact. I explain how different size editions may or may not be that much of a difference in cost. The books I designed have quite a bit more attention to detail in typography and compositional page design than the majority of the books out there, and of course this helps books get picked up more often in the book store or at the book fair/conference, etc. Working with a computer is something anyone can do of course, but a book designer brings a heavy background of typography, composition, and visual aesthetics that are based on years of visual training and practice.

Horse & Buggy Press, Printing crowsAs the world gets filled up with more and more fast paced gadgets and backlit screens everywhere we look, a well-designed book that deals with things like subtlety and quiet beauty are more and more appreciated and stand out because of the grace they have, a sense of aesthetics that rewards our sense of touch, and because they leave room for the reader to absorb content and activate their imagination.

In addition to working as book designer for publishers and writers I also publish fine press books under the H&B imprint. These are very much based on making the book a special artifact, and being more concerned with aesthetics than economics sometimes, which is a nice treat and a bit different from my work on trade book editions.

Here are links to a few of these fine press projects. Most of these editions go out of print within a year of producing them but I’ll be bringing copies to the conference for showing and sharing.


Another project that I really enjoy working on are memoir projects and I enjoy showing how it is possible to combine the inexpensive digital printing with hand-printed letterpress covers, showing you can incorporate very different technologies in the same book and make memoir books in small editions that are amazingly affordable for being so much nicer in quality than the average machine printed memoir book you see. I enjoy bringing these stories and histories to light, and making book editions that are so nice, I know they will be passed down for multiple generations and really provide a strong link between several generations, something that seems to get lost in today’s world.

By Doris Schneider

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