Kathy Strahs is the award-winning author of The Lemonade Stand Cookbook and the founder of Burnt Cheese Press. Her work has been featured on Oprah.com, TODAY.com, and numerous national publications. Kathy’s story is about finding a designer who went above and beyond expectations, demonstrating that they cared just as much about the success of Kathy’s book as she did herself.

This is Kathy’s story

When I published my newest cookbook, The Lemonade Stand Cookbook, my goal was to inspire and empower kids to start cooking, get crafty, and become entrepreneurs. I knew that the cover and interior design were the most important means of conveying these themes to readers, and it would take a designer with a special skill set to get them just right. This is why I feel so fortunate to have found Paula Riley through Reedsy: not only for her enviable talent but also for her initiative, commitment, work ethic, and overall personability. Paula and I were very successful in collaborating on my cookbook, and now that the project is complete, I’ve had a chance to reflect on what I believe made us work so well together.

Why I would work with my designer again

1. She has the right set of skills for the job

When I look for a collaborator, I want someone who knows my particular book genre and how to “speak” to my intended audience. The Lemonade Stand Cookbook is a children’s cookbook, so as I filtered through the hundreds of talented designer profiles on Reedsy, I kept my eye out for people with experience in both children’s publications as well as cookbooks in general. When I came across Paula’s profile, her portfolio was filled with examples of the colorful, graphical work she’d done with children’s magazines and books. At a glance, I could quickly tell that her fresh and modern aesthetic matched the look I’d had in mind for my book.

2. We were on the same page (pun intended)

The first big challenge in designing a book is translating high-level concepts (“Bright!” “Fun!” “Engaging!”) into an actual design. Starting with a shared vision is important. Paula and I traded several messages and spoke over the phone to flesh out our goals for the look and feel of the book. To help describe the aesthetic I had in mind, I shared examples of book covers and interiors that I liked with Paula. She, in turn, created a set of inspiration boards for the cover, interior, colors, typography, graphics, photography, and illustrations to help us get even closer to the actual design elements and themes we’d use in the book. This part of the process was especially fun, as I started seeing my book come to life.

3. Communication is key

I have always worked remotely with collaborators on my books. It’s absolutely doable as long as there are clear lines of communication. Paula is in the Midwest and I’m in California. With our respective kids’ nap and school schedules peppered throughout the day, email ended up being the easiest solutions. I’d say we emailed almost daily for six months. I very much appreciated the frequency with which Paula submitted work to me for feedback. Checking in every few days allowed us to stay in sync work-wise, and we were able to make tweaks or change direction before things progressed too far. Our feedback most certainly flowed in both directions: at times, I would suggest one approach and Paula would respectfully advise another, and because of the trust and confidence I had in her expertise, I was more than happy to follow her lead.

4. We’re in this together

I could tell from the outset that Paula took as much pride in the cookbook as I did. She was just as committed as I was to make it the best it could be. Even once we had our cover design and interior layout in place, Paula continued to refine design elements where she saw the opportunity to improve them.

5. She went above and beyond the creative brief

Anytime you’re working with someone who consistently exceeds what their role requires, you’re likely to yield extraordinary results. Paula’s publishing experience was an important reason why I chose her for the project, but she brought even more to the table than I’d anticipated. For example, when we needed to settle on a trim size and binding type for the book, she went to her local library, researched the various options, and summarized her findings in a matrix (which the “Type A” MBA in me greatly appreciated). When I was selecting a printer for the book, Paula coached me on the right questions to ask, obtained quotes, and interfaced with the production team when it came time to go to print.

The proof is in the pudding

Publishers Weekly praised our “polished design” in a recent review of The Lemonade Stand Cookbook, which was much-appreciated validation for this independently-published endeavor. Paula’s skills and expertise were a perfect match for this project from the start, and our collaborative approach, open communication, and shared commitment to excellence led us to success.

The Lemonade Stand Cookbook is available on Amazon.

This book was made with help from Paula Riley

Professional interior designer on Reedsy