Trying to think through the things that worked well for me when doing SoFoBoMo and the things that I struggled with or would do differently if I was doing it again. Paul Lester has already provided some of his thoughts on this topic, too.
- Project selection
Don't over think this bit. It doesn't have to be the most overarching, complex project theme. In fact, the simplest idea is often the best to work with. Great ideas come from putting two small ideas together in an interesting way, so don't worry about it being too deep and meaningful. The real key is to make it something that is accessible to you. Maybe you'll shoot your entire project in a day, in which case, accessibility isn't too challenging, if you happen to be near the subject or theme. But if you want to return to it for a few times over the month, don't pick something that is far away or difficult for you to get to. It just adds one more barrier to getting it done. The best subjects and projects are those close to home that you are familiar with and have access to. Don't pick the American Southwest as your theme if you live in England and won't be there during the SoFoBoMo month. Some of the best books I saw last year had the simplest themes, for example, the numbers 1 to 35 in 'I can count' by ndalum78. A treasure hunt, a witty book, all in one simple and elegant project - all from a very simple idea.
At the same time you aren't over thinking the project selection, it is worth giving it some thought. Pick something you want to do or that interests you. You will be looking at the pictures a lot, so find something that fires your imagination and has enough depth for you to shoot 35 pictures of.
- Book design
I'm not a graphic designer. I'm not a book designer. You don't have to be. I do have quite a few photographic books at home. I looked at them, with an eye to how they were laid out. Take some time to study the books you have available to you. Go to your library and look for some more. Instead of looking at the pictures too closely, pay attention to the structure and flow of the book design. Notice how almost all books you look at have two title pages, one very plain and readable, the other more stylised? After a bit of time spent looking at the structure you'll get a feel for the patterns you'll want to replicate in your book. It is also worth reading some introductory books on graphic design and typography. You don't need to be an expert but it helps to have some appreciation of what is going on.
If you plan on doing a layout of your own, find a book with the sort of structure and design you want and copy it. Make it your own, borrow hints from it, rather than going all out to design it yourself.
There is plenty of software that will let you lay out the pages. I used Adobe InDesign to lay out my pages, which has a big learning curve. There are easier options. The key is to spend a bit of time before the SoFoBoMo period getting all the kinks worked out. Make a sample book just to work out how to get from the start to the end PDF or printed book. It'll help you a lot to do this without the deadline pressure. I made a small book with Blurb the month before SoFoBoMo that really helped me understand how I wanted things to look. Use pictures you have already, or go shoot some in an afternoon. It will help.
Some people used PowerPoint. Microsoft Word. Microsoft Works. Most anything you can use to put images and text together and then print from, can be used to create a PDF book. If you have a Mac, the PDF printing is already built in. Most Adobe products on either platform will generate a PDF. If you have a Windows machine, there are several free PDF printer drivers you can install - then all you have to do is print to them and your PDF will be created. e.g., Foxit PDF Creator or pdf995
You probably don't need to go and buy new software to create a SoFoBoMo PDF. If you want to go to a finished book, things get a bit different. Shutterfly and Blurb both provide layout software for creating books. However, this software doesn't typically let you produce a PDF, without heavy watermarks or branding, so isn't ideal for a SoFoBoMo submission. I did my book in layout software and generated full page JPEGs for each page. I then used the Blurb software to put each of those pages as 'full bleed' (print to the edges) images. So I had the same layout without really using the Blurb layout software, other than to assemble the pre-designed pages.