My biggest struggle in making books is figuring out how to both make something well and have it still be unique. Unlike say drawing or printmaking, in books, there is a limited pallet of decorative papers and book cloth. When you are looking at handmade books, it can start to feel like everyone is shopping at the same Michael's and took a class on how to make a journal.
So. What do you do. Well, I've been trying to find ways around this without compromising quality. I mean, there's a reason why people choose to use bookcloth, it works. Very well. In order for me to sleep at night, if I sell a book to someone, I need to know it's going to stay together.
Instead of using decorative papers for end sheets and covers, I've been using vintage and alternative materials. Old illustrations, posters, collage, etc. But, you say, this is not acid free! I know. This pains me. So whenever possible, I back it with an acid free paper and always use acid free PVA. Of course, acidity is what gives that paper that lovely brown patina which I adore. Decisions, decisions.
I've also started incorporating drawings onto the covers. On the inside, I embellish with stickers, paper inserts, and other little surprises. All these things make the books more interesting to make, and hopefully, more interesting to use. We'll see.