Your book is moving forward steadily. The text is complete, and based on what we discussed last week, the editing and proofreading are finished. You have a high-quality book that’s going to change people’s lives. But at this point it’s probably still ugly. It’s just text on a page (or screen). People really do judge a book by its cover, and many other visual elements, so we better make it pretty and attractive (and useful).
Today’s Kryptonite: Book Design!
Today’s show is sponsored by Free Agent Press.
Free Agent Press specializes in Do It For You Self-Publishing.
You write, and they help you get it out there. Visit FreeAgentPress.com to learn more!
Why do visual elements matter in a written book?:
- It’s just words, right? Why does it matter? People will open it and read it and that’s that. Right?
- Yes and no. From a purely logical standpoint, that is all correct. Read the words, gain the knowledge. But we aren’t Vulcan!
- It’s easy to see that a cover can attract or repel a potential reader or purchaser.
- But have you considered the interior graphics or even the layout of the book itself? The font choices, the font sizes, the spacing, the margins? The use of whitespace?
- All of these visual elements can impact the readability of the text, and in some cases, enhance the comprehension of the story. Even the use of page numbers or text in the header or footer plays a role.
- Sadly, most people never notice details like this, though we are all affected by them. These are the invisible aspects of a book…until they are done poorly. If it’s not done right, the book is ugly or unreadable. And that defeats the purpose of a book to begin with.
What do you need to look for in the design of your book?:
- The front cover will be the first thing most people see, even before they read the title. Its mission is to entice the buyer and attract the reader; to get them to want to look at it and pick it up and know more. That intrigue goes a long way toward selling books.
- The back cover and spine are important as well and play a similar role as the front cover: be attractive and provide some more information about the book and perhaps the author. If you pick up a book at the bookstore, the first thing you look at after the front cover is normally the back cover. Make it count.
- The cover is like the movie trailer. Sell the book with the cover.
- It’s worth noting that a lot of ugly books sell well. Sometimes they sell on the strength of the author’s name, or maybe they’re ugly on purpose in order to grab attention. Be careful of this path…it can backfire on you.
- Now it’s time to open the book and get a sense of the interior.
- Is it easy to read the text based on font, font size, and spacing used?
- Is there enough blank space in the margins, especially the interior margins, to frame the text and make it easy to read? Is there too much white space, so much that it looks like filler to thicken the book?
- Are the page numbers placed in a useful but unobtrusive position on the header or footer? There are infinite options here, just look through a bunch of books at the library or bookstore.
- Are chapter titles in the header or footer, or maybe the author’s name or the name of the book? Again, it should be unobtrusive, but useful.
- What color is the paper? How big is each page? How thick is the book? How is it bound? How are the pages cut (rough or smooth)? Even the color and thickness of the paper matters in its presentation to the consumer and reader.
- What content is at the front and back of the book? Endorsements, table of contents, introductions, forewords, conclusions, acknowledgements, dedications, indices, appendices, and more. Consider all of the content because it’s all within the pages of your book.
- Pick up any book you like and analyze it. Look at every aspect of the book you can think of, and imagine what you want your book to be like.
- If you have a publisher, many of these things will be decided without your input or with minimal input.
- If you are the publisher, they are your decisions. Don’t make them accidentally. Different printers and self-publishing companies may have limited options, but where there are options, there are decisions to be made.
How do you find help or do you do it yourself?:
- If you have a publisher, they will likely handle all of the details and invite you into the process to some degree. But if you go with a hybrid publisher or self-publish, it’ll largely be up to you.
- Let’s break this into two categories: Interior and Exterior
- If you have an eye for design and professional tools, it’s not very hard to do the work of making a book cover. But making the right book cover is a make or break decision. It is the most basic commercial for your book, and often establishes the book’s brand, perhaps even that of the author. Most people should hire a professional to do this work.
- Ask around, search online for cover designers, or use a service like 99Designs. You can get a great cover and lots of options for just $300-500. A pro designer who also builds out the marketing materials for your book may cost $2000 or more.
- Look through Amazon for examples of covers you like (generally amongst the bestsellers). You’ll also find a ton of horrible looking books (some sell in spite of it…but don’t bet on your book being the exception).
- Remember that the book layout is much more than just setting your margins and type in MS Word. Most big publishers use tools like Adobe InDesign, which give great control over the presentation of the content.
- If you’re an MS Word master, you may get away with doing it yourself. But you still have to have an eye for design and consistency, and you’re really close to your own project. Be careful.
- It may be best to hire a layout editor. They will make your book look professional. It may look simple when they are done, but that is the mark of a pro. You won’t see the millions of decisions and micro adjustments they had to make to get it just right.
- Stroll through a bookstore or library, or pull some books off of your shelf. Notice the little differences in design and production. Use that knowledge for inspiration, as well as acknowledging the nuances involved that you may never have noticed before.
- Begin capturing examples of book covers and layout ideas that you like. These can inspire you and provide valuable input to the designers you hire.
- When in doubt, hire it out.