Monday, 25 July 2011

Step 4: Designing your Book

The difference between Cover and Content Design 

This is one of the most important stages of bookpublishing, as without good design your book will never stand out or be glanced at long enough to be picked up, let alone read. It is very hard to market, sell or get someone to read a book that is not visually appealing. There are many things to consider when designing a book and the first is that the cover and content design must be treated separately as different things are required of each in order to meet your desired outcome. At the same time it is important to get the two, while very different, to tie in together as one project. A book designed well will go far, but a poorly designed book will have little to no impact at all.

As you have probably picked up by now, there is a pattern in how to do any stage of the Book Publishing Process: you can do it yourself, pay someone else to do it for you, or do a combination of the two eg. you give a designer your idea and they computerise it for you.

Generally, the 'pleasure book' people like to do themselves, the 'publicity book' people like to pay someone else to do it and the 'profit book' is a combination of the two. Whether you do it yourself, pay someone else to do it for you or a combination of the two, the same basic elements need to be included or not included in both your cover and content design to ensure a successful outcome.

Book Cover Design 
There are 4 important things to keep in mind when designing a book cover:

1. Attention Grabbing Front Cover
2. Attention Grabbing Title
3. Informative Subtitle
4. Enticing Blurb on Back Cover

Without each of these elements your book will never make large sales in bookstores or online. This is not to say that you cannot sell your book without these elements, but just that these elements ensure you will sell a lot more, as they make your cover more appealing to the potential reader. Please don't think, however, if your aim isn't to sell your book, that the above are not applicable for you. If publicity is your goal, you still need to sell books to get publicity, so the above requirements still hold. Likewise, if your goal is to produce a book to fulfil a dream, don't you still want you book to be read after your dream has been fulfilled? If this is the case then the above also applies to you, as whether you are selling a book at a cost or giving it away for free, the same sales techniques are still valid. You don't just want your customer to exchange their money for a copy of your book, you also want them to read, enjoy and gain something from reading the content inside. As such, all of the above steps are essential for any book cover design.

An attention grabbing Front Cover ( Title page) is vital for any book, as without it your book won't stand out from all the many others available on bookshelves today. Once your title page has caught their attention, it is the title of the book that holds it.

A good title should be something thought provoking that holds the viewer's attention after the cover has captured it. A good title is designed to hold the reader's attention long enough to get them to read the subtitle.

A good subtitle's role is to tell them what your book is actually about.
For example: A book with two children fighting on the cover may capture attention and a title like "Cats and Dogs" would hold your reader's attention as they try to determine how the two go hand in hand. Your title doesn't necessarily need to have anything to do with the subject matter of your book, as it is often this seeming contradiction between the two that draws the reader close enough to read the subtitle. The subtitle 'How to stop your children acting like animals' would be enough to not only draw both the cover art and title together but tell the potential reader exactly what the book is about. 

It is the combination of these three elements working together that gets the potential reader to pick your book from the shelf. This is all the front cover of your book is designed to do, to get the reader to pick your book up and turn it over.

Once the book has been picked up, the back cover becomes more important.

It is the power of the blurb on the back cover that does one of two things, depending on the aim of your book. Either it gets your book purchased or it gets your book read (or in the case of a saleable book, both). As such, it is important that your blurb contains only snippets of the very best bits of your book to give people an accurate snapshot of what they will find inside. A good measure I like to stick with is as follows:

  • One stanza of introduction, 
  • One stanza of about the author, 
  • last stanza of dedication 
  • and 3 testimonials to qualify you as a credible source of knowledge on your subject matter. 

Of course, you still need the legal elements below this, such as barcode and ISBN number but I also recommend putting the recommended retail price and your web address so people know how much your books costs and where they can go to get more information on the book, the author or companion titles.

For a complete checklist of the essential cover design elements please refer to the checklist on the next page.

1. Attention Grabbing Front Cover
2. Attention Grabbing Title
3. Informative Subtitle

4. Enticing Blurb (including first stanza of the Introduction, first stanza of About the Author, last stanza of the Dedication and 3 Testimonials)
5. Barcode & ISBN Number
6. Recommended Retail Price (RRP)
7. Web Address

8. Attention Grabbing Title
9. Informative Subtitle

Book Content Design 
There are 4 important things to keep in mind when designing the content of a book.
1. Clear and concise table of contents
2. Easy to read page numbers
3. Reasonable size text with plenty of space
4. Consistent design throughout the whole book

Without all of these elements, people will have difficulty navigating around or working their way through your book. Like cover design, that does not mean that some people will not read or find their way around your book, it just means that the easier you make it for people to read your book, the more people who will, and in turn the more sales or publicity you will receive. If you do not make it easy for people to read your book, you will end up with a dissatisfied reader.That is the worst thing for any author, as it guarantees no future return business from that customer in the case of a sequel and no referrals to their friends.

Unfortunately (particularly if your book is a 'dream book'), not everyone will read every chapter of your book. While this may be disappointing considering the amount of work you have put in to each and every chapter, given the time restraints everyone seems to face these days, people just want to jump to the source of the information they are looking for. As such, a clear and concise table of contents is essential for any book. Yes, I do mean any book, as these days, even in a novel, people want to see the outline before they begin reading and then there are those people who want to jump straight to the end. While you may not want them to do that, if they want to they will become disinterested and discouraged if they can't. If the table of contents points them straight to the exact page number for any section of the book, clearly labelled with what they can find there, the ease of navigating around your book will be a pleasure for your reader.

The flip side, of course, to any table of contents is easy to read page numbers. There is no point having the clearest table of contents in the world if when the reader flicks through your book they are unable to find the number of the page they are looking for.

Common mistakes with page numbers include:
• putting them in a different position on the left or right hand pages eg. 10mm from the left hand margin and 20mm from the right hand margin
• putting them in the exact same spot regardless as to whether they are on the left hand page or right
• putting them too close to the page's edge so they get guillotined off when your book is produced
• putting them in a font that is hard to read.

If you stay away from these common mistakes the numbering of your book should be fine. Remember, the clearer the numbers the easier the navigation and the easier the navigation the more satisfied the reader.

By now the reader must be starting to appear as the author's worst enemy. Even if you have a very clear table of contents with easy to read page numbers to allow for navigation around your book, if the reader gets to any page and it is not consistent with any other page or the text is too large or too small to read easily or doesn't have enough white space around it, they will still be deterred from reading your book.They may not even know why, but they will put your book down because it bothers them.

As such it is imperative that your type is neither too large nor too small. I recommend somewhere between 8-14 point depending on the target market. Anything larger then 14 point tells the reader you think they are too blind to see anything smaller, which never leaves a good impression, and anything smaller then 8 point makes reading hard work. You never want to make someone have to work to read your book. Rather, you want the reading experience to be enjoyable.

Regardless of the size of the type though, if there is not enough space around each line or between each paragraph, the reader will still have difficulty reading what you have written, so make sure your book is as spacious as possible. People have a habit of trying to fit too much on a page. There is nothing wrong with having a slightly longer book if it makes the reading experience more enjoyable for your reader. In fact it may add credibility to you if your book is perceived as longer than it actually is, or allow you to charge a higher RRP if there are significantly more pages than others in your field. Even once you have done all of this, though, you must make sure you have done it on every page, as an inconsistent book is just as annoying to the reader as a poorly designed one.


1. Clear, easy to read, accurate table of contents EACH PAGE
2. Easy to read page numbers
3. Reasonable size text eg. not too big and not too small
4. Plenty of space around each line of text
5. Check that there is no line with just one word on it
6. Check that there is no page with just one paragraph on it
7. Check that there are no hyphens through words at the end of lines carrying onto the next line or page. 

8. All of the above consistent throughout the whole book

Once you have checked that your table of contents is correct and provides a clear, easy to follow indication of your book's content, and have checked each page of your book has all the necessary requirements listed above and have ensured every part of your book is consistent with every other part of your book, your book is complete and is ready to be registered.

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