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October 6, 2020
5 Best Book Layout Tips
by Wendy Dean

Recently, I wrote about self-publishing considerations every self-pub author should know. Today, I weigh in on the interior pages and what every would be author should know. 

Book layout refers to the presentation of the inside of your book. Believe it or not, how you design the interior pages of your book matters. This includes understanding font, typesetting, trim size, image placement and margins. There should be a balance between the text and white space throughout the pages of your novel. Picture books have more room for playfulness, but the layout should balance text with the imagery.

Here are my 5 Best Book Layout Tips for Self-Publishers

 

Trim size

Welcome to the self-publisher’s first decision. Knowing the final size of your product can significantly affect your budget. Why? Because it’s the decision that most impacts the number of pages you end up printing. In turn, it will determine how you choose and layout the rest of this list. Be sure to pick your trim size based on the following criteria:

  • current trends in your genre,
  • sizes related to established publishers in your category, 
  • will it fit comfortably on the bookstore shelf? 
  • is the final trim going to significantly increase your page count (in turn increasing print price)?

Typography

Typography is the industry term for font. While there are hundreds of fonts to choose from, be sure to pick one that is readable and eye pleasing. For children’s books, avoid curly and overly fancy fonts. Emerging readers need to easily recognize sight words. They also learn by sounding out individual letters. A swirly font makes this more difficult. Eye fatigue sets in very quickly which can turn a new reader into a reluctant one. Sans-serif fonts are a top choice for this reason. 

Adult readers also prefer fonts less likely to cause eye fatigue; however, there is room for variation. Serif fonts are used widely in novels and sans-serif fonts are great in cookbooks. Different fonts can be used in the same book (For example, one for text and one for tables). Keep in mind consistency of use and a max of two, complimentary font families work best. 

Size matters. For novels, 10 – 12 points is ideal. For children’s books there is more wiggle room for an engaging and fun reaction, especially on book covers and title pages. However, use caution! Too much on the interior pages will turn your little reader off.

Typesetting

This book layout tip refers to placing text on the page. Done correctly, readers will never be the wiser. Typesetters ensure the placement of text considers all of the following:

  • Hyphenated words at the end of each sentence. Excessive amounts of these throw off the balance of the paragraph.
  • Poor word spacing. Too much or too little will create distracting white space on the page.
  • Windows and orphans. Windows occur when a lone word or short group of words end a paragraph, column, or page. Orphans appear at the top. Both leave an abundance of white space, breaking the flow of reading across two pages.
  • Kerning & Leading. Space between characters and lines of text are important. Words need room to flow.
  • Drop caps. The fancy, single large capital letter to start the paragraph of a new chapter, and how the text that follows flows around it.
  • Book blocks. Taking care that the text on facing pages ends on the same row.

Images and placement

These considerations enhance the overall product by balancing imagery and text. Avoid crowding images in order to blend the story and pictures seamlessly. Vary the image sizes and placement in the book. Too much repetition here, and your reader will get bored.

Picture books require you to mix text and illustration, allowing the pictures to help tell the story as much as the text. You can get creative with text by typing on a curve or use large and illustrated typography. But beware! A little goes a long way, don’t overdo it. 

Margins

Arguably, margins could be placed under typesetting; however, their importance deserves a special paragraph. They create the blank space surrounding the text, allowing the reader’s eyes to flow through it without eye strain. They also keep words within a ‘safe text area’, preventing text from coming too close to the trim. Thus creating interior visual appeal. 

Top margins provide room for running heads, while bottom margins are generally larger and may contain page numbers. The interior margins, or the gutter, combine for the largest margins. This accounts for the page binding, while still allowing for the text to appear centered when you open the book.

Once your interior pages are perfect, it’s time to decide on your cover art. This is the literal wrapping of your book into a unique, eye catching, and sellable package. Learn more in our next post.

Book layout can be frustrating and time consuming. Fortunately, it’s one of our favorite things to do and we excel at it! If you are looking for assistance in laying out your book or in any area of self-publishing, contact us at [email protected].

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