How to Design your Book Layout
Whenever we begin reading a book, we expect to almost be immediately enthralled by the time we’ve finished reading the first few paragraphs. When a book has a poor layout design, it’s easy to lose interest quickly, regardless of the subject matter, genre or even characters. Sometimes it’s difficult to understand why this has happened, and nearly impossible to explain. Why?
Often referred to as interior design or typesetting, the layout of a book has a huge impact on its readability and success. Unfortunately, the only time a layout is even recognized is when it has been done wrong. Although it seems like a simple process, designing a layout is what separates professional books from the amateurs. One must also realize the contrasts between print and digital book layouts, as they differ greatly and must be done using various methods.
While books in PDF format, that are often downloaded and read on digital devices, are sometimes referred to as ebooks, they have a unique format. This is not the kind of book we are referring to, as those ebooks often use a format like MOBI, which is designed to be used with special software for Kindles, and more. Kindle ebooks require use of the same layouts, to maintain a universal look as well as general functionality.
Have you ever heard the phrase “don’t judge a book by its cover”? While cover designs may appear to be easy, they require a lot of attention, too. Something as small as the wrong type of choice can throw a layout completely off course, yet it is the key to great design. The success of your book is dependent upon more than just a good storyline, as everything works together to create a great experience for your readers.
Aside from designing your book cover, there are a few more specifics that require consideration for your overall layout. For example, did you know that some font styles can cause headaches? Good designers do. Font selection, trim size, page margins, space formatting, sidebars, and other layout elements such as black and white versus color, and choosing to go with hardback or paperback, all require a certain attention to detail. You also may have to decide whether you’d like to incorporate artistic aspects such as graphics and illustrations. Good books also require proofreading to catch errors in grammar, as well as punctuation mistakes.
Something as menial as breaking a paragraph incorrectly can completely derail a reader’s train of thought. It causes partial lines to run onto the next page, often known as widows. This is just one example of why hiring an interior designer is so important. Honestly, though, these small issues snowball into a bigger problem, which is the reason it’s expensive to correct – no one wants that job.
Most designers enter this field because of their love for creating beautiful projects. While the interior print layout has those aspects, it is hard work that demands a lot of hours from a talented individual. It often requires a lot of boring considerations and precision constraints, whereas most designers prefer to have more freedom in their work.
The current book market is flooded with new authors every day, which makes it rather difficult to stand out. Print books require so much more work and attention to detail, which is exactly why you should design one if you expect to be noticed in a sea of competing novels. Many new authors completely veer away from the challenge of creating print books because there are so many obstacles to overcome. This often divides books into two categories: ones that can be taken seriously, and those that shouldn’t.
Digital books are sometimes considered less impressive than paperbacks because many readers don’t see them as real books. Depending on the genre of your book, having your work recognized as the genuine article is crucial, as it would be rather difficult to hand out copies of an ebook at a business convention. If you want your book to be taken seriously, you cannot skip the step of creating a high-quality physical edition.
Designing the Interior
Page margins are one of the design elements referred to as negative space; open, empty spaces. This includes margins between words and the edge of the page. You need to make sure your outside margins allow room for the book to be held without covering words, ensure the inside margin prevents text from slipping into the binding area, allow space for the book title, author name, and page number in the top margin and balance the flow of the page with plenty of space in the bottom margin. These four margins are generally similar in size, while the inside margins are closer to 25% to 50% bigger than the outside.
Most professional books use old style font-families, such as Garamond, Caslon and more. Because typography is an important attribute to your book, as well as a complex field, your chosen font needs to be universally easy to read. The font-style must not be harshly affected by font-weight or emphasis (bold, italic, etc.), while printed at an 11pt font-size.
The flow of your words on a page is highly dependent upon headers and titles. Any good design allows for properly formatted space and is thoughtfully structured with ease of reading in mind. Poor design often feels confusing, as though everything is competing for crowded space.
When you’re reading, you may take notice of the bottom or top of the page, to check chapter titles and page numbers. The typography should often be times smaller, which is what good designs utilize.
Most common books generally utilize the industry standard sizing of 6” x 9”, which works for nearly any style. Horizontal trim measurements are given first, followed by vertical, and are always measured in inches. UK Book Printing utilizes a 5.5” x 8.5” format, which is more common among business books. Although many are printed in 5” x 8”, they tend to look too awkward and small.
Creating a Print Layout
Whether you are looking to do it yourself, or hire an outside source, there are a few key elements that need special attention.
Do it Yourself
If your budget doesn’t leave room to hire a designer to create a layout, there are other ways to get it done yourself. Remember, a cheap interior can mean the difference between success and failure, as it often changes the perception of your book. To further step up your DIY game, dedicate time to learning programs such as Adobe InDesign, as well as researching the fundamentals of professional typography and elements of design. Another option for Mac-only authors is Vellum. Although it isn’t free, it is the best tool for Do-it-Yourself authors, allowing you to generate print and eBook files with ease. Although we recommend using on of our in-house designers, there are three other options to fit your budget, should you decide to bypass the hands-on DIY approach.
Online freelance sites such as Fiverr, Bookalope or Upwork allow designers to offer layout services with their own predetermined fee. Some individuals also allow you to request a customized package tailored to your specific project. It’s important to realize, though, that the quality of these designs could be really low. Only choose this route with the understanding that your book may not look entirely professional overall. Going DIY would most likely be more advantageous than sacrificing your book to a low-quality designer.
Some graphic designers work on websites similar to Reedsy, to gain experience with layout work. Generally, these types of designers haven’t worked on many books, but you can find people to get the job done. Because these individuals may lack expertise, you cannot simply assume you will get a quality ebook conversion as well – communication is key with these types of websites.
Your best bet is to hire a professional, as good design has the potential to transform your entire book. The issue with this type of design freelancer is their price and turnaround time, not quality. There is not a lot of competition in this field, so designers tend to charge a higher fee, and require more time. If you are not under time constraints, and really need a knowledgeable professional to get it done right, our in-house designers do excellent work.
Designing your eBook
Unlike designing complex print interiors, formatting ebooks is pretty straightforward. Print books require more physical design aesthetics and manual work, whereas ebooks generally need coding which is more automated than anything else. Results with ebooks tend to be more budget friendly, as the cost is much lower and consistent due to the mainly computerized processes.
As previously mentioned, there are generally two standard formats you’ll find when looking at ebooks. MOBI files are exclusive to the Amazon Kindle, simply because Amazon is large enough to set their own standards. Although MOBI ebooks require a bit more time to edit, due to their more complicated structure, they are vastly important. Amazon sells millions of books daily, and controls over 90% of the ebooks sold and distributed worldwide.
EPUB files are more of a universal standard, utilized by the Nook device, Kobo, Apple iBook and other ebook retailers. These ebook files are also more easily customizable, offering design flexibility and ease of use.
Creating Your eBook Layout
Our in-house designers are readily available to create a layout especially for you, but you still have the option to do it yourself. Regardless of the method you choose, it’s important to understand the elements needed for the success of your book sales. However, if you don’t decide to use Vellum, we highly recommend you do not try to do it yourself.
Avoid any fully-automated conversion offers that require uploading your ebook files. The results are never as good because it simply lacks the eye for detail a designer can offer. Amazon accepts these formats and even tries to create a Kindle file, but the results are inconsistent and low-quality. Even cheap ebook designers can do a better job than an automated system, or a DIYer, so it’s not always worth your time to try it on your own.
If you would prefer to have your book done right and avoid wasting precious time, you can get an instant price in our shop by taking advantage of our layout calculator today!