Simple Book Design Tips, Part 1

Whether you decide to design your own paperback book or hire a professional to do it, you should have a pretty good idea of how you want it to look and feel. There are all kinds of decisions to make in the book design process, including the font type and size and the page layout. Here are some tips to help you through the design phase on the way to publishing your book.


Choose a Desktop Publishing Program

You can design your book in Pages (Mac) or MS Word (PC), which are great programs for people using a template or those who have pretty good skills using word processing software. If you hire a designer though, you can expect him or her to use desktop publishing software:

  • InDesign is a powerful desktop publishing program in which you can design book interiors, pamphlets, posters, and more, by placing text and images into the InDesign file. You may hear the term “native file” being used, and this means a file that’s in its original format, such as the InDesign extension INDD.
  • QuarkXPress is another popular design software used in publishing, with a file extension QXD.

Choose a Book Trim Size

The trim is the width by height of your printed book. To help you decide the size of your book, take a look in your bookshelf or at the bookstore for some books in your genre, and take note of their sizes. For example, a common fiction novel size is 5.25 x 8 cm.


Choose a Font Type and Size

The fonts are the typefaces you choose, which can differ in type and size between paragraphs and headings. For example, a chapter title might be Garamond font size 14 and bolded, while the paragraphs might be set to Garamond font size 11.


Choose the Images

You can include photographs, illustrations, tables, or even doodles in your book if you want. However, images placed in a book usually require some special attention. You'll have to decide the size of the image on the page, which can also affect image quality. You'll have to decide placement of the image on the page: a single image per page or a smaller image with text wrapped around it. And you'll want to include a proper caption and credit line for each one too.

Don’t forget to format the images as per your printer’s specs. For example, here’s what Createspace printers advise on their website:

Images may be CMYK or RGB color. All images should be sized at 100%, flattened to one layer, and placed in your document at a minimum resolution of 300 DPI.

(CKMY refers to a four-colour printing process, RGB are the colours displayed by a computer screen, and DPI means dots per inch.) 


Proofing Your Book

Once the interior design is complete, you'll want to review the book file very carefully as a PDF, visually inspecting each page to make sure the page numbering is correct, the chapters start on new pages, the running heads and margins are in place, the images are properly placed with the right captions, the fonts are the right size, etc.

After this review, or proofread, you’ll want to order a proof of your book—that is, a single copy of the book that you can hold in your hand and flip through each page to ensure it looks exactly as you planned and to review the print quality. You may want to ask a few others to review the proof as well.

While it may feel like there is a lot of “proofing” going on, just remember that it’s a lot easier to fix a mistake at this stage then after you place an order for a box of books! The proofing stage may add a few extra weeks onto your time line, but it’s worth it to spend the time making sure your book is error-free.

Happy publishing!

This blog post is based on the content in Lesson 4: Designing a Book Interior, in the How to Publish a Book online course offered by Stacey D. Atkinson of Mirror Image Publishing.

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