Book Design Issues/Terms

Every industry has terms the professionals use, and book publishing is no different. When looking for a book designer, here are some terms you’ll want to be familiar with:

  • Folio–The large sheet of paper folded one time in the middle that results in four book pages. A folio is also the page number in a printed book. Folios are printed recto or verso.
  • Recto–The right-hand page of a book, which is also the front of the four-page folio mentioned above, is referred to as recto. You can remember this by matching the r’s–recto and right.
  • Verso–The back of the first page (the side that’s read second) carries a left-hand folio. You can remember this by equating verso with reverse.
  • Spread–When you open a book and you see two pages (the two that face each other when the book is closed), you’re looking at a spread. Thus, a spread is a pair of facing pages.
  • Serif vs. sans serif–These terms deal with fonts. Serifs are the little lines you see on some fonts (examples are Times, Century, Palatino, Garamond). Sans comes from the French for “without” and refers to fonts that don’t have (are without) the little lines (examples are Arial, Comic Sans, Franklin Gothic, Trebuchet). Serif fonts are better for reading because the little lines help keep our eyes focused and moving on to the next word.
  • Signature–Books are printed in signatures that are multiples of 16, so you want to work with your designer to make sure you don’t have a lot of blank pages at the end of your book. You’re paying for printing and binding those pages, so make sure you use them fully to your advantage. If readers see too many blank pages at the end of the book, they may feel cheated.

Now that you’ve got some basic terms to use, you’ll have other issues to discuss when looking for a book designer.

Beginning with the structure of the page, you’ll want to get your designer’s ideas on these issues;

  • size of page,
  • size of text box,
  • margins,
  • choice of folio,
  • color of text,
  • type of font,
  • how the first letter of the first paragraph in each new chapter is handled (enlarged capital, for example),
  • possible combinations and compatibility of different fonts,
  • how headers and subheaders will look,
  • overall consistency in design, and
  • readability–is the book easy to read?

Just as you need a professional book editor who follows Chicago Manual of Style, you need a professional book designer who understands the importance of the issues listed above. Don’t risk eroding your good content and expertise by cutting costs in editing and design. Of course, you may find an error or two once your book is printed, but that doesn’t erode your credibility like bad editing and design do. If you do find an error, make note of it and fix it in the next printing. Then be proud of your new “baby.”  There’s nothing like seeing your hard work in finished form.

Happy writing!



1 Response to “Book Design Issues/Terms”

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