Posts Tagged 'book design'

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!



A Primer on Types of Books

As I was clearing out my personal library, the variety of books I owned became abundantly clear. I thought about how many people are writing books, maybe even publishing their books by themselves or using a service, and decided to give you a primer so you can make good decisions along the way when you work with your book professionals.

  • Fiction books are easiest to design because they are straight text.
  • Non-fiction books include any of these elements:  different levels of headers, charts, references, photos, illustrations, and quotes. The designer has more work, as does the editor and proofreader, than with fiction.
  • Memoir books typically use shorter chapters, lots of photos, and perhaps copies of materials such as letters or clippings. Again, these are more work for your designer than fiction. Your editor may challenge the clarity of the writing, too, since you know the subject matter so well.
  • Children’s books involve getting appropriate illustrations, placing the text strategically in relation to the illustrations, and using lots of color. Of course, children’s books are also age sensitive.
  • Gift books range from basic to ornate, from inexpensive to expensive, and often use special treatments in publishing that your designer needs to consider when doing the design.
  • Art books can be color intensive or black and white, depending on the art. The paper used in printing art books is also critical to creating a beautiful art book.
  • Educational books use various types of text, sidebars, exercises, application suggestions, and graphic elements such as tables, figures, etc. Sometimes photos are used to underscore a learning point.
  • Scholarly works require several levels of headers, citations within the text, and footnotes or endnotes.

Use this short primer to help you find the right designer for your book if you self-publish. If you work with a publisher, you’ll be better equipped to work with the publisher’s designer. But, beware templates and make sure you’re getting the right design for your book.

Happy writing!


Do You Really Need a Book Designer?

Technology offers opportunity to do things yourself in publishing your book, but some things you still need to leave to the professionals. Just as you wouldn’t go to a dermatologist for brain surgery, you shouldn’t go to an English major for book editing or just any graphic designer for book design. Book editing and book design are specialized fields and require professionals to do the work well.

Here’s what you should expect from a book designer.

  • Someone who can analyze the manuscript for length of text, chapter headings, variety of pages required, and the inclusion of charts, photos, etc.
  • Someone who will skim the text to get a feel for the author’s style, the content, and the readership (audience).
  • Someone who will give you a proposal based on the two bullets above before starting the project.
  • Someone who understands book typefaces and will match the typeface to the author’s content.
  • Someone who will evaluate the content (including graphics and photos) to determine the correct book size (6×9, 5×7, etc.) and length (books are printed in signatures of 16 or 32 pages, so you want the number of pages divisible by one of those numbers).
  • Someone who will provide you with samples of each type of page in your book (chapter header, normal text, page with graphic/chart, etc.).
  • Someone who will style the pages (paragraphs, headings, captions, spacing, hyphenation, etc.).
  • Someone who will enhance images to assure they will print well, insert graphics/photos/charts into the text, and add captions.
  • Someone who will create an inviting book cover (one that invites readers to pick your book up and open it).
  • Someone who will provide you a galley (proof) to review for proofreading.
  • Someone who will make one set of final revisions after proofreading.
  • Someone who will prepare the final proof and electronic file for the printer.
  • Someone who will work with the printer, if necessary, if the printer finds something on the file that needs correction before your book is printed.

I trust you will keep and use this list to help you find the book designer you can work with to make your book the best it can be.

Happy writing!


Thoughts on Do-It-Yourself Publishing

Last week I listened to a teleseminar about publishing your book yourself for no cost. The teleseminar was put on by the presenter, so I know he wasn’t a guest, yet he had a host interview him. Well, I say interview him, but I use the term loosely. You see, we had to listen to the host promote this guy’s upcoming series of teleseminars for a “ridiculously low price of —-” that was so low the host could not believe the price. Blah, blah, etc.

Of course, that price was only available to the first twenty people who called in, so callers had to hurry.

Since the  host was still making the pitch at the end of the hour-long teleseminar (which started five minutes late, by the way), I assume there weren’t twenty people interested in the offer for that hour.

Why not?

Perhaps because of the content in the teleseminar. This guy was very proud of his work with professional speakers and that he coaches them into turning their speeches into published books. I can see that as a good thing, if done well.

He suggested they start out by envisioning their reader and said men read while sitting on toilets and women read while in bed. According to him, by envisioning your reader reading your book, you connect better with your reader as you write.

Well, I agree that it’s important you envision your reader reading your book, but I’d rather you think about content–what the reader needs to know that you can offer. I also prefer you strive to offer it clearly so the reader understands your points. That just seems more reader-friendly than envisioning what they do physically.

He suggested you use your friends and family as your editors. They’re free, after all.

Well, I agree you need an editor, but you need a book editor if you care at all about the quality of your book that is in print for decades and has your name on it. Friends and family love you and don’t want to hurt your feelings, so they are kind, not critical. English teachers may be an option, but only if they understand why the book publishing industry uses one manual and the periodical publishing industry uses another. You need a book editor if you care at all about your book and book editors aren’t free.

He suggested art students can fill the role of book designer for you. They’re free because they want to add your project to their portfolio.

Well, I can see that some very talented art student can design a book cover for the ages, but I think that’s about as likely as becoming the next American Idol when you’re not an incredible singer.

And what about interior design? Do you want your book to look like it was not complementary to your cover or like it was done by you? Perhaps you do if you don’t care that your book represents you professionally. If you’re simply fulfilling a dream of being published, anything is good enough and you can do it yourself. If you’re establishing your credibility as an expert in your field, you probably don’t want an I-did-it-myself  image in your published book.

Since he never said how one gets one’s book printed free, I assume he was talking about ebooks–slapping your book up on the Internet for the world to enjoy. If you print your book (whether one copy or thousands), there’s a cost involved.

And he often said how he works/consults with speakers to write their books, but he never said he donated his time and worked free. In fact, he had a series of teleseminars for a ridiculously low “investment” of something around a couple of hundred dollars, so they weren’t free either.

You may think I didn’t like the teleseminar, but you’d be incorrect. I very much enjoyed the gamesmanship and lack of answers to basic questions about quality, distribution, etc. when you spend nothing to publish your book.

There’s a lot of information floating around about publishing these days–the industry is moving away from royalty publishing, which means authors have options and need to be discerning as they sort through what’s thrown at them.

Happy writing!