Designing the Book, part 1

You’ve put in months, maybe years into writing your book. You’ve edited it, proofed it, and you’re almost ready to unleash it on the world, to pacify all the clamoring readers. But have you thought about how to design your book? That’s right: design.

Take a look at a book from your shelf. At first glance, it is merely a bunch of pages connected together filled with text. But somewhere along the life of that book, someone designed how it would look.

Typography

Take a look at several books. If you look closely, you’ll see that not every one uses the same font. Are some easier on your eyes than others when you read them? Have you ever had the experience of picking up a book to read and then putting it down because it was hard for your eyes to follow the line of type? Choosing the right font is extremely important.

Most books use a serif font for the main text. Serif fonts are like this one you’re reading now. They have lines crossing the ends of the letters. The lines at the bottom of each letter help the eye to follow the line of text. Times New Roman, Garamond, and others are common serif fonts found on most word processing programs like Microsoft Word.

Sans serif or gothic fonts do not have these lines at the ends of the letters. Arial, Helvetica, and similar fonts definitely have their uses, but they aren’t used very often for the text in a book because they aren’t as easy to read in paragraphs as serif fonts.

Once you’ve chosen a font for the bulk of your book, you can branch out for chapter headings, title page, and so on. Make sure the fonts you choose look nice together. Not every combination works. Again, take a look at the books on your shelf. Study the different fonts they used together. When you’re just starting to design your own books, you can use these as a guide. While you may not know the names of the fonts used (not every book lists the names of the fonts anymore), you can find similar styles.

That being said, most fonts are not free. Sure, some come with your word processing program. But to get many fonts, like Minion Pro and others that are commonly used, you must go to a font site and purchase the font. Some are relatively inexpensive; others are quite costly.

Front Matter & Back Matter

Organize your front and back matter in the proper order. Do you have an introduction? A dedication? Acknowledgements? Table of contents? Each of these have their place. In the back, you may want to include a page about you, or add the first chapter of your next book.

Once you’ve got your book organized properly, you’ll need to set proper margins, page size, and so on, but those topics deserve a post of their own. So, study the books you have. Make sure your book is easy on the eyes, and we’ll talk more next time.