Book design is an important step in self publishing a book. It is the setting that showcases the polished jewel of your story. Designing your book is where you figure out what you want to do with each of the pages, headers, chapter breaks, and more.
Book design can be a great opportunity to express the message of your story in unique ways, or reinforce your message. So far, I don’t get too weird with my book design because I’m aiming for a polished and professional look… but I can literally do anything I want within the page margins of the book size I’ve selected and the content guidelines of the service I’m working with. But, what do I want to do? Where do I start?
I had no idea how to design my first book, and my friend Sue Waterman was a tremendous help. She did a lovely book design for “Just a Couple of Chickens”, and that was a huge boost. With her fundamental design in hand, I went to the library and checked out ten books, one each from my favorite authors. I lined them up and studied how they designed each of their pages. Then I decided how I would approach it. I also considered the fact that some of my favorite authors have fancy full-time book designers on staff, so their books look pretty swish. I opted for simplicity.
I found a wide variety of left page, right page, headers. Many books had the author’s name on the left and the book title on the right, with page numbers left and right with the header at the top. But some books had the book title on the left and then each applicable chapter title on the right. That takes either a lot of careful design or some fancy programming. It’s super helpful from a reader’s point of view, becasue I can tell right away what chapter I’m in, but it’s more than I want to take on right now from a designer’s point of view. I discovered that I prefer a page number on every page, although most books omit the page number from the first page of each chapter. Books that only listed the right hand page number were not popular with me. I don’t want to go looking for a page number. And I love book dedications, especially the creative ones. I discovered that many of the things I love as a reader, I don’t love as a publisher… like an index, for instance. Lotta work!
I’ll be posting in more depth on individutal book design elements over the next several weeks, and my soon-to-be available book series on How To Self Publish will have even more info, but in the meantime, using other books as a guideline is a great place to start.
Not every page is applicable to every book project, for instance, a fiction novel probably won’t have a bibliography. I feel that book design should always favor readability over fine art, but otherwise, it can be a powerful asset to the book when done well.
This, however, is an enormous amount of work… just when we thought we had “finished” our book!