The hard part is coming up with the story, right? It’s true, developing the meat of your book is the hard part creatively, but it’s not the only thing you need to worry about as a self-publishing author. Hooking a reader is as much about visual presentation as it is about plots and story arcs.
Readability – it sounds like a word your mother made up, but there is a solid concept behind it. It is the measure of how easy something is to read. One aspect of readability is formatting – how you set up the inside of your book drives the story, and your reader, in the right direction.
When Do You Start Worrying About Book Design?
The best time to think about designing the inside of your book is before you start writing it. It might sound presumptuous, but think about what formatting 90,000 words at once is going to be like. You have enough to do just self-publishing and marketing your book.
Instead of spending hours trying to whip the book layout into shape, you should set the formatting parameters up before you start typing and design as you go.
Start at the Source
If your goal is to self-publish, whether in print or ebook, do some legwork before you start. Publishers have very specific guidelines about formatting. Get an idea of what companies you might use to publish and read through their submission guidelines.
Even if end up changing publishers before the big release date, it is still a good way to plan based on industry standards. Some publishing platforms offer a template you can open up in your word processing software to get the trim settings right.
Let’s Talk Paragraphs
When it comes to creating paragraph indents, the “tab” key is not your friend. This is called local formatting. That fancy software you are using to write your book has a better option – styles. Creating a style allows you to format the entire book in just minutes. If you answer the questions in the style dialog box, you are already ahead of the formatting game. For example:
- Font – Garamond is a good choice
- Font size – 12 or 14 pt.
- Font color – Black is the safe option
- Margins – Top: .75 Inside .75 Gutter .13
If you are not sure what style you want, refer back to the publishing guidelines. Make sure to turn on your mirror margins when setting your style. This ensures all the pages have the same formatting.
Just Face It
Speaking of mirrors, what is a facing page? Grab a book and open it up. The page on the right is what publishers call the facing page. On a word processing program, facing pages are always odd numbered pages.
- Book title
- Section identifiers, i.e. “Section One: My Road Home”
- Separate chapter headings
- New chapters
These all go on facing pages when designing your book layout.
Design it before you write it – that is a poster every self-publishing writer should have above his or her computer. It will save you time and frustration, so you can focus on the hard part – creating your masterpiece.
Keep the Faith and May the Force be with You!