Book Design 101 for Self-Publishers.
Book Design 101 … Have a plan and create a style.
First things first – Write a great book and have the manuscript proofread and edited before you get started on book design
Use Adobe® InDesign as it is the standard for design and layout
InDesign is not easy to learn, even if you already know Photoshop or other software. Knowing the commands does not mean you are a good designer of books. We often work with graphic designers who design brochures, business cards, etc. A book is a different process, and there is a lot more to know. An understanding of typography is needed as well as print production and graphic design.
A book created by a knowledgeable and proven designer costs more, but the author can maintain or even increase the anticipated retail price.
If you are willing to take on the challenge, this article will give you an overview.
Any good design starts with a plan
Think about the dimensions and structure of the book. Do your homework by investigating similar books. Compare the quality of design, page count, dimensions, and retail price verses the plan for your book. Can more or less be charged? Bear in mind that printing more copies on press means a lower unit cost.
Get a book printing quote before you proceed, as the dimensions might need to be adjusted to reduce cost. The book might be made larger for the same printing cost. Plan the design elements, typography, use of color, and the layout. Establish master pages within InDesign, and the color palette in CMYK.
If the author will design the book, realize that a book designer’s job is to create a better vision of the book than the author has in mind!
We have some free starter templates on this site. See the links at the bottom of this article.
Art, illustration, photography
If it is part of the book, make sure it is professional quality. Perhaps you are a photographer and are compiling a book about your photography. Are you an illustrator who writes their own stories? Just remember, for book design, the images need to be in CMYK, not RGB. They should be at 300 ppi at the size they will be when printed. All extra 0.125″ bleed on all sides.
If you need some images, you might try Bigstock. Most of their images can use used without paying royalties. But, read the details, so there are no misunderstandings.
Typography for great design
There are a ton of free fonts available today. Try not to use the free ones! When setting text, especially the text block. Good book design means using one of the classic typefaces. You might use Garamond, Caslon, Baskerville, Bodoni, Clarendon, Berthold, Times, Helvetica, Universe, or more. Within those type families, you can use a regular, italic, bold, and bold italic. When deciding what typeface to use for the headlines and subheads, either use the same typeface as in the text, or add one more typeface. If the text typeface is a serif typeface (has little feet at the base of the letters) use a sans serif typeface. Sans means without.
A good type size for text is 10, 11 or 12 points, with an extra 2 or 3 points of space between lines.
I encourage would-be designers to buy the fonts versus using fonts that come preloaded on computers. If you buy InDesign CC, you will have access to many great typefaces. But, if you discontinue your monthly membership, the fonts will not be available to use.
White space is good book design
New designers as well as authors are so tempted to fill up every little bit of white space on a page, and also to have very skimpy margins. Evaluate other books that may be similar to yours, or have book design you admire. If anything, drop text point size and allow more white space margins on a page. The worst thing you can do is have skinny margins and large type! White space sells the design.
Conclusion. There is a lot more to book design, and Book Design 101 is a broad overview. If you feel you are not ready to jump into book design, we can certainly handle it! If you have any questions, please contact us.