We all want to make our books better, more readable, more attractive to both buyers and reviewers. Here are 7 things you can do today to improve the design of your book and create a great-looking product.
1. Use high quality fonts—there are a lot of fonts out there on the internet, and they’re not all equal. Here’s a suggestion, stick with Open Type fonts, which give you much more flexibility and frequently come with alternate characters and other typographic niceties that will improve the look of your book.
2. Create user-friendly margins—Lots of self-published books could be improved right away with better margins. Print on demand books tend to have tight spines, so make sure your gutter margin is at least .75″ or, if you have a long book, up to 1″.
3. Use styles everywhere—Whether you’re doing your book in Microsoft Word or Adobe InDesign or some other tool, use the style function. Why? This will help ensure that formatting is consistent throughout the book.
4. Use the right kind of fonts—Many otherwise decent book covers are worse-looking than they ought to be because they use the wrong fonts. You cannot use a font intended for text—like Times Roman, Palatino, or Garamond—for titles without it looking amateurish. Display fonts can immediately improve the look of your cover.
5. Stick with two fonts—Use one font for your text, another for display like your title page and chapter titles. Unless you’re an experience typographer it’s going to be pretty tough to integrate three or more fonts and have them come out looking good. Less is more in this case.
6. Use hyphenation and justification—Professional-looking books from all publishers are justified and use hyphenation to even out the spacing of lines of text. You should too.
7. Ditch the clip art—Don’t fall into the trap of thinking your pages have to look “interesting” to hold the reader’s attention. Adding crummy clip art or stock photos will only serve to cheapen your words which, after all, are why people are buying your book.
I could go on, but this list of ways to improve the way your book looks will get you off to a great start. If you’re designing or laying out your book, or getting ready to, keep this list handy and it will help you create a book you’ll really be proud of.
Joel Friedlander is a self-published author and book designer who blogs about book design, self-publishing and the indie publishing life at TheBookDesigner.com. He's also the proprietor of Marin Bookworks, where he helps publishers and authors who decide to publish get to market on time and on budget with books that are both properly constructed and beautiful to read.