When many first-time self-publishers consider the design elements of their book they only think of the front cover. But the design of the pages inside those covers have just as much impact and require the same amount of careful consideration. In order to make these pages look as great as possible, we have put together a few handy tips.
Some self-publishing companies will do the design work for you if you pay them an upfront fee. However, it’s easy to get this right on your own and save yourself some cash by using CompletelyNovel and all the DIY tools already available on your computer and the internet.
Word processors usually default to A4 or US Letter size, which is most common for home printing. However, those page sizes aren’t standard for the book publishing industry. As you’ll know, books are typically printed with smaller pages, so if you are self-publishing, the first thing you’ll need to do is adjust your page size.
At CompletelyNovel we use the two most popular sizes for our books: Demy and Crown.
Here are the measurements that you need to know about. Note that you need to make your pages slightly bigger in your document than the finished book size. This is because a few millimetres are trimmed off each edge in the printing process.
|Book size||Measurement||Dimensions that you need to use||Size of the finished book||Recommended margin||Template|
|Demy||Width||146mm||140mm||23mm (left and right)|
|Height||222mm||216mm||23mm (top and bottom)||Download|
|Crown||Width||195mm||189mm||23mm (left and right)|
|Height||252mm||246mm||23mm (top and bottom)||Download|
If you choose to publish your book on CompletelyNovel you will be reminded how your document should be set up to ensure that your book will be completely ‘print-ready’ at the end of the process. You will be able to preview your book online and order a print-on-demand proof copy to make sure it has turned out as you want it (handy to check before other people start buying it).
The font and text size need to be consistent and clear. A decorative and unusual font may look great, but it’s usually not a good choice for the entire text of a book as it is harder to read than plainer, traditional fonts. It is generally accepted that serif typefaces are easier to read for a long period of time than sans-serif fonts (a serif is the little projection at the start and end of the letter). Good serif typefaces to use for legibility and readability are Baskerville, Caslon and Century Schoolbook. These should be available if you are using Word.
If your book is being viewed totally on screen and not in a printed format, then some argue that a sans-serif is better rendered on screen. Good sans-serifs are Verdana, Optima and Arial.
There’s a great video on the importance of the right font from the people at Penguin here – How to choose a font for your book
Choose a font size that suits the type of book that you are writing. The ultimate line length for readability is 12 words per line. Always aim at that for the average. If you set your typeface in 12 point, which is best in terms of legibility, then your line length is determined for you. You should then alter your margins so that the line length at 12 pt is about 12 words on average.
It is good practice to start a new page for each chapter; you can do this by adding a page break just after the last sentence in each chapter. In Microsoft Word this can be achieved by clicking the ‘Insert’ menu and then selecting ‘Insert Page Break’. This way, even if you change the size of the page your chapter headings will remain at the top of the page.
Some people prefer their chapters to start on the right hand page. If you want to set your book up that way, then you need to make sure that each chapter starts on an odd numbered page.
You can have some fun with icons and little pieces of decoration. Do you use a chapter number? Make something of your chapter title; make it bold, larger, use a different typeface, make it all caps or give it a little motif, perhaps. Also, consider how much space you have between the chapter title and the start of the text. Make sure this is consistent throughout the book.
Illustrations, diagrams and photos can really make a book come to life. Children’s books will benefit from some good illustrations to make them stand out and be memorable to the reader. Non-fiction books often require, or can be greatly enhanced by, specialist and technical illustrations.
CompletelyNovel uses printing companies capable of printing high quality black, white and grayscale images. Use the highest resolution images that you can to ensure that they come out looking sharp. Bear in mind that you can’t print colour pages inside your books.
In order to make your book look professional, it’s important to make sure that the presentation of your book is consistent throughout. Keep the size and layout of the text and headings consistent. The simpler you can make it, the better! Consistency and good design on the pages will also make your book easier to read.
Take a look at the ‘Five top tools in Microsoft Word’ section on the right hand side for some handy extra tips. And if you’re feeling extra-motivated, we have some other expert advice on getting your hyphenation, line-spacing, title page, copyright page and justification looking ship shape:
Expert advice on typesetting
If you don’t use Microsoft Word you can still use CompletelyNovel, but we will ask you to convert your manuscript into a PDF format. Files can be converted to PDF using Open Office (a free suite of programs similar to Microsoft Office), Acrobat.com, or a variety of other free or paid-for pdf-creating software.
Don’t worry if you’re not able to do that – for a small charge we can help you out.
So… all pretty straightforward, huh? Now you can go ahead and start publishing!
For more advanced typesetting tips, read our expert advice article.
If you have ever struggled with formatting your manuscript in MS Word before, here are a few things that should make life a little easier and ensure your manuscript looks professional.
1. Add Page Breaks
You insert a page break when you want to tell Word that the next line needs to start on a new page. These are ideal for ensuring that new chapters always appear at the top of the next page. No matter how many lines you add in before the page break, the next chapter heading will stay in the same place. It saves you having to press the enter key loads of times, and then go back over and check every chapter heading if you make some other changes to your document.
Either go to the ‘Insert’ menu and click on ‘Page Break’ (with the cursor in the place where you want to put it) or hold down Ctrl + Enter.
2. Use paragraph styles
Keeping the format and layout of your document consistent is very important. One way of doing this is to use the Paragraph styles tool in Word. You give each variation on the type of text you want a particular name, or ‘style’ and then when you want to change all your chapter headings, for example, you just need to click to change the style, rather than go through your document and edit each one. Take a look at this helpful tutorial on styles from Emma Barnes of Snowbooks (there’s also a Part 2 and part 3).
Take a look at most published books and you will see that the text is justified i.e both ends of each line reach the page margins so you get a straight line of text both sides. Simply highlight the text that needs to change (or hold down Ctrl + A to select all text) and click on the justify icon.
4. Remember the page numbers
Don’t forget these little guys – they should feature at the bottom and we recommend that they should be centred to ensure they always appear in the same place.
5. Use the undo tool
If you make a mistake and lose half your text, just click the ‘undo’ icon in the edit menu or hold down Ctrl + Z and you will step back to the stage before you made the mistake.
As with any software, it is always worth setting aside some time to play around with your novel. Remember to save the new version under a different name so you can always return to the original if you need to. And if you are not sure how to do something, just ask google and you will generally find the answer!