The Book Beautiful: Formatting the Masterpiece

As you finish your manuscript and move toward the stage of publishing, the layout of the inside of your book (such as formatting, font choice, etc.) must come into serious consideration. The formatting of your book transforms your word document into a book, it brings your manuscript to life.

Now while many readers won’t spend much time musing over the careful ruminations that went into the formatting of a book, they will notice if that care hasn’t gone into your formatting. The formatting style you choose should not only reflect, but also enhance the overall feel and mood of your story. Even if the careful decisions you spend hours vacillating over are never consciously acknowledged by your reader, those decisions absolutely affect the reader’s subconscious perceptions and preconceptions of your book. For example, merely picking up a book and scanning through the pages will immediately tell a reader whether or not your book is professional, before they’ve even read a sentence. Among readers there is a certain unspoken, but expected standard for how a book should appear, thus, when a book falls short of that expectation it acts as a giant red flag that your title might not be worth purchasing. You want your book to ‘fit in’ with the other books on the shelf, you want it to look polished, legitimate, and professional.

open book formatting

Once you’ve caught the reader’s eye with a sleek, professional cover and they’ve started thumbing through the pages, something they will take subconscious note of is the font you’ve selected. Note that every time someone opens a word processor that Times New Roman is probably the pre-set font, meaning that if your book is in TNR, it won’t seem special or really pop before the reader’s eyes. There are thousands of appropriate fonts that will help your book stand out, so don’t be afraid to try something new; that being said, avoid over-the-top or childish looking fonts as well.

Further typography considerations to make are the number of characters per line, lines per page, spacing between words, etc. Think of those books you’ve read that have too many characters per line, the kind where you feel like the page or chapter is never ending. The satisfaction of turning pages and progressing to the next chapter is a thing a lot of readers enjoy–not to say you should have

HUGE FONT WITH HUGE SPACING …

… but tiny font with small spacing

isn’t great either. Find a happy middle ground. A further consideration, when there is little spacing between lines, the reader’s eye will often skip a line and they will then have to readjust and thus lose their engagement with your story. It’s a small detail, but it affects the reader’s experience which means that it’s not a trivial detail.

open book formatting

Another thing to consider: how far your text goes in toward the spine of the book. Paperback book readers know how frustrating it is when the text of the book they’re reading goes nearly all the way to the spine so they nearly have to crack it to see what you’ve written–don’t make your readers ruin your beautiful book!

The moral of the story is: don’t just settle for the bare minimum requirements of your publishing company. Treat the formatting process of the interior of your book with the same kind of tender love and care that you treated the writing and editing process with–your readers will notice, and you can rest confidently knowing that you’ve produced a well-thought out, professional book.


Thank you for reading!  If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or contributions, please use the comment field below or drop us a line at selfpublishingadvice@gmail.com.  And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of marketing musings from one indie, hybrid, and self-published author to another. ♠


Kelly

ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com

The Book Beautiful: Hard vs. Soft Cover

When self-publishing, one of the aesthetic decisions you’ll have to make is whether or not to publish your book as a hard or soft cover. The decision is one that will mainly affect your readers, so when exploring the pros and cons of this decision, we will be considering the experience and opinions of your potential readers.

books on display India

First let’s consider what the pros are to publishing a hardcover title?

  1. Hardcovers are just plain nice to look at. They are sleek.
  2. You don’t have to worry about the pages getting ‘flappy’ or folded at the edges.
  3. They absolutely last longer–I can’t tell you how many paperback books I have with torn off or taped on covers.
  4. No need for a bookmark, just use the handy-dandy book jacket!
  5. Look great as additions to a bookshelf or coffee table.

And the cons to publishing a hardcover title?

  1. They are heavy as can be; i.e. not ideal for travel.
  2. They are undoubtedly more expensive which will deter a lot of potential readers. This also means a higher publishing expense which is important to those of us self-publishing authors.
  3. A lot of readers find book jackets annoying and simply remove them, which means all that time you spent designing a cover may go to waste.
  4. It can certainly be more awkward to handle and read a hardcover; they are bulky and not easily wielded with one hand.
  5. Readers tend to only buy hardcover books of authors they are already die-hard fans of, so if you don’t already have a fan base, it may be more difficult to create one if your book is only available in hardcover.

Now to consider to pros of publishing a softcover title:

  1. Relatively speaking, softcover books are cheaper, both to print and to purchase.
  2. Softcovers are easier to travel with, they are also easier to read on the go.
  3. They are more widely purchased, so you have a better chance of people buying your book, especially first time readers of yours.

And then cons of publishing a softcover title?

  1. They are semi-easy to tear; the cover may fall off.
  2. Not long lasting, especially if you travel with them.
  3. Depending on printing costs, they may not have as high of a profit margin.

With those things in mind, the decision is now yours! (I won’t further complicate things by discussing the pros and cons of adding an ebook to your publication artillery. 🙂 )


Thank you for reading!  If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or contributions, please use the comment field below or drop us a line at selfpublishingadvice@gmail.com.  And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of marketing musings from one indie, hybrid, and self-published author to another. ♠


Kelly

ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com

The Book Beautiful: The Cover

While the old adage “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover” is one all too oft repeated, we all know that we’ve been in a bookstore and picked up a book with an author and title we weren’t familiar with simply because the cover appealed to our senses in some way. That’s not to say that the heart of the matter isn’t what happens to be inside the book; I can just as easily recall how many times I’ve put down that same book with the interesting cover after scanning a few pages and deciding it wasn’t for me.

When you’ve completed a book that you’ve poured your heart, your soul, and countless hours into, it’s important that your piece physically reflects how beautiful of an accomplishment self-publishing can be. While the traditional means for designing a book cover happened to be very time consuming and left a lot of authors underwhelmed with the result, luckily for today’s authors, we live in a digital age which makes designing a book cover more exciting and involved (especially for a self-publishing author)!

Nowadays, you can ‘pin’, ‘Like’, and ‘Share’ graphics; better yet, you can share your potential book cover ideas on social media and get feedback from potential readers. You can get readers involved and have them vote on their favorite cover, or even host a contest that allows readers to submit cover ideas of their own! But perhaps we should backpedal before we get ahead of ourselves and ask what message do want your book cover to send?

As the author, you of all people know best what audience it is you are trying to target and the essential theme your book most embodies, be it: inspiration, achievement, mystery, romance, revenge, etc. etc. Once you’ve nailed down your audience and theme, the visual metaphors that you have to work with will become more obvious.

No matter who your audience is, you want them to be excited when they see the cover of your book. You want to stop people walking by the bookstore, or walking by the bookshelf, and you want to evoke their curiosity and pique their interest. If we take a look at the covers below we will see captivating images that begin to non-verbally communicate the scope of the story the author has also artfully fabricated:

When a book cover is able to explain the scope of a book, it allows the reader to save precious time wading through the myriad of titles in libraries and bookstores.

Remember when designing a book cover that sometimes less is more. The title, your name, and a striking image are often enough. Don’t feel the need to crowd the space with over-thought or crowded typography and definitely avoid stock images that could hurt your book’s credibility.  Need I give examples of cheesy, godawful book covers? No, but I will anyway.

I won’t annotate any further, as a picture is worth a million words.

Make sure the cover of your book, no matter how many words are inside of it, has a picture that is worth all the hard work you put into it. Remember that human beings are visual creatures and that the cover of your book is an important marketing tool. Be professional, be thoughtful, but also be bold!

 


Thank you for reading!  If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or contributions, please use the comment field below or drop us a line at selfpublishingadvice@gmail.com.  And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of marketing musings from one indie, hybrid, and self-published author to another. ♠


Kelly

ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com

The Book Beautiful

You’ve heard it all before: people aren’t morally opposed to reading self-published works, but they are aesthetically opposed to reading books of substandard appearance and physical quality–which they often equate with the same thing.

But here’s a fact: to self-publish doesn’t mean you’re accepting a lesser standard of quality, and to read self-published books isn’t to lower some standard out of pity or poor taste.  Many self-published books are already beautiful.  Did anyone see Andy Weir’s original cover for The Martian?  Anyone?  Anyone?  Or how about Christopher Paolini’s covers for Eragon and its sequels?  Those are sometimes said to have helped reshape Young Adult fantasy book covers for the last decade.  And what’s true for the outside of a book is true for the inside, too.  A self-published book can’t automatically be said to have substandard interior design, with faulty formatting and messy editing.  And to be perfectly honest, I don’t think we can even pass this off as a “well, we’ve just gotten better at it with so much practice!” sort of situation.

The truth of the matter is, there is and always has been a powerful stigma to self-publishing, a stigma so ubiquitous and so powerful that it has warped our perception of reality to the extent that even actual self-publishing authors sometimes believe they’re choosing something second-rate, that going indie is a fallback after failure to reach actual success (often equated with traditional publishing).  And while many people do come to self-publishing after doing other things first, that’s beside the point.  The self-publishing world is an inclusive one, where maybe we can begin to heal some of the systemic hurts enforced and policed by traditional publishing.

There have ALWAYS been many beautiful self-published books, just as there have always been some that are less beautiful.  But the same goes for traditionally published books; just because one of the Big Five publishers takes you on doesn’t mean they actually care about the quality of your book’s design, production, and manufacture.  They can more than make up for letting a few books fall through the cracks by pushing sales for next year’s blockbuster success story.  In the world of self-publishing, however, every book matters–no matter its genre, its author’s point of origin, or how much money has been poured into its creation.  If it’s an interesting concept, with an eye-catching cover, readers will show up for it.

A book’s appearance matters.  Its author matters.  Its content matters.

Its publisher, ultimately, doesn’t.

So, over the coming weeks, we’re going to spend some time looking at what makes a book beautiful–and how a book’s appeal can be turned into a currency of its own, something useful to the author’s bank account.  And of course we will dedicate page space each week to talking about how to coax out just a little bit more of that beauty with each facet of a book’s design.

book art

 


Thank you for reading!  If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or contributions, please use the comment field below or drop us a line atselfpublishingadvice@gmail.com.  And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of marketing musings from one indie, hybrid, and self-published author to another. ♠

KellyABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com. 10:00 AM

Marketing Missteps Episode 4 : Designing your own book cover

Three weeks ago, I began this series to define and explore some of the many important marketing mistakes I’ve made or seen made over my many years of experience in the self-publishing industry.  I say “important” because each of the missteps I’ve listed: Devolving into a self-centered campaigner,  confusing the sales message with the marketing campaign, and waiting till the book is done to start marketing–each of these things can tank your book sales singly and for a long time, and a combination of these mistakes will leave you struggling to recover years in the future.  The worst part is, they’re all incredibly easy to make, and making one or two is no bad reflection on you as a person and writer, but the inevitable consequence of those of us who do know choosing not to share that information.  After all, there are so many hundreds of thousands of blog posts, advice columns, and self-help books out there these days–it seems impossible to filter them all.

That’s why this series is here. These are the Big Ones, the Absolute Disasters, the mistakes you really must work to avoid when possible, and work to minimize if unavoidable. And what’s this week’s misstep, you may very well ask?

Designing your own book cover.

book covers

… or at the very least, designing your own book cover without seeking professional advice.

A book cover is a powerful thing.  It’s the first thing your readers see when they pull books off of the self at their local indie bookstore.  It’s the first thing they see when they Google your name and click on your Amazon author page.  It’s what distinguishes your book, on sight, from every other book on the market–and at the same time, a good cover will clue your readers in on the genre and atmosphere of your book.  It’s one of the most important puzzle pieces in your marketing plan, so crafting a good book cover just isn’t enough.  You need to craft a perfect book cover.

Hiring a graphic designer is worth it.  You’ll hear a lot of waffling on this subject in various corners of the internet, and allowing for the remote possibility that you may be a working graphic designer yourself, perhaps you yourself do have the skill to create something that will knock new readers flat with its beauty and efficacy.  In general, however–and the graphic designers amongst you can affirm this–the best artistic work is done by paid professionals on the clock, working as part of a responsive design team who can provide feedback as the design process is underway.  Graphic designers who have worked in the book industry for years are more than just paid consultants for your book cover: they have been around long enough to know the ins and outs of the big picture, and they are invaluable resources in positioning your book for success in both visual and contextual ways.

The other day, I was browsing the Goodreads giveaway page, and I noticed something.  Every book with a beautiful custom cover that displayed well at the size of a postage stamp had more than a thousand entries–a thousand people vying for copies of that book.  And every book with one of those tacky, generic-looking free template covers?  The numbers fell to somewhere between twenty and forty.  There are of course other mitigating factors (books published by traditional means will have a large-scale marketing campaign funneling more people on to Goodreads in the first place, for example), the trend was noticeable enough to be undeniable.  You want your book to grab people, even in competition with high-powered traditionally published works!

So find yourself a designer, or purchase a package from a hybrid self-publishing company that puts your book in the running for Most Beautiful Book on the Goodreads Giveaway Page.  You want your book to be that book.

 

book cover design


Thank you for reading!  If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or contributions, please use the comment field below or drop us a line at selfpublishingadvice@gmail.com.  And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of marketing musings from one indie, hybrid, and self-published author to another. ♠

KellyABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com. 10:00 AM