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.
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.
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.
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