Why the Inside of Your Book Needs Professional Design
After you’ve written an irresistible book blurb and put together a captivating cover, you still have one more piece of design: the interior of your book. The inside of your book doesn’t necessarily need to be designed by a professional, but like your cover, it should look like it was professionally designed. Nothing says “I published this myself” faster than wonky spacing and arrangement of content. Aspects of your book’s interior design include your fonts, page color, spacing, order of parts, and placement of graphics.
Paper and Fonts Subconsciously Matter
When it comes to interior book design, don’t just pick the cheapest option. The quality of your paper matters. Many readers prefer cream because it doesn’t glare like white and the ink is less likely to bleed through. Cream is also easier on their eyes, and white is reminiscent of textbooks. The same goes for quality recording, editing, and production of an audiobook or download ease of an ebook. Your paper and production quality are all about your reader’s experience.
In an article How to Design Powerful Fonts and Titles, I mentioned your book should only have 2-3 fonts. That includes the interior fonts. 1-2 of your fonts come from your cover. These are the stylized fonts you will continue to use for your title page, chapter headings, and more. The other font should be chosen mainly for readability. At the end of the day, you are making a book, not a visual work of art, so choose a font that fits your book’s tone and other fonts and is easy on the eyes.
The Power of White Space
White space is essential to your book’s success. Whether you’re designing an ebook or physical book, you need plenty of space because it affects your pacing and reader’s emotional response. When a page is filled with tiny text squished together, readers become exhausted trying to decipher the letters or have flashbacks to their intermediary metabolism course in college like me. Reading becomes work. Stories should be entertaining and captivating, not work. Don’t let your interior design negatively impact your reader’s experience.
White space occurs in the margins, between the lines of text, as section breaks, and between chapters and parts. The space between chapters allows your reader a moment to pause and catch their breath before diving into your next section. The space in the margins and between your lines controls your pacing. When you have more space and less words, your readers turn the page faster. This gives the illusion of a fast-paced story and is particularly important in middle grade and young adult novels. Not only does your story feel faster, but people, especially kids, who might have a difficult time reading feel like they are reading better. That extra bit of space could give them confidence to pick your book.
Images, Figures, and Graphs
If your book has many images, figures, or graphs, you should seriously consider hiring a professional to put together your book’s interior. Your figures and graphs might need to be edited or recreated to match the fonts of your book, and everything likely needs to be resized and adjusted. This is a time consuming process and can be frustrating for non-tech savvy people. Take a moment to consider the value of your time and energy. Do you really want to learn all the nuances you’ll need to put together this aspect of your book? If you’re planning on publishing multiple books with graphics, maybe you do. If you’re not, maybe you don’t.
One side note about images, figures, graphs, and things like footnotes: Do not count on your readers reading the tiny text below the graphics or in your footnotes. Most won’t, so don’t put vital information there. Also, your graphics should enhance your text, not repeat the story exactly.
Order of Contents
The traditional order of the sections of a book are as follows. Anything with an * is optional.
Half title page – your primary title only
* Series and other works (can also go at the end)
Title page – whole title and author’s, illustrator’s, editor’s, translator’s, and publisher’s names
* Table of Contents
Acknowledgements (can go here or after the story)
* Introduction or prologue
Acknowledgements (can also go before the story)
* Appendix or Chronology
* Glossary and Bibliography
List of contributors or author bio
* Illustration credits or illustrator bio
* Author’s other works (can also go after title page)
Try not to feel overwhelmed by this list. The bulk of the pages are still your story and most of these sections are not only optional but only used in specific types of nonfiction books.
An Editor’s Experience with Interior Book Design
I recently judged an independently published book contest and was shocked at how aspects of the inside of the book I’d never thought about before stood out in a bad way. I could tell which authors had decided to skimp on production costs because their books had large, odd dimensions and the ink bled through their thin, white pages. As a reader, this made me feel like they didn’t care enough to put out a quality product and/or that they were amateurs.
The biggest self-published giveaway was the order of the books’ contents. While most of the authors had the title page and the copyright page in the traditional position, the acknowledgements, dedication, author notes, author biography, and other works pages seemed to have been tucked in where ever they fit. Even though I had never thought about the placement of those sections, I recognized when they were missing or in the wrong place. I then researched where those pages were supposed to go and this article was born.
Again I recommend authors take a field trip to a bookstore and look at the physical size, texture, and color of the books. Take a ruler and measure the margins. Look at what you like, what you don’t, and how your book will fit on the shelf. Then take a virtual field trip and look at the same aspects of ebooks and any other format you might choose to publish your book in. Even though an exquisite interior book design should disappear, it is still essential to Igniting Your Ink.
What are absolute must haves for your story’s interior design? Share them in the comments below. For more tips on publishing and writing, subscribe to Ignite Your Ink.
Ignite Your Ink is written by editor and author Caitlin Berve. She holds a MFA in Creative Writing and Poetics, actively participates in multiple writers’ organizations, and is dedicated to helping writers produce content that leaves an impression on readers.