The interior design of a book is almost as important to sales as the cover. It impacts the general impression the reader has initially and then the readability of the book and its ease of use.
When readers look at a completed book for sale in a bookstore, it’s hard for them to appreciate what went into creating a professional-quality book that is pleasing to the eye and easy to read. There’s art as well as science in the effort.
Many times, a bookstore or book distributor decides to accept a book based on its professional look, inside and out. Purchasers don’t know why they’re drawn to a book, but if they are, then the book designer has done his or her work well. There have been many studies about book readability, so the professional book designer knows how to translate your aesthetic thoughts into something readable for the audience.
If you are creating an ebook and not planning on a printed book, all of these considerations still apply.
It is a milestone to have the interior of the book created because so many other things can start to happen as a result. The interior must be finished before an index can be done because you don’t have the final page numbers until then. The book spine size can be calculated when you know the final page count, and review copies can be sent to associates waiting to provide testimonials.
The interior of the book has three parts. In book publishing terminology these are called the front matter, the text and the back matter. Generally, you will find the following in each of the parts, and in this order.
Elements to Prepare for the Designer
The title page is usually created by the designer out of the title, author name and publisher logo.
The page on the back of the title page is called the verso or the copyright page. The copyright is indicated on this page with the familiar “©”, and is listed like this: © 2015 Julie Smith
Also typically included on the copyright page are:
• Publisher contact information
• The ISBN (International Standard Book Number)
• The library cataloging information
• Information about permissions granted to use material in the book (optional)
• Information on how to contact the publisher for permission to use parts of this book (optional)
• A legal disclaimer, telling the reader to seek professional advice for individual situations (optional)
Dedication, Acknowledgments, Foreword, Preface
All of these elements are optional, but if they are included there are important things to know about each.
A dedication is usually to a family member or mentor you want to personally recognize and is generally only a few words. It is common to thank more people for their help and support in the acknowledgments section.
Many authors wish to thank and acknowledge those who helped them in the writing of the book. If your acknowledgments are lengthy, it is better to put them at the back of the book. Please note the spelling of acknowledgments in a book is different than the typical spelling of acknowledgements (with the extra e).
A foreword is an optional part of a book, and it is written by someone other than the author. It is at most a few pages, and it’s intended to brag to the reader about the author without the author having to do that. The foreword is often written by a close friend or business confidante as well as by someone with some name-recognition who can vouch for the writer personally, professionally, or both. In effect, a foreword is a lengthy recommendation for reading the book.
It is perfectly appropriate to have the foreword written by a copywriter, especially if the endorsing person is not an author himself or herself. Or they may even be written by the author of the book and then approved by the time-crunched friend or associate whose name is on it.
The preface is generally a page or so at most and is a intended to be a personal note from the author. It gives the context for writing the book or saying something he or she thinks will be relevant to the audience before they begin. It sets the tone for the book by allowing the author to tell why this is important to him or her.
Usually the last piece of the book to be prepared is the index. It is vital for most nonfiction books to have an index because it makes them much more user-friendly. Readers can find just a particular topic and not have to skim through a book to find it. If you want your nonfiction book to be taken seriously by readers, distributors, and bookstores, you must include an index.
The author can either outsource the creation of the index to a professional indexer or do it herself with the help of the book designer. Book design software programs can create indexes, but the author must first decide which terms and phrases belong there, and this may not be easy to do. Indexing is very time-consuming, and unless you’ve been trained to do it well, it’s best left to professionals.
A source for you to find a professional indexer for your author clients or to consider some additional training if you want to add indexing to the things you can do is the American Society for Indexing. There is a lot of information on their site about how to become an indexer or find a pro to work with.
It’s important to note that traditional publishers will outsource indexing for you, but often the author pays for the cost of indexing out of the first royalties.
An index can cost from $500US to $1500, depending on how many terms there are. The more technical and longer the book, usually, the higher the cost of indexing.
Working with a Book Interior Designer
New authors are budget-conscious, but graphics is one facet of the business that pays to have a qualified professional. Hire an experienced book designer to create the interior of your book. He or she has access to high-priced book layout software like InDesign, which allows a graphic artist to set parameters to decide how many words should be on each line, when to break and hyphenate a word, and when to move a word to the next line, along with the spacing between letters, words, and lines of type. Such maneuverability is just not possible with the word processing software that’s just fine for writing your book.
Book design is about more than choosing typestyles and page margins. Your book’s interior should be designed to fulfill the book’s purpose from the reader’s perspective. Will your book be browsed, used for reference, or read once straight through? Each kind of book requires a unique layout with special attention to illustrations and graphics that will break up the text and create immediate understanding in ways words sometimes cannot.
Even if your book is primarily made up of long blocks of text, it is important that it be inviting and not cause eye fatigue.
Dynamic page interiors are more and more common in books. Dynamic book interiors use blocks of text in interesting shapes, call outs, captions, different type sizes, creating great visual impact.
On the other hand, ebook readers cannot adequately translate dynamic page design into their computer generated programs yet, so simple design may be best if the book will be used in ebook form.
Contract Terms with Book Designers
Analyze each quote you get in terms of:
How they charge – A designer will generally charge a flat fee for creating several samples for you to select from, costing from $750US to $1,500 and including several rounds of tweaks to the selected design to get it just right for you. Plan that it will take between two and four weeks from the time you select the graphic artist until you have selected the design you want.
After you select the design, there is an additional fee to set the type and design of your book that is either charged by the hour or per page. Usually it’s $40US to $60 per hour or $4 to $10 per page (not your typed manuscript page, but finished designed page), not counting charts and graphics.
The process – Be sure you get at least two designs to choose from and the designer will often take a full chapter and design it in two different ways to give you ideas of what you might like. You should expect at least another round of design changes so that the one you choose is fine-tuned. You would also like the designer to take on the responsibility for coordination with the printer.
How long they will take to do the work – If the author has a tight deadline, make sure the designer can meet those dates. You should get a first draft back in about two weeks; then there will be final tweaking on your part and on the designer’s part until it is just the way you both want it.
Once your book is finally finished and proofed. it will go through the process in approximately two to four weeks, depending upon the complexity.
Who owns the work – Preferably, you also want to own any special graphics in the design so that you can use it everywhere you wish. Some designers insist on owning their own designs, and you may need to pay a licensing fee in this case in order to use the designs on items other than your book.
Choosing a Page Design
The designer will read your manuscript, talk with you, and attempt to understand what you want the book to look and feel like. Are you reaching a business audience, stay-at-home moms, or artists? The style and design used for a book must be consistent with the words and geared for the intended audience. If you have definite preferences or the ideal model that you’d like your book patterned after, be sure to share this with the designer.
One of the first decisions made will be the typeface and size; next will be the amount of white space (the margins); and third, whether the book is either justified (all the lines begin and end at the same place at the right and left margins) or set in an informal flush left, ragged right style (all the lines align on the left but are uneven on the right). These represent only the beginning, especially if the graphic artist needs to incorporate photos, illustrations, footnotes, and more.
Final Proof Before the Book Goes to the Printer
Do one final check before the manuscript is sent to the printer. The final check looks for these things (where errors tend to hide):
• Consistency of running header and footers for each chapter
• Correct labeling of tables and figures
• Correct references to page numbers in the text
• Typos in headings, chapter titles and in the table of contents
• All the material is in the manuscript (dedications, index, etc.)
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