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book design posts

book design posts

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Cover Typography

Posted by Michelle White on August 4, 2020 at 3:30 PM Comments comments ()

Until you publish a book, you may never have thought about how much goes into the cover design. You may already have an idea in mind about what the cover might look like and how to visually portray your book. You will bring this idea along with any other information like the genre, target market, budget, and schedule to your designer before the work begins. They will take all of this and more into consideration to put together a cover that best represents your book and compels people to buy it.


Covers with only typography and no pictures are becoming more and more popular. With online sales becoming increasingly important, this sort of design has an advantage in that the title shows up well in small sizes on mobile devices. The font, color, size, and hierarchy work together to create a great cover. The typography can mean the difference between a home-made appearance and a professional design.


With or without imagery on the cover, the font can evoke an emotion or mood, bring to mind a time and place, provoke action, or instill peace. Think of a romance cover with a swirly, pretty font that makes one think of a medieval princess, or crayon drawn letters that evoke childhood, or large, bold, capital letters that mean business.


The color used also has a profound effect on the viewer. Warm colors like red, orange, and yellow create energy and passion and are often used in adventure or dramatic fiction. Cool colors like blue, green, and purple are associated with calm, relaxation, and reliability, and you see them most often in spirituality or financial advice books. The color of the text can complement or create contrast with the background color or image. A complementary color scheme can be soothing, as in a spiritual memoir, whereas contrasting colors can make a book more exciting and noticeable, like a fun children’s book.


In addition to font and color, the size and positioning of the text on the page is important. Centered copy suggests balance and order, whereas flush left is most quickly readable and conservative. Less common is aligning the text to the right to give it an offbeat feel. Sometimes, positioning each word in relation to the other without any particular alignment is the best way to get the message across. It also has to be positioned in relation to any imagery around it.


The most important aspect of cover design, however, is visual hierarchy. The layout should control the order in which the eye looks at the elements of the cover. This is why books by a well-known writer have the author’s name larger and more prominent than the title of the book. Color theory comes into play here as well. Cool colors recede and warm colors pop, so an orange title stands out and a blue subtitle is visually subordinate. If they eye doesn’t know where to look first because the title, subtitle, author, and picture are competing for attention, you may subconsciously just move on to the next book.


You may not consciously notice how all of these things affect how you see a book cover. In fact, if a cover is done right, the effect is subliminal. You should be able to recognize the genre, catch the mood, ascertain the topic, and decide whether you are interested in the book in literally the blink of an eye. In the fast pace of glance-and-click, it can make all the difference. After all, they need to open the book before you can dazzle them with your wonderful writing.


Book interior page layout and typography

Posted by Michelle White on July 11, 2020 at 10:55 AM Comments comments ()

I've written before about the importance of typography in book cover design. While a book cover is designed to attract attention, the interior is the opposite. It should be so readable that you don’t even notice the typography. Good editorial design is inconspicuous and allows the author’s words to be communicated directly to the reader without distraction. There should be synergy between what the words say and what the design says. It sounds simple enough, doesn’t it?


There are a multitude of details that must be considered, including your cover design, style of writing, genre, target audience, and page count — just to name a few. The first and most obvious choice to be made is the font. Nonfiction books include multiple styles in levels of information ranging from chapter titles, heads, subheads, and body text. The style, size, and width of the fonts must be chosen to ensure that the reader’s eye goes to the most important thing first. Different fonts take up different amounts of space per line, so the right one may reduce the number of pages in a long book or increase the size of a shorter one.


Old Style serif fonts like Garamond and Caslon are most commonly used in books, as well as the newer and popular Minion. Because they are so familiar and so readable, they don’t “get in the way,” by distracting you from the copy. Sometimes a book like a memoir calls for a more delicate look, or a business book may require a dominant, thicker typeface. Sans serif fonts are often used for heads and subheads, while serif fonts offer a more readable and lighter appearance for body text. For ebooks, delicate fonts with thin lines are less readable, and there are many fonts designed specifically for reading on screens.


Consideration must also be given to the margins of the book. The center margin needs to be wide enough so that the reader doesn’t have to pull the pages wide to read the part in the shadow of the binding. The outside margin is traditionally left wide, so your thumb holding the book doesn’t obscure the text. A good typographer will also ensure that the book is laid out on a grid so that each page begins and ends at the same level on the page. If the lines of words on each side of the paper line up back to back, they are less likely to show through the page and make it hard to see.


Once the margins determine the line length, the font size should also be selected accordingly. For maximum readability, there should be between 62 and 72 characters per line. Fewer than that makes the eye fatigued as it needs to work harder to keep its place when reading from one line to the next. If the text is too large for the line length, the eye has to move back and forth too much for comfort. The space between lines, or leading, also plays into readability and can make it harder or easier to follow the text.


The last thing to be considered is one that is often overlooked by amateur typesetters. This is the way lines end and the sometimes awkward spacing caused by justified type. You want to avoid "widows" and "orphans." A widow is where one or two words end up alone on a line at the end of a paragraph. An orphan is when one line of a paragraph stands alone at the beginning or end of a page. Too many hyphenated words at the end of a line can also be distracting to the reader. Rivers can also appear, which are when spaces between words line up vertically or diagonally on the page, creating a visual white line.


All of these things and more go into the interior typography of a book. Programs like Microsoft Word make these difficult to address, which is why most pros use InDesign for page layout. A professional book designer knows how to lay out the pages of your book so that it suits your style, attracts readers, and keeps them focused on your message. If it is done well, it is indeed invisible to the reader.


Image Resolution for books

Posted by Michelle White on June 30, 2020 at 5:30 PM Comments comments ()

I frequently have clients that provide images for their books, and many times they are not high enough resolution for printing. “But it looks fine when I print it at home,” they say, “why won’t it look good in my paperback?” The reason is that printing presses do not use inkjet printers.


If you look at a picture in a book with a magnifying glass, you will see that it is created out of little dots, and printers require there to be 300 of those little dots per square inch of picture, or 300 DPI. A monitor or device screen typically displays pictures at 72 PPI, Pixels Per Inch, and sometimes as high as 150 PPI.


DPI, Dots Per Inch, and PPI, Pixels Per Inch, are essentially the same thing. A picture that is downloaded from the internet is typically 72 PPI. This works well for internet use because it keeps the file size small. It will also work well for your ebook, but it won’t be useable for your printed book. If your images are less than 300 DPI, the software will have to make up the rest of the dots, so it will look blurry, and your printing company will not accept the file.


The other important aspect of resolution is that the pictures must be 300 DPI at the size they will be placed on the page. If I have a photo that is one square inch, it has 300 pixels. Since that is a little bitty picture on an 6x9 inch book, I would want to enlarge it. If I make it into a two inch by two inch picture on the page, it will still only have 300 pixels, which will make it look blurry. If I have a larger picture at 300 PPI, I can reduce it any amount, because there will be plenty of pixels to render the picture. Likewise, if you supply me with a very large picture that is 72 PPI, I can raise the resolution by reducing the overall size of the picture but only to the point where it is no less than 300 DPI. To be flexible in design, it is best to supply your designer with the largest picture at the highest resolution possible.


What Your Designer will Need to Know

Posted by Michelle White on May 29, 2017 at 12:15 AM Comments comments ()

When you call a designer for a consultation, it is important to have all of the relevant information on hand. One of the obvious questions the designer will ask you is how long is the book and what type of book is it? Is it a non-fiction book with tables and charts, or a novel with text only? Will there be illustrations or photos? If it is a textbook, what is the organizational structure? When is your launch date? The more information you can give, the more accurate your estimate will be.

You probably know right away how many pages your manuscript is, but there are other things you must consider. Most books have what we call frontmatter and backmatter. The frontmatter includes title page, table of contents, preface, introduction, etc. The backmatter has notes, appendices, and index. Textbooks and study guides often contain additional frontmatter including information on how to use the book and a glossary in the backmatter. Many textbooks have specially designed pages for unit or chapter openers as well. These can be specified to always begin on a right-hand page or may begin on either right or left. If they begin on the right-hand page, there may be an additional blank page at the end of the previous chapter.

In addition to page count, non-fiction books usually have several elements as a part of their organizational structure. Are there multiple levels of headings and subheads? Perhaps there are indented sections for quotes, sidebars or pull-out boxes. These require planning and consistent design to make the book easier to follow. The number and types of tables and charts must also be evaluated. You may have created them in your word processor or spreadsheet program, but they will need to be incorporated into the page layout program. It is also important to know whether these elements must be appear right where they were mentioned in the text, or just in the general vicinity, giving the designer more flexibility.

Photos and illustrations will also need to be considered. The number as well as the types and sources are important. You may supply them to the designer, or you may have the designer research the appropriate photos or contract an illustrator. If you supply the images, if your book is to be in print, you must be sure that they are high-resolution, or at least 300 dpi. They must be copyright free, or you'll need to provide credit information. Will the images be arranged within the text or placed in a separate section? It is also important for the designer to know if the images are decorative or informative. Decorative images can be used more flexibly in size and position whereas an informative image must be large and clear enough to be useful.

These are just a few of the considerations to be made in obtaining an estimate. Others are your deadline, your budget and whether it will be digital, print or both. The important thing is to provide as much information as available to try avoiding unexpected costs. The more information you have when you contact your designer, the better able she will be to calculate the amount of time and cost involved. When you are on a budget you want the most accurate estimate possible.

What Can a Designer do that I can't Learn Myself?

Posted by Michelle White on April 9, 2017 at 6:35 PM Comments comments ()

Your book is written, your editing is complete, now you just send the word doc to the printer, right? Well, you could, but if you want your book to be taken seriously you will need to learn the ins and outs of book design, typography, and prepress. Spending a little extra time and money to work with a professional designer could save you a lot of extra time and money as well as produce a more professional-looking and better-selling book in the end.

Word processing programs are meant for processing words. Design programs are meant for designing pages. Word processors are perfect for typing your manuscript in a user-friendly way that allows you to focus on writing. There are also desktop publishing programs that are meant for the amateur designer for personal use or for simple business materials. No matter how beautiful your document looks in your word processing or desktop publishing document, it cannot be used directly by your printer to produce your book. Professional designers and compositors use professional applications like Adobe InDesign and QuarkXpress to prepare books for publication.

Some authors buy these programs and and teach themselves how to prepare their books for print. However, a few months of study cannot replace years of experience and mistakes can be very costly. Pages need to be set up properly in order to get predictable results. If the wrong types of fonts are used, for example, it can result in unpredictable line endings and page breaks and possibly even alter the appearance of the letters. If your type is not properly set on a page grid with appropriate margins it will look amateur and self-published and undermine your professional writing. Photos also must be in the right format with the right resolution and the right colorspace. A good printer may be able to work with what you provide, however, they will have to spend a considerable amount of time preparing the document before it can go to press, resulting in additional costs. A professional designer will be familiar with the printing and prepress process. He or she knows the terminology to clearly communicate with the printer which streamlines the procedure, saving you time and money.

A professional book designer brings not only technical expertise, but invaluable design experience as well. He or she will take into consideration the purpose and desired psychological and emotional effect of your book and create a design accordingly. The choice of visual elements such as font, color, and images will have a major impact on your reader. Your design can appear energetic, artistic, child-friendly, business-like, or comforting and supportive. It also must be visually well organized to serve its intended purpose in the best possible way, particularly with a non-fiction book. A good designer will work closely with you to create the right look and feel of your book considering the subject matter, your target audience and your budget. 

Quality design and prepress is a very important part of the publishing process, and its value cannot be underestimated. If you enlist the help of a professional before going to press, you can avoid costly file preparation time, printing complications and have an attractive, well designed and better selling book.