Nine Rules for Making Your Book Look Good

I’ve edited books for authors for more than three decades, so I’m offering the disclaimer that I’m an editor, not a book designer. However, I’ve worked with many book designers and have learned nine rules for making your book look good–both the cover and the interior.

  1. Be purposeful when making your decisions. If you self-publish, you get to make all the decisions, including font style and size, interior page layout, how to handle graphics, page shading, folios (page numbers), and that’s just for the interior. For the cover you get to decide on color, graphics (if any) placement, author’s photos (or not), back cover copy placement, etc. Study some of the books in your own library, and record your own reactions to what you see. That should help you see how much design decisions impact reader reaction.
  2. Be organized in your presentation. Make sure your pages flow in order and chapters follow your table of contents. Keep the information on your cover organized so the reader gets the feeling the book is organized as well.
  3. Keep things simple. If you’ve got a lot of clutter on your cover, the reader will wonder how cluttered the pages are. The interior should show some white space so the reader doesn’t open the book and see nothing but lines and lines of black type.
  4. Offer contrast. Work with your designer to see which colors and fonts contrast well and are attractive.
  5. Differentiate. Your book is your creation. You spent time researching it, writing it, revising it, editing it, and proofreading it. You want it to reflect what you have to say. Too often books look a lot alike (which is okay if you’re branding the same author or series of books). But most of the time they look so much alike because authors use the same templates every other author has access to. When you can, get a custom front cover made for your book.
  6. Project an appropriate image. Do some research and see what image books like yours project. Mysteries tend to use darker colors. Romance novels use more cheerful colors. History books may use historical images of the period the book covers.
  7. Show unity. Be sure the cover design complements the interior design. You want your design to project cohesion.
  8. Be selective about what you emphasize. Everything in your book can’t be equally important, so be selective about what you emphasize on the cover, in the cover text, and in the interior.
  9. Pay attention to detail. Not every reader will be detail-oriented, but as soon as one who is finds mistakes or obvious errors you or your designer should have caught, your credibility suffers. Why yours? You are the author and your name is most likely the only one visible on the cover and/or page header. You don’t want the detail person to tell others what’s wrong with your book.

There you have it–nine rules for making your book look good. They aren’t that hard to follow and the payoff is worth the effort.

Happy writing!


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