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Does Book Design Matter?

Updated: May 2, 2019

Book design includes not only the graphic design of the front and back cover but also the layout and typographic design of every page within your book.

Book designers ensure that the details of your book create a professional impression and don’t your interrupt readers from enjoying your work.

Book Cover Design

A book’s cover is often the first and only chance your audience has of finding and reading your book. Obviously, it’s very important for the cover to be striking; however, it’s even more important that the title of your book is legible and the cover design embodies the genre and tone of the book. It’s really a marketing, not a writing decision. Some poorly designed covers lead to confusion. Specific genres have looks that readers automatically understand, and an experienced book designer knows what conventions are true for which genre. Poorly designed covers often do not reproduce well in print catalogs or flyers. Dated covers don't age well. Cover design rides the wave of trends like any other marketing product. What looked good in the 80s doesn’t work now. Images must be correctly sized and properly optimized. The back cover is just as important as the front cover for readers and especially for booksellers. ISBNs must be placed in the right spot. The category should be appropriate, and the blurb must stand out. The type must be readable. In addition, printers have specific parameters that must be adhered to.

Interior Design

Although the cover of your book draws readers to it, the interior design influences whether they will actually read it. Good book design enhances your content. It doesn’t distract from your words or cause the reader to work hard. Have you ever started to read a book and immediately lost interest? Or couldn't take the book seriously? That’s what happens with poor design. Good design is essentially invisible, but it takes a professional to create that effect. I liken it to an airplane ride. You can get to your destination by dealing with impolite neighbors, turbulence, rude flight attendants, and a rough landing. Or you can arrive refreshed, without any issues. Both flights will get you there, but only one will be enjoyable.

hand-drawn example of specifying type and design

Book layout is one of those things that most people never notice … unless it’s wrong.

It matters. Trim size, page margins, paper color and weight, font selections, typography, heads and folios, design elements, and photography are all considered when a professional designs a book. Book designers know which fonts and justification styles can give your readers headaches. They know that breaking a paragraph improperly, leaving just a partial line on the next page, interrupts the mental engagement readers have with the content. And they know how to fix these widows and orphans. Interior layout is hard, tiring work and demands a combination of precision and creativity, along with knowledge of bookmaking principles. There are a myriad of bookmaking principles that must be balanced and achieved for a design to work. If the type is too small or large, it can interfere with comprehension. If the page measure (width of text) is too wide, the reader can lose their place. If fonts are mixed indiscriminately, it can annoy the reader. And so on. There’s no checklist for design; it’s a matter of hard work, creativity, and experience.

Good book design allows the reader to get lost in a book and not be aware of the printed page. And isn't that what we all want?

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