On Jane Friedman’s blog, Jane interviews book designer Joel Friedlander:
I’m a firm believer in the power of design. I think it affects purchasing not just in obvious ways, but also on a subconscious level. So it often frustrates me when independent authors do their own design work to keep costs low. But I also understand the need to limit financial risk. Let’s say we have to make a compromise. What do you think an author might be able to accomplish reasonably well on her own (that has least potential to adversely affect sales), and what’s the No. 1 thing an author should hire a designer for (because of its potential to increase sales)?
Great question, Jane. Lots of authors want to “own” the process of creating their books, want to have a say in the overall look and feel of the book. After all, what good is having these great bookmaking tools if we don’t use them?
For people who write fiction, memoir, or narrative nonfiction, this question is easier to answer. Creating book interiors for these books is not as demanding, and the result won’t rely quite as much on the typographic sophistication of the designer.
Outside the typographic part of the design, it’s critically important for authors to construct their books properly. There are conventions that are hundreds of years old in book design, and expectations readers bring to books that must be recognized and respected.
So outside what font she uses for the text of her novel, your author will want to make sure all the other details of bookmaking, like the treatment of other page elements like running heads, page numbers, display pages like chapter openings, and so on, are treated properly.
Clearly, the one area where your author should look for professional help is in cover design. This is a specialized type of graphic design that demands good type treatment, the proper font usage, and an understanding of how browsers interact with the words and pictorial content on most book covers.
Because your cover is so important in positioning your book and attracting interest, it really pays to hire a pro.
What are the most common mistakes you see authors make when they design their own book interiors?
Here are some of the mistakes I see most often in self-published books:
- Not using full justification for their text, so that both the right and left margin square up and create a rectangle on the page
- Not hyphenating the text, resulting in gaps and spaces on the page
- Putting the odd-numbered pages on the left, when they should always be on the right
- Leaving running heads on display pages like part or chapter openers
- Margins that are either too small to allow the reader to easily hold the book, or that don’t take the printing and binding of the book into account
- Publishing a book with no copyright page