Joel Friedlander

Top Five DIY Book Layout Mistakes

10 February 2018

From book designer Joel Friedlander via Book Life:

With more and more authors taking the production of their books into their own hands, more and more of those books look… strange. That’s not a good thing for either authors or their readers.

Book design used to be a pretty arcane branch of graphic design, pursued by a handful of practitioners, many of whom were employed by typesetters and publishing houses. Like many other specialties, only the insiders knew or cared about the intricacies of long-form typography and all the small nuances that go into creating beautiful books.

Along with editors, these professionals made sure that the books they produced conformed to long-established publishing industry standards. That’s important when you’re sending your book to store or chain buyers, to media bookers, to reviewers, or to anyone who is used to looking at traditionally published books as part of her job.

So, it really behooves authors who decide to become DIY publishers to educate themselves as to how books are supposed to look, how they are constructed, and what book professionals expect to see.

. . . .

1. Blank right-hand pages: It’s very common, especially in nonfiction books, to have blank left-hand pages, and there’s nothing wrong with that. This occurs naturally if your chapters always open on right-hand pages. But if you’ve designed your book to use a two-page spread as your chapter opening (for instance, with an illustration on the left-hand page and text on the right-hand page), you run the risk of having a blank right-hand page immediately preceding the spread (since there’s no guarantee that the preceding chapter will end on a right-hand page). This is a no-no in book layout. We never want to have a blank right-hand page. To solve it, either adjust the typography, or have quotations or artwork on hand that will augment the message of your book, and put those on the otherwise-blank right-hand page.

. . . .

5. Odd-numbered pages on the left: Okay, I saved the best for last. Or is that the worst? Just think about this for a moment. When you open a book, the very first page you see is p. 1. There is no logical way that p. 1 can be on the left, because then it wouldn’t be the first page. This is an ironclad rule in book layout: all odd-numbered pages in your book should be right-hand pages. Make sure you get this right.

Link to the rest at Book Life

When to Self-Publish: A Publisher’s Perspective

25 February 2014

From The Book Designer:

To self-publish or not, that is the big question facing many of today’s authors. Today, Steven Booth, a publisher, offers his thoughts on what should be factors in this decision making process.

. . . .

Many authors are confused about when it is best to publish through traditional (including small press) publishers, and when to self-publish their work. I see this question every day on Facebook, and I hear it often in the writers and publishers groups I am associated with.

As an author who has self-published (without an imprint) as well as publishing my work through my small press company (I’ll get to that in a moment), I can understand the confusion about the pros and cons of publishing.

Here’s what I tell every author who will stand still long enough:

  1. If the work isn’t good enough for a publisher, it probably isn’t good enough to be self-published.
  2. If the work is good enough that a publisher wants to publish it, then seriously consider self-publishing before you sign the contract.

. . . .

But publishing is a business, and a good publisher will have a marketing niche that they can be successful in. Going outside of that niche is not cost-effective. But if you self-publish then your marketing niche is exactly what you have in your hands, and you will probably do a better job at marketing your own book than any publisher can—especially if it is a tough genre to label.

The caveat to self-publishing if you are offered a contract is that you have to remember that self-publishing is a business, and should be treated like one.

A self-publisher, when they do it correctly, is a small press with one author… you. For example, are you prepared to get:

  • a fictitious business name
  • a business license from your municipality
  • start and maintain a website
  • engage in and maintain a social media presence
  • have a bank account for your small press that is separate from your personal account
  • work on marketing your book at least once a day for the lifetime of your book

If not, then perhaps you would want to seriously consider traditional publishing?

Link to the rest at The Book Designer and thanks to Ant for the tip.

Top 5 Book Design Layout Errors Illustrated

20 June 2013

From book designer Joel Friedlander:

People often ask me, “How can you tell if a book has been designed by an amateur? I mean, it’s just a book, right?”

This reminds me of the author whose book I was designing a few years ago, who asked me, “Book design? What’s there to design? You just put the page numbers on, right?”

Well… no, actually.

. . . .

I’ve gathered together what seem to me to be the 5 most common layout mistakes that authors make when they start to design their own books.

These are the screw-ups that I see most often in self-published books. Just be eliminating these errors, your book will start to stand out from the tidal wave of indie books being published every day.

. . . .

2. Rampant running heads


Unfortunately all too common, it looks like the author couldn’t figure out how to have running heads on some pages and not others. Or, they thought every page should have one, but display pages, like this chapter opening page, don’t need and shouldn’t have, a running head.

Link to the rest at The Book Designer

e-Book Cover Design Awards, November 2012

17 December 2012

From book designer Joel Friedlander:

Laura Rahme submitted The Ming Storytellers designed by Caryn Gillespie. “It is with pleasure that I submit the cover of The Ming Storytellers for your consideration in this competition. The Ming Storytellers was released on Amazon Kindle in July 2012. Its cover is the work of designer, Caryn Gillespie. The artwork is intended to evoke the dark, mysterious and oriental themes of the novel. The female representation is sensual and introspective in a manner that recalls the beautiful and strong female protagonist. There is an emphasis on the ocean which evokes far away journeys -the main male character being the famous Chinese admiral, Zheng He- along with the idea of a spiritual journey. The dark blue color scheme and the burning buildings in the background aim to convey the depth and intense journey that is The Ming Storytellers.”


JF: Just love this cover and the evocative illustration. Even though the illustration is complex it maintains our focus, drawing us into the story. And although I would like to “bump up” the author’s name a bit, the dimensionality added by having the woman’s figure arising from a dark sea adds even more drama. Fantastic job.

Link to the rest at The Book Designer

e-book Cover Design Awards, August 2012

17 September 2012

From book designer Joel Friedlander:

Here’s what we received:
98 covers in the Fiction category
24 covers in the Nonfiction category

. . . .

Once again the talented Damonza, a previous winner for nonfiction, shows how to combine all the elements of a cover into a cohesive and striking whole. We get intimations of the story, atmospherics, a good deal of menace and some customized typography that helps to bring the whole thing together.

. . . .

Man oh man, when it all comes together it really works. Here the talented illustrator and designer Kyle T. Webster hits it out of the park by really capturing the fun and excitement and hypnotic attachment we have with our smartphones. Powerful graphics and a constant focus on the task of the book cover clearly set this one apart.

Link to the rest with lots more covers and commentary from Joel at The Book Designer

The Hub and Outpost Method of Social Media Marketing

10 September 2012

From book designer Joel Friedlander:

Do you feel like you’d like to get more involved in social media to market your books? Are you hearing a lot of people tell you that it’s a great way for authors to find readers and build community?

Do you wonder whether you should set up house on a Facebook fan page? Concentrate on Twitter? Don’t you have to be on there for hours?

It’s all pretty confusing when you’re new.

I know, I remember getting started on Twitter myself. I just sat and watched what other people were doing for months. I wanted to be sure I “got it” before diving in.

Eventually I got over my hesitation and learned to enjoy social media, but there’s a reason for that—I discovered a great way to make the whole thing manageable: this simple “hub-and-outpost” method to organize my social media marketing.

. . . .

Set Up Your Hub

This method of organizing your social media activity requires that you set up a Hub that will be your “home base.” It could be a blog or a website.

What’s important here is that you own it. You own the domain name; it doesn’t belong to another entity the way that blogs on or are part of a larger company. You need a place over which you exert ownership, which you can control without worrying about other people’s “terms of service.”

. . . .

Explore to Find Outposts

Outposts depend on your own subject matter and preferences for working, but they have to be places where people interested in your subject congregate.

You might find effective outposts in:

  • Facebook fan page
  • Twitter accounts
  • Forums that deal with your topic
  • Photo sharing sites like your stream on
  • Video sites like your channel on
  • Bookmarking sites like
  • Networking sites like
  • Specialized niche sites like those run on

. . . .

At your outposts you post links to content you’ve published at your hub. But you’ll also contribute content to the outpost sites, too.

Link to the rest at The Book Designer

Joel will be doing a webinar on hub and outpost marketing for the Independent Book Publishers Association. Click here for more information.

Storytelling is Us

20 August 2012
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From book designer Joel Friedlander:


Author Henning Mankell, writing in the New York Times last year related how he came to live much of the time in Mozambique. Listening to old men sitting on a bench talk, he speculates:

It struck me as I listened to those two men that a truer nomination (name) for our species than Homo sapiens might be Homo narrans, the storytelling person. What differentiates us from animals is the fact that we can listen to other people’s dreams, fears, joys, sorrows, desires and defeats–and they in turn can listen to ours.

Now, Homo spaiens means loosely “knowing person.” Homo narrans would be “storytelling person.”

. . . .

No matter what realm we operate within, no matter what discipline we’ve learned or invented, storytelling has a central place.

For instance, it’s how we transmit the news of our discoveries, how we describe who we are and where we want to go, how we account for what we’ve become. In each case a personal narrative in involved. A collection of stories that taken together create a personal history all our own.

Link to the rest at The Book Designer

Ebook Cover Design Awards

29 May 2012
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You just have a couple of day to submit your ebook covers to Joel Friedlander’s Cover Design Awards for May.

Here’s the link.

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