Why Interior Book Design Matters
Have you ever started to read a book, and on the first page–before you’ve engaged the actual content–you immediately get a bad feeling and can’t take the book seriously? And sometimes you can’t even explain why?
That was the impact of interior layout and design.
Interior design is one of those things that you never notice…unless it’s wrong. Despite how simple it seems (or perhaps because of it), interior layout is one of the major factors that separates amateurish books from professional ones.
How complicated can layout out the inside of a book be? We’re about to find out.
Before You Start Interior Layout
Before you even start the interior layout discussion, you need to decide on the size of your book. Changing trim sizes down the road can be a big hassle, so it’s worth getting this figured out first before any work is done.
There aren’t any hard and fast rules around trim size, but there are general trends. Trim sizes are always measured in inches, with the horizontal measurement first, then the vertical.
The most common book size is 6 x 9. It works for books of any style and is generally the industry standard.
Why Is Interior Layout So Complicated?
Interior layout is easy to dismiss. It’s just formatting words on a page. Google Docs does that automatically. What’s the big deal?
The first thing to realize is that there’s a lot more that goes into designing the interior of a book than you might expect. These are just some of the decisions that must be made:
-trim size (as explained above)
-color vs. black and white
-other physical considerations (paperback vs. hardcover, paper stock, etc.)
-design elements in the header
-sidebars (if any)
-if/how you want to incorporate illustrations, photography or other graphics
There are also all the more nerdy publishing details that your proofreader should have caught but likely didn’t, like making sure you’re using the right dashes in the right places (hyphens, em and en dashes all have distinct uses). The same goes for quotation marks (straight vs. curly vs. foot/inch marks—all different things), mathematical symbols (× vs. x) and nearly every other symbol you can (but won’t) think of.
And, because it’s a book and you don’t want anything slipping through, it’s also crucial that it’s manually checked for widows and orphans (the single line at end of a paragraph that ends up at the top of the next page, or a single word on a line by itself), or any other formatting that can come across as unprofessional or ugly.
But, truthfully, that’s only a small part of the problem. The main reason that it’s so complicated and expensive is that nobody wants to do it.
Interior layout is hard, tiring work, and requires a lot of hours from someone with at least a strong baseline of design skills. Most designers went into the field because they love working on beautiful, creative projects. Interior print layout has those elements, sure—but also demands a lot of precision and “boring” practical considerations that designers don’t always like to be constrained by (not unlike, say, industrial design).
Should I Skip a Print Version Entirely?
As you’ve seen already in this chapter, print books are a lot of work. So why should you even do them?
The reason is actually that you should do them precisely because they’re a lot of work. The book market is flooded with thousands of new authors every day. As you know, it can be difficult to stand out and any people see ebooks as “not real books” and dismiss them as less impressive than paperbacks.