Remember when you were still in high school and every teacher had a different rubric for how exactly your academic papers were supposed to look? Your name went in the upper right corner — unless it went in the upper left — and if you didn’t do it the right way you got points off regardless of the quality of your paper “because you didn’t listen to instructions.” If you’re young enough to have used word processing in the classroom, as I was, then there were even more rules – it had to be times new roman size 12 with 1 inch margins on all edges, and if that wasn’t the default setting on your computer and you didn’t check before you handed it in, you got points off!
Well, sad news, folks – just because you’re not being graded on your writing anymore does not mean that formatting doesn’t matter anymore. If you’re interested in putting together a print version of your book, then it’s especially important to make sure your book’s interior looks as professional as possible. You might have written the next Moby-Dick, but if customers are so used to the way that big publishing houses format their books that they might be put off by yours if it’s not similar!
First, here are some things you need to think about:
Font Type. Graphic designers sure are crazy about fonts, and for good reason – they do a lot to establish the tone and readability of a written work, for better or worse. Joel Friedlander at The Book Designer has a great article about the most popular font types for books, which you should definitely check out.
Font Size. Most books have a font size of about 10pt, but depending on the font you use, you might need to up it a little bit. Some kinds of books also use larger font depending on the audience they hope to attract — if you’re writing for older people or for children, it couldn’t hurt to use a font that’s a bit larger!
Gutter Margins. These are the margins near a book’s binding. The thicker the book, the wider you’ll want this margin to be. The Createspace website about setting up interiors has a handy chart for figuring out how wide this margin should be.
Outside Margins. These are the margins on the outer part of the book, opposite of the gutter margins and on the top and bottom of the page. You should usually have an outside margin of about half an inch or so.
Next let’s discuss the three major parts of a book: the front matter, body, and back matter. “Front Matter” refers to all the pages that go before the book actually starts, such as the primary and secondary title pages (the primary page only has the title, but the secondary page also has the author name), the copyright page, the dedication, and so on. The “Body” is the actual text of the book, though it’s also usually divided into title pages and sections or chapters. The “Back Matter” contains the appendix, glossary, index, and author biography. Depending on what kind of book you’re publishing and what the company that’s producing your book wants from you, you might not need to worry about formatting these, but it’s useful to know the technical terms.
Since the body of the book is the part that your reader is going to be looking at the most, you’ll want to focus your attention on this aspect of the interior. Below is a sample or a secondary title page, chapter title and section from Create Space:
As you can see, this design utilizes a gorgeous graphic (be careful that you have the publishing rights to any that you might want to use!) and title font that evokes a very specific mood that helps you understand what the book is about before you even start reading — you can use this same trick to your advantage when designing your interior, particularly if you’re writing genre fiction.
This sample also numbers each page at the bottom center, and reminds the reader of the book and chapter titles on the top left and top right center, respectively. Though you can play around with where and how you decide to place the book title, chapter title, and page number, this set-up is pretty standard and very easy to do yourself by using the page number, header and footer tools in any word processor. On Microsoft Word, for example, the page number tool can be found under “Insert:”
As for the header and footer, you can usually access them by clicking the space where they would be on the page, or you can go under “View”:
Each word processor may be laid out a little differently, so if you don’t know where to find these tools in yours, look around and play with the controls a bit to get familiar with them, or check out the Help button on your toolbar and search for “page numbers” or “header and footer.”
All in all, the most important thing to remember when designing your book interior is that it has to be easy to read and consistent. Most readers don’t even notice the design of a book unless they don’t like it, so you should work to make yours as unobtrusive as possible.
Remember, if this all seems like too much work, or if you’re unsure of what kind of design will be best for your book, you can always hire a freelance book designer to help you! (And you’ll definitely be able to find one at BookWorks.com once our site has officially launched!)