Here’s part 2 of Stacey’s advice:
4. Designing your book interior
It’s common for self-published authors to take interior book design for granted, thinking they can send their polished, edited MS Word files directly to the printer. Actually, there are a few steps to go before we get to the printer.
As you begin the design process, you will have to start making decisions on how you want your book to look. The trim is the width by height of your printed book (e.g., 5.25” x 8” is a common size for a fiction novel). The running heads are the short titles that appear at the top of each page inside your book, so you might want your book title on the top of the left page and your author name on the right. The gutter margins are the inside margins by the book’s binding, and the outside margins are the margins at the outside edge of the paper and at the top and bottom of the page.
You’ll also want to avoid any bad breaks on the pages, which refer to awkward breaks in a sentence, title, or paragraph. These can include a widow—when a word or short sentence appears at the top of a page, and an orphan—when a single word appears at the bottom of a paragraph or page.
If you have some design skills and a desire to learn more about how to design a book interior, there are some great books, videos, and websites out there to help you along. For example, Book Design Made Simple by Fiona Raven offers a step-by-step guide to designing and typesetting your own book using Adobe InDesign. Adobe TV offers how-to tutorials about basic tasks and new features of InDesign. And finally, Createspace, a leading self-publishing company by Amazon, offers design templates in MS Word and a step-by-step guide to formatting your book’s interior.
However, if the design steps we’ve just discussed seem out of your skillset, then you should hire a designer. Start asking around for a word of mouth recommendation, search online for designers’ websites and social media sites for samples of their work, search LinkedIn, or search the “find a designer” tab on the website GDC, Canada’s National Association for Design Professionals.
There are two main e-book formats: epub and mobi. The epub is a digital book file that is compatible with most e-readers (e.g., Kobo). The mobi is the proprietary e-book format for Kindle e-readers. These digital book files contain the following elements:
- Chapters in HTML (HyperText Markup Language), which is a website language for coding or tagging text. HTML is used to mark up the text, such as inserting paragraph breaks, line breaks, font sizes, lists and tables, and images.
- Style files in CSS (cascading style sheets) that contain files on the metadata (unique identifying information such as author name and book title), table of contents, and images. CSS are also used for style decisions such as paragraph indenting.
Now, unless you have HTML design skills, you probably want to hire an e-book designer to create your epub and mobi files for you. Thankfully, it’s not too expensive, and you should be able to get it done for under $100.
There’s a growing market for audiobooks, which are created when someone narrates a book in a sound studio while a sound engineer records the narrator’s voice. The recording is then edited and mastered as a digital file that can be distributed similarly to a music file and listened to on an iPod or on CD. You can purchase audiobooks at online stores such as Audible.com.
Tip: People read books in all kinds of formats (print, e-book, audiobook), and on all kinds of devices (computer, tablet, e-readers, phone), so the wise self-publisher will understand the market and make sure the book is available in the formats that the readers want.
5. Designing your book cover
The cover art for your print book—front cover, back cover, spine—will have to fit exactly to your book’s trim size. For e-books, the cover art will be limited to just the front cover image. So that means the book description, which normally features on the back cover of a print book, will now be part of your e-book’s metadata (digital book information), which will appear alongside or underneath the cover art on seller websites.
If you want your book to compete in the big leagues, you’ll likely want to hire an experienced book designer (see tips on how to find a designer in the last section). Book cover designs can range in price from $99 to $1999, or more if illustration is required. Here is an example of book covers designed by a professional designer. The goal for the self-published author is always to choose the best cover based on the reader audience and book genre. In this case, the book Stuck was for a new adult/young adult reader, so the cover with the orange hoodie was the winning design.
Now that you’ve toiled over the imagery for your book cover, it’s time to sort out the copy—that is, the book summary and quotes appearing on the cover. Your designer will be expecting you to provide this content ready to go and error-free.
The book description is the one to two paragraphs of text that appear on the back of your book, which is going to be an important way to influence people to buy your book. A testimonial is a reference to buy your book—a short, quotable blurb by someone of influence. Alternatively, you can pay for a professional book review from companies such as Kirkus Reviews. For example, scroll back up to the book cover designs, and you’ll see how a Kirkus Reviews quote was added to the cover.
Expect to pay extra for stock images used in your cover design, as this cost is usually not quoted in the design price. You could give your designer a budget and instructions to only use low-cost images, such as many of those found on Shutterstock.
You’ll also need to provide your designer with your book’s ISBN (which you can get for free from Library and Archives Canada) and bar code for the back cover, which wholesalers require to scan for inventory and selling. The Association of Canadian Publishers explains more about bar codes for Canadian authors on its website.
Tip: People do judge a book by its cover, so you have to do everything you can to make the best first impression so that people will pick the book off the shelf and walk to the cash counter with it…or click that “buy” link online.
So there you have it—the first five steps to self-publishing a book. In the next couple of installments, we’ll discuss the last five steps to publishing a book, which are printing, distributing, marketing, budgeting, and what to expect after the book launch.
Stacey is Director of Training and Development, Editors Canada, and has published two books, Stuck and Letters from Labrador.