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by John Köehler, Design Director


While the quality of your writing is the main determiner of commercial success, also important is your book design, or as the industry calls it, your package. Many well-written books have been relegated to the trash bin based on a poor cover. Readers may also turn away from a book that is poorly formatted on the interior, rendering it difficult to read. It must feel right to the reader, who instinctively recognizes the right look for a book. E-books can change the type size, but printed books are “stuck.”

As with any designed item, book design is a combination of form and function. The form relates to the creativity, to the way it makes you feel, to the strength of the design and how pleased the reader feels looking at it and reading it. The form is the beauty and art and creativity rolled into one that altogether produces a pleasant, excited or compelling reaction from the reader.

The function relates to the ease of the reader’s experience. For example, the type of a printed book is typically eleven or twelve points with a line spacing or leading of fourteen or fifteen points. That is what readers expect. If you go too far outside of that comfort zone, readers will find another book.

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Book Cover Design

Without question the cover of your book is its most critical and important design element, for it is there that the readers first meet you and your story. If they like what they see, they will continue the journey. When they turn to the back cover and then open the book, the design must continue to make them feel comfortable, in the presence of a “real” book in every way. The cover design may be loud, but typically the interior design is quieter or refined so as not to intrude upon the reader, but simply to make it right and easy for them to simply read the book. Good form and function working together.

Whether a strong cover design or pagination or drop caps, the overall design of your book weighs heavily in its ultimate success. As is the case with editing, websites and marketing, engaging professionals to handle your design is critical. Do not make the mistake of many self-publishing authors who hire a professional editor but then have their book designed by a family member with little or no book experience.

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Pocket Guide to Publishing: 100 Things Authors Should Know

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