Book Layout Tips for Authors

When authors finish their acim, they may have ideas for how they want their books to look; however, too often authors either over-communicate with their book designers, or they fail to communicate clearly. Here are some tips for preparing your manuscript so it is ready to go to your book design/layout person without your driving him or her crazy.

Rewriting Before, Not After, Layout

Do not send your book to your book designer until you are absolutely sure it is finished. You should not be rewriting anything once your layout person has the book in his hands. Nothing is worse than trying to correct a book already laid out because the programs used for layout, such as InDesign, are not as flexible as writing software programs like Word, and rewriting a paragraph or adding or subtracting text can result in photographs moving, or mess up the text from widows and orphans on pages to a piece of text accidentally hiding itself. Furthermore, every change made after the book is laid out is an error waiting to happen that might be missed before the book is printed. Only the most minor changes are permissible once the book is laid out so make sure you submit your very best writing to the layout person.

Fonts and Good Writing:

Too many authors try to emphasize their points by using special fonts and sizes. Beyond just overusing italics, underlining and bold, they also use special fonts and font sizes for titles and subtitles.

If you are a GOOD writer you do not “need” to over-emphasize the KEY words in your book.

For one thing, all those italics, different fonts, bold and underlined words are a distraction and make the book not only visually unappealing, but difficult to read. Furthermore, they distract the reader from your content and meaning. In short, they are almost never necessary. I cannot tell you how many books I have seen where everything with dashes around it is in italics, or there are quotation marks around words ad nauseam.

Trust me, save the fancy fonts and italics for when you really need to emphasize something. That doesn’t mean the one word in a sentence or the one sentence in a paragraph. It means the one word or phrase in a chapter-yes, a chapter, and even that is pushing it. More emphasis than that will just irritate your reader-in fact, it sometimes will make your reader feel like you are hammering your point to death because you think your reader is not smart enough to understand what you are saying. More likely, if you feel you need to hammer your point home, you need to make your point clearer.

Fonts, bold words, and italics are never a substitute for good writing. If you can’t get your point across with good writing, you won’t succeed through overemphasis and fancy fonts.

Titles, Subtitles and Sub-subtitles

If you’re writing a novel, you probably only have chapter titles and perhaps the occasional scene shift. However, you must make it clear in your manuscript where one part ends and the next begins. That doesn’t mean going crazy with the fonts or sizes, making the section titles Algerian 18, the chapter titles Garamond 16, the subtitles New Times Roman 14, and the dates on the stories within the stories Arial 12. The best thing to do is simply to use New Times Roman 12, and where necessary, center a title and leave a space between it. For a new scene, insert an asterisk * between the old and new scenes so the layout person knows a break will go there. Using all those fancy fonts ultimately just is more work for your layout person who will end up having to change them anyway. The more work you give your designer, the more he’ll probably charge you as well.

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