The Inside Tells a Story – Interior Design Matters

When you open a book and look inside, there are certain things a reader expects— title page, copyright page, maybe a dedication, and a table of contents, especially for nonfiction. A self-publishing author determines the content of these pages, but it could be a steep learning curve for a writer to get everything laid out in a professional manner and formatted ready to be printed. Many indie-authors who want a professional looking book, myself included, hire a book designer.

Using the manuscript and any needed graphics, the book designer creates the layout of the inside pages of the book and prepares it in PDF form, ready to be printed. But the indie-author is now also an indie-publisher. There are lots of decisions still to be made. The book designer needs direction and that is the publisher’s job.

There are decisions about the order and layout of any front and back matter, about margin width and how far down the page to start a new chapter, where to place any graphics, the use of headers or footers, and even the location of the page numbers. All of these decisions affect the overall look of the finished book. The graphic designer who created my book cover also drew a great map to show the movements of Patton’s Third Amy during World War II. We placed this after the front matter and just before the body of the novel. That was the easy part.

One of the first real decisions I had to make was the choice of a font for the text and for the chapter headings, as well as how this would be laid out on the page. Based on some general ideas I gave her, my book designer sent me several suggested layouts, each in a different font. Suddenly, I realized that this was going to be more complicated then it first appeared. I liked one layout, but the font of a different one, preferred the font used for the chapter heading of a third, and didn’t like the placement of the headers at all. The e-mails flew back and forth until we had two samples that I liked. I decided to ask the opinion of a close friend and her husband, both academics and constant book readers. Still opinions were split and while one of them liked the font of the text, the font of the chapter heading was not a favorite, and so on. Finally I simply had to follow my gut and choose.

A part of this decision was deciding about headers and page number placement. I went against the recommendation of my editor and followed my gut on that, too. Unlike most books printed these days, Immigrant Soldier will have no headers—no title or author’s name on the top of each page. When I read a novel, I find these headings to be a distraction and to have little function. I like the cleaner look of the page without them. I also opted for the traditional placement of page numbers centered at the bottom.

After a few more decisions and the collection of all the needed front matter, including a forward written by a Ritchie Boy, the manuscript was ready to be converted to a PDF. I felt such a rush of excitement and pride to finally see the way the pages of Immigrant Soldier will look to my readers. But wait. There’s more. Now my editor and I must begin the process of proofreading the PDF. Every word, every dot, every indent must be checked and rechecked. More on that will follow.

In the end, each indie-author/publisher must make his or her choices about the way the book will look. It is this freedom to make a book as the author imagines it that is one of the reasons many writers are following the self-publishing route. The process is a gift and a challenge. And I bless my editormy graphic designer, and my book designer for their expertise.


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