It used to be that book design was a discipline where we had defined page sizes. For print, that is still the case, but how long will print be with us? When I design for print, I decide ahead of time what the size of the end product will be. It’s either 8.5 x 5 inches or it is 9 x 6 inches for a trade paperback. There are cases where I might want a different size (mini books for example) but 9 x 6 or 8.5 x 5 covers most of the cases. The margins get set predictably, with a large inside margin to account for the spine of the book. The Chapter headings start in a predictable place, and I can count on a page with 300 or 350 words per page. All those assumptions change when designing for electronic formats.
The largest change, for me, is the one in our mental model about how a book looks and feels. Instead of the design being in the hands of the producer, the choices about the ‘page’ move into the hands of the reader, literally. The person reading the book determines the font they want to see, the size of the font, the color of the page and even the brightness or contrast. It is the ultimate in user centered design experience.
There are things we can do to get in the way of the reader making their choices, but we should not do that. We need to get with the program, get onboard, and drink from the fountain of experience. There’s no putting this particular djinn back in the bottle. When we prepare our manuscripts for digital reflow, we need to be aware of the things that help our readers have a good experience.
Put a section break in the word document before the chapter titles. This means each new chapter starts at the top of a new ‘page’, just like it does in a paper book. This is familiar and expected, and is therefore comforting to a person reading the book. Starting a new chapter just a couple lines after the end of an old chapter fails to give the reader pause to notice that the subject has changed. If the subject didn’t change, I have to wonder why there is a new chapter at all?
Use chapter titles that are not too long. If they are long, they get ugly text-wrapping.
Use a maximum of 18px size for your chapter titles to avoid line-wrapping
Check that lists do not become tiny 2″ wide strips. Don’t indent them.
Remove the font tags before publishing to kindle OR use a kindle-supported font like Georgia
Consider putting some of the front-matter in the back of the book so a reader gets to the content as soon as they open at the title page
Put your back cover blurb right up front after your cover image so a reader can see it again before reading the book. Makes a real difference to how many people engage with your book after buying it
There are likely other things you can do to help make your book more reader-friendly in digital format, however, these are a good place to start.
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Is it better off being red? I say that because of something a friend said once. He was working in a technical book shop at the time. He claimed their marketing boffins had worked out that they sold 8% more copies of any text book with a red jacket. I’ve been wondering if that might translate to advice for designing fiction and nonfiction book jackets as well.
When I look at fantasy covers, most of them are playing with the idea of ‘hot’ by portraying semi-naked men or women (or both) on the covers. In addition, there’s often flames, or warm tones to contrast against a dark and shadowy background. Not red exactly, but heading in that direction.
Jackets for non-fiction grab your attention with neon colors, often orange and yellow or red, though there’s a good splash of acid green or neon green vying for eyeballs. The nonfiction works boast geometric shapes, diamonds and hard edges, plus more text than anyone other than an SEO guru would want to share. Don’t get me wrong … those key words help in the search algorithms on Amazon … the words work, but they sure are ugly.
It’s a balancing act. You want just enough information to satisfy the rules for sub-titles, which include a requirement to have all those words on the cover before putting them in the form on amazon. But maybe the color also makes an impact. It’s worth a bit of research. I think I’ll count the covers with red on them in the top amazon categories I’m interested in and see if that might be worth considering as a strategy. Sharing with you here to see what you think about the idea.
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It’s a little crazy, right? Our tiny publishing company, Impish Press, has launched six new books in the past year. After the writing, that includes all the traditional and hybrid indie tasks of
Conversion to kindle
Design for print
Back cover / description writing
Web site design
All while I held down a full-time job at Microsoft, and Raven took care of everything with the house plus full-time writing. Admittedly, I have a past life in publishing, web development and design. However, there was guerilla time management in there, along with more than a dash of persistence. My partner is encouraging me to think about making the next book I write on how we managed to write AND publish a book every two months on average. It’s beginning to look more than likely I’ll oblige him. From what I read, short kindle books for the Do It Yourself market are a good niche.
I thought I might start with a quick guide to exactly how I format styles in word (after scrivener export) to avoid tears before bedtime when I convert to kindle. With screen shots and measurements. Think that’d be interesting?
What subjects would you like to see covered, dear readers? Use the comments section and I’ll try to answer questions.