You are familiar with the concept of a book. In fact, you are eager to transform your digital manuscript into this tangible form. You just need pages, a cover, and your story. Right? Surprisingly, the qualities that create a visually elegant and cohesive book are all the details that are seemingly invisible or minute. Yet, design wise they are a necessary aid in readability.
I have composed a list of what I believe to be the most important intricate details when composing your book with a publisher. First, white space. Design 101 focuses around the concept of “economy of design.” Economy of design is the best possible utilization of a small surface area, while maintaining elegant minimalism. In a book, economy of design is achieved through white space.
The first section of a book is composed of necessary informational pages. Pages such as a half title page, full title page, copyright page, contents page, dedication page, foreword, and so on. These are the first pages the reader will see. Thus, their importance should not be underestimated. These pages need to be laid out nicely and employ economy of design. In order to do this, you must first supply as many blank verso pages that your budget will allow. Verso refers to the back of a page, or the page on the left when a book is open. Recto refers to the front of a page, or the page on the right when a book is open. By placing information on the recto pages, and leaving the verso pages blank, you will supply a gradual introduction into the book rather than a rushed and visually cramped introduction.
The introduction pages should establish your book’s design aesthetic. The content on these informational pages is probably pre-written and formulaic. You will have the most input on these pages concerning layout and design. Let’s start with establishing the font for your book. Pick your font carefully. It seems simple, why not just choose a font based on readability? Your font should be easy to read, but do a little research into the history of the font you have chosen. The font Garamond, for example, has a history dating back to 1615 France. Take into account what connotations your font will come with. Garamond was the first typeface that veered away from tradition. Rather than creating type that mimicked handwriting, Garamond created bold letters that revealed the use of machinery. Once you find a font you love, with a history you love, make sure to include this information on the font in your informational pages. This small paragraph concerning the font will reveal your attention to detail, as well as bring your design aesthetic to the reader’s attention.
The alignment of your informational pages is another area that gives you freedom to establish your design aesthetic. The copyright page, for example, has predetermined information concerning the publisher, printing, addresses, contact information, and so on. Once again, you determine how it appears on the page. Keep your aesthetic consistent by choosing matching formatting and text alignment. You could center and double space the copyright content. Add in larger white space between each copyright section to make the information easier to read and visually appealing. In contrast, you could create a graphic square of text centered in the page and justified. These are just two design options, but remember this is all about your personal aesthetic and the aesthetic of your book. Play around with it and see what you like. The decision is yours.
Pay attention to your page numbers. Do you want your page numbers to begin on the first page of your book or where the story begins? The use of page numbers often supplies a nice visual division between informational pages and content pages.
Acknowledgements and Author Bio
The final pages of your book are as important as the introduction. The moment a reader finishes a book they enjoyed, they will be curious about the author. This is the place to add a small bio about yourself. Harper Collins printing of Charles Bukowski’s Burning in Water, Drowning in Flame, includes a photo of Bukowski which is a great option. Or maybe consider Matt Cook’s Proving Nothing to Anyone includes an illustration of Cook with his bio. A photo is not necessary but usually appeals to the reader who is interested in learning about the author.
Finally, remember the acknowledgements page. Of course, you will acknowledge the people who are close to you, encourage you, and help you. Do not forget to include any publications that have published excerpts, stories, or poems from your book before it was a book.
The goal of this list is to bring attention to all the choices you have when working with a publisher in the construction of your book. Attention to detail is key in conveying a design aesthetic to accent your story. Pay attention to the small details, and remember you have an immeasurable amount of choices. This is your book. This is your story. Portray it the way you desire.