My book is in the middle of the typesetting and printing process, so I’ve just completed the difficult task of deciding how I want my book to look. You may be wondering how hard could this be, “aren’t all books the same?”. I can confirm with authority that no, they are not.

For example, book size. Simple enough, right? …Wrong.

  • Sure, there are the obvious dimension differences and the current production trend for new releases is 6” x 9” (or 152 x 228mm). Not my preferred book size.
  • Publishing houses have standard production sizes. Some formats are better suited to non-fiction or textbook products, whilst others are recommended for novels.
  • Book sizing can impact various aspects of the book such as: page numbers, font size, the cover artwork, and of course the cost.

I decided on the book size for my novel based on what I like to hold in my hand (i.e., 5” x 8” or 127 x 203mm). This is a standard production template and matches the other books I have collected over the years. (My OCD is showing )

It’s all a balancing act.

Size vs Page Numbers.

The number of pages typeset determines the eventual cost of producing the book. The higher the production cost, the less return for the author. There were ways I could have tweaked the book, thus reducing the pages… But I didn’t want to do that. I was prepared to carry the additional costs incurred because of the book size and layout I chose.

Pride in my work helped me make what I considered to be the right choices for me.

Here’s a quick list (in no specific order) of all the things that can make a difference to the internal appearance of your book, and how it feels to the discerning reader.

  1. Book size.
  2. Starting point for each chapter. How far down the page you start your text.
  3. Use of numbers or words to signify a chapter.
  4. Font or imagery used on the chapter page heading. Does it suit the genre?
  5. How do you start the first word of each chapter? Starting the text with a bold letter font. Check it out, it’s there and we overlook it because it’s the norm.
  6. Margins – both left and right of main text.
  7. Bottom margin.
  8. Location of page numbers.
  9. Top margin of non-chapter title pages.
  10. Font size.
  11. Additional pages – external to manuscript body.

Take some time to look at various books in your own bookshelf and compare the above list. Things will jump out at you once you understand the process behind why they’ve made the book look the way it does. It’s easy to spot the techniques used to decrease or increase the page numbers. Simply altering the margins, font size, or details on the chapter page can make a big difference.

Understanding how these things impact the printing layout will demonstrate how varying word counts can still produce a book of the same thickness. “It’s all in the details”, when you can wrap your head around all of this, you realise why the ‘word-count-per-page’ conversion formulas are only very loose guidelines. Not even your publisher is able to tell you what the exact page count will be until they have set everything.

The silver lining. Once you’ve completed one book with certain parameters, you will have an excellent base from which to estimate other publications. My final layout produced a book of 432 pages, with a word count of 115k, and 12 pages of non-manuscript text (and blank undersides). I am happy with my final page count because the thickness of my book’s spine sits well with the other books on my shelf (aesthetics.). I feel proud being able to say: “That’s my book”, it has substance and presence next to others.

My Hint for Success, if you will: Never underestimate the importance of the spine of your book. Most of the time, this is all that a potential buyer or reader will see. This is your chance to catch their eye, MAKE IT COUNT!

I changed the symbol to make it stand out. Not as pretty but now it does it’s job.

To close out this post, I want to say that in all honesty, sometimes I feel like I’m stumbling around in the dark. However, I’m not afraid to seek advice because this is how we learn and improve. Other times, I go with what I like and to hell with it. I’m an avid reader and that makes me a discerning buyer of books, so what I like should also appeal to the general population (not by genre, but by aesthetics).

My Preference List When Buying A Book:

  • Don’t make it too big/heavy. I want to be able to transport it easily and read it in bed.
  • Make the cover attractive (obviously some genres are exempt, but I rarely read those).
  • Have something on the spine to catch my attention.
  • Let me spot the author’s name/s easily (size/colour).
  • Show me your genre at a glance.
  • I don’t buy thin books in the genre’s I read. How much character or plot development could there possibly be?

Unfortunately, the age old saying of “never judge a book by its cover” is not valid in instances involving actual books. Book Layout has a significant impact on the overall appeal of your product, and ultimately on the final cost. Thankfully, as a self-publisher, you get to decide how your book looks, and whether aesthetics or cost have a higher priority for you.

This is my first time publishing a book. I want to be proud of how it looks and feels. For me, financial returns are not the primary driving factor this time around, although it can’t be entirely disregarded if I want to achieve my dream of having a career as a published author.

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