All Laid Out: You May Need a Designer for Your Book

I’ve just spent an hour adding dropcaps to my book—I may be a little crazy.

Let me explain.

A goodly time ago, I decreed that I was giving up on the agent game and was going to self-publish. (Yep, I wrote that in September.) My first goal was just wildly unrealistic, and then I got paralyzed by life circumstances, fear, and options.

Nevertheless, I got back on track.

Step one was research where, exactly, to self-publish. From what I’ve read, it seems like a multi-pronged approach is the best tactic. Because I’m familiar with the system, I decided to start with Amazon’s CreateSpace, from whence it’s a natural transition to KDP for the epub, and then on to other epublishers (more research needs to be done).

Because my book uses the choose-your-own-adventure model, I felt it was good to have a print copy and a hyperlinked digital version, to catch the types of readers who prefer to flip through pages versus the newer ones who are brave enough to try the same thing on a digital device–no page flip required. But that format also means a lot of work.

I drafted a battleplan:

  • format for print
  • format for online
  • create cover
  • buy ISBN(s)
  • upload to CreateSpace
  • upload to KDP/ebook pub
  • update website
  • buy new business cards

You’ll notice that this battleplan is not ALL the steps to self-publishing, but it IS a lot more steps than I originally thought it would be.

But that first bullet there is why I ended up making dropcaps for an hour. It’s also why I’d encourage other people who are looking to self-publish to go hire a layout designer. Yes, it’s money, but it’s also hard, particularly if you’re not entirely sure what you’re doing.

Luckily, I do have some experience in that direction, but it was still both overwhelming and ridiculously tedious. Some things you have to consider:

  • What typeface will you use? What message does it send the reader?
  • What size will your typeface be? Can readers in your target age group actually read that size print?
    • Is it legible?
  • Where on the page will you start your chapter?
  • What are your margins?
  • Where will you put your page numbers? What will they look like?
  • Do you need dropcaps?
    • Do you know what a dropcap is?
  • How will you manage your widows and orphans?
  • Will you put a blank page between chapters?
  • Are there any weird formatting things you’re going to have to deal with?
  • If you find a small typo while working on one version of your book, how will you ensure that error is fixed everywhere it appears?
    • Suggestion: Keep a master file and make ALL changes there. Then use the master file to create the second and third and fourth, etc., versions. (I had a client who didn’t do this, and it was terrible.)

If you know all that kind of thing and don’t mind, then you may be perfectly fine DIY-ing it. CreateSpace offered a template to help match the book size you select, which was awesome. But if that list up there sounds overwhelming, or if you’d rather not waste a whole day doing that kind of thing, do yourself a big favor and pay an expert.

I particularly like the freelance author site Writer.ly.  (Note: I also sell my editing services there. Look me up sometime!)

Did you hire someone to design the layout of your book? Why or why not?

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2 Comments

Filed under Publishing

2 responses to “All Laid Out: You May Need a Designer for Your Book

  1. I know what dropcaps are (I think), but widows and orphans? I thought you were talking of book layout, not social work 😉

    I’m a DIY kinda guy, but also know when I’m out of my depth and should call the experts. You have me thinking if I ever get to self-publishing a book I’ll be calling an expert.

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