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Self-Published Authors: Don't Make These 5 Newbie Book Layout Mistakes

Created on: Feb 17, 2011 11:29 AM by CreateSpaceResources - Last Modified:  Mar 30, 2011 10:04 AM by CreateSpaceResources Friedlander.jpg

This article was written exclusively for CreateSpace by Joel Friedlander, a self-published author and book designer. He blogs about book design, self-publishing and the indie publishing life at Joel is also the proprietor of Marin Bookworks, where he helps authors who decide to publish get to market on time and on budget with books that are both properly constructed and beautiful to read.


It's pretty empowering when you set out to publish your own book. A process that was once shrouded in mystery and the unknown to the average writer is now the subject of helpful blog articles, videos and all kinds of training online and off.


Even if you decide to take on the design and production of your first book on your own, that doesn't mean you have to go through the process of making the same mistakes most newbies make on their first projects.


If you're not quite ready to get to work on laying out your book yet, you might want to bookmark this page so you can check back later.


Don't Make These 5 Mistakes When You Lay Out Your Book



1. Using rag-right composition - Almost every book you've ever seen uses justified composition, where the text forms rectangles on the page and lines are flush at both the left and right margins. Rag right composition means that lines are flush only on the left margin, and the right margin is "ragged" because each line is a different length. This is fine for poetry and some artistic books, but most fiction and nonfiction should be set with justified text.

2. Putting running heads on blank pages - Blank pages have no text and are, therefore, not part of the body of the book. If they are blank, they should be completely blank, and you only want blank left-hand pages (see #4 below) so make sure they are totally blank.

3. Getting odd and even pages mixed up - Okay, this is about the biggest layout mistake you can make. When you open a book, page one - an odd numbered page - is on the right, isn't it? Therefore, all odd-numbered pages will be right-hand pages, and all even-numbered pages will be left-hand pages.

4. Blank right-hand pages - Depending on how you lay out your book, you may decide to start all your chapters on right-hand pages. This will create some chapters with blank left-hand pages at the end of some chapters, and that's fine and expected in this type of layout. What you want to avoid is any blank right-hand pages. There should be none in the body of your book at all, and a blank right-hand page is a no-no that can very well brand your book as "amateur." If you use a 2-page spread for your chapter openings, you might want to have some quotations or artwork on hand that will augment the message of your book, and put those on any right-hand pages that would otherwise be blank.

5. Watch those page numbers - Like running heads, page numbers - or folios, as we book designers call them - are there to help readers navigate the text of the book. But they don't belong on every page. Take them off the copyright page, title page, half-title page and any other "display" pages within the book like part-openers and advertising pages.

There you have it. This may be the first book you've ever designed yourself, but that doesn't mean it can't look good. Just by avoiding these five mistakes, you'll be on your way to creating a professional-looking book.



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