Along the self-publishing journey authors have many choices to make-this is especially true during the book production stage. Each choice has the potential to either help the author produce a book that brings them new opportunities or produce a book that fails to reach their publication goals.
If you hire a self-publishing company, they will likely include book design as part of your package (just keep in mind that the publishing company you choose will own the book design files and control their usage). However, if you decide to manage your own The following list highlights some of the most common mistakes that self-publishing authors make while designing their book and tips for how to avoid those mistakes.
Mistake #1: Designing the interior on their own without doing research to save time and money.
Technology is gradually becoming cheaper and more accessible. But just because you can use the same software that designers use-or their competitive alternatives-does not mean that you have the necessary knowledge of book construction norms that readers expect from quality books. And if your book fails to meet the design expectations of your readers, their interest in your book’s subject may quickly fade.
If you are unwilling to find out what information should appear on your copyright page, whether odd-numbered pages should appear on the left or right page, whether the lines of your text should be right aligned, centered, left aligned or justified, then you should not design your own interior.
The Better Alternative:
If you really need to save money and you are willing to take the time to format your book on your own, I highly recommend buying a professional book template from book designer Joel Friedlander. These templates start at $47 and you can use them with Microsoft Word to produce books files that you can take to your book printer or POD distributor. (Most book designers do not use Microsoft Word, but Joel designed these templates for authors who usually do use Microsoft Word.)
If you are still absolutely determined to design your own book, then at least reference Friedlander’s free “Book Construction Blueprint” to help you understand book design basics.
Derek Murphy offers free book templates at DIYBookFormats.com, but he doesn’t offer support for the templates, so it will be up to you to figure out how to use them.
Bonus Tip: If you are going to format your own book, make sure that you keep a copy of your original unformatted file. This is your back up if anything goes wrong during the formatting process. This is also helpful for transforming the manuscript into any other content you want to create such as blogs, articles or handbooks.
Mistake #2: Hiring the Cheapest Book Designer they Find
All book designers are not created equal. The first mistake highlights the problem of authors trying to design their books on their own, this mistake points to graphic designers who are masters of design and have the tools necessary to design a book interior, but may not have the necessary knowledge about book making. According to an interview with award-winning book designer Joel Friedlander, you can expect to pay $200-$1,500 for an interior book design.
If you are on the lower end of that payment range then the designer is probably using a template or is a designer with extremely limited experience and is using your book as a learning opportunity. I admit that I have seen some impressive work from Fiverr.com designers, but even then you will want to choose carefully based on their work samples and not simply based on the lowest fee.
The Better Alternative:
Step #1: Download a free copy of Joel Friedlander’s “Book Construction Blueprint” to help you understand your book design options. This 33-page PDF download lists of the unabridged parts of a book, information about chapters and sub-heads, learn the different elements of a book page, page number styles, and much more.
Step #2: Build a pool of qualified interior book designers. You can build your pool of qualified designers by reviewing the following options and choosing the designers you like best:
- Ask other authors for referrals.
- Browse the templates available through Joel Friedlander’s template collection. (You don’t have to use the template yourself, you can always hire their services to design it for you.)
- If you prefer a custom design, contact 1106 Design or Wordzworth to learn more about their interior layout services to see if they fit your needs.
- Browse the portfolios of Fiverr.com’s book formatting gigs to see if there are any samples that echo the look you are going for with your book.
Step #3:Hire your book designer. Wait until the designer has answered all of your questions before you pay them. Some of the questions you will want to ask include:
- Where can I find examples of book layouts you have done for books like mine?
- Has the designer’s work been accepted by [insert the name of the POD Distributor or printing company you plan to use] in the past?
- What exactly does the designer’s fee include? (e.g. Does the fee include creation of a printer/POD ready PDF file? Just in case you want to make changes to the file in the future, will you receive all the original source files in addition to the PDF file?)
- How much extra would the designer charge to create an e-book version of your file? (If your designer offers a deal to turn your book into two different products, wouldn’t you want to at least know about it?)
- Does the designer help with uploading the files to the printer/POD distributor? If so, how much do they charge for this service?
- Does the designer offer or recommend aproofreading serviceto have the formatted interior carefully reviewed for errors? (Ultimately you are responsible for this, but a professional proofreader is more thorough than you are because they know what to look for.)
The designer’s website might answer these questions. If not, don’t hesitate to contact them and ask for the information.
Mistake #3: Not Studying Similar Books for Design Ideas
Each genre creates their own norms that readers learn to expect. If you violate these expectations, readers may not respond favorably to your book. Even if it does have great content.
The Better Alternative:
Check out your book’s competitors and see if their designs inspire ideas for your own design.
If you really want to get creative, you can browse through books outside of your genre to see if there is anything you would like to adopt that can help your book stand out from the others in your genre.
Mistake #4: Not Qualifying the Book for Library Sales Before Completing the Interior Design
Public libraries and academic libraries buy the books they offer on their bookshelves. However, if you want libraries to consider including your book for inclusion in their collections, then you will need to complete some paperwork with the Library of Congress before you publish your book. Once you publish your book, you no longer qualify for library sales.
The only alternative for qualifying your book after you have published it is to publish a new edition with a new ISBN and register that new edition before you officially publish it and make it available to the public. But I do not recommend creating a new edition solely for this purpose. A new edition should include revisions that add value to your book and should not just be part of your marketing strategy.
The Better Alternative:
As a self-published author, you will qualify for a PCN. If you publish with CreateSpace, you can buy an add-on service where they will get the code for you. If you prefer to do it on your own or you are not using CreateSpace, you can get the code on your own for free by following these steps. (Please note that you will need to follow-up the application by mailing a physical copy of the printed book, so please add this fee to your publication budget.)
Mistake #5: Not Carefully Proofreading the File
You are not guaranteed to have an error-free book if you proofread your file, but you are guaranteed to have errors if you do not proofread your file.
Some self-publishers prefer to rush through the production stage of their book because they are anxious to complete the process and hold their book in their hands. And each author I know who has rushed through the production stage had to pay more money to have the interior layout design revised and submitted to the printer again.
It’s not easy to be bold and confident in your book marketing process when your readers have contacted you about simple errors in your book that could have been corrected if someone took their time.
The Better Alternative:
Have you noticed any additional self-publishing mistakes that authors make?
Image by: Jd5466 (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Disclosure of Material Connection: The Book Template link in the post above is an "affiliate link." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."