Tag Archives: Blaise van Hecke

Designing a book isn’t rocket science. Or is it?

Busybird Publishing has worked on around 300 titles over the past ten years or so. With each book, we learn a little more about what does and doesn’t work in terms of the book design and we often need to explain to authors that the setup of the internals needs more thought than just plonking it into a template. Of course it isn’t rocket science but there is a little bit of mathematics to it.

Most people only think about the cover but that’s only a part of the equation. There are several factors that need to be thought out, so here are four considerations when designing your book:

1. The physical size of the book
When a book is written, 95 percent of the time, it will be set up in Word on an A4 size page. This is pretty standard and the margins tend to have a default too. This is fine but when it comes to setting up the book into its printable version, there may be elements that don’t easily transfer to the desired format.

Let’s take a standard size to use as reference. The C Format is 234 x 153 mm. This is substantially smaller than A4. If you’ve been labouring over a pretty table with shading and styles that look gorgeous on the page, you are going to be disappointed when it goes into the template and the page cuts the table in half, or leaves only a couple of rows on the next page. Or you might have a graph that is wide and you reorientate the A4 page to fit it. This will mean that in the printed book, you will have to turn the book to read it and possible have it shrunk to fit.

If your document has a substantial number of graphs, tables, or images, you might want to think about the format you use to make it user friendly. A quick way to see how the pages are working is to convert your word document into an A5 page and get a visual idea of how everything is working. Remember too that margins are different in a book compared with a word document, so this needs to be considered.

2. Images
Colour printing is expensive and often not warranted unless you’re publishing a coffee table book or brightly coloured children’s picture book. For this reason, any images need to be converted to black and white (greyscale). Not all images look great once converted because they may be too dark, too dull or rely on colour to convey a message.

Orientation of images is also important. If you think of a regular book, it will usually be portrait orientation. This means that if your image is horizontal, it will not be able to fill the page unless you turn it on its side.

The biggest issue we have is the use of horizontal images for the cover. This usually involves a lot of cropping, which may diminish the value of the image. This can be disappointing if a particular image has been earmarked for the cover for some reason.

3. Fonts
Don’t underestimate the value of font choice. It brands the product into a particular category and changes the reading experience greatly. There is a temptation to use wild and cursive fonts (often hard to read) or a lot of different ones. Keep it simple please! (That goes for layout in general). Try to stick to two or three fonts at most and make sure the size is legible.

4. White space
Readers who read a lot understand white space. White space, or negative space, is anywhere that shows the colour of the page and is vital to the reading experience because it allows the eye to relax at points rather than being bombarded with information right through a book. A page that isn’t balanced with negative and positive space can appear cluttered or messy. Getting this balance right is good design.

For this reason, don’t be stingy on the width of your margins and if an image falls a particular way and there is some space under it before the end of the page, that’s okay.

A bit of thought and research into design will make the success of your book much more likely. Our next Publish for Profit Meetup will be covering these design elements in more detail, so drop by our studio if you’re nearby.
Blaise the book chick

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The Business of Writing

The creative output of writing is very satisfying. It might be fraught with challenges but once completed, the writing project has substance to it that can then be shared with the world. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a poem, novel, memoir or self-help book, there will be a place for it to live.

What many don’t realise is that this is just the start of the book journey. Once the thing is written, it’s time for the writer to take off the creative coat and put on the business coat. There’s no way to avoid it no matter which way you publish. Even if you’re lucky enough to land a traditional publishing deal, you will still have to be involved in the promotion and marketing of the book.

The Art of Self-promotion – and how to teach it to your authors with Karen Andrews, Angela Meyer & Blaise van Hecke (photo by Les Zigomanis).

Last week I attended the Independent Publishing Conference at the Wheeler Centre and immersed myself in all things books and publishing. It doesn’t matter how many years I’ve been doing this, there’s always something new to learn and the industry is changing constantly due to changes in technology. I was also part of a panel called ‘The art of self-promotion – and how to teach it to your authors.’ I don’t pretend to know everything about promotion but I know more than some. I also learned a lot from the many other sessions throughout the two days.

Here are my top three take-aways:

  1. Metadata is king – make sure that your book has as much data attached to it as possible. This starts with your ISBN registration and can be added to through TitlePage (you need to be a member of the Australian Publishers Association) and the data required if you are using print on demand. Ensure that you add as much information as possible including a cover image, author bio and reviews if you have any.

Why is data important? It helps with discoverability online as well as by bookstores and libraries if a customer asks about your book.

  1. Audio books are popular – thanks to platforms like Audible they are becoming more accessible and consumers love them. This has created another income stream for the book. Many traditional publishers are starting to include them in the contract of a book along with the print book and ebook. Companies such as Bolinda create audiobooks but at this stage they are not cheap to produce. This won’t stay like this for long as people realise that this is a gap in the market and solutions are created.
  2. Marketing is tricky – this remains the hardest part of the book journey (just like marketing any business is hard) but thanks to social media, there are many new opportunities out there. There is a definite gap in the market here, which is a great opportunity for people to fill. The best way to get your book out there is by word of mouth and book reviews are vital for this. Check out bookbloggersaustralia.com.au for opportunities to have your book reviewed, and check out Goodreads to set up your own author page and ask people to review your book.

There were of course many more great things that I learned at the conference but these three things are really important to have in place for the success of a book. I highly recommend you attend the conference next year to learn more.

As a writer, you may not like the business of writing. But you know what? If you don’t get down to working on it, your book will not get into the hands of your readers and it may as well sit in a box in obscurity.

Blaise the bookchick

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