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The importance of strong book design

Whether you are a children’s author producing a 24-page fully illustrated book, a novelist writing their 800-page magnum opus, or a local historian putting together a non-fiction guide to the region, you will need someone to help you design your book.

Even children’s writers who illustrate their own works (or have kind friends willing to illustrate them for free) need good book designers who can make their book really stand out. That includes making it look great on the inside as well as the outside.  Remember, an illustrator and a designer are very different things – put simply, designers don’t do your drawings for you, but they do just about everything else.

The cover is hugely important, and it’s worth hiring a professional to make sure your book stands out. People who self publish are likely to sell around 20% more books if they hire a professional designer rather than doing it themselves or hiring a hobbyist. This is because experienced book design professionals understand the market and the business and they know what they’re doing.

Value for money

The price of hiring a professional may put you off, but it is worth investing in a good one. Before dismissing the idea and marching off to design your book yourself, ask yourself these questions: do you know anything about typography?; have you ever designed a book before?; do you have access to professional publishing software?; and can you really make something better than a pro could? If the answer to any of these is ‘no’, then you should reconsider going it alone, and start shopping around for an experienced designer.

Designers can typically charge anything between £50 to £2000 depending on what services you want, and how much time it will take them, but if you end up selling 20% more books than you would otherwise, it will be worth the extra outlay.

The professional look

The cover is what gets you noticed, and is what people see first online or on the bookshelves, so it’s best if you have something that not only looks professional, but also stands out on both a bookshelf, or as a thumbnail. Most books are bought online now, and they buy on the basis of that thumbnail – so it had better be a good one. A sloppy cover that looks as though it’s been designed on Microsoft Word or Publisher will immediately turn a reader off, as unfortunately people do judge books by their covers. If the cover is a mess, what guarantee do they have that the inside is any better?

Speaking of the inside, it’s not as easy as you might think to design and typeset a book. There are more things to consider than just which font to use and which point size it should be. Good typesetting is like an art form, and it makes your work more natural to the eye and more pleasant to read. If your book looks unprofessional, people won’t take it seriously.

Above all, a professional designer can offer you expert advice on how to make your book look and feel fantastic to read. By working with you, they can find out the tone and feel of your book, and tell you how your words and images or typography can work together to achieve what you’re going for. It will be tailored for you, and you still have control of how the final product will appear. When working with a book designer on your self-published book, you actually have more control than most traditionally-published authors. Best of all, they can look over your work with a fresh eye, and it could be just what you need to make your book go from great to fantastic.

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