By Joel Friedlander-
More and more writers are taking advantage of the new tools of publishing to create and publish their own books. This has led to an explosion of creativity, as writers are able to move their own books to market without the long delays and uncertainty of trying to get a traditional publisher to offer a contract.
Of course, there are also lots of authors who publish some of their books with traditional publishers, but still want to issue backlist, experimental, or non-commercial books themselves.
This is all good news for authors. But one of the consequences of authors becoming “do-it-yourself” publishers has been the proliferation of books that don’t look quite right.
Although our books may be self-published, we sure don’t want them to look sub-par, do we?
For many years I’ve helped authors get their books produced so they can compete with the books coming from traditional publishers. And while many authors hire professional book designers to create their books for them, this isn’t practical or desirable from some people.
Some of the errors I see when reviewing self-published books are very easy to correct, if you only know how. So to help out, I’ve compiled here a list of the most common book formatting errors.
If you’re doing your own formatting, make sure you pin this article up near your workstation. You’ll be needing it.
7 Formatting Errors to Avoid
1. Putting page numbers on blank pages.
Blank pages have no text or images on them, and that means they should be truly blank. If you think about it, having a page number on a blank page really doesn’t make sense, since there’s nothing for the page number to refer to.
2. Using running heads on chapter opening pages or blank pages.
This is probably the most common formatting mistake of all, and I see it often in books from do-it-yourselfers. Just like page numbers, running heads (the type at the top of a page that shows the book title, author name, or chapter title) have no place on a blank page, just leave them off so the pages are truly blank.
3. Using “rag-right” typesetting.
Sometimes authors think they can make their pages look better by using rag-right typesetting. But if you walk over to your bookshelf and start looking at your own books, you will soon discover that virtually all books outside of art books or poetry, use fully justified composition. This means that the left and right margins of your page are straight and all lines except the last line in a paragraph are all the same length. This is what your readers expect to see in your book, so make sure you give it to them.
4. Double spacing between sentences.
Many of us learned to type quite a while ago, and many typing instructors told us to hit the space bar twice after a period. This is perfectly fine for business reports or memos, but it has no place in a book and can potentially cause problems when your book is typeset. So only one space between sentences.
5. Using both indented AND block style spaces between paragraphs.
Since we’ve started reading so much on web pages, we’ve grown accustomed to the block style of paragraph formatting. This is when paragraphs are separated by a line space instead of indenting the first line of a paragraph, as is usually done in books. Both work, but you have to pick one and stick to it. If you add spaces between your paragraphs, make sure you don’t also indent the first line.
6. Putting the odd numbered pages on the left.
When you open a book, it just makes sense that the first page is page number 1, and that has to be a right-hand page. This rule is absolute, and you should never, ever number your pages with even numbers on right-hand pages.
7. Making super small margins to save pages.
Lots of authors who use print on demand services like CreateSpace know that they will be charged based on how many pages are in their book. But that’s no reason to shortchange your readers by making your page margins too small just to save money. If your book is too long, reduce the type size a tiny bit or use a more space-efficient font. Small margins will make your book hard to hold and difficult to read, never a good result.
Paying attention to these details of book formatting will help ensure that your books look and work the way they are supposed to. Your readers will thank you for that, and it’s your readers you should keep in mind throughout the publishing process.
Another way to solve a lot of these formatting problems while also getting a well-designed, industry-standard book is to use one of our book templates. They will save you an amazing amount of time and frustration, while making sure your book looks the way it should. You can find out more and see the available designs at: BookDesignTemplates.com.
Joel Friedlander (@JFBookman) is an award-winning book designer and blogger. He’s been launching the careers of self-publishers since 1994 from his book design and consulting practice at Marin Bookworks in San Rafael, California. Joel also writes TheBookDesigner.com, a popular blog on book design, book marketing and the future of the book, and he is the founder of The Self-Publishing Roadmap, a training course for authors, and BookDesignTemplates.com, where he provides tools and services for authors who publish their own books. Joel is a past president of the Bay Area Independent Publishers Association. Connect with him on Google+.