Your book’s more than a collection of words on pages. It’s your baby. But will other people find it as beautiful as you do? That depends. How do you dress it? In other words, what do your pages look like?
Layout makes all the difference. You can have the most riveting, meaningful, Nobel prize-worthy masterpiece in the bookstore, but it will be very lonely on those shelves if no one wants to buy it.
Here’s how John Q. Citizen shops for a book. He saunters into his favorite bookshop with nothing in particular in mind to purchase. He picks up a book because of its great cover (more on the baby’s “coat” next month) or because it has an interesting title. He opens it up, flips through the pages a few times, closes the book, and puts it back. Why he didn’t buy it has a lot to do with the page layout.
A book with body copy that’s too small or with narrow spaces between the lines is hard to read. And hard to read means hard to sell. That’s why you need a professional book designer. Read on for layout secrets from the typesetters of best-selling books.
The Best Fonts for Great-Looking Book Page Layouts
Look at your book collection and pay attention to the fonts. The letters should be large enough to read without straining your eyes. They should look good on the page and be appropriate for both the reader and the book. If you look at the children’s section of a bookstore, for example, you’ll find large type that’s easier for little eyes to read. And the variety of fonts available allows you to match font to the personality or age groups of your readers.
Good choices for body copy are Garamond, Caslon, Goudy, Stone Print, New Century Schoolbook, and Janson Text 55 Roman. Now for your chapter heads and subtitles, you can go with a bold font, such as Helvetica Bold, Gill Sans Bold, Eras Bold, Univers Black, and Franklin Gothic Demi. Remember that all caps are hard to read, so don’t use them—even for your titles or table of contents.
Proper Leading and Wordspacing for Easy-to-Read Book Page Layouts
We used to call it spacing in typing class, but the term leading refers to the space between your typed lines. The size of the font (i.e., 10-point, 12-point, etc.) together with the space between the lines gives you your measurement. For example, 10/12 (read 10 on 12) is 10-point type with 12 point leading. The rule of thumb is that in body copy, your leading should be about 120% of the point size of the text. So for 10-point text you’d use 10/12 or for 12-point text 12/14.4. Also, if your lines are long, you should increase your leading for easier readability.
Use Full-Justified Type in Your Book Page Layout
Most books nowadays are set with full-justified type. This means the words end evenly on the right side. Pages look full and have a tighter, more professional appearance. In addition, people can read them faster because the eyes aren’t constantly adjusting to different line lengths. This brings me to my next point.
Length of Lines, Margins and Other Book Page Layout Parameters
Reading long lines causes fatigue. You don’t want people to fall asleep reading your book, do you? On the other hand, if your lines are too short, the text looks choppy, and you break up too many words and phrases. A happy medium is to set lines at about 65 characters. Set up your column width to allow for at least a 1” to 1.25” gutter (inside edge) and .5” border for top, bottom, and outside edges.
All these techniques add appeal to potential readers, and that means more book sales. Who knows, you could end up with the next big best seller! Shown below are sample chapter title pages from two award-winning self-published books my team has designed: