Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Maybe a book cover designer should not design the inside

Cathi Stevenson operates Book Cover Express. The company's website says, "With 30 years of publishing experience, and more than 1200 covers to our credit, you know you're in good hands with Book Cover Express. . . . You need a book cover designer because professional book cover design is essential."

That's good advice, and the company has designed some excellent book covers. 

The site says that Cathi has "a strong background in printing and publishing that goes back to 1981. She also worked as a writer, editor and page designer for many years . . . she can offer sound advice based on practical experience when it comes to designing for print."

Sadly, while Cathi can design fine book covers, her experience is apparently inadequate for designing what goes between the covers.

Below is a page from Cathi's own e-book, How to Sell Your Competitor's Book Online. It is a PDF book, so the pages should look just like a printed book, and not be designed for the dreaded text reflowing of other formats often used for e-books.

The page exhibits several fundamental errors which should neither be expected nor tolerated from a professional book designer:


  1. The first page of a chapter should NOT have a header.
  2. Justified text needs hyphens to eliminate the UGHLEE gaps between words.
  3. "Cross-over" is hyphenated on the page, however, because Cathi apparently thinks the hyphen is part of the word. It's not. "Crossover" is not a hyphenated word. Cathi says she is a "writer and editor." She should know better.
  4. The book uses en dashes when longer em dashes should be used.
  5. In books, dashes generally do not get adjacent spaces. (They often do get spaces in newspapers.)
  6. Instead of using curly "typographer's marks," Cathi uses straight quote marks and apostrophes, like on an ancient typewriter. This is unforgiveable in a book, especially from a pro who points out the danger of a book "self-published by an amateur."
  7. The book identifies the author as "Cat Stevenson," "Cathi Stevenson" and "Catherine A. C. Stevenson." Inconsistency is silly -- and bad design.
  8. There's also some bad grammar in the book, such as "The author and publisher, accepts no..." This is not bad design, but should have been noticed and fixed. 
Sadly, Cathi (or Cat or Catherine) does not seem to have taken advantage of her own staff. She says that Melanie Barton Zoltan has more than 18 years experience as an editor and that Gwen Gades has designed the interiors for hundreds of books.

I have no reason to believe that Cathi is selling book interior design services, and her company certainly has the skill to design high-quality book covers (and websites and brochures). I am publishing today's blog to make two important points:
  1. If you are hiring a book designer -- or anyone else -- discuss the person's qualifications and experience. The best brain surgeon in the world may not be a good choice for removing a wart.
  2. If you are in the design business, everything you design should look good. If you design clothing or cars, you should not live in an ugly house. If you specialize in book exteriors, you should not exhibit a bad interior.
There is no excuse for ugly books!
A self-published book doesn't have to be ugly.
My upcoming book can help.


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2 comments:

  1. LOL. I didn't do that layout, a company named Fultus took my Word eBook and changed the layout. I had no restrictions against them doing so, and have asked them repeatedly to remove the book anyway, since it's so outdated.

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  2. You would think a "professional journalist" would have at least contacted the person he was writing the article about. Isn't that Journalism 101?

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