Thursday, April 30, 2009

Bad design decisions
can limit readership of a good book

Every book has an interior designer. It might be the author who has never designed anything before, or a skilled professional with years of experience. Someone has to devise (or copy) a standard for the way your pages will look. This includes typefaces, type sizes, margins, indents, subheads, decorations, etc. — all of the little touches that makes a book look unique, or like another book.

Before you commit to a designer (or to your own design) look through a lot of books and try to understand what makes them appealing or unappealing.

Sometimes a stupid mistake can kill the reading experience. I own a book called Semantic Antics: How and Why Words Change Meaning. I love reading about words and thought I would get a lot of pleasure out of it. Unfortunately my prime emotions are frustration and outrage.

Some unnamed book designer chose to use a smaller-than-normal page size, and in order to squeeze in all of author Sol Steinmetz’s text into a reasonable number of small pages, she or he chose a tiny type face that looks like what gets printed on the back of a credit card. When I was in advertising, this mini-printing was scorned as “FLY SHIT.” It has no place in a mass-market book.

Consider your market when your book is designed. There are special editions of large-type books for people with visual impairments, but the simple act of aging can make bigger letters more appealing. My first self-published book, I Only Flunk My Brightest Students: stories from school and real life, was aimed at my fellow baby-boomers. The oldest of us were born in 1946. I chose to use 13-point type instead of the smaller and more common 12-point size.

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