Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Authors: Don't assume that a book cover designer can design book pages. The best brain surgeon in the world may not be a good choice for clipping a toenail.



Cathi Stevenson operates Book Cover Express. The company's website says, "Professional book cover design is essential because readers, retailers, and reviewers glance at a book for only a few seconds before they make a choice™. Make sure it’s your book they’re choosing."

That's very 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.

The page exhibits multiple 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 (also called a "running head").
  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, as produced with an ancient typewriter. This is unforgivable 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 people. She says that her company "is associated with several wonderful, freelance editors and proofreaders." 

I have no reason to believe that Cathi is selling book interior design services (she recommends Gwen for that), and her company certainly has the skill to design high-quality book covers (and websites and brochures). I am publishing this blog post 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 clipping a toenail or removing a wart. The best auto mechanic in the world may not be a good choice if you need a dishwasher repaired or a water heater replaced.
  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!

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