Design is a subjective thing, and book design is no different. Yes, there are many good solutions to any given brief, but some things will be essential to the success of your book. A professional book designer can help you achieve those.
Legibility, and ease of reading, will give the reader a good experience when they have bought your book. Not only that, the chances of a potential reader buying it, in the first place, will be greatly increased. What if someone thinks your book will be hard to read, or doesn’t like the visual feel of it? They will be much less likely to buy it, and will probably move onto something else instead.
The flick-through is a fact of life. You need to be prepared for it, but you also need to step back and consider the whole package. To get the potential reader to choose your book, you need to ‘wow’ them with it. That means carefully designing both the cover and the text pages, and presenting the complete book professionally.
It is important to clarify, at this point, what is meant by the term ‘e-book’. This article refers specifically to the type of e-book that allows content to reflow on the reading device. PDFs, for example, have fixed layouts. Whilst fixed-layout e-books can be effective, sales platforms like Amazon KDP only accept them for children’s picture-books.
The book designer and your book
Your cover design
The potential reader has to be attracted, and intrigued, by the cover design before they get to the flick-through stage. If they don’t get past this, you’ve probably lost them. A great idea, but with poor execution, will be as much use as a weak idea with great execution—i.e. not fully effective. To start with, you need imagination to try and encapsulate the concept of your book. Then, you need the skill to realise that concept in an impressive, professional-looking form. The book designer can work closely with you to fulfil both of those roles.
You don’t have to create the cover design first, but it will be the primary motivator for the potential reader. The cliché “don’t judge a book by its cover” is, ironically, almost universally disobeyed in the world of books. We all judge a book in that way, no matter how much of an injustice that might be. Some of you might remember the heyday of the music album as a physical object. You will probably recall buying an album on the strength of its cover alone, only to play it once, if that. You still bought the album, though, didn’t you?
Your text design
And so onto the text content; in a printed book, many factors feed into the creation of an attractive, engaging text—writing style, and writing quality, apart. It’s less so with an e-book, but we’ll get onto that in a moment.
Firstly, you want the choice of typeface(s) to be appropriate to the style and content of your writing. The whole thing—visuals and content—needs to work as a sort of perfect multi-part harmony. Nothing jarring, nothing out of place—it just feels ‘right’.
Secondly, you want the reader to find reading your book easy and pleasurable. Your words alone won’t do this, no matter how well it’s written. If someone has to squint or hold your book at arms length (whether or not they wear glasses) they might just decide it’s too much like hard work, and move on. Similarly, if they find themselves losing their place, and having to re-read again and again, there’s a problem.
Your book needs to have a good visual flow, as well as a good content flow. Choice of fonts, spacing, layout, and other related factors, are the keys to this. The book designer has the knowledge, and experience, to help you through all of these decisions.
Book design for e-books
The purpose of the book cover, and the effectiveness of its design, are equally as important with an e-book as they are with a printed book. However, the treatment of the text content within the book is, by necessity, different.
There are two reasons for this. Firstly, a physical book has fixed, numbered pages—a reflowable e-book does not. Your e-reader allows you to read in page-like chunks, but the text as a whole is a fluid thing. Secondly, most e-reading devices allow the reader to adjust text sizes to suit their eyesight. Some allow them to choose typefaces too, amongst other ad-hoc style tweaks beyond your control as the book creator.
Layout, therefore, is not fixed in these e-books. The possibilities of layout that you have in a printed book are just not there in an electronic one like this.
This means that you just need to keep it simple. Think of your e-book as a basic, single-column web page, or series of web pages, in a simple flow, with a very simple style sheet. At its most basic, you have heading, body text, subheading, body text, etc. You might want chapter breaks, too, if that helps reduce the monotony. If you have illustrations or photographs as part of your text, these will just be simply placed in the flow of your text. You won’t have the whistles and bells of text wraps, and jaunty positioning, in your e-book.
Consider the value a book designer can bring to your project
That’s a summary of the main design considerations, but it’s far from exhaustive. The design criteria for your book will really be dependant on the nature of it, and how you want the end product presented.
A book designer can help you through all the above design decisions. They can help you with both concept and execution, and work with you to realise those in a professional and satisfying manner. They can also provide a much-needed outside view of your overall product. That leaves you free to concentrate on the writing and marketing of your book.
Next we have book production. This is an area where technical skill, and the physical realities of the finished product, come to the fore.