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Silver Spring, MD
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Stories To Tell is a full service book publishing company for independent authors. We provide editing, design, publishing, and marketing of fiction and non-fiction. We specialize in sophisticated, unique illustrated book design.

Stories To Tell Books BLOG

Self-Publishing a Book: Should You Design It Yourself?

Biff Barnes

You have finished the manuscript for your book? It has been thoroughly edited and you are ready to move ahead with self-publishing? At this point you may ask yourself, should I design the book myself?

One aspect of the question is the complexity of your book. If your book has extensive graphics, photographs or illustrations, or is heavily formatted the design issues are more complex than for a simpler text only book like a novel. But, even with novels professional book designers employ the tools of the Adobe Creative Suite: Photoshop, Illustrator, Bridge and InDesign to achieve a professional look. Are these tools part of your skill set?

Let’s consider some of the reasons for using a professional book designer.

The old saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” is a cliché, but we do it every day. As best-selling author Guy Kawasaki said in his book on self-publishing APE: How to Publish a Book,

“The first outward sign that your book is self-published is a crappy cover design.”

Chip Kidd, a top book cover designer at Alfred A. Knopf, who brought us the distinctive book cover of Jurassic Park, and one of the best-designed, all-around-best books on my reading shelf right now, Haruki Murakami’s IQ84, explains: “The book designer’s responsibility is three-fold: to the reader, to the publisher, and most of all to the author. I want you to look at the author’s book and say, ‘Wow! I need to read that.’”

The interior layout of a book may not be as eye-catching as a great cover, but is of equal importance. A book’s clarity and readability are essential to a good reader experience. A professional book designer does simple things you might not even think about to create a beautiful interior. These include choice of fonts. This includes general considerations like the fact that serif fonts are easier to read and provide for increased line spacing while sans serif fonts are more attention-grabbing. A recent post on FontFeed , Ten Top Typefaces Used by Book Designers explores some of the complexity of the seemingly simple question of which font to employ. Even with a relatively simple all-text book designers must make sure that blank pages, line breaks, chapter title pages, page numbers, and running heads are correctly formatted. In books with many illustrations or lots of front or back matter the design challenges are multiplied.

It’s no wonder that a lot of authors want to turn the responsibilities for creating a clean, beautiful book to a professional designer.

What’s also true is that it pays. A recent study reported on found that authors who hired professional book designers as well as editors saw their books earn 34% more than the average for a self-published book.(For a more in- depth look at the report read our post Self-Publishing a Book: Forbes Says Get an Editor and a Book Designer.)

Leave a comment below regarding your decision about whether to design your book yourself or to hire a professional designer.