Book Design 101: Interiors

Have you ever thought about what it takes to bring a manuscript to life into a fully realized printed book?

Perhaps you are a writer yourself and are thinking about self-publishing. Or an aspiring graphic designer. Or maybe you just love books. Either way, I'd like to share some of the knowledge I've accumulated throughout the years working as a book typesetter and designer. The content below specifically deals with the interior, as that's where the majority of my experience lies!

 Photo by  Brandi Redd  on  Unsplash

Photo by Brandi Redd on Unsplash

For this purpose, I've laid out a sample chapter from Alice in Wonderland with a simple, straightforward design.

I invite you to take a look at these pages before and after going through the rest of this article to see how your perception of the design changes after you gain a little more knowledge about page design!

Terms to Know

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margin: the white space between the text and the edges of the page

gutter: the inner margin

body: the main text

display fonts: special fonts that differentiate from the main text and add design flair; used in headings, title page, sidebars, etc.

text block: the area on the page taken up by text

running head: text heading that runs on the top of each text page; usually contains info such as the book title, part or chapter titles, and/or the author's name

running foot: similar to the running head, but is found at the bottom of the page

folio: page number; this can be found at the top or bottom of the page, sometimes aligned with the running head or foot, if there is one; at the bottom of the page, it can be referred to as a "drop folio"

form or signature: Traditionally, books have been printed in multiples of 8 or 16 pages, which equals one signature. This has to do with the way the large sheets of paper are cut and sewn together to create the book pages. Whether a book's page count is required to fall on an even signature depends on the printer being used. Many digital POD sites like Createspace only need an even number of pages, however.

frontmatter: pages at the beginning of the book before the main content; usually comprised of the title page, copyright, dedication, foreword, and/or table of contents

backmatter: pages at the end of the book that aren't a part of the main content; usually includes things like the index, glossary, about the author, acknowledgments, and bibliography

spread: comprised of two pages (one left, one right) that fall side-by-side

recto: right-hand page

verso: left-hand page

Tips for Good Page Design

Perhaps you've never even noticed these things before, but I think you'll find that your page layouts will look a lot better by paying attention to these general rules...

Gutter: The gutter margin is often set wider than the outer margin. This is to compensate for the page space that is lost in the binding. The general rule is that higher page counts need larger gutter margins. Lower page counts (such as in picture books) don't necessarily need a larger gutter.

Typography: Keep the number of fonts to a minimum—usually 2 or 3. That's a good rule of thumb for ANY design project. I often have a main body font (usually serif), a display font (a contrasting typeface that fits the mood of the book), and, occasionally, a secondary text font (sans serif) for things like sidebars, callouts, and tables.

Blank space: Part of being a good designer is knowing when NOT to fill a space. Sometimes white area is ok, and will make your design look better. Some examples of where you could use white space are the above headings, around illustrations, "sinks" on your chapter opener pages (see diagram), or adding blank left-hand pages so your chapters and/or sections always start on a right-hand page. (Blank right-hand pages, however, are usually a no-no.) Also be sure to give your main body text some breathing room by using enough leading (space between lines). I generally set my leading at least 2 or 3 points above the font point size.

The fine details: There are several ways you can fine-tune your composition. Here are a few things to look out for that we often try to AVOID in publishing:

  • stacks - when the same word ends or begins two or more lines in a row; usually two lines are considered ok, but three or more stands out
  • widows - starting a page with a single line from the end of a paragraph
  • orphans - when a paragraph ends with a short word; it's best to end with a word or words that are longer than the width of the paragraph indent
  • 2-down hyphenation - allowing words to hyphenate with only two letters on the following line. Three or more letters are better.
  • loose/tight lines - just as it sounds—when the spacing of the words and letters looks too spaced out or compressed

Many of these issues can be fixed by learning to use composition features in your page layout software (i.e., H&Js, Keep Options, Tracking, etc.), and some require manual tweaking. With that in mind...

Use software specifically made for page layout to compose your book. By this, I do NOT mean Microsoft Word. Adobe Indesign is by far the most widely-used program and an industry standard. (A common alternative is Quark Xpress.) Yes, it is pricey and not for the casual user. If you are serious about diving into book design, Indesign is the way to go. There are cheap or free alternatives out there. But, seriously, use Indesign.

This is all just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to designing book interiors. I know I've learned a lot since I first started out, when I knew pretty much nothing. I think book design is something that might appear simple on the surface, but becomes overwhelming once you realize how much goes into it. Like anything, it takes a bit of work, practice, and experience.

When in doubt—there's always the option to hire a pro! ;)

I hope you've at least learned something new about book design today and can appreciate the process.

Sincerely, Nicole

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My Journey into Book Design

My Journey into Book Design

Things are getting back on track here as I get back into the swing of things following my vacation to New Hampshire. It was my intent to share more about my book design work before I got sidetracked with my busy schedule! Finally, I have found time to put some things together. I thought I would share my story of how I came to be a book designer.

 Photo by  Laura Kapfer  on  Unsplash

Photo by Laura Kapfer on Unsplash

The Beginning

I was hired to my first job as a book compositor a few months after graduating college. I had a general art degree, and little to no experience with books, so I had a lot to learn! After a short training period, my main task was to perform edits to books that had already been laid out. The company where I was employed had a variety of publishers and books they worked with, from textbooks to novels to children's books, so I got a lot of experience. As time went on, I gained more responsibilities and was assigned more complex tasks. Eventually, I was able to typeset books from scratch, starting with the author manuscript. At this point, however, I was not designing the books, but rather following templates already created by a separate designer.

At first, I did a lot of work in Quark Xpress, but the work eventually transitioned to almost exclusively Adobe Indesign. Thus began my experience with that program, which is the main software I use today.

This continued for many years. At first, I worked across the spectrum of publishers included in my company's clientele. As the company evolved, though, so did my role in it. In my latter years, I worked mainly with Scholastic books, which was a lot of fun for me since I have a love for the YA genre.

Diving into Book Design

When I left the company and began freelancing, I started offering my services not only to typeset, but also design books. Having so much experience as a compositor helped a lot. I now knew by experience the general layout of a book, how to tweak the text to create a high-level composition, how to optimize files for printing, general knowledge of typography, and just what looks good in a design. Having the technical knowledge allowed me to use my artistic intuition to guide my design decisions.

I initially did some work on simple titles for self-publishers. My first big client was Atlantic Publishing, a small publisher out of Florida that I still work with today. The books I do for them, mainly in the nonfiction YA market, are a lot of fun to design. I get to have a lot of fun with typography and sidebar elements within the text. This is also when I first started working on covers, whereas my main experience up to this point was with interiors.

Besides Atlantic, I now work regularly with several other companies, including some design work with my old office, as well as the occasional odd job for a self-publishing author. While I am now venturing into other areas of work, such as illustration and surface design, I think books will always be a part of what I do.

My journey into book publishing wasn't planned, but I'm sure glad it found me. It has been a great ride so far, and I can't wait to see where it goes in the future.

Sincerely, Nicole

Finding Time for Creative Pursuits

Ah, vacation.

This past month, I was able to drive across the country to New Hampshire to visit family for a few weeks. Even the long drive with two little ones was non-stressful and fun. Although I did end up taking work with me (oh, the life of a freelancer—gotta love it) I still got to spend a lot of time with my family, reunite with loved ones I don't see often, and take in the beautiful spring scenery of the New England area, which I consider home. It was a much-needed pick-me-up for my soul.

It's been a bit of a struggle lately as far as my creative output. Work is doing well enough, which is great, but with that comes less time to work on personal stuff. There are several professional goals I've been working toward this year as far as building my portfolio and building my career as an artist. While I've had some successes, I also feel like I've come to a halt. It isn't so much a lack of motivation (as in the past) but it is now more due to a lack of TIME.

Here are a few things that have helped me to make time to create:

1. Draw, write, make... (whatever you do) every day.

Even if it's just for a few minutes. Even if you think it's trash. Perhaps allot a specific time each day, such as before you start work or before you go to bed. It's all about developing habits and creating output. Nothing will happen unless you DO. Creating on a regular basis is the only way you will produce work, hone your skills, and develop your unique style.

2. Learn to let go and get help!

As a freelancer and stay-at-home mom, I often just have too many things on my plate. It doesn't help that I am also a bit of a control freak and overachiever. I want to do everything and I want to get it done ASAP. I really need to learn to step back and let things go sometimes. Not everything needs to be done immediately or done perfectly or done by me. Or even done at all (I'm talking things like cooking dinner—not client work, haha. Yes, my family probably eats out more than we should, but I get more done!) This past month was actually the first time since I started freelancing that I enlisted other people to help me with some of the tasks that were sucking up my time. It was hard to let someone else help me, but in the end, it was a lifesaver. Work smarter, not harder, right?

3. Create a calendar

Write down your goals so you know where you want to be a month, 6 months, a year, and/or 5 years from now. Divide your goals into smaller tasks and map out those tasks onto a calendar so you have a path to where you want to end up. It might not always go exactly to plan, but it is a good starting point and something you can reference now and again.

Now, I am definitely not the greatest at following my own advice. But you can't beat yourself up over it. Just keep going!

Are you a busy artist as well? How do YOU find time to do what you love? I would love to hear from you!

Till next time.
Sincerely, Nicole

P.S. Here are the mandalas I created for my personal art project these past couple of months. Regrettably, I didn't end up doing very many, but hey, I was on vacation, ok? ;)

 

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M is for...

 

 

 

M is for...

Meditation

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My new monthly theme! I am looking forward to making time for some relaxation this month. I’m headed on a cross-country road trip to visit family for a few weeks, which should be lots of fun! I’m going to use this time off to breathe, refocus, and get back to creating for fun.

Monopoly

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This page is from a fun alphabet book that I illustrated called E is for Economics by Veronica Goodman, and it’s available now. Check it out HERE.

May

After a busy April, I’m excited to see what this next month will bring!

Motherhood

I always enjoy celebrating all the wonderful mother figures in my life on Mother’s Day.

Mandala

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Last month’s personal project (book designs) got put on hold due to time issues, and I will return to it—but not quite yet. Since I’ll be on the road a bit in May, I’ve chosen to do something more portable. I recently invested in an iPad and have been exploring various art apps. I absolutely LOVE apps like iOrnament and Amaziograph for creating mandala art, so I want to experiment more with those. I might work in some traditionally drawn mandalas as well. Follow along on my Instagram (@nicolejonessturk, #sturkartchallenge2018).

Welcome to May, everyone!

Sincerely, Nicole

Blessed with Work

Holy moly, this month was hard.

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I think every client I have hit me with jobs at the same time. Work piled up, and I was so overwhelmed that it literally brought me to tears. I worked early mornings and late nights to get things done, and it wore me down. Then there were my daughters. My oldest is living up to the “terrible twos” with countless tantrums and mischief throughout the day. My younger one-year-old has been especially prone to whining lately, probably from lack of attention due to my heavy workload. So imagine long hours of stressful work + lots of screaming. Not fun.

Yet despite all this, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how lucky I am. The past few months have been some of the most productive and fruitful in my short career as a freelancer. With my husband in school, I’ve taken on a major role in our financial support, and it gives me great pride knowing that I can take care my family by not only working hard, but also using the creative skills and talents that I’ve built over the years.

I know there are a lot of hard-working mamas out there who struggle with tedious jobs, or not making enough money, or being away from their kids, or putting dreams on hold in favor of family, so it’s not lost on me that what I have is special.

While I cannot wait for my girls to grow out of their tantrum stages, I love that I get to spend all day with them. I wouldn’t want it any other way. I know that work will level out soon (and, hello, vacation...), and there are bound to be slow times again. With so many people working jobs they hate out of necessity, what a luxury it is that I’ve built a respectable career that I love, that I am good at, that I can do at home, and that provides for me and my family needs, and then some. I am truly blessed.

Anyway, those were just some thoughts I’ve been having. It helps to keep this in the forefront of my mind during stressful times. I’m not always great at remembering to do that (did I mention the tears?), but as with anything, it’s up and down. The key is to try to stay up more than down. Everyone’s circumstances are different. We all have our struggles, but I would encourage you to pause and take stock of the blessings in your life because we all have those, too.

Sincerely, Nicole