Design Mistakes to Avoid
As professional book designers, we hope you’ve hired (or plan to hire) a professional to design your book. Many times, however, authors will choose to create their own one-sheets, press releases, or other promotional materials and opportunities for those sometimes arise before you’ve hired that designer. Many authors we know choose to use DIY-type apps and programs like Canva for these projects. You could use Word, especially if you know how to add graphics and manipulate margins and page elements well.
Here are a few tips to ensure your design doesn’t get in the way of your message.
1. Always use only one space between sentences, not two. Long gone are the customs that came with using a typewriter.
2. Watch your margins. As a general rule, a half-inch of space between the edges and type or design element will ensure good printing and readability. Placing important elements too close to the edges is a very common novice error.
3. The above rule also applies to placing text in boxes with borders and/or colored (gray) backgrounds. Be sure to keep text away from all edges of the box by at least an eighth or quarter of an inch. This is another tell-tale novice mistake.
4. Never use straight quotes (or “inch marks”) instead of curly quotes (“smart quotes”). Each has a specific purpose
5. Be sure to check proper usage of the apostrophe. In abbreviated dates, a closing apostrophe should be used before the last two numbers in the year: ’97. The apostrophe should curl toward the missing characters. An apostrophe should not be used to indicate a plural, even when it’s an abbreviation (ie: CDs, VCRs, DVDs).
6. Use a true ellipsis rather than three periods in a row. On a PC, use Ctrl + Alt + . and on a Mac, use option+colon.
7. Don’t overdo it with fonts. Choose a serif font (with little tags — serifs — at the ends of the letters) for the body copy and a simple sans serif for the headings. DO NOT use Papyrus, Comic Sans, or Brush Script. Ever.
8. Never let your computer program dictate where lines end or break. You should use soft returns to determine where each line will break, avoiding too multiple hyphens in a row wherever possible. A general rule is to break a line where you would pause if speaking that sentence. This works well with short sentences such as in bulleted lists or subheadings, but not necessarily with paragraphs.
9. Be consistent with the alignment of your headings. If your main headline is centered, center all other headings. Large blocks of type are easier to read when justified (flush on the right and left), while bulleted lists are better aligned left/ragged right.
10. When selecting italic or bold type, be sure to use actual typefaces, not your computer’s style palette. For example: If you want Garamond Italic, use Garamond Italic instead of using Garamond and italicizing it using your computer’s style menu.
11. ASK SOMEONE! Never be afraid to contact a designer or printer to ask questions. Good professionals respect those who are interested in doing a job right. There’s a lot to learn and it’s always best to learn from someone who has experience.
Many of these tips apply when writing your book as well. Why not get in the habit of using type properly while honing your writing skills? Let us know if this list has been helpful or if you have similar tips to share. Be sure to sign up for our blog to continue getting more information like this!
Thanks and blessings for a great publishing journey,