Book cover design tells the story of the story. It must convey the spirit and intentions of the author authentically, and it also has a few practical chores to perform. If a book cover design is to accomplish these things …Continue reading →
Selecting a book font seems simple enough, but important subtleties and fine points of typography are not obvious to the average writer. This article offers insights into fonts suitable for book typography. Though it won’t turn the average author into …Continue reading →
Writers often ask about the difference between “straight” or “dumb” quotation marks and traditional printers’ quotes, commonly referred to as “smart quotes” or “curly quotes.” Add in the need to distinguish between left single quotes and apostrophes, and the primes …Continue reading →
Once you have your book cover design looking spirited and professional on your computer screen, how can you ensure that your masterpiece will translate accurately to the printing press? Ink on paper is an entirely different medium from pixels on …Continue reading →
This article explores page layout strategies for books based on the Rule of Thirds. A grid system based on traditional guidelines ensures harmonious proportions and placement of objects on a page. Page layout for books is governed by a range of factors. Trade …Continue reading →
Digital typography offers capabilities that printers working with hot lead type and wood type could only dream of. Digital type can be stretched and resized infinitely, justified within unusual boundaries, or wrapped around almost any shape. And yet, traditional letterpress …Continue reading →
Page layout programs like Adobe Indesign and Quark, allow typographers to exert fine control over justified text to remove gaps and “rivers.” The default settings produce “pretty good” results—better than a word processor—but a few small tweaks will dramatically improve …Continue reading →
Hyphens are an important contributor to elegant, easy-to-read typography, especially when text is fully justified as is the convention in book typography. This article explains how justified text works, and how proper hyphenation improves the legibility of your type. Text …Continue reading →
Book design has changed since publishing became a gigantic industry. Typesetting was once performed by trained craftsmen who apprenticed to masters before inking their own plates. Phototypesetting arrived in the 1960s and by the late 1980s, digital publishing transferred the …Continue reading →
This third installment of Judging a Book by its Cover looks at great book cover designs that won the 2012 Design Observer 50 Books-50 Covers award. Part 1 explored how most book design rarely rises above “competent.” Part 2 looked …Continue reading →
Part 1 of Book Cover Design: Judging a Book by its Cover critiqued “professional” covers taken from Amazon’s Editor’s choice list. Read that article first as it provides background for this one. The article looked at design elements that worked …Continue reading →
Nothing screams “amateur” like a poorly crafted book cover. The standards for book design aspired to by trade publishers are not all that high, but self-publishers routinely fall short of them. If you want your book to be taken seriously, …Continue reading →
I recently responded to a question in a writers’ forum from an author who was in the process of designing a cover for her novel set in a swamp in New Orleans. “I chose a ‘swampy’ font that hangs down …Continue reading →
The word processor has placed new burdens on writers to understand how to use italics, big and small capitals, dashes, hyphens, initials, etc. Writers who do their own typesetting often produce mediocre results. Likewise, trade publishers sacrifice typographic aesthetics when …Continue reading →
NITIAL CAPITALS have historical roots in the early days of book design; their use predates the printing press and the invention of moveable type. Today’s initial caps are not as fancy as those carefully rendered in gold leaf in ancient …Continue reading →
Use of Small Capitals—uppercase characters designed at lowercase scale—is one aspect of writing and book design that isn’t taught in grammar school. We all know every sentence begins with a capital letter and ends with a period. We all should …Continue reading →
I particularly like this section on dashes, hyphens and dots because it goes beyond typographic aesthetics to explore how we can communicate more effectively as writers. The subtle intricacies of hyphens and dashes affect all authors whether they typeset their …Continue reading →
Part 3 of Book Design Basics explores better ways to present numbers on your pages. Numbers (called figures) look simple at first glance, but they present interesting typesetting challenges. Many digital typefaces offer several number styles but few designers know …Continue reading →
Though I create eBooks and write about them extensively, I’m a classic bibliophile who loves to feel the subtle emboss of letters stamped on paper with metal type. I was rummaging through the garage and came across an old copy …Continue reading →
Here is the first of a series of occasional posts that explore the contributions of great typographers and typography books to the book designer’s art. Designers, writers and publishers will benefit from Beatrice Warde’s eloquent perspectives on the craft of …Continue reading →
Part 2 of Fundamentals of Book Design explores optical margins, paragraph formatting and spaces. Read about margins, layout and leading in Part 1. The self-publishing revolution is (aside from the Internet) the greatest thing ever to happen to freedom of …Continue reading →
Book design is a lost art. Though book design discussions usually focus on covers, consider how much more time a reader spends staring at the text. An elegant book block is just as important. Decades ago, professional tradesmen practiced the …Continue reading →
I recently responded to an article on Publishing Perspectives by Andrew Pantoja that innocently advises self-publishers about sources for cheap book covers. It is technically easy to create your own cover; therein lies the problem. It’s also easy to sew …Continue reading →
When designing the cover for my own novel, Waves, I tried a number of approaches before settling on a design that worked for me. This article details my process. Before I even finished writing, I played around with an idea, …Continue reading →
I regularly hear people bashing self-published books as universally “crappy.” Many independent writers do publish books with amateurish covers and poorly edited text typeset with a word processor, but there are “crappy” books released by major publishers, and high quality …Continue reading →
All the connections, marketing strategies, publicity packages, and so on won’t save a mediocre book from itself.
I’d like to believe this is true. It’s the writer in me. The good guy should win. Nobody likes a story where someone struggles to be the best, works hard, overcomes obstacles, spends all their money on a long shot and then gets ignored.
Unfortunately, good marketing saves mediocre books from themselves all the time.
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