Interior Designing for Self-Publishing
Interior designing is not just for houses. Books also need it. Interior designing basically takes care of all the little things in a book that we may not notice but should be super thankful for. From fonts to margins, these details make a book easy to read and let us focus on the actual story without struggling with the formatting of the book.
It is a long process, so if you don’t feel like you have the patience or dedication to go through with it, hire a professional interior designer. But if you want to go through the process yourself, the first and most important thing to do is select a trim size.
This is the size of the pages in your book. Amazon sets the default for paperback books as 6 by 9 inches, so I designed and ordered the first proof of my book in this size only to discover that it looked like it was a nonfiction book with an odd title. I then cut it down to 5 by 8 inches, which looked much better. To avoid this—and the extra work that comes with it—I recommend you look at books with various trim sizes to determine what looks most appealing. The ideal trim size can vary based on your genre (fiction books typically have a smaller range of trim sizes than nonfiction), target audience (a bigger but thinner book is more appealing to younger readers), and book length (a bigger trim size can make a longer book seem easier to read). So, try to find a book in your genre of approximately the same length and measure the trim size.
Ok, now you have a book with pages of the right size, but you need to fix everything on the pages. Even something that seems as simple as the font actually requires a lot of research. Select a font that is used commonly in books of your genre (fiction is almost always written in serif fonts). Additionally, most fonts are not free for commercial use, which means if you want to print and sell your book in a certain typeface, you need to buy the license. I used EB Garamond for my text because that is in the public domain, does not require a license, and is still a common book font.
Chapter Beginnings: Headers & Drop Caps
The header at the beginning of each chapter is a great way to add to your book’s personality. If you want an ominous, darker vibe, maybe you use a dark background behind your text. If you want an elegant vibe, maybe just put the chapter number. A short chapter title without a number can give mysterious vibes, and a long chapter title can give a comedic mood. Design your chapter header and maintain the format for each chapter to give your book a sense of coherence.
While some books just mark the start of a chapter with the header, many also have a drop cap. That’s the large letter at the beginning of the first paragraph. It’s usually as large as three lines of normal text, and it is usually of a different font. Word has a function you can use to insert a drop cap, but the formatting did not work with the font I wanted to use (Kaushan Script), so I inserted images instead (yes, there was a lot of manual work involved, but it was worth it!).
Using the typical one-inch margins on each side that you find on A4 paper will waste a lot of paper. With books, you typically keep just enough margins to maintain a good reading experience. This typically means .5 inches on the outside margin and .75 inches on the inside margin. However, these numbers vary based on the book’s thickness because thicker books need more binding room. With the top and bottom, you typically reduce margins for the actual text to .5 inches but still have headers and footers within those margins (see below).
For all my fellow Google Docs lovers, this is unfortunately a stage where you must switch to some other platform. Google Docs does not have a function to have different margins for left and right pages, but that is necessary for books. Doing so on Word is rather easy (see steps here).
Headers & Footers
Headers and footers are another aspect of interior designing that can really make your book look unique from the inside. Headers almost always include the title of the book (left page) and the name of the author (right page), but you could replace the author’s name with the chapter name if you like. Footers typically include the page number, but many books include the page number in the header instead. You can add lines, dots, or stars around your headers and footers, and you can play around with the font size. One thing to keep in mind is that a page header and a chapter header rarely look good together, so you may have to manually remove the page header from the first page of each chapter.
Widows & Orphans
Now that all the large details of your book’s design are complete, you should scroll through and make sure the text is easy to read in its current formatting. Check for widows (single words that hang in a sole line at the end of a paragraph) and orphans (single lines from larger paragraphs that hang at the beginning of the next page). You don’t want overly large white regions that confuse the reader, so you may have to go back and cut or add some text to remove any instances of widows and orphans.
And, there you have it! The inside of your book is complete and ready for publication. Make sure you order a proof of your book to ensure you didn’t overlook anything (missing page numbers, leftover orphans, etc.). With that, you are ready to move on to the rest of the self-publishing process.