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  • Writer's pictureAmanda Clemmer

7 Secrets of Custom Book Layout: Advanced Author Tactics

Have you ever picked up a traditionally published book and fallen in love with it? Not the writing, but the book itself?

Some publishers go the extra mile to make their books a work of art. The print, the font, the section breaks in between scenes and even the page numbers are all targets for customization.

Unfortunately, it’s harder for self-published authors to match those standards. When you’re printing on demand, you’re left with a limited set of possibilities for your own book. Or are you? New tools are constantly giving authors more options for layout, and there are still many old hacks that haven’t been entirely lost to time.

Before we get into some of the ways you can give your book the special treatment it deserves, keep in mind that the first few times you format a book, it’s best to go vanilla and use as little extra formatting as possible. Book layout can be a nasty beast and lead to a number of hitches if it isn’t done right. On top of that, it can be a lot of work.

Let’s start with the two bigger secrets of customizing your book, the tricks that you’ll need if you want to customize layout from the ground up.

Secret #1: Customize your pages.

If you want a completely unique and elaborate layout for a more experimental project, Adobe’s InDesign is a valuable tool that you can use to make every page unique while still adding an attractive level of consistency to keep your work looking professional. For a more standard project, Microsoft Word or LibreOffice’s Writer are both fine. For either of those latter options, you’ll want to spend time studying page styles in advance. That way you can set up a different style for your general content pages, your first-of-chapter pages, your blank pages, and your title page—and every other unique form of page in your book.

Secret #2: Pick a good distributor.

Many authors stick to Amazon’s KDP because it is one of the simplest and most direct printers out there for self-published books. KDP Print has grown in options over the years and now has a hardcover as well as paperback option. However, the best option for you might be somewhere else. Ingram Spark has a broader distribution base and more customization options. Lulu also has a lot of variety and page sizes, so it might be a good place to check if KDP Print doesn’t have the option you’re looking for.

If you have a form you’re happy with and a distributor that can handle the job, it’s time to look at the tiny details: little things that can make all the difference in your custom book design layout.

Secret #3: Pick an effective typeface.

The best font and typeface options for your book will be simple, and most books require no more than two (one for chapter titles and one for the rest of the content). That being said, it’s a good idea to look up popular print typefaces and find something similar. If you want a pinch of extra style, you can pick a basic typeface that only slightly stands out from the usual. This will catch the readers’ attention in a good way. When you’re ready to upload your book to the printer and distributor, choose to upload it as a PDF. Make sure that your typefaces are embedded so that they can be printed the right way.

Secret #4: Take advantage of section breaks.

Those tiny gaps between scenes are a great place to start when customizing your book. Many published books include ornamentation in these spaces specific to the book itself. One easy way to get a custom break-in is to treat it as an image. Then you can design your own or find an image that would work. If you’re using a layout service like Atticus, you can also explore the in-app options available.

Secret #5: Headers and footers can be so much more.

As it is, you already have a lot of options for headers and footers. Where do you want the page numbers to go? What do you want each of the headers to say? Publishing companies often take full advantage of these underused components of book layout. Open a few of your favorite paperbacks and see what they have. You might get some helpful ideas of what you can do with your own.

Secret #6: Design a wrap-around cover.

Print book covers have more possibilities than ebook covers. Traditional publishers still hold the upper hand on this one, though, with the ability to add multiple textures to a cover, raise the print, or have multi-layered covers that peel away. Even if you don’t have that quality of cover job available to you, you can use your front cover, back cover, and spine for artistic effect.

Secret #7: Glyphs and wingdings are your friends.

Wingdings remain the easiest way to insert a symbol or basic image in your text. You can take full advantage of them and use them in section breaks, near your page numbers, or anywhere else you want to add spice to your layout. Just remember not to get carried away with them. The emphasis should remain, as always, with your words.

As always, please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below. You can also click the blue button below to join my group for self-publishing fiction writers on Facebook.


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