Getting The Right ‘Look’ And ‘Feel’ For Your Self Published Book
Going back ten years or so, self publishing was a doddle.
If a writer contacted me and asked if I would typeset their book, design a cover, assign an ISBN and get the book printed for them, the traditional self publishing process of the time, it was all fairly standard stuff, and I would take it on, and to be honest whatever I produced the writer would be happy. Indeed I’d go so far as to say the writer would be delighted, such was the thrill of seeing their work actually ‘published‘ and ready to go into high street shops.
But times have moved on. The whole self publishing game has undergone a staggering transformation. You’ve heard it all a million times so I will say no more.
So, as a publisher, I am no longer happy to just typeset a writer’s book in Times New Roman with Auto Leading and produce an A5 book for them without offering an alternative. Why?
Well, for starters there are far better fonts than Times….zillions of them to be honest, some better than others obviously.
Then there is the issue of Leading…..I’m sure you know what leading is, it’s the distance, the space, between the bottom of one line of text and the line below (that’s the basic explanation). This post will have an Auto Leading set by WordPress. But if you compare this leading to what you might find in a best selling book in a book shop you’ll notice, in general, that the leading in the bestseller is far bigger…..have a look, you’ll be amazed.
And the reason for this larger Leading? Well, there are several but the main two are that a much bigger leading produces more ‘white space’ on the page and just looks lighter, airy, and usually easier to read….the other reason is that a large Leading means there are less words on the page and it bumps up the page count which makes a short novel look like a longer one and justifies the publisher’s retail price. Cynical? Nope. It happens.
But for self publishing, where one of the objects is to keep print costs down, the lower the page count the less the book will cost to print. Typeset a book in a standard font, with a standard font size, with Auto Leading (200 pages) will cost say £X to print. Change the Auto Leading to Double Leading and you’ll end up with a book that’s 320 pages in length and each book will cost £X + Y pence. (I purposely put X and Y in there because there is no standard print cost).
Anyway, I’m rambling again, the point is this….I am mightily tempted to look at a writer’s manuscript and think to myself “This would look great if I typeset it with a really large Leading and cut the book size down from A5 (148mm x 210mm) to something like 128mm x 198mm (a really cool book size). But that would increase the page count alarmingly and as a result the books would cost more to print….so I can’t do it willy nilly. It has to be discussed with the writer and agreed.
So, to sum up, the look and feel of your finished printed book depends very much on simple things like font, leading and page size….take the easy option, and it will look okay, probably no one will notice. But get it right, with a really classy font and leading and your book will ‘look’ and ‘feel’ a cut above the rest…..it’s worth thinking about.