What do you want your book to look like? Visualize. Visit a bookstore. Check the section where your book will be. Then look into other sections. Find a book you like–on any subject. Consider the binding, layout, feel, margins, type style, everything. Compare it to books shelved where yours will be. If it seems to belong, then buy it.
Use this book as a model. Tell your editor, typesetter, and printer you want your manuscript processed so that in the end it will look similar to this book.
One beginning self-publisher noticed when she went to a bookstore that the smaller, so-called “mass-market” paperbacks were fancier than other softcover books. The store owner explained that these mass-market books were also sold on newsstands and therefore had to compete for customers’ attention with glossy magazines.
The publisher bought one she loved. The jacket had an embossed (raised) title and a hologram. She took it to her printer and said she wanted the same features for the jacket of her hardcover book. Although it was expensive, she had found what she wanted. And she adapted a design that would attract attention to her book.
According to the Brenner Information Group (http://www.brennerbooks.com), graphic design consumes 13.5% of the production budget for fiction titles and 3.7% of the budget for nonfiction titles. And as you’ll see when you explore bookstore shelves, typesetters and book printers can deliver any format you wish. Just give them some guidance.
Remember: Creativity should be admired but adapting is faster. You do not have to reinvent the wheel. Find a book you like. Someone has invested a lot of time, creativity, and money in that design. Adapt it.
Dan Poynter is the author of “The Self-Publishing Manual” and a past Vice-President of PMA. For info on his company, Para Publishing, and its guides on book publishing, visit http://ParaPublishing.com.