Unlike book cover design (which calls attention to itself), page design is silent—forming a bridge between the author’s words and the reader. Many people are surprised to learn that pages are actually designed because, unlike a book cover design, the page design isn’t that noticeable. In fact, it shouldn’t be noticeable! Your reader should be drawn straight into your words without giving your page design any thought.
Know your reader
Making a book accessible and enjoyable to read means knowing your potential reader. If your novel will be read on tropical beaches and in cozy armchairs, it’ll need a friendly, easy-to-read typeface. Your reader won’t be as concerned with page numbers and headings, just with getting on with your story.
Readers of a nonfiction book will want to know where they are in the book. They expect concise chapter titles, headings and subheadings, and will often refer to the table of contents and index to find specific material. Your book designer will carefully choose typefaces, spacing and a heading hierarchy to guide readers through your book in a logical way.
Design decisions your book designer makes
Here are some of the design decisions your book designer will make when preparing your page designs:
- Fit to trim size and number of pages. Your manuscript may need to fit into a certain size of book, depending on your budget and the method of printing you choose. The word count of your manuscript will influence your book designer’s choice of typeface, type size and spacing.
- Margins, columns and white space. Should the margins be bigger at the bottom or outside edges to allow for “thumb space”? Should a narrow column be inserted down the outside of each page for notes, tips or quotes? All elements in your book must be included in your book design, and combined in such a way to produce uncluttered, inviting pages.
- Choosing a typeface. Books often look best with only one typeface. Simple is good! The choice of typeface will depend on a number of things. Are there a lot of italics in the text? If so, a font with easy-to-read italics is required. Are there a lot of numbers, equations, acronyms or long technical words? All these can affect your book designer’s choice of typeface.
- Display type. Some books require more than one typeface. A technical book with several levels of headings may need a contrasting typeface to make the headings stand out. Or, a display typeface can create a special treatment for chapter headings, and provide a consistent and unifying element repeated throughout your book.
- Running heads and folios (page numbers). Running heads usually contain your book’s title, author’s name and/or chapter title. The size and placement of running heads and folios depends on how prominent or inconspicuous they need to be.
- Front and back matter. Pages in the front and back matter are each designed individually, as they are all so different. However, together they must create a unifying whole. Your book designer will choose elements from your chapter pages, such as typefaces, margins, paragraph styles and so on, to connect all the pages in your book visually.
Page design, the way it should be
You can see that a lot of careful thought goes into your book’s page design. And as a result your reader is drawn straight into your words, without giving your page design any thought. And that’s the way it should be.