Saturday, January 29, 2011

A Crash Course on Book Design Part 4: Interior Design

Finally, we’re going to look at interior design – an aspect that nobody except me ever wants to talk about. Then again, I am one of those strange people who finds comfort in standard manuscript formatting.

This is where Serif or InDesign is going to come in handy. Both programs let you create master pages, which can be used as a template for the entire design of the book. You’re going to need three separate designs for the interior page – even pages, odd pages and chapter beginnings.

The page on which you can get the most creative on the first page of each chapter. I’d give you some examples of ways that you can do it, but honestly, it seems kind of pointless. There are as many different ways to do your chapter titles as there are to do book covers. Flip through a few of the ones in your genre for ideas and refer to your cover design often – you want them to look like they belong together.

Keep in mind that chapters should begin between one-third and half of the way down the first page, leaving a bit of white space at the above the fancy chapter title font. Also, having page numbers on the first page of each chapter is optional – if you decide that’s what’s best for your design, feel free to leave them off.

However, page numbers in the rest of the book are not optional. The reason that you want odd- and even-numbered master pages is primarily because of page number placement. For traditional book-binding, even page numbers should be in the margin on the left-hand side – preferably at the top or bottom – while odd pages are on the right-hand. This way, when your book is bound, it’s easy to flip through and scan for the page number you need. Alternatively, you can also center the page number at the bottom.

Now once you’ve got that set up you may find that the pages look pretty empty. No worries; you can add simple designs (like lines setting the page numbers apart) to the margins, or words. Generally, you should stick to one simple or distinctive design, and a handful of words, at most. I’m personally fond of the design where the author’s name appears centered over the even pages, while the book title is centered over the odd, but that’s just an example.

In general, interior design should be easy to read and use. Make sure your body text is clear and understandable. Make sure that whatever you put in the margins doesn’t draw your reader’s attention unless it’s needed - you want them to be able to find page 86 if they need to, but not notice it when they’re in the middle of your action scene. And, more than anything else, interior design should be consistent. Remember, the chapters don’t stand on their own; they work together to make a whole book, and that’s how you should think of the design.

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