Book Layout and Design

Once you have your manuscript edited and ready to publish, the next step is to to create the interior book pages, sometimes referred to as a “book block,” or a PDF file which you will upload for printing.

Here are a few different approaches to book layout and design. Keep in mind, there are pros and cons to all the options.

Online Templates

For inexpensive book design, you could download one of the many free or low-cost templates available online.

One potential problem with this approach is that most—but not all—free templates require you to use the printing and publishing services of the provider, which might not always be a bargain.

CAUTION: If you are purchasing a template, you must make sure the program is compatible with programs you have.

What you need to know: free is a good price, but even the best book design templates aren’t a perfect solution. While templates can be customized, they are still templates and will not allow you the freedom of design that marks a wonderful book.

And if you have complicated formatting or images in the text, you may find yourself frustrated with the process of trying to apply predetermined styles to an unconventional layout.

DIY

“But can I just design my book on my own?” you ask. You do have Microsoft Word on your personal computer, after all.

The answer is: yes. But programs like Microsoft Word are not intended as a design and layout tool. With meticulous attention to detail, however, it is possible to format a Word document like a book.

Caution: Text layout will not be as smooth as it will in design software; pagination, headers, and footers can be tricky.

What you need to know: Most authors are familiar with the mechanics of Word and can stumble through the process of laying out the book themselves, provided they have some technical expertise and a reserve of patience.

Like templates, however, if your formatting is complex or you have a lot of images, Word is not the best software to design a book.

Hire a professional

Others will hire a designer to lay out the pages — generally done with InDesign.

It’s not easy to create a book in InDesign, plus InDesign is expensive. And although it’s available as a subscription—around $30 a month at this printing—InDesign takes time to master. So that cost will add up.

CAUTION: You will also need an operating system that can meet the program requirements and a working knowledge of cloud storage.

What you need to know: Whether you try to learn InDesign yourself, or hire a professional designer, here’s what InDesign can do for you:

  • Text layout

InDesign handles text elegantly, offering wider design choices, and generally allowing more options when it comes to layout and design.

  • Style changes

With InDesign, style changes are easy to implement, and master pages allow for universal application of the look. Also, in the hands of someone who is familiar with the program, the process should be much quicker than other layout options.

A note: It may seem tempting to subscribe to Creative Cloud for a few months in order to master InDesign basics and lay out your book.

Don’t do this unless you are considering a second career as a graphic designer. The time you will put into mastering the program is guaranteed to bring you nothing but headaches, and as an amateur, your book may be worse off than it would be had you stuck to Word.

If you’ve decided to leave the design of your book interior to a professional designer, our next post will help you find a designer that’s right for you and your project.