Self-Publishing: Typeface & Book Design

Discussion questions: What are your likes and dislikes when it comes to typeface, layout, and design? Do you ever buy — or opt not to buy — a book based on its cover or its font? Do you despise deckle-edged pages as much as I do? If you’ve self-published before, what was your process for making decisions about type, cover, and layout? What advice would you give to a writer preparing to self-publish for the first time?Share your thoughts in the comments below.

 

Many of you who have self-published are familiar with the horrors of finally finishing your book only to be met with a barrage of options and questions about how that book should look. As if being good with words means being good with design.

I’m trying to envision myself being in that situation:

What font do you want?

“I dunno. Times New Roman 12? Or… I can’t think of any others. Is Garamond a thing? Wing dings?”

What about the margins and spacing?

“Are you kidding?”

Do you want deckle-edged pages?

“Nooooooooooooo!!!!!”

What do you want the cover to look like?

“Um. It should show my name, I guess? And probably the book title. And maybe some kind of image or something, like an illustration or a photo?”

What kind of illustration or photo?

“Oh god, when will this end? Can I just do an e-book?”

OK. What font do you want in your e-book?

“Nooooooooooooooo!!!!!”

 

The deckle-edged pages one is a personal and intense dislike of mine, which I mention in a recent episode of Yak Babies where my pals and I talk about our likes and dislikes in typeface and book design.

“[Deckle-edged pages are] meant to be like an aesthetic look,” I say, “but f*ck do I hate it … You can’t flip through a book; if you’re looking for a note it’s almost impossible to find because the pages stick together, you can’t find individual spots, it’s hard to find a bookmark.”

Meanwhile, Nico has this to say about font: “Font makes a huge difference to me … I want it to be as legible, as easy to read, as regular, as normal, as not f*cked-up as possible.”

About cover design, our pal Brick Road says that if he’s wrestling to decide which of two books to buy, “I’m gonna take the one whose cover I like better.”

In a perfect world, only the words themselves would matter. But whether it’s fair or not, typeface and design affect the decisions of readers — a.k.a. book buyers.

Even if they’re not aware of it. Like Nico says, “Maybe it’s one of those things where you don’t notice [typeface and design] unless it’s sh*tty.”

 

Self-published writers: What was your process for making decisions about type, cover, and layout? Did you enjoy this process or was it a total nightmare? What advice would you give to a writer preparing to self-publish for the first time?

Readers: What are your likes and dislikes when it comes to typeface, layout, and design? Do you ever buy — or opt not to buy — a book based on its cover or its font? Do you despise deckle-edged pages as much as I do?

All: Do you want more of the Yak Babies yakkin’ about design? Episode 33 is about book covers.

 

WriteByNight co-founder David Duhr is fiction editor at the Texas Observer and co-host of the Yak Babies podcast, and has written about books for the Dallas Morning News, Electric Literature, Publishing Perspectives, and others.

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