The way that a reader experiences a book’s contents is due in part to the book’s layout and design. Pagination, text and font styles, margins and graphic elements are all guided by the book’s layout and how it is designed. Many self-publishing authors decide to make these critical visual design choices themselves, opting to DIY the book layout by utilizing formatting templates or book layout programs.
Others choose to work with a book layout designer with experience putting together a book layout. But understanding all of the upsides and pitfalls of DIYing or using a book layout designer will help you make the right choice in prioritizing your time, money, and expertise so the final draft of your book will look fantastic when you send it off to the printer.
Using a DIY Program
The most common ways that authors DIY a book’s layout is to use a software program or to download a template. Programs come with a variety of capabilities, but some of the more popular ones are a one-stop shop for authors who want to do it all.
1 Affinity Publisher: Perfect for writers on a tight budget, Affinity only requires a one-time purchase rather than a subscription service to use the book layout designer content. Affinity is easy to get started with, and online tutorials make it a good choice for first-time authors, but the complex offerings are also appealing to experienced self-publishing authors as well.
2 Atticus: Another one-time purchase program, Atticus’s strength lies in the easy drag-and-drop editing features that writers and publishers of all experience levels can quickly master. Atticus also offers users multiple templates to choose from, allowing authors flexibility to work with a layout that works best for their book content.
3 InDesign: This subscription service is the most comprehensive option as well as the most user-friendly. Since InDesign is an Adobe product, it seamlessly connects with Photoshop and Illustrator so authors can integrate their graphic design work into their book layout easily.
4 Microsoft Word: This versatile writing program is an excellent option for simple or uncomplicated book formatting and book layout designer designs. The yearly subscription fee service allows users to organize and structure a book layout with the help of Word’s formatting guide.
Why Authors DIY Book Layouts
As a self-publishing author, you already have the DIY spirit. But writers who choose to layout their book themselves over hiring a book layout designer often do so for four main reasons.
Authors have total creative control when DIYing their layout. From selecting the font size to pagination to stylistic elements of the layout, an author can choose every detail of their book’s layout unilaterally. This freedom to present a book exactly as the author has envisioned is a huge benefit to going solo.
Writers can prioritize their work to control the timeline. A professional book layout designer is often contracted to work with a full schedule of authors and books. Partnering with a professional book layout designer might add weeks or months to a self-publishing author’s timeline. By DIYing your layout, you can choose to prioritize the tasks and outcomes you want without having to be stuck waiting weeks for a professional designer’s work to be completed.
Doing it yourself is cost-effective. Let’s face it, saving money is a huge plus for many writers who are paying for the development and printing costs of a self-published book. The small investment in a book layout program or template represents a huge savings over paying a professional book layout designer to do the same work.
You can learn a new skill. The challenge of learning a new skill like book design is one of the reasons many self-publishing authors choose to DIY their book layout. Becoming proficient in creating beautiful book layouts is appealing to many authors who want to learn everything they can about the self-publishing process.
Why Doing It Yourself May Not Be a Good Idea
Deciding to complete a complicated task like creating and perfecting a book layout without any prior experience can be a risky proposition for many authors. Readers expect books to look cleanly edited while matching genre and industry standards, so self-publishing authors take a potentially big risk DIYing it themselves.
Skills: Creating a professional-looking layout takes special skills. Professional book layout designers have experience and unique skill sets that help them create a visually appealing book without stepping outside of the reader’s expectations. Authors may not have the ability or time to learn, hone, and implement the design skills needed to develop a gorgeous book layout that matches their book’s genre and content and that readers will love.
Time: The process of creating and refining a book layout can be very time-consuming. Learning how to maneuver a multi-faceted layout program or even a book template without experience can take precious time away from an author that may be better spent on writing. Some authors may quickly pick up some of the basic graphic design skills needed to work with a book layout program, but others may struggle with learning the program and making decisions about the myriad of choices offered in a design program. This learning curve can result in delays in the author’s expected publication timeline, throwing a wrench in other book-related activities.
Tools: Professional designers have access to tools that you won’t. While book design programs and templates offer authors a variety of tools to create a book layout, the tools a professional book layout designer will have access to are much more specialized. From unusual fonts to creative options for graphic elements, professionals can help self-published authors create a book that looks comparable to a traditionally published one.
Result: A DIY layout may ultimately look unprofessional. When little details are off or a creative approach to the layout falls flat with readers, the result is that the book may appear unprofessional to readers and turn them off. Authors risk losing potential fans by presenting a book that doesn’t look up to par with other books on the shelf, a risk that most self-publishing authors don’t want to take.
Is Using a Professional Book Layout Designer Worth It?
For many self-publishing authors, choosing to partner with a professional book layout designer is worth every penny. Investing in an aspect of a book that every potential reader will see can provide time, professionalism, and feedback that they may not have had access to without using a designer.
If you use a professional designer, you can focus on writing your book and other tasks related to your book rather than learning a new skill. For some authors, giving up precious writing, editing, and revising time is not worth the tradeoff of learning proficiency in a bookmaking skill like layout design. Instead, authors can continue to devote time and mental effort to the contents of the book.
When you work with a professional, there is a greater chance that your book will appear professionally published. Book design experts have access to professional tools that will create a book layout comparable to traditionally published books. A professional designer can seamlessly match industry standards while creating a visually appealing book layout that your readers will love.
Expert designers bring objectivity and a professional perspective to the book’s design. While an author may have a fantastic story concept or compelling characters to bring to their readers, their personal opinions on book layout design may not meet genre standards. Adding a professional designer to the mix can ensure that the final product looks familiar to genre enthusiasts while still feeling fresh and representative of the book’s contents.
Drawbacks to Engaging a Professional Book Layout Designer
Working with an expert designer may not be the right solution for some authors.
Cost: Services of professional book layout designers aren’t free, so self-publishing authors on a tight budget may not want to invest in working with an expert.
Control: Authors who self-publish have control over every aspect of their book, so partnering with a book designer who will undoubtedly have a say in how the book looks may be challenging for some writers.
Availability: A designer’s workload with other authors may not allow for a quick turnaround on the final product. Self-publishing authors may find that working with a professional layout designer extends the timeline for finalizing their book before sending it off to the printer in weeks or even months.
Communication: Working with a professional designer requires the author and the expert to communicate effectively. Authors have to be clear in communicating their vision to the designer while also listening to the expert opinions with an open mind. Misunderstandings and miscommunications can lead to delays and disappointment in this sometimes lengthy process.
Turning Your Manuscript into a Beautiful Book
Whether you DIYed it or partnered with a book layout designer, once your manuscript is ready for publication, partnering with a trusted printer like Dazzle Printing will help you get your books into the hands of your readers.