When self publishing your book, you want to make sure to keep in mind these professional book details.
One of the most compelling reasons to self-publish a book is that authors can get their books into the hands of readers without a publisher taking a big cut of the profits. Many authors choose to print their work themselves because they can not only potentially make more money from their book’s sales, but authors also have complete control over the book’s contents, how it looks, and how the book is marketed to potential readers.
But the biggest challenge most authors of self published books face is creating a book that has professional book details that blend in perfectly with books edited, designed, and published by traditional publishing houses. Self-published authors have to do or coordinate all aspects of the publishing process, and for some writers, skipping some steps in professional book details or choosing to forgo other details might seem like a good idea.
However, potential readers can be turned off if they perceive that a book does not have professional book details when they view five areas of a book’s appearance.
The Five Places That Are Important for Professional Book Details
The first glance at a book on the shelf can give potential readers a good idea of the book’s contents. The spine of the book provides color, text, and copy clues to the book’s contents, and self-published authors who make a misstep on the spine may keep potential readers from even picking up their book in the first place. If a book passes the spine inspection, the next place a reader looks is at the book’s cover.
The cover of a book can be a good indicator of self vs. professional publishing when the cover copy doesn’t let the reader quickly know what the book is about or when the front or back cover details don’t appeal to potential readers or retailers. When the front and back cover pass the visual test, a potential reader usually will flip open the book to look inside. The first few pages, called the front matter, set the tone for the rest of the book.
Readers who notice something amiss with these pages may not even make it to the actual book content, but those who do will notice how the rest of the book looks by skimming its pages. Readers may not be able to tell you how to correctly format your book, but they can tell when one of these five professional book details is missing, created incorrectly, or looks too different from others in your book’s genre.
1. Professional Book Details — Spine Style and Appearance
The way that the spine of a book appears may be the first indicator that a book is self-published rather than traditionally published.
Two Key Elements: The title and the author’s name must appear on the book’s spine so readers can quickly identify the book and author. These two elements are also required by most retailers in order for them to keep a book on their shelves.
Direction: All book spine copy should be oriented from top to bottom. We naturally tilt our heads to the right to read a book on the shelf, because the text on a book’s spine will always start from the top. Books that require a left tilt will not only look odd on the shelf, but potential readers may not take the time to adjust to read the title or your name.
Publishing Logo: All books that are published through traditional methods will have a publisher’s logo imprinted on the spine. These little Random Houses, Penguins, and other identifiable logos visually connect the author and title to the publishing company. Some authors choose to add their own branding to their self published books so that their book’s spine continues the familiar pattern of the other books on the shelf. These small professional book details make a difference to a reader.
2. Professional Book Details — Copy Problems
While we like to say don’t judge a book by its cover, the truth is that readers do make snap decisions about a book by glancing at the cover. One of the most critical aspects of a book’s cover is the copy that tells the reader what the book is about, and books without a strong cover copy are an instant indication that the book was self-published.
- Book Overview: This short blurb should clarify exactly what the book is about so readers can make an informed decision. The cover copy might be on the front cover, on the back cover, or even on a book jacket, as long as it is present to show professional book details.
- Marketing Tool: The handful of sentences that make up the cover copy is an important tool that authors and publishers use to market a book online. Readers expect to read a clear but compelling blurb about the book, and online retailers may be hesitant to sell books without professional book details like this.
3. Professional Book Details — Book Cover Details
The third location where a reader can tell a book is self-published is its covers.
- Genre Match: Usually, readers flock to a specific genre, so they have unspoken expectations about what your book’s genre should look like. Self-publishing authors should choose a color, designs, and fonts that fall in line with reader expectations, so the book is appealing to genre fans because of professional book details. And matching genre expectations also avoids the sticky problem of a reader picking up a book thinking it is a different genre, due to its cover “advertising,” only to discover the contents are another, potentially losing a fan in the process.
- Design: Working with a cover expert is the best way to ensure a book’s cover looks great and includes all the elements in a way that appeals to potential readers with professional book details. Book covers designed by well-intentioned authors who lack design experience are easy to spot on the shelf next to books crafted by professional designers.
- Title and Author: Disordered text on a front cover is a dead giveaway that a book was self-published, as are books with titles or author names in hard-to-read or too-small fonts.
- Blurbs: New authors often use the back cover to provide readers with blurbs (short reviews) from other authors or respected sources to build trust with potential readers. An indication of self published books can be when a book’s back cover includes large blank spaces and no blurbs to market the book or new author to readers, important professional book details.
- ISBN: Retailers need books to include an ISBN number or even a barcode to help them track and sell a book. Self-publishing authors who skip this can not only exclude their book from some retail outlets but also show readers that their cover design skills are not on the same level as those of a traditional publishing house.
4. Professional Book Details — Missing or Incorrect Front Matter
The first few pages of a book, before the first word of the story or book content, is called front matter in the publishing world. Self published books without these technical pages will stand out to potential readers, even though some of the pages may seem redundant or unnecessary to an author responsible for creating and funding the printing of the front matter. The pages and order of the front matter are:
- Half Title Page (optional, may include graphic elements)
- Spacer page(s)
- Full Title Page (required for most distribution channels)
- Author’s Other Works (optional)
- Copyright Page (required for most distribution channels)
- Dedication Page (optional)
- Table of Contents (optional but necessary for nonfiction books)
5. Professional Book Details — Book Formatting
Finally, the way your book’s story or contents look can indicate whether or not you self-published or your book was published by a traditional publishing house.
- Headers: Many publishers use the header space to reinforce the author’s name, the book title, or the chapter title on each page. Self-publishing authors can skip them altogether or use them to consistently provide readers with this extra information in their book.
- Line Spacing: The content of a book should be formatted at 1.0 spacing between the lines to align with industry standards. Self-publishing authors can benefit from this format as well since fewer pages are needed for books with this standard spacing than with books created with 1.5 or even 2.0 line spacing.
- Margins: Traditionally published books all have clean, straight margins. Remembering to justify both the left and right margin will create this block effect on self published books.
- Orphans: When a single line is “orphaned” at the top of a page, leaving the rest of the page blank, readers will suspect that an inexperienced author self-published the book.
- Page Numbers: Every page, other than the very first page of a book, should be numbered. Authors can put them on the top or bottom of a page, but placement should be consistent throughout the entire book.
Getting Started with the Self-Publishing Process
Authors choose to self-publish their work for many reasons, but the freedom that writers have over how the final copy of their book looks, from content to cover to marketing, usually plays a large part in that decision.
Once the book is on the bookshelf alongside other traditionally published books, authors who pay attention to the way the book’s spine, covers, front matter, and formatting appear can create a book that readers may never even realize was self-published. To get started with your book, partner with a trusted printer like Dazzle Printing who can turn your manuscript into a gorgeous book, ready to get into the hands of your readers.