Authors beware: don’t hire that book formatter!

I was checking out a book cover designer’s portfolio, he has some great stuff and amazing prices. Obviously not the best, but learning, and pretty good, and cheap. But he’s also offering book formatting services; he has a portfolio of only 5 images, and they had these problems:

  1. There was a header on top of the chapter page
  2. The same ‘genre’ font (specialty font to match genre) was used on the chapter heading, the page heading and the first sentence (yuck).
  3. All the rest, spacing, margins, indents, etc, where fine but nothing super.

He’s charging $99. Pretty good price, says he does it in InDesign. But just because someone can use InDesign, and knows a little bit about book formatting, and is cheap, doesn’t mean you should hire him.

Just because you pay someone, doesn’t make them a professional designer. And no, I don’t think you need to pay someone a lot of money to get quality design: you just have to educate yourself a little bit.

When you’re hiring a designer, it’s not just about his portfolio or how the work looks to you. You need to learn the rules first. You need to check out my gallery and see what professional book design looks like. Does that designer’s interior book design look like all those other books? Is it as clean and polished? Or is he breaking some rules and doing things differently?

With book design, doing things differently and new is never a sign of an experienced designer. Being clever and doing things like putting headers and page numbers in a weird place just for the sake of being novel will disorient readers.

There really aren’t many rules to book design. If you download my free templates you’ll see I can make lots of style variations with just three fonts, and they look amazing (though some are too busy and distracting). Learning how to design minimally, and learning how to appreciate the white space between the text, is what truly separates quality designers from amateurs.

So before you hire somebody, get the templates. Take a look at the design gallery. Make sure your book cover is brilliant and that your chapter heading fonts match your cover (so important, but so rarely done by indie authors! It’s such a giveaway that the book was poorly produced by random designers not collaborating).

About The Author

Derek Murphy

I'm a location independent book designer (and book marketing genius) working on my PhD in Literature and shopping for a castle to use as a writer's paradise. I write non-fiction and YA.

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