August 5th, 2013
- Using one of the typefaces that come resident on most every computer … like Times New Roman. It’s intellectually lazy to not explore what typefaces are out there for best taking an author’s words to his or her readers.
- Using type at a size that’s more conducive to squeezing more words on the printed page than making for comfortable reading.
- Margins and/or leading that is stingy, leading to less than optimal white space and too many characters per line, something that can tax readers’ eyes and their ability to stay focused on what they are reading.
- Tables of Contents for novel whose chapters do not have titles, only numbers. The word “Chapter,” a number, and then a page number are unnecessary and rather silly looking. Present such a table of contents in a two-column format (when everything else in the book, aside, perhaps for an Index, which a novel wouldn’t have, is single-column) and we have a book that, right at the start, looks ridiculous. The Table of Contents appears to be squeezed in to use the least amount of space. If it’s necessary, it deserves the proper amount of room.
- Opening paragraphs of a chapter that have the first line indented. They should be flush left and, while we’re at it, a conservative initial drop cap (or even a raised initial cap) often presents very nicely.
- Sending art embedded in Microsoft Word—or worse PowerPoint—files. And for the best chance at successful placing of photos, they should be in TIFF format, a lossless filetype (unlike JPEG, which is lossy).
Bonus Choice: Not checking spelling. You don’t have to be a design or editorial pro to get this right. And one that always stands out and drives me crazy is “loose” when an author means “lose.” If I spot one of those in a book when I’m considering it, I will set it down in a New York second.
Note: Although it is tempting to say that readers are responsible for whether they remain focused on what they are reading, those of us involved in making books—publishing companies, self-publishing authors, and book designers alike—should do all we can to help readers stay involved with the books they read.
Entry Filed under: book design