What Makes a Great Page Layout?

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1106 Design

February 17, 2014

If your page layout is “off,” readers won’t be able to describe the problem in technical terms, but they might show their displeasure by not purchasing your book. Instead of welcoming page layout, they may perceive your book as difficult to read or “cheap.” If you are thinking of doing your own layout, consider this: Only beginning self-publishers use a word processor for page layout—not established publishers. However, buying expensive design software is not the answer. The learning curve to use such software is steep, and the software will not teach you the nuances of page design, nor will it design the page for you. Instead, take the money you would spend on software and hire a professional book designer.

So what makes a page layout say “read me”?

• Applies to your publication. Novels, nonfiction, directories, and manuals all use
different page layouts; the layout for one will not work for another.

• Invites the reader in and subtly leads the eye from one section to the next.
The right fonts, careful spacing, and a pleasing arrangement work together to
make reading a pleasure instead of a chore. Your text should have an even “color”
that’s easy on the eyes and increases reading comprehension.

• Unusual page size. Standard page sizes are easier for printers, but you are not
obligated to choose these page sizes.

• Exceptional paper. With hundreds of colors, finishes, weights, and textures
available, your designer can obtain paper samples and help you choose one that
enhances the perceived value of your book.

Many book design conventions, while not perceptible to the reader, give your book a polished appearance. These include:

• Eliminating spaces between words that create distracting “rivers” in your text.

• Fixing paragraphs where the last line consists only of a word with less than five
characters or a word fragment.

• Banishing “ladders”—too many hyphens at the end of sentences create a ladder
effect.

• Eliminating word stacks—when the same word falls one above the other on
several consecutive lines of text.

• Manually adjusting overly tight or loose lines of text.

• Making sure the text ends at the same baseline on every page.

Good page layout is not only about knowing the rules; it’s knowing how and when to bend or break them on a case-by-case basis that makes the difference between an amateur layout and a professional one.

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