Book Layout Tools That Make You Look Like a Professional Designer
When it comes to print, the difference between a reader enjoying your book and tossing it aside after ten pages has a lot to do with the book layout and design. If you think I’m overstating the matter, think again. The spacing between lines, the font, and how the text flows are all part of a subtle art that book designers know comforts the reader and encourages immersion in the text and story. Ragged ends, stacked words, weird breaks, lines that are too far apart or too close together, text on the wrong pages, all of these create distraction and anxiety. After a lifetime of reading, we expect a particular experience from our book layout.
Vellum does a fair job for print, but if you have any custom design needs or if your book layout is graphics heavy, Vellum is not the tool for you. For ebook formatting, Vellum is king. This elegant software solution starts at $199. Simple to use, Vellum outputs files that behave properly across all devices.
Poorly formatted reflowable text is comedic at best and, in the worst cases, unreadable. Furthermore, formatting issues and bad ebook conversion creates large, unwieldy files that take a long time to download and render poorly. On top of it, this can even cost you royalties since you are charged for data transfer. Yep, take a look at your Amazon royalty statement. Under a separate item, you will see fees for the data your book downloads consume.
Vellum offers robust, easy-to-use features and the ability to change and customize your book layout. In minutes, it delivers balanced spread, page numbers, an accurate table of contents, and beautiful headers.
There are several alternatives, including Jutoh, Scribus, and Scrivener, but these apps are much more difficult to use for layout, formatting, and conversion. Don’t get me wrong, I adore Scrivener for book outlines and as a word processor. However, in my opinion, Jutoh, Scribus, and Scrivener are not intuitive when it comes to book layout design and MOBI, EPUB, and JPEG conversion.
In the creative departments of the big publishing houses, you will find the pros using InDesign. Adobe InDesign is the professional standard for interior book layout and design for print. It is not an easy software to learn, and it can be very temperamental. The rules for book layout are also complex, if you do not complete a class like Book Design Basics on Skillshare, you WILL get lost. This includes where page numbers start, how the front and back material is treated, and how to format a table of contents. If done improperly, layout mistakes mark the book as amateurish.
Draft2Digital and Smashwords convert Word or Rich Text documents into decent ebooks. It is button-click easy and fully supported. However, these companies are distributors and send your book out to many booksellers. If you join the KDP Select program, this means you have an exclusivity contract with Amazon that is renewable every ninety days. Using an aggregator is a violation of the KDP Select contract. Amazon offers special promotional and marketing tools to KDP Select members that you probably don’t want to miss out on, especially during the launch of your book.
Draft2Digital and Smashwords are excellent options if
- You are no longer in the KDP Select program and are expanding distribution.
- You want to distribute your book widely and do not want to manage each platform.
- You are publishing a free book.
- You have never joined and don’t want to join KDP Select.
Many bookseller platforms will accept Word files, but these tend to create large and problematic files. If you insist on using Word, invest in an inexpensive template. Joel Friedlander, a celebrated book designer, offers templates for a good price. These start at about $40.
Each bookseller has metadata (encoded information about the book) that is attached to the book file. It is a best practice to generate files specifically for Kobo, Apple, Google, Kindle, and Nook. Software like Vellum outputs this metadata for you. A generic EPUB will work, but keep in mind that your book will be less discoverable because the metadata that search engines use may be in the wrong places.
If your book layout is complex, and can’t be converted with a tool like Vellum, hire a professional. Daily House offers beautifully formatted and easy-to-read book layouts for both print and electronic distribution. Files are provided in PDF, INDD, EPUB, and MOBI. Attention to typography and special details will make your book shine!