A Guide To Self-Publishing Part II

Posted on: 10 September 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

Johnnie Johnson gives expert advice on how to perfect the design of your book.


Now you’re ready for layout. You might have already bought a program so that you can design your own layout on your computer. But even if you have, you have to know about layout, and about what your book will look like.

Just pick up a book, any book, and you’ll see that there is a generally accepted format. Look at the front cover, the back cover, and the spine. Never judge a book by its cover, my old mother used to say. For once in her life she was wrong.

You know you’ve written a wonderful book, that your prose is commanding, the content challenging, that it’s ‘unputdownable.’ But if your book is going into bookshops, it’s the cover that will sell the book.

Is the title riveting? What font are you using for it and for your name? This matters. What about a compelling image on the front? Maybe you can design something yourself? Or maybe you’ll buy one from the internet, from firms such as www.photos.co.uk or www.stockphoto.com.

The back cover carries a great amount of information. Most important is the blurb. Take this one as an example.

Living With Loathing

"Gerald and Griselda Grimshaw admit that they’re among the worst-matched couples in the world - but they’ve managed their mutual aversion to create a dynamic, functioning family."

"This thought-provoking account of a turbulent marriage which ought to have collapsed long ago will inspire thousands of people locked in loveless relationships."

"Gerald, a successful businessman, and Griselda, a marriage guidance counsellor, reveal the hard-won techniques which have enabled them to stay together in order to give support to their bright and happy children."

Just have another look at this blurb. The first paragraph sets the scene. A book of this kind won’t suit everybody but it will have resonances which will appeal to some who pick it up.

The second paragraph hints at some kind of inspirational story. Maybe that will perk the interest of some book browsers.

And what about the information on how Gerald and Griselda earn their living? Well, you can surely trust a couple who are so honest and who are successful both professionally and at home. This is a ’how to’ book and what the blurb is actually saying is in spite of everything, you can make things work especially for your children.

This is a non-fiction blurb but the same sharp information is what the fiction writer needs when he or she seeks to attract the browser.

What else should be on the back cover? If you wish to sell in shops you ought to buy an ISBN from the UK International Standard Book Numbering Agency in Bear Lane, Farnham, Surrey GU9 7LG. Most printers will get a barcode for you. 

If you do manage to get some pre-publication reviews or comments from newspapers or well-known people, so much the better. Put these on the back or front cover.

Of course, if your book is only for friends and family you can dispense with the ISBN and barcode.

And the spine? All you need is the title, the author’s name and the publisher’s logo.  Have a look at other books.  There’s no need for any elaboration from me.

By Johnnie Johnson

About The Author

Johnnie Johnson and David Arscott have written more than 60 titles between them, both fiction and non-fiction, and have a broad experience of both mainstream and self-publishing.

Now the two local authors with a wealth of publishing experience between them are organising a day's seminar in Lewes to take writers through the process of organising your book, hardware and software, designing a cover, preparing your book for the printer, costing and pricing and promotion and distribution.

Their seminar is at the John Harvey Tavern in Lewes, on Tuesday, 21st October, from 10am until 4pm.

The fee is £100 a head, including morning coffee and tea in the afternoon. The Tavern serves snacks and lunches.

For further details contact David or Johnnie by Tuesday 30th September on:

Johnnie Johnson: 01323 725524 or johnhijo@btinternet.com
Website: www.johnniejohnson.co.uk

David Arscott: 01273 470100 or pomegranatepress@aol.com
Website: www.pomegranate-press.co.uk.

Have you written a book? Are you planning to write a book?

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