Three Tips for Interior Book Design: What Self-Publishers Should Know

Feb 10, 2016

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When it’s done well, interior book design can have a great impact on your reader’s enjoyment. Good interior book design in a book isn’t usually obvious: the thoughtful decisions the designer has made in placing and presenting text are often invisible to the reader, and that’s the point. Nothing should interfere with the reading process; in fact, good design will enhance it.

Strong interior book design is especially important in non-fiction books that contain a hierarchy of information rather than just one long narrative. For example, if your book contains a running narrative that is interspersed with bulleted lists or sidebars, the presentation of those distinct elements should be done consistently and in an elegant way. Here are a few considerations that our designers bring to bear on many of our clients’ books:


Sidebars are short sections of text that are set off from the main text to provide supplementary bits of information. They’re often presented in a graphic such as a box or with a greyscale background. Designers need to prepare these graphic elements in a way that’s consistent with a book’s overall design, and they need to place each sidebar carefully so that it connects with the section of the principal text that it’s meant to complement. Sidebars should be used consistently but sparingly; if there are too many, it could interrupt the reader’s ability to get immersed in the principal text.

Pull quotes

Pull quotes are key phrases from the text that are presented in a larger or bolder way for emphasis. The selection of pull quotes is often the job of the editor, but the designer will need to place them strategically on the page so that they add visual interest yet don’t interrupt the flow of a section or paragraph. Like sidebars, pull quotes shouldn’t be used too often or they will fatigue the reader. Your designer and editor can help you determine how many to use in your book.

Repeated graphic elements

Consider the small but important graphic elements that you might find in a non-fiction book. If a designer has placed a series of small graphics, such as dots or squares, in a row between two sections of text, that’s a cue to the reader that there’s a section break and that the author intends to move onto another subject or a different point in the narrative. Creative designers might find ways to offer interesting treatments for these elements. For example, our client Mindy Mackenzie has a striking image of a lion on the cover of her book The Courage Solution. Her designer took a cue from the cover when designing the book’s interior and added a small but elegant lion icon to each page on which a chapter opens. Because of this smart design decision, readers will be reminded of the symbol for courage when every chapter begins.

Do you need help with your own book design considerations? Please, get in touch.