Top 5 Book Layout Mistakes

Hello Book Lovers and Authors,

When you self-publish or work with an inexperienced layout artist there are certain mistakes that make your book look bad.

Book publishing is a centuries old industry that has gone through a lot of changes, but certain things have become so standard that you only notice when they’re out of place.

5. Headers and Footers

Headers and Footers are the area above and below the main text. They live in the margins and help tell the reader where they are.

The main mistake with these is if they are missing. However, having too much information or having them too close to the main text makes it hard to read.

The standard pieces of information that should be in the headers and footers are; title of the work, author, and page numbers. You can add or substitute chapter titles if you wish but only if they are more interesting than just “Chapter 1”.

Page numbers are the only things that must be, without any exceptions, included in your header or footer.

Page numbering starts on the first page of the book and not the first page of the content. This means your title page is considered page 1. This can change if your book isn’t a novel.

Headers and footers do not appear on any pages before or after the content or on any pages where the chapter starts.

4. Images

This is an easy one. Printing requires a certain quality of image (300dpi and CMYK colour). Anything below or other than that will look unprofessional.

Some people, me included, like to use silhouettes as dividers and decorations. Use these sparingly and if you can, use vector images that can handle being shrunk easily.

3. Fonts

When reading on a screen, studies have shown that it’s easier to read Sans-Serif fonts. When reading a book it’s the opposite. Always use Serif fonts.

Beyond that, it looks unprofessional to use standard fonts like Times New Roman or fancy fonts like Broadway or *shudder* Comic Sans.

The classic font is Garamond and no one will judge you for using it.

A great resource is: The fonts are open source and free.

The above applies to the main text. You can use nearly any font for the chapter titles or your Headers and Footers. I do recommend you limit yourself to 2 or maximum 3 fonts overall and never more than 1 for the main text.

2. Kerning and Leading

Kerning is the space between the characters. If this isn’t consistent, is too tight or too loose; the book will not only look unprofessional, it’ll be borderline illegible. All layout programs have settings for this that are extremely easy to use.

Leading is the space between your lines. Chances are that your High School teachers insisted on you double spacing your essays. If the lines are too tight they start to blend together, if they’re too loose, it’s hard to follow and takes longer to read.

Similar is your Paragraph spacing. If you have a huge space between paragraphs it’ll look messy and cost you more in printing.

1. Typographic Alignment

The biggest, most common, and the first thing people notice is the alignment in your text.

Headers, titles, and images are extremely loose in where they should be aligned, but the main text of your book should always be Left Justified.

This blog is left aligned. The standards for web are different because of the glow caused by the screen.

The moment I see a jagged right margin on a book I know it was formatted by an amateur. It’s an industry standard because it works. When combined with proper kerning it is easier for the eye to go from one page to the next.

A good Layout Artist will make sure that all these things are taken care of and that your book looks great. See Why Your Book Needs a Layout Artist!

I offer layout services if you ever need help.


Good reading and good writing,