As I make changes to my book’s content and structure, I am starting to think about its layout. This element of publishing is another important one. It can either make or break a book’s accessibility. This is especially true for the time-starved reader who needs advice fast. The more I can facilitate quick access to relevant information, the better.
|Charlie, my accomplice|
A couple of my reviewers suggested I go to a bookstore to see how other books in my genre are formatted, so I went on assignment. I flipped through books in the business and self-help sections. I felt like Goldilocks before she tried the third bed: some were too academic, some were too playful, and none were ‘just right.’
Traditional layouts included blocks of text that were hard to scan – they looked like work. Highly illustrated books were fun but difficult to navigate. What struck me was that a book was either easy or hard to navigate – there was no middle ground.
|Phil, looking inconspicuous|
Here are guidelines that will help me select an effective layout:
– Titles need to stand out – they are the key navigation markers
– White space is good – the less on a page the easier it is to navigate
– Elements need to balance – lopsided pages look wrong
– Icons are effective signposts – too many are confusing and gimmicky
– Text boxes prioritize content if used sparingly – too many are confusing
– Different fonts and text sizes communicate order – too many are confusing
– If pages aren’t inviting and easy to digest, they need to be simplified
…not in my genre
Now, I find myself assessing the layout of every book I pick up: Where is my eye directed to? Is there a logical order to the page? Is it easy to navigate? The biggest question, however, is ‘Do I want to keep on reading?’