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layout

If it looks like a duck…

A Duck

At a meeting I facilitated last week, someone mentioned that she had referenced the ‘duck test’ (if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck,  and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck) to her team and no one knew what she meant.

I feel like I am going through the duck test now as the hard cover version of my book is being assembled. I asked my Wiley production supervisor if she could send me a sample of the layout design and she kindly sent me a few pages. 

Fonts: Blumner MTStd, Minion Pro 
and Ocean Sans

Here’s where the duck test comes in. The layout looks like a hard cover business book, the fonts are similar to other hard cover business books, and the dimensions are common to most hard cover business book. Therefore, Change with Confidence will look and feel like a hard cover business book. I am getting more and more excited as I see the physical elements come together. Each one is a ‘pinch myself’ moment, a small win that needs to be celebrated. Celebration is an important factor of successful change management and I am seeing my motivation spike every time I have one.

Two observations came to mind when studying the layout: It will be easy to flip through my book to find specific information, which has always been a must-have requirement. Also, the templated examples are shown exactly as they were created during big change projects, which reflects the experience-based, practical nature of my book. 

 The cover is the final element of the design phase. As long as it looks like a business book (the duck) then my book will be in good shape.

Phil

The 14 days of Changes

I had an exhilarating call with a professional editor whom I met through a friend. He was personable, fun and knowledgeable. We discussed my book and how a reader might use it. He shared his first perceptions and briefed me on the publishing world. My favourite observation was that fifty-five questions (chapters) may be too many. But they are all important, I thought. I also thought, I think I need a professional editor! 

Time flew by, as it usually does when absorbed in conversation. By the end of the call a partnership was formed. I would handover my draft manuscript on December 21st and he would edit it over the next couple of weeks. 

After hanging up the phone, I created a mindmap drawing of what I needed to do before the 21st.The page quickly became full. I needed to reformat quotes, rewrite the introduction, and write a ‘how to use this book’ section, an ‘afterword,’ and six more stories. I also had to inject more ‘Phil’ into the writing style – all in fourteen days. 

Given the messiness of my drawing, and with a nod to the holiday season, I created an Advent Calendar to share my work schedule. I have five more days and nights to go and am on track. The good news is I’ll have three days to do my Christmas shopping after my draft is complete!  Phil

On Assignment: Chapters Bookstore, December 5, 2011

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

Charlie’s reward
…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?’

Phil 

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