Sunday 4 December 2011

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?'



  1. remember phil-
    -try to use as few fonts as possible. Better to use bold vs light and use the same typeface to keep every clean and minimal.
    -K.I.S.S. everything you do. Keep It Simple Stupid.

  2. Carl, thanks for the advice. K.I.S.S. always is a good principle to follow. I appreciate your guidance. Phil