Sunday, 19 August 2012

Design and content

It’s probably the sign of being open-minded or magpie-minded that I’ll consider all sources for inspiration for my books. I don't see why an idea used, for example, in a cookery book, might not transfer to fiction. Overall though, I want them to look beautiful and stand up to reading and re-reading. I do hope that these are books that will be read more than once. Some readers will want to keep their copy pristine in a suitable library plastic cover, but others will read it one-handed standing on the tube, so the book needs to be tough enough to strap-hang on the commute. Or get rained on while being carried in a bag. There’s no real point in transporting a book in a padded envelope after it has been delivered after all.

I’m finding that I’m reading for sources and ideas for design and layout just as much as I’m reading for pleasure. You find yourself looking up fonts used in various novels or posters and sometimes there’s a short entry about it all at the back of the book. Usually not, so you hunt down a good typography blogger and envy their eye and steady hand at calligraphy for guidance or a history lesson. Then you look more critically at the layout – yes, my books might be ordinary fiction, but it’s so important for them to be a pleasure to read. That, to me, means wide margins and space between the lines of text running neatly down the page. I prefer not to be forced to crack the spine just to turn the page or squint at the text which is small, packed together or hyphenated chaotically. Actually, I prefer not to see hypens at all unless the spacing will be unequal if you don’t have them, though there does need to be a balance between squashing words into a line and having lines with four or five words extended along them. I have mixed feelings about headers, especially in fiction. Does anyone really forget what novel they’re reading and need to turn the book round and check the cover? It’s essential in academic publishing, especially when you’re reading for an essay or similar and need to note the reference for the bibliography, but not quite so much when reading for pleasure. I’ve started adding simple chapter headings to the books if the chapter has a title. If it’s a simple matter of ‘Chapter Three’ following ‘Chapter Two’, then surely the reader can cope?

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