20 rookie interior book design mistakes to avoid

Professional book people notice rookie mistakes like you notice typos on a billboard.

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So don’t use interior book design services from low-cost sites like Fiverr, trusting that they know what they’re doing. They often don’t, and your book is likely to be riddled with rookie mistakes that can easily be avoided.

Hire a pro to make your book look exactly like it came from one of the Big 5 publishing houses.

The mistakes

  1. Self-publishing service company logos (Amazon, Lulu, BookBaby, Author House, etc.) are a no-no, especially Amazon which is generally disliked by bookstore owners.
  2. Publisher (imprint) name and logo that doesn’t sound like it might be a real imprint.
  3. No publisher logo on spine, title page, and copyright page.
  4. An ISBN that belongs to a service or vanity press. (More about ISBNs, here.)
  5. Price not embedded in the barcode. (Get a free barcode with IngramSpark’s cover template generator, here.)
  6. Cover design and finish (gloss or matte) that breaks the rules of the genre. (More about covers, here.)
  7.  Margins too narrow. Don’t force the reader to break the spine to read the text nearest the binding. (More about interior design, here.)
  8. Headers and footers in the wrong place: they should be mirrored, with even page numbers on the left edge and odd page numbers on the right edge. Centering page numbers is also acceptable.
  9. Author and chapter or title names on the wrong side of the page. The author name usually goes on the top left (even pages) of the header and the book title at right (odd pages). Or book title on the left and chapter title on the right. See examples in your genre.
  10.  Times New Roman font (this is not a book font!) and not enough leading  (the space between lines). Make your book a subconsciously enjoyable read by providing whitespace.
  11. serif vs sans serif textMore than two or three fonts (sans serif for chapter/part headings and serif for body text).
  12. Single, not double spaces, between sentences.
  13. Inappropriate indentation. Use indented paragraphs for fiction and immersive nonfiction. Separate paragraphs by a single space (not indented) for some nonfiction. Never both!
  14. The first paragraph of each chapter or subsection header should is indented.  Never indent the first paragraph! (But Drop Caps are nice if you want to get fancy.)
  15. Interior book paper color wrong:  creme is for fiction and immersive nonfiction (such as memoir), and white for business, technical, and other how-to and reference nonfiction. (Also art books, but these have special layout requirements not covered, here.)
  16. Typos or copyediting errors. (Read about editing, here.)
  17. Judicious use of punctuation. (Avoid excessive hyphens, ellipsis, exclamation points. See copyediting errors, above.)
  18. Headers and footers on blank pages, front matter, and on the first pages of chapters.
  19. No half-title or title pages.
  20. Incomplete or extraneous copyright page information. It should list ISBNs (for all formats), LCCN, and the P-CIP block from the Library of Congress. (Find details in David Wogahn’s Register Your Book: The Essential Guide to ISBNs, Barcodes, Copyright, and LCCNs.)


Book Design Templates Can Help

It helps to compare your book with one from a Big 5 publisher in your genre. Just take a look inside a traditionally published book on Amazon and mimic what they do.

Book Design Templates for interior

Avoid interior book design gaffes by using a professional template, like this one that costs $59. See it, here.


Get More GuidanceIBPA Professional Standards for Books

Find more guidance on how to create a professional book from the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) Industry Standards Checklist. along with downloadable examples and more resources.

The IBPA is working to help self-publishers get recognition for great self-published books by asking the industry to “level the reading field” by judging the book by the book and not the business model. Yay!


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