Book Design Tools

Adobe InDesign is the best design software for designing books, but there are others.

The most difficult—maddening—frustrating, is MSWord, even with a template. MSWord is a word processing tool, not a design tool and although it is an amazingly versatile product, if you are not a Word-Wizard, your book will look armature, and you will pull your hair out.

Book Design Elements

Below are some book design elements you should to be familiar with if you’re hoping to layout your own work, no matter the technical tools you use.

Proper Sequence

Readers and book buyers (brick & mortar or online) expect to see a traditional order. Although some elements are more important than others and not every publisher agrees, you can’t go wrong with the following sequence.

Front Matter, includes

  1. Testimonials
  2. Other books by this author
  3. Half title—optional
  4. Frontispiece (illustration on the left, facing the title page, optional)
  5. Inside cover page (right side) may include publisher’s logo
  6. Copyright page (left side)
  7. Dedication—optional
  8. Epigraph—optional
  9. Table of Contents (right side)
  10. List of figures or graphics and/or tables—optional
  11. Foreword—written by someone other than the author, optional
  12. Preface—written by the author, optional
  13. Acknowledgements—front or back matter, optional
  14. Introduction—by author explaining purpose/goal of book, non-fiction, optional
  15. Second Half Title—optional, as needed after copious front matter
  16. Prologue—sets scene, fictional story is in character’s voice, not the author’s, optional

Book Content

The story/content/fiction/non-fiction

Back Matter, includes

  1. Appendices
  2. Glossary
  3. Bibliography or Reference List
  4. Endnotes
  5. Index


  • There is a huge world of fonts available
  • Content fonts should be easy to read and traditionally serif
  • Know the difference between sans serif and serif fonts. And, please don’t use Times New Roman
  • Header can be either serif or sans serif – but should be easy to read
  • Learn about leading, kerning and tracking, the spaces between sentences, letters, and words. Design experts adjust as needed to keep the book reading smoothly.

Page Elements

  • Running headers and page numbers do not appear on display pages or blank pages
  • Page numbers even on the left, odd on the right
  • Chapter openings and other display pages:
  • In non-fiction, chapters begin on the right (odd numbered pages)
  • In fiction, chapters begin on either side
  • First chapter is always on the right, page 1 (or if there is a prologue, it is page one on the right)
  • Blank pages on left are acceptable, but no blank pages on the right


  • Front matter page numbers are roman numerals.
  • Content begins on page 1—on the right (either Prologue or chapter 1)


  • Almost always full justify
  • On very rare occasions, and for appropriate reasons, rag right is acceptable


  • Hyphenation is used to keep full justified sentences and paragraphs balanced but can be distracting/annoying for the reader if there are too many.
  • Keep the layout easy to read, don’t hyphenate names, and avoid splitting a word across pages

Widows and Orphans

  • Refers to part of a sentence at the bottom of a page, part of a sentence at the top, and oh so frustrating for book designers.
  • Never leave a word sitting by itself at the bottom or the top.

Designers Have Their Opinions

  • With almost every item above, you might find that designers/publishers disagree slightly
  • Overall however, consistency is what counts

Remember, good interior book design helps to ensure that readers enjoy your work, and tell their friends about it!