4 Tips to Improve Your Book’s Readability
If you’ve finished your self-published book, congratulations!
You've written, edited, rewritten, second-guessed and finally ended that final sentence, completing a fully-formed work of art born from your own words and ideas.
Now it's time to share your work with the world. But before you can hold your first printed book in your hands, you’ve got to address any potential readability issues.
What are readability issues? These include things like spellcheck, your book’s binding, page margins, and even paragraphs.
The fact of the matter is, no matter how great your story may be, readers may find it a trial to read if they run into several readability issues. And that means they’ll be less likely to pick up your next work, too.
Not only that, but the fewer readability issues your proof has, the less money you may have to spend on edits once you upload your book files for printing!
Here are 4 ways you can improve your book’s readability before you submit your files for print.
Sniff out Spelling & Grammar Errors
As a dedicated self-published author, you’re not new to the writing game. But you'd be surprised how many books make it to print with glaring spelling and grammar errors scattered throughout their pages.
Nothing breaks a reader’s concentration more than the jarring feeling of finding misspelled words and mangled grammar.
Though a spelling mistake may be innocent enough, every time this pothole of prose appears, it raises questions about the quality of your writing—and your abilities as an author.
So what can you do to make sure your manuscript is as polished as possible?
Use our self-editing checklist to elevate your book to where it needs to be before going to print. This checklist includes methods for self-editing like reading your work out loud, writing it in a new format, and taking advantage of all the free spell-check apps on the market.
Apps like Grammarly and the Hemingway app are free Chrome additions that check everything from spelling to clunky grammar. They’re like elevated spell check systems that help you do everything from avoiding weak adjectives and repetitive wording to making sure you’ve got subject-verb agreement.
Sometimes being too close to your own work can make it harder to find typos or recognize clunky wording.
Hiring a professional editor can help you weed through these mistakes, along with making sure your narrative arc is as strong as possible.
Manage Your Margins
You’re a writer, not a designer. Which is why you may not have known that consistent page margins can do wonders for the readability of your work.
Think of the margin as a decorative frame for the art woven by your words. If it’s too large or too narrow, it can throw off the reader’s entire experience.
When designing the gutter of each page (the edge of the page that is bound), extra space is necessary so your words don’t get lost by bleeding all the way to the edge of the page.
Margins also help readability by keeping the number of characters per line to a manageable amount. But how do you know if your margins are the right size?
A quick rule is that anywhere from 50 to 60 characters per line helps the reader track from one line to the next.
Take Care of Type
Most self-published authors gravitate toward word processing tools like Microsoft Word to write their stories. And Microsoft Words tends to default to a core group of typefaces.
To avoid having the same visual style as everyone else in the bookstore, you may be considering a unique font to set your work apart.
But a word of caution: a poorly chosen typeface can be a big roadblock to good readability.
Do certain letters look too similar in your font? Is the text harder to read at a smaller size? Is it just too decorative for comfortable reading?
If your font choice makes a reader’s eyes hurt after a few sentences, they’re probably not even going to make it to the bottom of the first page.
Remember: Your writing should always be the one in the spotlight, not your font!
Pilot Your Paragraphs
The paragraphs in your book should be the invisible structure that holds up your words.
They shouldn’t run on for too long, or else the content within may become too disparate and muddied. Plus, they can feel fatiguing for your reader.
As a general rule with a self-published book, keep your paragraphs between 3 and 7 sentences. But for your author blog, these should be even shorter and more digestible—between 1 and 3 sentences.
If the idea of perfecting the readability of your book is as headache-inducing as reading an entire novel set in 8pt Zapfino font, then let us handle the details.
At Steuben Press, we offer interior layout services to make sure every page looks (and reads) as smooth as possible.
We’re experts in everything from font to margin layout to binding, so you can rest assured your files are in good hands before they go to print.