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The 14 biggest e-book design mistakes

By: Roger C. Parker

Roger ParkerDESIGN PLAYS AN IMPORTANT ROLE in the success of your e-book. Design pre-sells the importance of your words. Long before your words are read, readers will begin judging the value of your publication by its appearance.

Design pays! Design influences reader satisfaction. Returns go down and satisfaction goes up when your e-book is easy to read and its design projects an optimistic, professional image. Quality design differentiates your e-books from the competition and builds equity in your brand, pre-selling future titles.

Mistake 1. Overuse of color

The overuse of color does a disservice to readers who print e-books on inkjet printers. Avoid solid colored backgrounds behind the text. Such pages can cost several dollars each in ink jet supplies.

The overuse of Color can send the wrong message. Readers know that color is often used to camouflage a lack of content. In addition, bright colors can create distractions that make adjacent text hard to read. Finally, text set in color is often harder to read than black text against a white background

When in doubt, play it safe. Use the minimum amount of color needed to brighten, but not dominate, your pages.

Mistake 2. Missing page numbers

Many e-books lack page numbers. Pages without numbers present several problems. First, readers depend on page numbers to track their progress through a publication. Readers also rely on page numbers to refer back to previously read information

Worse, if you print an e-book and drop the pages before stapling or placing in a binder, readers have to waste time reassembling them in the proper order.

Mistake 3. Boring similarity

The front cover is the first thing your readers will notice about your e-book. It's hard to project a unique image if the cover of your e-book resembles the covers of hundreds of other e-books the reader has encountered. And it's hard to pre-sell readers on the quality of your e-book if you don't include reader testimonials on the front cover, which can reduce returns by reinforcing the buyer's decision to purchase your e-book.

The interior pages of many e-books look the same because they were created using the templates built into Microsoft Word, the most popular word processing software programs. As a result, typeface, type size, line spacing, and text alignment choices are the same, regardless who published the ebook.

This similarity prevents your e-books from projecting a unique image. Layout, type, and color should project a strong "family resemblance" that not only sets your e-books apart, and relates them to your firm's marketing materials - business card, letterhead, newsletter, web site, etc.

Mistake 4. Long lines of type

Many e-books are hard to read because text extends in an unbroken line across the page from the left-hand margin of the page to the right-hand margin.

Long lines of type present two problems. One is that the resulting left and right margins are very narrow. White space along the edges of pages provides a resting spot for your reader's eyes and emphasizes the adjacent text.

Margins also provide space for your reader's fingers to hold each page without obscuring any of the words.

In addition, long lines of type are difficult and tiresome to read. It's very easy for readers to get lost making the transition from the end of one line of text to the beginning of the next. Doubling (rereading the same line) can occur, or readers may inadvertently skip a line of text.

Mistake 5. Inappropriate typeface

type styles There are three main classifications of type: decorative, serif, and sans serif:
Decorative typefaces - like Papyrus or Broadway--are heavily stylized and great for attracting attention or projecting an atmosphere or image

The use of these typefaces should be restricted to logos and packaging, however, where image is more important than readability.
Serif typefaces - like Times New Roman or Garamond - are ideal for extended reading. The serifs, or finishing strokes at the edges of each character, help define the unique shape of each letter and lead the reader's eyes from letter to letter.
Sans serif typefaces, like Arial or Verdana, are very legible. Their clean, simple design helps readers recognize words from a long distance away, which is why they are used for highway signage. Sans serif typefaces are often used for headlines and subheads combined with serif body copy

The historic analogy has been type is similar to a wineglass. You should notice the wine inside the glass, rather than the wineglass holding it.

Mistake 6. Wrong type size

Type is often set too large - i.e., 12 points - out of habit. (There are approximately 72 points to an inch.) The details that help readers identify each character become lost when type is set too small and readers have to squint. Type set too small also requires too many left-to-right eye movements on each line

Type set too large is as hard to read as type set too small. When type is set too large, there is not enough space for enough words on each line for readers to comfortably skim the line

Remember: in most cases, those who buy your e-book are not scanners: people scanning groups of words and recognizing their shapes, rather than phonetically "sounding out" each word. Skimming works best when each line contains about an alphabet and a half - 40 to 45 characters.

Mistake 7. Improper line and paragraph spacing

Few e-book publishers take the time to carefully adjust line and paragraph spacing. Correct line spacing - called leading - depends on typeface, type size and line length. White space between lines acts like "rails" guiding your reader's eyes from word to word along each line

Very seldom is your software program's default, or "automatic," line spacing measurement right for easy reading. Correct line spacing depends on:

Line length: as the line length increases, you will probably want to add more white space, or leading, between lines

Typeface: sans serif typefaces, like Verdana require more leading than serif typefaces like Times New Roman

Type size: line spacing should increase as type size increases

Correct paragraph spacing is equally important. Avoid the temptation to press the Enter (or Return) key twice at the end of each paragraph. This creates far too much space between paragraphs. New paragraphs should be separated by noticeably more space than line spacing within paragraphs, but not so much space that it isolates each paragraph. Paragraph spacing should equal one and one half lines of space.

Continue Reading: The MOST COMMON EBOOK DESIGN MISTAKES
 

Design to Sell

Design to SellNew! Design to Sell shows how to plan, write, and design great marketing pieces! Available at pre-publication savings from www.Amazon.com,1 and www.BarnesandNoble.com,2 Design to Sell is the first book that shows, in step-by-step detail, how to provides use Microsoft Publisher -- a popular Windows-based software already installed on hundreds of thousands of computers -- as a marketing partner.

Design to sell teaches you:
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Jay Conrad Levinson author, Guerrilla Marketing says:
      Nobody does a better job of using design to cement customer relations than Roger C. Parker.

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by Roger C. Parker
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