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January 2012

How Big or Small Should My Page Margins Be?

By guest author Karrie Ross.

Margins can be extremely important when it comes to designing your book's pages. This is the space between the trim edge and the text box copy. It's what we consider as the "white space" and helps keep your text in a safe space called the "live area" of your page layout.

You can make your margins a big or as small as you wish. But in considering what size your margins should be, here are some things you should know about good margin design.

  1. Margins overall can vary in size depending on the look and readability your are looking for in your design.
  2. The gutter margin, or the margin on the inside or binding edge of the page, should be wider than the outside margins. This will put less stress on the binding edge and spine when the book is opened and read.
  3. Margins in general do best when they measure a least .5 inches for top, bottom and outsides, and at least .75 inches for gutter margins.
  4. If your margin is too small or narrow, you might lose some of your content when the final printed book is trimmed.
  5. And when considering your cover, margin design can vary from one type of cover to another. The best advice is to examine what other book covers look like to obtain a feel for the margin styles that are acceptable.

When it comes to formating both the interior and exterior of your book, be sure to pay close attention to your margins. Good margin design will enhance both your book's appearance and readability.

[Among other services she offers, Karrie Ross is nationally recognized for her book cover design expertise and coaching she provides authors. She can be contacted at www.BookCoverDesign.com.]

This Handy Checklist Will Help You Complete Your Book Project

Prior to completing your book writing project, here is a handy checklist that will help avoid something "falling through the cracks."

1. If it is late in the year (September through December), use the following year for the copyright and publication date. Shoot for a January release. This avoids the "appearance" of your book being old, when it is actually new.

2. Research online and at your local library to compile a list of publications that might write a book review.

3. Each advance copy you send to a reviewer costs money, so offer copies only to those who are realistically likely to review your book.

4. If you want to sell your books through chain bookstores, Amazon.com, other online venues and to libraries, you will need an International Standard Book Number (ISBN) and possibly a Library of Congress Control Number (LCCN) and/or Catalog-in-Publication (CIP) data. Information about applying for an ISBN is available from R.R. Bowker. Details about LCCN applications and CIP datat may be obtained from the Library of Congress. Your book will also need a barcode with the ISBN on the back cover.

5. If you plan to use direct mail, prepare your materials well in advance. It is much better to send a smaller, carefully targeted mailing than a larger mailing with less direct interest. If possible, start with a test mailing of 200 pieces.

6. Create a website for your book before it is released. Offer a sample chapter or excerpts as a free preview. Be sure your site includes an online press kit with a sample book cover.

7. Highlight your website location on your book's back cover, on your letterhead, business cards, other promotional pieces and in the signature of every email message you send.

8. Consider offering "autographed" copies, which add value for readers.

9. Notify personal contacts and others who have a special interest in your book's subject matter.

10. Don't forget to notify the publications of schools you attended and fraternal, social, religious or professional groups with which you are affiliated.

[The above checklist was created, with permission, from excerpts taken from U-Publish.com 5.0, co-authored by Dan Poynter and Danny O. Snow.]

Exhibits, Trade Shows and Book Fairs Should Be Part of Your Book Promotion Efforts

When evaluating how to best promote your book, a form of advertising that may make sense is to exhibit at specialized trade shows and book festivals. Attending or exhibiting at conventions directly related to your book's subject can be a wise move. This is called vertical marketing and can be extremely effective.

There are trade associations to match you book's subject matter, and most of them sponsor at least one big meeting per year. Two association references are the National Trade and Professional Associations of the United States and Enclyclopedia of Associations. You can also go online and use key word searches to find upcoming shows.

If you write fiction, you should be attending the genre conferences applicable to the type of novels you write. There are special annual gatherings for mystery writers, those who do romance and writers of science fiction and fantasy, to name a few. These events can be ideal places to meet editors who might review your book, to rub elbows with best-selling authors in the genre, and to learn tricks and techniques to make you a better writer and book seller.

Book fairs may offer other opportunities. These tend to be less structured, regional events that give you a reasonably priced opportunity to sell books by renting a table. You can also get to know other authors and publishers, compare notes, and hear a diverse group of guest authors talking about their craft and giving readings.

Around the country, festivals are raising the visibility of a wide variety of books - both fiction and nonfiction. They can be an interesting merchandising tool and provide wonderful networking opportunities. So when you are deciding how to allocate your advertising budget, don't overlook exhibits, trade shows and book fairs.

[The above post was created from excerpts taken, with permission form The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing, 5th Edition, co-authored by Marilyn Ross and Sue Collier.]

What is an "Author Platform," and Do You Need One? - Part 2

The following post by guest author Dana Lynn Smith, The Savvy Book Marketer, is the second part of a two part post. Part 1 was published last week.

In Part 1 we discussed the first aspect of an author platform: branding. In Part 2 we will talk about the other two aspects: reputation and connections.


Your author reputation is a factor of how well known you are, what you are known for and how credible you are. Consider these questions:

  • Do you have a degree, special training or extensive experience in the topic that you're writing about?
  • What awards or other recognition have you received?
  • What kind of media experience do you have?
  • How many people do you reach each month through speaking and interviews?
  • How many articles have you written and posted or published in the past month?
  • What leadership positions do you hold?
  • Why should people listen to you or read your books?

Authors can gain a reputation as an expert in their topic through such activities and writing books and articles, speaking and teaching, appearing on talk shows, being quoted in other people's articles and writing the foreward for other books. Your reputation and author platform can be further enhanced by winning awards, receiving excellent book reviews and obtaining testimonials.


When selling your book, it's not what you know, it's who you know! To sell books in today's marketplace, you need to be connected. Here are some examples of the type of connections that are valuable to authors in promoting their books and themselves:

  • Contact database - clients, prospects colleagues, friends and family.
  • Opt-in mailing lists - people who have given you permission to contact them.
  • Influencers - well-known people in your field that can help spread the word about your book.
  • Online networks - Facebook, Twitter and other online networks, groups and forums.
  • Blog readers
  • Professional associations
  • Alumni associations, civic and service organizations, hobby clubs, etc.

Improving your author platform should be a continuous project. You should be constantly asking yourself what you can do to strengthen your brand, boost your reputation and increase your connections. The better your platform, the greater your success.

[Dana Lynn Smith helps authors and independent publishers learn how to sell more books through her how-to guides and coaching. She can be contacted at www.TheSavvyBookMarketer.com.]

What is an "Author Platform," and Do You Need One? - Part 1

The following is part 1 of a two-part post written by guest author Dana Lynn Smith, The Savvy Book Marketer. Part 2 will be published next week.

As a book author, you may have heard the term "author platform," but may be wondering: what is a platform, and is this something I need to have?

Your author platform determines your reach in the marketplace and its importance to your book promotion success. It basically boils down to three things: brand, reputation and connections.

If you're hoping to land a book deal with a traditional commercial publisher, a strong author platform is critical. When publishers evaluate book proposals, they want an idea of how well known you are and how successful you will be at promoting your book once it is published. And a platform is just as important for authors who publish independently.

The best time to start building your author platform is before you write your book or book proposal. Remember, it takes time to build a platform. But regardless of where you are in your publishing journey, you can continue to strengthen it. In this post we will discuss branding, the first platform element.


Branding helps you stand out in a crowded marketplace and makes you memorable. One of the most important parts of your brand is your author tagline - a concise and catchy description of what you do. To see and example, look at my name at the beginning of this post.

Your author photo is another important branding tool. Be sure to get a professional looking photo, and use it everywhere to build your recognition. Professional doesn't necessarily mean a studio portrait - think about how the background, pose and clothing in your author photo can be a reflection of your brand and the type of books you write. 

Author branding can also include your logo, book covers, the color scheme you use, your distinctive style of writing and speaking, and you academic qualifications. All of these elements together consititute a recognizable brand that can make you memorable and build credibility.

Take a look at your own branding and think about what you can do to continue to strengthen it.

In part 2 of this article, we will discuss the other two aspects of an author platform: reputation and connections.

[Dana Lynn Smith helps authors and independent publishers learn how to sell more books through her how-to guides and coaching. She can be contacted at www.TheSavvyBookMarketer.com.]