Increase your profit margins with tighter layouts

How much time did you spend thinking about the impact your print layout has on your profit margin the last time you did the book design for your print-on-demand book? The answer is probably none at all.

Many self-published authors are all too happy to jump in with both feet to create their own print layouts for Createspace or Ingram. You might even use templates provided by one of the many sources available on the internet to do it yourself. After all, you know your word processor and nothing could be easier…

Word processors make it easy… but do you do it right?

I admit that word processors today are highly professional tools, but that doesn’t help you if you don’t know how to correctly utilize these pro features. It’s like purchasing a $50,000 stereo system to play back the recording of a scratchy vinyl on a tape cassette. You are missing the point.

Your book layout directly affects your print costs!

In regards to my opening question, if you’ve never really thought about the impact your book design and layout has on aspects such as production costs, you have been missing one of the key parts that set you apart from professional book designers whose job it is to create the best possible layout for you.

Things as mundane as font selection, line spacing, paragraph spacing, and margin settings have a tremendous impact on the final result. Not only visually but also from a production cost aspect. If a different line spacing cuts down your total page count by 25 pages, this means more money will end up in your pocket because printing the book has just become noticeably cheaper.

If your font choice just added 10 pages to the total page count, you cost yourself money because your printing costs just went up.

Reducing a book by even a single page can save you up to 10 cents per sale!

And sometimes, simply reducing the length by a single page can save you money, if it means the printer will require one less sheet of paper to print the book. Seems like nothing, but considering that books are printed on large sheets that typically hold 8 or 16 book pages, this is, indeed, a real cost factor. Depending on your case, the difference could be as much as 10 cents!

Before you run off and make your font or line spacing smaller, though, hear me out. Quality book design is not as simple as that. In order to improve readability, there are certain standards that need to be followed. Otherwise, you will end up with a wall of text that no one wants to read. A book layout needs to strike a balance between text and white space—always!

Case in point…

I recently worked on a series of book projects where the author wanted to compete with the price point of mass market paperbacks, something that is almost impossible to do for authors using print-on-demand publishing. He had prepared and published these books himself, each at around 420 pages, give or take. With that page count, it was physically impossible to compete with mass market books, and he approached me to hear my thoughts.

My recommendation was to bring down the page count so that his print costs go down, which he could directly use to lower his price point. I redid the layout and ended up saving him well over 40 pages. Most books are now somewhere in the 350-page range even, saving him almost 70 print pages in some instances. That is a tremendous difference. He ended up saving almost $1 per book sold. Multiply this by a series of three books, each selling a couple of hundred copies per month. I don’t think I have to do the math for you…

Tight books that remain easy on the eyes are not easy to do!

But here’s the kicker. He felt the books looked even better than before. And that’s the key here!

I did not simply reduce the font size or changed the line spacing—I re-designed the layout. This means, I carefully selected the right font, one that runs narrower and smaller without trading off readability. This new font choice also allowed me to adjust line and paragraph spacing, gradually bringing down the page count into the range he had envisioned. In the end, we ended up with layouts that looked more pleasing and more professional, while also dramatically reducing print costs.

In his case, this exercise served to allow him to reduce the retail price of his books, but that doesn’t have to be the case for you because you can use this cost reduction also to increase your profit margin. If you leave your retail price where it is but it costs you 50 cents less to print the book, you are quickly seeing additional dollars mounting in your bank account.

Book design is a deliberate process of skill

Let me stress again, however, that this was a very deliberate process, and that I’ve been trained to do these kinds of things. I did not arbitrarily replace one font for another or simply adjusted settings. This book design change was all very deliberate and the result of years of experience as a professional book formatter and book designer. Without the proper balance, you can just as well completely ruin the experience for your readers, a risk no one should take, especially because professionals like myself are more than happy to assist you in your journey, and work with you to create the perfect book for you. One that looks the best it can, while also taking commercial requirements into consideration. Contact me for more info if I’ve piqued your interest.


4 Replies to “Increase your profit margins with tighter layouts”

  1. R.E. McDermott


    I am the author Guido worked so strenuously (and professionally) to avoid identifying in the article above, but I have no problem ‘outing’ myself. 🙂

    He didn’t ask for my endorsement, but I give it unequivocally. In a nutshell, over the last months since he re-designed the interiors of my POD books, I’m now making money month after month. The ‘re-design’ of the entire catalog paid for itself in less than two months, and it’s been all profit ever since.

    To be sure, POD is still a much small income stream than ebooks and audio, but every little bit helps and I believe this to be a VERY worthwhile investment.


    R.E. (Bob) McDermott

  2. Rose

    I am deeply grateful for the online guidance on formatting you have provided, but I do have a question which I have not seen on the comments list. I used the head matter you graciously provided and for the most part, it has been wildly successful. Except for one probably small matter (okay, two) which I have no idea how to fix.

    Draft2Digital is glad to take my (your) html handiwork for all online publishers but Apple iBooks. The validator is totally stressed out. It has 31 listings of the same error (‘element “p” not allowed here) and one listing of (‘element “div”not allowed here). All of these errors seem to happen in the first 19 lines.

    I ran into this in a previous book and eventually gave up and loaded it as a Word Doc. Ouch. The conversion Draft2Digital provides for Word documents is well meant but has some real issues. So I’d like to do better this time.

    Recommendations? Advice? Raucous laughter?

    • Guido

      Rose, it appears there is some kind of an error, structurally, perhaps, that creates this type of error. It is impossible to diagnose from afar, however, and I’d have to look at the source code to see what’s going on there. If this is still relevant, feel free to email me your HTML file and I’ll take a look at it.

  3. Daniel Wright

    Designing the print on demand book properly is really very important for a business. In this article, you have clearly explained how we can increase our profit margins by designing the book effectively. I agree that the design of the book makes a very strong first impression on the reader and so the book must be designed properly. Thank you.

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