Checklist: How to Make a Professional Looking Book

It’s such an exciting thing to be able to put your work in the world with a beautiful book. But with self-publishing, comes the need for a kind of strategy and attention that might be outside your professional wheelhouse. Don’t worry!  With a little bit of up-front research and by ensuring your project has all the industry-standard format features, your publication will fit in with the other professional books on the shelf. Here’s a checklist that’ll help give your Blurb book that professional look and feel, and make it more marketable.

I. Audience
II. Planning & Research
III. Book Contents
IV. Book Design
V. Marketing

I. Audience

Considering your audience up front means you’ll be able to create a book they’ll like and want to buy. It will also give you places to talk about your book as you’re creating it, so people are excited for it. Make a plan for getting in touch with them

  1. Who will read, receive, or buy your book?
  2. What other types of professional books or magazines, even blogs, does your audience receive or read?
  3. Do they buy books online? In stores?
  4. How will you communicate with your audience? On your blog? Over email?

II. Planning & Research

Flesh out the details of your book by researching others like it that are already in-market. That way, you’ll have the specs for your project, which will be a great start!

  1. Book type: What genre is your book? What categories and keywords describe your book? (e.g. “cooking,” “fashion” “portfolio” “documentary” “editorial”)
  2. Cover type: Find 4-5 books like the one you’re trying to make. See anything in common between the covers?
  3. Length: How many pages do books like yours usually have?
  4. Price: How much do books like yours cost? How much are you willing to pay for a book like yours? How much do you think your friends, fans, and followers would pay? Try asking them.
  5. Format: What type of format works for your price range and your vision? Do you need expensive paper in a Photo Book? Could your idea work as a print magazine?

III. Book Contents

Use this checklist to ensure your book design matches professional industry standards. Not sure what they are? Check the opening and closing pages of a few different books to see the formatting patterns.

  1. Title page, with publishing info
  2. Copyright page and date (usually the back of the title page), original year, original author
  3. Table of contents
  4. Dedication page
  5. Introduction (Possibly a Preface or a Foreword, if someone else wrote it.)
  6. Acknowledgements page (at the very back)

IV. Book Design

Use this checklist to proof your book, not only for spelling errors and typos, but for design inconsistencies and professional industry standards.

  1. Pages numbered correctly, appearing in the same place and the same way on each page, with no number on the first page, or first pages of sections or chapters.
  2. Consistent, identical margins page to page, consistent look and alignment of text and images
  3. Chapter/section title pages, section headings formatted consistently
  4. Title and Subtitle on the front cover
  5. Author/creator on the front cover (Don’t use the word “By”.)
  6. Main Title and Author on the spine, check for even spacing. (Don’t use the word “By”.)
  7. Back cover description of the contents—make it enticing, so people want to read the rest!
  8. Reviews for the back cover showing other people’s praise for your book.

V. Marketing

Selling your book means talking about it and sharing it often and effectively. Prepare these things up front so you’re always ready at any opportunity!

  1. A 2-sentence description of your book (not more than 25-30 words.)
  2. Keywords that will help people find your title when you try to sell it.
  3. Author photo.
  4. Author bio of about 100 words (to be used on the inside of the dust jacket, if that’s your cover type. Otherwise, much smaller on the back of the book.)
  5. Bookstore Sales info: How do you want your book listed and described? (not more than 50 words)

There you have it! There may be more things you can do to line up your book with professional industry standards. Keep a book like the one you want to make nearby as you create yours. You can certainly add your own creative flair, but the key is to make your project match the structure of other books like it, because your audience is trained to move through a work by things they have already seen. You’ll be able to get closer to that pro look and feel and have something that’s truly ready for market!

Did we miss anything? What do you think gives a book a professional edge? Share your suggestions in the comments below!


  • Lito Tejada-Flores says:
    Aug 22 at 06:58

    Nice overview, but careful with your spelling, the introductory piece written by someone other than the author is a Foreword not a Forward!

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