What is the real difference?
Dale L. Roberts, host of the popular YouTube channel, Self-Publishing with Dale, challenged our team to a book formatting match to see who could produce a high-quality interior in the least amount of time — himself or our team of professionals here at FormattedBooks.
As an independent author who had formatted dozens of his own books over the years, Dale wants to know if he can do it faster and better than the professionals and to answer a pressing question most independent authors have:
Time is irreplaceable. We only have a finite amount of it. So you got to ask yourself, do I spend some time grinding it out and trying to figure out how to format this properly as a print or eBook or do I spend some money upfront and have somebody else do it for me?
Want to know Dale’s answer? Watch the full video at the end of his article.
(Warning: spoilers ahead) At the end of the challenge, Dale finished about 37 minutes earlier than our designer, and was proclaimed the winner when it comes to speed.
But the question remains. Was he able to produce a professional-looking book that’s easy and engaging to read?
We’ve got to admit, Dale may be fast and his work “decent-looking” (his words) but his final product was ridden with typesetting and page layout errors that seemed invisible to his untrained eye (sorry Dale!).
Related article: Pros and cons for DIY book formatting
In this series of 12 side-by-side comparisons between the formatting done by Dale and FormattedBooks, we will provide a detailed analysis of where Dale went wrong in his DIY formatting and tips and hints to understand what makes a book look great.
Using the cover design as basis, our designer provided a smooth and exciting transition from cover to interior. With the use of appropriate images and a good contrast between title, subtitle and author name, we were able to design a minimal yet striking title page.
While Dale’s DIY approach looks readable with noticeable differences in font sizes and color, it is very plain and does not excite the reader as much.
It’s easy to spot where Dale have missed the mark on his copyright page. As a publishing standard, copyright pages usually have a smaller font size as a way to make it distinct from the rest of the book. His links are also set in a blue color which may cause errors and delays during the printing stage.
It is also important to note here that serif fonts (PRO) are best used for printed books as they proved to be easier to read for long periods. Serif fonts are also the standard that most readers are more comfortable with, although it still depends on the genre of the book. San serif fonts (DIY) are best used for reading on screens.
Page layout is important to a book’s over-all composition. In Dale’s DIY approach, the layout for this page is not well-balanced, while in our PRO approach, the text and white spaces were properly balanced with the text centered on the page.
Table of Contents
Our designer used a font and a heading design consistent with the fonts and style used in the book cover. This approach makes the book look unified over-all. While Dale’s DIY formatting looks readable, it doesn’t provide the same memorable experience for his readers.
In Dale’s DIY work, it is easy to notice that the words in the 4th and 5th lines of the first paragraph are far too wide apart. Appearing throughout Dale’s work, these unbalanced spaces between words, called rivers, are typesetting errors that distracts the reader’s attention. This can be avoided with proper typesetting as can be seen in our designer’s work.
When using no-indent paragraphs, used mostly in non-fiction books, proper spacing should be applied so the reader can easily recognize a new paragraph. Dale’s paragraphs were spaced too closely which made it difficult to distinguish one paragraph from another.
Another thing to notice here is the typesetting of the centered paragraph. Our designer created a visually-appealing centered paragraph with balanced edges and proper spacing on the left and right margins making it distinct from the justified paragraphs.
Another typesetting error in Dale’s work is the presence of a runt. Runts occur when the last line of a paragraph ends with a short word or part of a hyphenated work (see first paragraph on DIY). This creates an undesirable look to a page, making it look unprofessional.
Unless a book is set to be printed in color, which most authors tend to avoid as printing books in color is very expensive, all images in your book should be set in black and white. Not doing so will result in your book getting rejected by your printer causing you unwanted delays. It is also necessary to have proper spacing to create a buffer between your images and the other content surrounding it, as can be seen in the professional formatting below.
Dale’s running header has the same font style and size as the rest of the text making it hard to distinguish. His headers are also spaced too closely to the main content which could confuse the reader. Comparing to how our designer styled the header, it is noticeable that the professionally-designed header is more distinct while being consistent with the over-all design of the book.
Widows and orphans
A widow is a lone word or short phrase appearing at the bottom of a page while an orphan is a lone word or short phrase appearing at the top of the page. Dale’s formatting on the left shows an example of an orphan. These typesetting errors not only make your text look unbalanced and messy, they also break the flow of reading across two pages. Widows and orphans should be avoided at all costs.
About the author
A professional approach to the author page is displayed on right where the image is floating nicely on the left of the text, maximizing the available space. The links are also formatted properly for paperback or hardcover printing.
Being consistent with the styles used throughout the book is key to a professionally formatted book. In the example below, Dale’s styling for his References section became inconsistent with the other sections in his book.
The typesetting of Dale’s work is also quite erroneous with wide gaps between words, hyperlinks in blue text and a disordered spacing in between reference numbers and descriptions.
Consistency in design and typesetting from first to the last page was applied to the PRO example below.
Another main difference between DIY and professional formatting that may not be evident on examples above is the presence of quality assessment.
Our professional formatting at FormattedBooks includes a rigorous quality assessment procedure to make sure that every page is consistent and is free of any typesetting errors before submitting the layout for author review. On the other hand, authors going the DIY route are at a disadvantage without an expert eye assessing the quality of their work.
To learn more about Dale’s commentary and insights from the challenge, watch the full video below:
Dale L. Roberts is an accomplished indie author and host of Self-Publishing with Dale on Youtube. Since 2014, Dale has pursued a full-time career in self-publishing books and now shares his experience on his YouTube channel devoted to building a successful self-publishing business.
For more information on his work please visit https://selfpublishingwithdale.com/