Have you ever started reading a book and after a while you needed a break from it? Most of the time it’s not because of the content; normally it’s a great story, message, or teaching. Usually it’s because it was physically hard to keep reading it to difficult to keep your attention focused on what the author was trying to say.
Unfortunately I have seen this happen quite a lot, especially with non-fiction books by first-time authors who are new to publishing or writing. But this doesn’t have to happen to you. Here are a few simple things you can do to keep readers engaged with your book so they won’t want to put it down.
Structure for Flow
The biggest culprit I have found that pushes readers away is when books have no “flow.” When there are pages and pages of long paragraphs with nothing to break it up or give the reader’s eyes a break, it is hard for someone to stay engaged with your book. Keep your paragraphs short and add subtitles in to break up very long sections. Find the places where you are starting a new thought or story and add in a catchy subtitle that has to do with the upcoming content. For fiction books, make sure your paragraphs are not super long, and have a divider or break when entering a different character’s perspective or when time is passing.
When speaking to the flow of a book, it is also important to make sure that the progression of the topics in your book makes sense. If you haven’t done so already, write out an outline of the whole book and a brief description of each chapter to make sure that the order of how it is presented will make sense to the reader. Try to think like the reader as someone who doesn’t know everything that you know and reevaluate the flow of the overall book before setting the chapter order in stone.
Show Readers the Real You
One of the biggest turn-offs for a reader is when an author comes off as being perfect. In some circles it may be looked down upon to “show your scars” or to talk about weakness at all, but let’s face it, the people who will connect most with readers are the ones who they can really relate to. Don’t be afraid to be transparent. Most likely the reason you are writing in the first place is to teach a lesson, to give some type of instruction, or to encourage others in a certain area, and it probably took you quite a process to get to where you are now, most likely with many mistakes and imperfections along the journey. You should share some of those!
There is a fine line, however, with being transparent. Readers still need to see you as an authority figure concerning what you are writing about, so you don’t want to cross over into downgrading yourself or diminishing your experiences so much that the reader comes to the conclusion that you have nothing of value to give and puts your book away. Share stories that reveal your humanity in a way that they can glean from your past mistakes, emphasizing that you wouldn’t be at the level you are today without having gone through those things. They still need to look at you as a professional, but one who is human.
Watch your fonts!
This may seem too simplistic, but I have seen and worked on many a manuscript where the author wanted certain fonts that I knew would destroy their book!
With the digital age we are living in, there are hundreds of thousands of fonts to choose from, but keep in mind that basics are not bad. Your main body font should always a basic serif font (with the little lines on the ends of the letters). Why is this? It has been proven that it is hard on the eyes to read “clean fonts” for long periods of time. These sans serif fonts are great for subtitles, chapter titles, running headers, or other small parts, but when you have to reads pages of sans serif text, it literally is a pain! The last thing you want is for readers to put your book down because it hurts their eyes too much to read. Most of the books I design use either Times New Roman, Georgia, or Adobe Garamond Pro for the main body text.
You should also be careful of using too many different fonts. My rule of thumb is to find out what fonts are being used in the book’s cover design and then use 1-2 of those fonts for titles, subtitles, or other elements of the book. Too many different fonts is overkill and can make it too confusing for the reader.
My last tip on fonts is to match your font size with the age of your target reader. If you are mainly writing to a very young or senior audience, your fonts need to be larger, anything in between you want to stay close to 11-12 point fonts to keep it readable.
If you are hiring a interior layout designer (like myself), there are things that can be done during the layout process to help make the book more readable and less likely for someone to want to put down. Even if you are self-publishing, it’s always better to hire professionals to make sure the book is going to be as good as it can be before you upload those final print PDF files to the printer.
If you need help with your book and want a quote, I would love to take a peek at it! If you found this article to be helpful feel free to leave a comment below.