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12. Book Finishes, Formats and Style

Your quick and easy-to-read guide to life-story writing, by Anna Foster

How do you want your book to look? You will be influenced by aesthetic choices and cost. Digital printing has enabled short print runs to be produced inexpensively. The more copies you print, the lower the unit cost will be.

Ebook options are explained in Chapter 13.


Leather-bound hardbacks

The most expensive option, suitable for a small number of copies. The book will be professionally printed and hand-bound. Cloth or decorative papers are cheaper than leather, and you can have a mix of the two. A printer should be able to recommend a suitable book binder.

You could also go to a company which binds university theses. Buckram is used and the pages (usually A4) are stitched. The cover or spine will show the title and your name, embossed in gold. Ask for the name of a recommended binder from your nearest university.

Cloth-bound or gloss finish hardbacks

These hardbacks, while still expensive, are a handsome and durable alternative. Some printers offer machine binding, others will send them out to be hand-bound, the latter being more expensive.


A popular choice. A paperback feels like a real book. It's flexible, durable, can incorporate text and pictures and is relatively cheap to print and post.


A wiro-binding is not as durable as the above formats, but is less expensive. You can produce a large book, up to 250 pages, A4, for a reasonably low cost.

Ask for a price from your local print shop, rather than going to a professional printer.

Stapled (saddle-stitched)

This is a booklet rather than a book. Size is limited by the strength of the staples and these are likely to rust or break over time.

However, if your book is short and you wish to circulate it widely and keep costs down, this is a good option. Ask at your local print shop for prices.


The least expensive option. Photocopy your pages, double-sided preferably. Protect the first and last pages with sheets of clear perspex. Choose a strong binder for durability.

Case study — Amy’s Life-long Love of Cycling

Amy is a cycling enthusiast. She realised that her memoir of her cycling holidays with her husband could be of interest to fellow cyclists.

She came to YouByYou Books who printed 100 copies of her book in paperback.

She sent a couple of review copies to cycling magazines and on the back of positive write-ups, she sold all the copies.

At the same time, she also ordered one hardback copy of her book (cloth-bound with a dustjacket), which will provide an attractive and permanent record of happy days for her son and his family.


Publishers and self-publishers can produce books to any size. If you are paying for a professional printing service, ask what formats are available.

A5 is a popular size for paperbacks and A4 for spiral-bound books.

Picture books look good in a landscape format and children’s picture books suit a large portrait format.


Just as you would plan a party as 'black tie' or 'smart casual,' you need to choose a style for your book.


The front cover is one of the most important visual elements of your book. It will include the title, possibly a sub-title, the author’s name and either a graphic illustration or picture.

How do you want the cover to look? Bold, formal, humorous, serious?

On the back cover, you find the 'blurb' - a short description of the book, designed to draw the reader in – and sometimes a second illustration.

Cover Typefaces

You may leave the choice of typeface to a printer, but think about the effect of different typefaces. Here are some examples:

1. A History of J. Taylor & Sons

Arial, used in many business documents because it is clear and unfussy.

Example of Freestyle Script, from Your Life life stories writing guide

Freescript, suitable for an informal and contemporary memoir.

Example of Lucida Calligraphy, from Your Life life stories writing guide

Lucida Calligraphy, a semi-formal type with a few flourishes.

Example of Vivaldi typeface, from Your Life life stories writing guide

Vivaldi, a flamboyant typeface suitable for a creative or artistic title.

Text Typefaces

Choose a clear, readable typeface. Experiment at home on your computer and ask your printer for suggestions.

If you want to include a poem, you could use the same typeface as your text or a contrasting one such as Century Schoolbook, an old-fashioned looking typeface:

Example of Century typeface, from Your Life life stories writing guide

(From Ode on a Grecian Urn by John Keats)


Paper comes in matt, satin and glossy finishes. A cover paper might have a glossy or satin finish, and the text paper a satin or a matt finish. Choose a better quality paper than one used in a typical paperback.

Speciality papers are also available, if you want an 'aged' look, for example.

Bear in mind the heavier the paper, the higher the postage costs. Photocopy paper weighs 80 grams per square metre (gsm). A heavier paper, 100-120gsm, is ideal for a life story and photographs also reproduce acceptably.

Do you have any questions from this section? Please email me and I will try to help you.