Sun | Jul 22, 2018

What makes a good book?

Published:Sunday | November 6, 2016 | 12:00 AMCorine La Font

Bocas Lit Fest is one of the major literary events happening in Trinidad from November 12-13, in south Trinidad on San Fernando Hill. The larger and main event is normally held in Port-of-Spain in April. I missed attending the April event and I am thinking of attending this one, especially since I am a south girl and I need to represent. Plus it will give me the opportunity to understand the publishing and writing landscape in Trinidad and the challenges authors and writers face, although I think it is safe to say that the challenges are the same across the region. It may come in different shapes, sizes, and colours, but the issues are the same.

One of those challenges is what I am addressing today in this article, and it is hoped that after reading this, you will take the time to ponder and make the necessary changes in your current or upcoming books.


1. The Title


The title is one of the very first things that will attract your audience. As I mention audience, the title needs to use the language spoken by your audience, so when choosing words for the title, keep in mind the words and language common to your target market. In addition, the title speaks to, or should hint at, what the book is or may be about. Yes, the title can have some mystery for fiction books but for non-fiction, it is best to get straight to the point in creating a title for your book. Don't be vague and don't leave room for assumptions.

The title must also be compelling, so strong adjectives or action words are best, and if it is meant for a certain age or gender, then indicate this or use a subtitle to assist in distilling the title some more.

Test your title by asking a few friends and the general public what comes to mind when they hear your proposed title. This will give you good feedback on whether you are on the right path to representing the content of your book. Plus, you have the added bonus of knowing if the persons you test it on would be interested in such a book. Take their names and contact information and offer them a free copy when the book is published and ask for a review. This will be a great start to building relationships and your audience.


2. Colours and design


This is just as important as the titles but what this actually does is support the title. Colours and design create mood and affects emotions. Most persons make purchases based on emotions. So depending on the type of book and content, get a professional designer to work on the design that will enhance the title and create the mood that will influence buying. Colours and design must also be attractive and clean, not busy.

People's minds are already busy with a lot of clutter in everyday life, so a busy design wouldn't catch their attention. Clean lines, appropriate fonts and size for text, selective colours, and appropriate images are the best way to go. Remember the spine in all this as it is only the spine that will be seen on the shelf, and if the spine isn't standing out enough, it will get lost among the many other books that compete for attention.


3. The Content


Great title, appealing colours, and attractive design with a lack in content is a no-no. Many persons have bought books, like I said, based on the exterior and regretted it because the content did not match what they saw on the outside. As they say, don't judge a book by its cover. Well that can work both ways, right? Well in this case, I am referring to a book that didn't live up to all it said or projected on the cover.

Spend the time to work on your material. Know your audience and give them what they need. Don't be in a hurry to get the book published at the expense of getting bad reviews and testimonials just to make a quick buck or to call yourself an author. The reputation you anticipated won't last, and it will take you time to do damage control to get over the 'ole talk' and build back a good reputation. Why go through all that? Just write and produce a manuscript that would do justice to the topic, as well as your audience, and make you proud to say it's yours. Do it well and do it right the first time. Get professional editing done. Please do not do it yourself. You cannot edit your own book and it is not recommended. You can try to save some money, but it will cost you in the end.

Those are the three top areas, in my opinion, that you need to focus on to make a good book. Anything else is bells and whistles and while they may be shiny objects to your audience, the reading public is quite intelligent and informed these days and discriminating in what it consumes and spend, money on. So follow the steps above and make the public's purchase, and more so, its investment in your work and them worth their while.

- Corine La Font is a speaker, author, coach and self-publishing consultant. She is also an award-winning publishing resource in the 2013 Small Business Book Awards. Get a copy of her book at, Subscribe to her magazine at tune in to her radio programmes at and . Check out her website at . She can be reached at