How to make a Book Visually Appealing?

Hello everyone. Newbie here.

Over the last several months, I have been toying with the idea of writing my own book, or at least a guide of some sorts. Topics would like be IT based, but I have some non-IT ideas as well. My target audience is females, and helping to empower them.

While not an IT guru, I do have decent writing skills and I can provide the perspective of a female and a newbie to technology.

Okay, now on to why I am posting here…

A few months ago I started work on a book/guide about setting up your computer and configuring it. I wrote one chapter which provides step-by-step instructions and and has screenshots.

The problem is that while the chapter draft is competent from a technical standpoint, visually what I wrote looks like some BORING computer manual. And considering that your average citizen has a very short attention span in today’s world, combined with all of the competition both online and offline, it seems like I am setting myself up for a horrible failure!

So I decided to join SitePoint and see if I can learn to be successful like many of you must be!

My friends tell me that it is all about “Content Content Content.” And while I don’t disagree, it seems to me that I need “Presentation, presentation, presentation” to make people interested in what I wrote.

What can I do to make my book/guide look more appealing and entice people to pay money for it?


Wow that sounds like a mammoth project to me. When you say you tell women how to set up and configure computers how many models, brands, software are you going to cover. Is it even possible to cover windows / mac pcs in one book. Then coming to configuring what have you covered in it? Different women will have different software requirements, and when configuring a computer software installation need to be configured too like - Office packages. Have you covered them too? Are you covering hardware aspects in computer setup?

Presentation may be the key, presenting this boring information in a short and interesting manner will determine your success.

Thanks, but I wasn’t asking whether I had a good idea or about content…

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I agree that there are way too many variations to easily cover every possible combination of what any given person might have.

It’s the reason a lot, if not all, tutorials dealing with more complex set-ups cover only one or maybe a small number of the possible specifics. eg.

“How to set up PHP ver. 7 with XAMPP in Windows 10”
“How to set up PHP ver. 7 with XAMPP in Ubuntu 16.04 LTS”

In any case, I realize images in books significantly increase production costs (especially if in color), but I think judicial use of images could help reduce the amount of technical jargon that would be needed to explain some things.

Let me clarify some things since two people are commenting on similar things…

First, I just provided a “for instance” to give some content - @envigodigitaluk and @Mittineague are being too literal. I am not writing a single book on “How to configure a computer”.

Second, I didn’t mention it since it didn’t seem important, but I am looking to do some form of eBook. Production cost is not the issue.

Finally, what is the issue is that my MS Word document looks boring to the eye. If you read what I have so far, I think it is pretty straightforward, but that isn’t what sells books - regardless of the form they are in.

I am tryng to figure out how to write a book or guide that doesn’t look like a mainframe manual from 1970.

It is not as simple as “Just add some screenshots”, because I have already done that and my chapter still feels like a manual that came with your toaster.

Probably what I need is some insight from a publisher or a graphic artist or a book designer or typesetter or something like that.

Is my OP making any more sense?

Ah, so more a “for example” :smile_cat:

I took both “creative writing” and “technical report writing” classes while in college.
The two are different styles of writing to be sure.

So your problem is how to write technical content in a more reader friendly creative style.

The only thing that I can come up with at the moment is to “dumb down” technical terminology into “lay” terms.

eg. similar to " ____ for Dummies" books.

I learned HTML initially from a Dummies book. One of the things I liked about it were the wee “asides”, which broke up the text. They might be handy tips, warnings, or just an interesting snippet related to the subject. They were both interesting and helped to make the page less of a solid block of text.

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You are definitely not helping my delicate ego in the area of “Has ability to easily convey ideas to strangers”… :wink:

In my OP I said…

As I mentioned a few times before, I think my CONTENT is okay.

The problem is that VISUALLY I think my chapter looks like a toaster manual. In other words, it is VISUALLY BORING even with screenshots.

Maybe these analogies will help…

My chapter looks like a plain-text manual with a few dorky screenshots like a manual from 1970, when what I want is a sleek, smooth and sexy chapter that looks more like a travel brochure to some romantic island. (Okay, maybe not that much, but you follow me.)

My chapter looks like a website from 1995, when what I want is a chapter that looks modern and sexy!

Am I making sense now???

It isn’t you, it’s me. (that’s what she said)

So more like TechnoBear’s, How to break up walls of text?

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Let’s leave my love life out of this! LOL

@Mittineague, I was editing post #8 when you responded. You might want to be sure you saw everything I wrote. (The touch pad on my new notebook sucks, and I am having quite the time typing on SitePoint!)

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Have you looked at other publications for inspiration? Sitepoints books or Abookapart might give you some ideas. They both have a common format/style and nice typography which makes them pleasant to read.


Well perhaps it looks dull as it is a pretty dull subject. What you can do with IT is the interesting bit but i am not sure how you are going to get it to be ‘exciting’ as a manual on how to download an exe and install it isn’t ever going to be on my must read list.

Either you want it to be a serious step by step book or a ‘dummies’ guide. The only way i can think to make it more interesting would be to have some really good illustrations to show the steps. If you did it in an interesting style like Roald Dahl books or something.

Or put a spin on it. Rather than a book on how to do it concentrate on what not to do. I watched a great video on how NOT to MIG weld. The person showed what happened when you did various different senarios so you learnt what you were doing wrong, rather than desperately trying to copy a perfect weld and not understanding why yours looks like bird mess.

I am also unsure why setting up a computer and configuring it is any different if you are male or female, but perhaps that is just me.

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Being new to SitePoint, I didn’t know they wrote books. I thought this was just an online forum.

That is the kind of advice I can use!

While I am checking those links out, in your opinion as a reader, what subtle things make a book, either paper or online, grab your attention and make you want to buy it?? (Let’s assume you already know the content is good.)

You are focusing too much on my OP and what you assume the content is about. I was asking what can I do to make what I write more visually appealing, as in layout, margins, font, etc.

Haven’t you ever seen a travel brochure or pamphlet or magazine that really wowed you? If so, you know that just the way each page was laid out made you take it more seriously, and it probably made you want to read it.

Likewise, haven’t you ever read something that was technically accurate, but as ugly as a toad, and thus it made you take it less seriously because it looked amateurish?

You are talking about content again.

Who is that? Please tell me more what you like about this person.

Good idea for content, but that isn’t what I am asking about.

It is probably similar to asking a male to change a diaper. You do know how to change diapers, right? Or how about teaching your average male to feed and burp a baby? Maybe you already have 20 kids, but I know a few males that would feel intimidated, even though your gender shouldn’t matter! :yum:

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I’ve moved the topic to Design & UX. Posting in Content does rather give folk the impression that you’re asking about content.


I like books that give me useful information and answer questions I may have. In the case of technical books like you’re doing having things explained in leymans terms with the “full jargon” version if I want that. Screenshots are always useful where they make sense of course, properly annotated so I know what they mean in context to the bit I’m reading.

Nice presentation is always good. Having good typography aids readability so a good choice of fonts and styles, and things like little pull quotes or asides that offer explanations or references can help a lot in understanding the current page or subject, even if they are things like “fun facts”.


Do you mean a Frequently Asked Questions section, or something else?

That shouldn’t be a problem. I pride myself on taking complex things and breaking them down into tiny steps.

Do you mean captions for each image or screenshot?

Where can I learn more about that?

Okay, so things to break up the text.

BTW, your link above to SitePoint books is broken.

Since I m thinking of doing an eBook or a premium-content website, can you offer some more links/examples that demonstrate what you are explaining above?

I am a bit confused by your OP. Am i correct in assuming that your actual question is ‘What font, colours, layout should i use for my book?’

In your own words you say it is a boring subject and written very dryly so i don’t know how a colourful font and a decent margin is going to make it more interesting to read. If i took Stephen Hawkins ‘a brief history of time’ and used ‘Indie flower’ for the headings and 'Open Sans; for the body, and added some pictures of black holes here and there would it make the book any easier to follow?

Roald Dahl was a British novelist, short story writer, poet, screenwriter, and fighter pilot. His books have sold more than 250 million copies worldwide.

The Wiki doesn’t really explain but his books are all illustrated in a particular style by quentin blake. If i picked up a book and saw the illustration i’d know if it was Quentin Blakes.

Yes i’ve changed diapers (nappies in UK language) since i was a kid as i have loads of younger Brothers and Sisters and more recently nephews and nieces. And i don’t mean disposables i can fold a Square terry cloth nappy without a problem :slight_smile: I’ve never had a problem with doing anything from Welding to Sewing, i don’t care if it’s considered a ‘male’ or ‘female’ job if it interests me i’ll do it. If you see my other post recently you’ll see i am taking 6 months shared parental leave to raise our first kid with my fiancee. I personally find gender specific books a bit off putting as it has certain implications whether you mean it or not and besides which you are cutting out ~50% of the population. But perhaps this is getting into too much specific gender politics. So i will say no more.

Back to the subject of an ebook…

If you are happy with your content as is then all you can do is ensure that you choose a font that implies trust but is also easy to read. Have a decent line height so it’s easy to read. As with webpages have decent headings that you can skim read and get an idea of the page without having to read everything. Pull outs are also good if they have an important snippit of information.

I don’t know much about e-books - are they still read on e-readers like the kindle? i.e. black and white. If so illustrations might stand out stronger on a b/w screen than a complicated screen grab.
I’d personally go for a website as content changes so quickly and you can dynamically provide content on user criteria, i updated from win 8.1 to win10 and then win 10.1 and the menu system changed each time, and that doesn’t even include my other laptop on win7. Which would you screen shot?

If i was you i’d really look at the current market and see if there is actually a need or niche you can fill. I know books in general are up but does anyone read computer manuals? They may well do but for me i haven’t picked up a book (or e-book) on computing in 10 years, everything i want to know i find online on websites as it is so much quicker to search for what i want to know at that specific point in time. I don’t mean to be negative but you will be competing with some very established books and websites so you will need a hook of some sort to get noticed.


Did you visit the link to Abookapart? They have a volume entitled “On Web Typography”.

Discover how typography shapes the way we read and how you can adapt the craft’s practices for the screen.

You will find all the books, together with all the courses and screencasts, at SitePoint Premium, linked to on the header at the top of each page (unless you’re on mobile).