The Importance of Typesetting to Authors

Photo by Amador Loureiro on Unsplash

Before we start, I would like to define typesetting.
Typesetting for books focuses on the elements of book design like spacing, margins, typography and layout. It’s all about page design and the process of preparing manuscripts both for printing and digital formatting.
Often authors ask me why professional typesetting is needed.
It’s simple really. Professional layout design is an integral part of the book production process and is just as important as book cover design, proofreading and editing. There are so many interesting things happening in the publishing world today and the advances in digital technology have made it easy for anyone to become an author. The problem is that typesetting is often seen as the easiest part of the self-publishing process, which means that many authors often opt to do it themselves. The reality is that if you do not know what you doing, your book can end up looking more like a school essay or undergraduate academic assignment, than an actual book.
Quite frankly, if the layout of your book doesn’t look good you’ll probably lose readers, even if your sole purpose has been to have it available for free download or other promotional uses. Some book readers can be forgiving, but regular book readers often know and appreciate good book design.
The first thing you have to do after you’ve successfully completed the front cover and your manuscript has been edited is to decide whether to use the services of a professional or if you’re going to be brave enough to do the typesetting yourself.

Deciding on the correct service provider
Okay, so you decided to use the services of a professional. Before identifying a suitable partner it’s important to know that not all graphic designers are book designers. These professionals often design solely for magazines, websites and other business related publications, not knowing the first thing about what it takes to typeset for books. This often results in high typesetting costs and complex layouts suitable for books and certainly not necessary for simple book design.
Since I need to get into the nitty-gritties of the typesetting process, I’ll elaborate in my next blog post on how you can find the correct book publishing partner.

Deciding on the correct service provider
Typesetting for books can be easily done with Microsoft Word, but it should be noted that Microsoft Word is not a professional book design programme. The most frequently used industry design programme is, Adobe InDesign, Adobe Creative Suite’s page layout program. It’s a powerful application that allows you to treat text and graphics using a logical, hierarchal, and flexible workflow. Microsoft Word on the other hand is a word processor, which means that it is only a computer programme that provides for input, editing, formatting and output of text, with some additional but extremely limited design features.
Here are a few essential things to remember when you’ve decided to do it yourself.

1. KEEP IT SIMPLE!
– Implement a design that is neat, clean and clearly readable.

2. BE CONSISTANT
– Apply a layout that is uniform and predictable.

– Place text and illustrations in an effective and appropriate combination.

3. FONT USAGE
– Do not use more than two types of fonts.

– Assign uniform font, size, colour and alignment.

– Serif Fonts (Eg. Minion Pro) are always used for the body text, but you may use san-serif (Eg. Arial) for headings. For more in-depth information of types of fonts to use visit http://www.thebookdesigner.com/2009/08/5-favorite-fonts/.

4. FIRST LINE INDENT VS BLOCK PARAGRAPHS
– First-line indents and space between paragraphs basically have the same use. Although you only need one to get the job done. Using both is a mistake.

– If you use the first line indent (my personal choice, since it looks more professional), you should not indent the very first paragraph. First-line indent only starts from the second paragraph of each chapter. The same applies when you use subheadings or simply copy breaks in the same chapter.

6. SETTING SPACING & MARGINS
– On Microsoft Word go to Page Layout, click on page set-up, click on Paper and select A5.

– Go to Margins next and select Mirrored.

– Set the text to 11 point with exactly 15 points between lines.

– Always use full justification for text. The icon can be found on the home page, in paragraph options.

And that brings us to end of this blog post.

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