There’s a lot of thought that goes into self-publishing. If you’re an author, you’ve probably given a lot of thought to a few key things about your book such as the jacket, the title and the content. If you’re a reader, these are probably the things you regularly pay attention to as well. Have you ever thought about the interior of a book? How the pages are laid out, the margins set up, or the style of the chapter headings?
If you haven’t thought about those things, that means that the person behind the book did a good job typesetting. Typesetting is the process of properly setting the text on to the page of a publication. Bad typesetting can completely ruin the reader’s experience and interrupt the flow of the book. The last thing you’d want is for a reader to stop paying attention to your carefully crafted work because the spacing between lines is uneven!
When self-publishing, you will eventually have to deal with typesetting. Here are some simple dos and don’ts of this book design fundamental:
Don’t think it’s a simple job.
Typesetting on the surface sounds like it would be easy. After all, you have probably used word processors like Google Docs or Microsoft Word before. These programs can handle simple design tasks, but when it comes to the nitty gritty, they can’t handle a book interior. Which leads me to…
Don’t choose the wrong software.
It may be easy to try and make a program like Word work for you- you already own it and are familiar with it. However, word processing programs are not built for typesetting. While they may be able to handle some basics such as kerning, margins, and fonts, they are frustrating to use. Bending a program to try and fit your needs is harder than using a program built for typesetting. I have used Adobe InDesign for typesetting in the past and highly recommend it. Other programs include LaTeX, Reedsy Book Editor, or Bookwright by Blurb.
Do study up on the basics.
There’s probably a lot of terminology and best practices that you won’t know going in. Typesetting is not easy to do well. I suggest looking over Canva’s illustrated typography terms to get an idea of popular terms. Typography and typesetting are different, but they have a lot of overlap! After that, start reading up on things like font choice or industry standards.
Do consider hiring a professional.
Let’s face it: you’ve got a lot going on already when you’re self-publishing. If you don’t have time to sit down and learn how to typeset properly, it might be best to hire someone. A professional will already have the appropriate software, the knowledge of how to use it effectively, and should be intimately familiar with the best practices. There’s a lot of typesetters out there who have a skillset to match your project. It may cost more than DIY, but the result will be less frustrating and more professional.