Are you preparing your book for print yourself or paying someone else to design and typeset it? Whichever option you choose, there are a few things you’ll need to consider before getting started. Even if you’re using the services of a professional for book design and typesetting, you can save lots of time and get a better result by thinking about the points below and making some decisions ahead of time.
Any designer worth their salt should be able to help with your questions and offer suggestions or alternative options, but if you take up a lot of their time at the beginning of the process you may either get charged more or find that they have less time to spend on your project towards the end – neither of which is a desirable state of affairs!
So what will you need to decide when you’re designing your book?
This is also commonly known as the ‘font’ – there are subtle differences between the two, but the terms are often used interchangeably. The ‘typeface’ is what we might also call the ‘font family’, e.g. Arial is a typeface or font family while Arial Italic is a different font from regular Arial.
The vast majority of books are printed using a serif typeface for the main text even if a sans serif typeface is used for the title page and/or headings. Exceptions might be children’s books and books in certain non-fiction genres, such as business or lifestyle, where the author is intentionally going for a ‘modern’ or ‘businesslike’ look. You can find plenty of articles online about the best typefaces to use. Garamond and Georgia are popular choices for the body of the text.
I recommend that you look at other books in the same genre or on the same topic. Find some that you like the look of and see what typefaces they use. WhatTheFont is a great tool for identifying fonts from an image, so take photos and see what you can find!
Bear in mind that the type is supposed to make the reading experience ‘invisible’ – unnoticed. So it’s best to go for something that isn’t too wacky or intrusive.
Don’t forget to think about the typeface/s you want to use for the title page and chapter headings. You can get a little more creative with these!
Readers of ebooks can choose from various typefaces, so this is not an issue if you are producing an ebook only. In that case I’d advise you to submit your entire work in a plain, basic typeface like Arial or Helvetica.
Other issues to consider in relation to the type:
These are the large, sometimes fancy, capital letters you might see at the beginning of a chapter.
Drop caps can either be created simply by tweaking the typeface itself, by using a different typeface for that individual letter, or they can be inserted as a separate graphic element (in which case you will need to provide a jpg file of each drop cap at 300 dpi resolution).
They can be as simple or as fancy as you want, and they are a good way of injecting a bit of personality into your book design!
It’s advisable, however, not to make the drop caps larger than the text used for the chapter headings. Drop caps that are too big can be distracting.
Things to consider in relation to drop caps include:
Are you going to use any colour – for example, for the title page, chapter headings, drop caps, etc?
The typesetter will need to know the CMYK codes for any colours used (except the ones in illustrations or graphics provided as jpgs).
Are there going to be any illustrations? Where will they sit? Will they have any captions and/or acknowledgements of sources? Do you want any framing for your illustrations?
If you want to use decorative chapter and/or section dividers these will need to be treated as graphic elements, so think about what you want them to be and where you are going to obtain the files from (this could be anything from commissioning an illustrator or graphic designer to create bespoke decorations, to simply grabbing a free – and copyright-free! – graphic off the internet).
Any graphic elements should be provided as jpg files at 300 dpi resolution.
Please don’t expect the book designer/typesetter to design graphic elements for you! You can ask, but if the answer is no, I’m afraid you’ll need to look elsewhere. Designing graphics and logos is a different skill from preparing a book for print and uses different programs. Some designers might be able to do both, but you will need to pay for graphic design work in addition to your book design.
These are sometimes referred to as the ‘prelims’ or ‘front matter’ and are often neglected by authors until they come to design their book and realise how much still needs to be added! Don’t leave these until the last minute.
Prelims can – but don’t have to – include:
They always appear in that order, but not every item on the list has to be included!
It’s worth noting that the Arabic pagination of the book begins on the first page of the Introduction – page numbers are given in Roman numerals before that point, and they don’t appear on every page of the prelims – so setting up page numbers in Word to start automatically from the first page may be counterproductive.
This consists of anything at the end of the book that doesn’t form part of the text, and may include:
This list is not definitive and the order isn’t fixed either; the only stipulation is that the Index must come last.
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