Typesetting the Interior

"What is typesetting?"

Good question. Most people aren't even aware that it exists, but if you see bad typesetting, you'll know something is "off" about the publication you're reading.

Typesetting is everything to do with the text and pictures in the book. For example:

  • Font typeface and size
  • Chapter headings and page setup
  • Margins, header, and footer
  • Justification of text (so the right side of the page is a straight line)
  • Indent at the beginning of paragraphs, or drop caps for first paragraph in a chapter

You'll notice that I focus on text in this article; that's because I had two pictures in my whole book. The map of the fantasy land, and the author bio pic at the end.

"But how do I make all these choices?"

Look at a bunch of books on your shelf, and see which ones suit your style and your manuscript. Then figure out how to make your book look like that.

The first choice is your software. I used OpenOffice.org, because it's open source, free, and I could (ahem) force it to do everything I wanted. Everything I explain here will be based on OpenOffice, but you could probably do it just about as well in MS Word. For the self-publisher, any pro typesetting software is likely going to be too expensive or very difficult to figure out (I gave up on Scribus and Latex because I just didn't have the time).

My typesetting decisions:

  • Garamond Premier Pro 12pt, with a bit of Palatino Linotype for headers and chapter titles.
  • Drop caps on the first character of each chapter's first paragraph.
  • 0.25" indent on paragraphs (I recommend against using the "tab" character; just use an indent from the Format / Paragraph menu!).
  • Large first capital letter in a new section/scene during the chapter (many people use one or three asterisks * * * centered in their own line, or just two blank lines).
  • Outside margin (where the outside edge of the page is), 0.56". I initially had 0.50", BUT then OpenOffice cuts off some of the serifs (the curly parts of certain letters like "f") from the font I chose! It has a hard minimum margin of 0.50", and any serif that got into that zone was whacked. D'oh!
  • Inside margin (where the spine of the book is), 0.80". Originally I had 0.5", but then I had not only the serif cut-off problem, but in the proof copy of Demon's Bane it was hard to read. The text curled in toward the margin of the book and it was very annoying (this was with a 280-page book). So, I recommend not to go smaller than 0.80", and you might need even more with a thicker book (I have not tried it).
  • Top and bottom margins, 0.50".
  • * Note: Lightning Source recommends a minimum margin of 0.50" all around. As I found out the hard way, the inside margin should NOT be that small, and for using OpenOffice the outside margin should also be larger, especially if you have a serif font.

To see what this all looks like, go to Demon's Bane on Amazon and click on the book cover to "Look Inside!" You'll see actual pages that I typeset.

"Okay, I've made some decisions. How do I typeset?"

To set up your pages, you're going to want to learn Page Styles in OpenOffice. For this I've made a separate Page Styles tutorial, as it's quite confusing and no one knows how to explain it properly. I hope my tutorial fixes that... haha. For now, I'll assume that you have the text, chapters, headers, etc., set up the way you like so that the pages are (mostly) fixed.

This is the not-so-exciting part, but it doesn't take too long, at least. This sounds like a lot of advice, but once you get the hang of it, you can probably do 100 pages an hour at the normal 300-400 words per page. You skim through each page, not reading the text, but looking at how it's placed on the page. Check for the following:

  • Widows. They occur when the first line of a paragraph is all alone at the bottom of a page; it doesn't look good. This is under Paragraph / Text Flow / Widow Control, just set it to 2 lines.
  • Orphans. They occur when the last line of a paragraph is all alone at the top of a page; it doesn't look good. This is under Paragraph / Text Flow / Orphan Control, just set it to 2 lines.
  • Short words alone in the last line of a paragraph. Also sometimes called orphans. These look particularly bad if the word is shorter than the indent of the next paragraph, so any word of 3-4 letters or less.
  • Use curly quotes instead of regular quotes: hopefully you did this from the beginning, or it may be a pain to change. Dialogue should use curly quotes. Format / AutoCorrect / AutoCorrect Options / Custom Quotes
  • Ellipsis. Everyone knows the three dots... you know, the ones which give you a nice pause... well, in books they are written with a space. It looks like this . . . and you don't want those dots to be split up at the end of a line. Therefore you should use a non-breaking space between the dots (see next list, below, for what that is). Simple to fix with search and replace.
  • River of spaces. This occurs when a bunch of spaces, by coincidence, are lined up right above each other on the page. This "river" of white space catches the eye and is annoying.
  • Repeated words above each other. This is also an eye-catcher that annoys the reader, especially when the words are repeated at the beginning or end of subsequent lines. The eye may start reading the same line again, or something like that, as a result.
  • Em dashes. Okay, there are several kinds of dashes with different widths. For something like this—where you offset a thought between dashes—it should be an em dash and not a standard hyphen. The em dash is as wide as an "m" and hence the name. Look for it under Insert / Special Character, it's number U+2014 (you'll need that since there are MANY kinds of dashes).
  • Double spaces. In printed matter, you should only have one space between sentences. It's easy to fix this with search and replace (do it a few times to catch triple spaces).
  • Apostrophes. These should all be curly apostrophes (Dave’s favorite, as opposed to Dave's favorite).
  • Justification problems. You should have the right edge of the text justified, so that it is a straight line down the edge of the page. The software does this by changing spacing between the words. Sometimes OpenOffice does a bad job with this spacing: you have too much space between words, or you have one line that has close spacing and the next line is wide. This can distract the reader.
  • Wrongly-placed hyphens. OpenOffice isn't very good at hyphenation, I have to admit. I'm better than it is, and that's not saying a lot. What I did was to have dictionary.com open in a side window, and quickly check the hyphenation of any word I wasn't sure about.

Correct these errors by using a few typesetting tools:

  • Non-breaking space. This is a space, but it glues two words together so they cannot be split. If you use it at the end of a line, it usually results in the last word being sucked onto the next line. A good way to correct a short word alone on the last line of a paragraph. You also use this to move small words around to correct a river of spaces, and many other problems. Insert / Formatting Mark / Non-breaking space.
  • Optional Hyphen. This allows OpenOffice to hyphenate the word at this place, even if its internal algorithm (which isn't very good) doesn't think it can hyphenate there. Sometimes it doesn't follow your advice, though, and you have to resort to the next option down. Insert / Formatting Mark / Optional hyphen.
  • Language. OpenOffice only tries to hyphenate words when it knows what language they are. If you set a word to "None" it won't try to hyphenate, and you can then insert an optional hyphen wherever you want. Of course then it will only use the optional hyphen if the word is properly placed at the end of the line and hyphenation is needed. Tools / Language / For Selection / None. Just be sure the word is spelled right!
  • No-width no break. Use this in case you need to keep something from breaking when there's no space involved (perhaps you have a hyphen-word, like "boo-boo," that looks bad when split).
  • Rewriting. Normally a typesetter would never rewrite any of the text. But as you're the author, you have the option to change things slightly if you just can't get a paragraph to look good. I try to avoid it, but sometimes I just can't figure out another way, so I add, remove, or change a word.
  • Hyphenation. Set it up automatically in Format / Paragraph / Text Flow. I set it to 3 characters at line begin + end, with a max of 2 consecutive hyphens. You'll get better justification spacing with 2 characters, but then you'll also get more hyphenations.

"D*mn, that's a lot of rules!"

Don't worry. Once you figure out how to use these tools, it's very simple. For example, if you have a justification spacing problem, look for small words that you could move around using a no-width no break. Or find a long word and hyphenate it differently. I had to use optional hyphens whenever a word needed to be hyphenated to 2 characters, because of the hyphenation settings I chose in the paragraph settings. Sometimes you have to change several subsequent lines to fix a problem. For example, if you have "the" repeated as the first word of two lines, you might move a word from the end of the first line down to the second line (using a non-breaking space). But then the spacing of line 1 is very wide, so you need to add another word to line 1 from (err) line -1, with another non-breaking space.

It sounds complicated, and in some respects it is, but the best thing is to get started and try it out. I felt overwhelmed when I read a section of a book about typesetting, but once I got into it I was flying. I typeset the whole book in one day, including learning how to do it. Most paragraphs didn't require any correction at all.

That's all for this section! If you find any typos (haha), or have some tips you think I should add, just let me know with a comment. Now, get ready for designing the cover.

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