1. What is typesetting?
When a book is opened, the reader expects it to be clear, easy to follow, and attractive. This includes the way the text appears on the page, the spacing, fonts, and image placement. The process for this is called typesetting. Typographers, applying the scientific and artistic principles of book typography, implement or manage typesetting.
Typesetting is the process of arranging a manuscript in a specific style, with the goal of making the book both easy to read and visually appealing to the reader. The process includes choosing font, line spacing, and margins. Typesetting can also be translated to any form of digital text (eBooks, websites, apps, etc.)
Typesetting can be defined as an ancient art as it is linked back to 1040 AD in China when inventors created movable type for printing. Later on, in 1440, Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, involving type frames operated by hand in order to print books. From these early inventions, typesetting then moved into mechanical printing presses, to automated printing presses. It then eventually made its way into graphic software which professional typesetters use today.
Mood, time, period, and setting are intended to be evoked from typesetting. Each font, as well as the page, is laid out to reflect back to the theme of the story.
Think about a book you’ve read where something about the interior seems off (font, spacing, images). This is most likely because the typesetting wasn’t done in a way that suits the genre, and has therefore given an unreadable layout.
Each project is typeset differently, and typesetters take variables such as book length, genre, and print format into consideration. These variables impact and influence the decisions typesetters make around:
- The trim size (the actual print size of a book e.g. 6 x 9 inches)
- The margins (how much white space should be visible around the body text)
- The font’s typeface and size (e.g. font name, type, and size for body text, headings, captions etc.)
Typesetters typically take care of the following aspects as well:
- Kerning (adjusting space between characters)
- The spacing between words
- Word stacking (preventing rows of text from starting and ending with the same words one after the other)
- Drop caps (styling the first character that appears in the first paragraph of the chapter)
- Book blocks (making sure the block of text on each facing page end on the same row as the other)
- Illustrations, graphics, and tables (identifying where they should be displayed throughout the text)
- Orphans and widows (preventing the last or first row of a paragraph from ending isolated on the top or bottom of a page)
2. Why is typesetting important?
Typesetting is an extremely important aspect of book design and requires a good understanding of font, font sizes, and line spacing. Good typesetting is not able to be identified by the average reader. Instead it allows for the reader to be able to enjoy the layout/text without interruption. In comparison, bad typesetting will draw the reader to identify issues and will be distracted.
The aim of typesetting is to make the readers experience enjoyable and as smooth as possible. Typesetters follow a set of rules to make the book appear professional and trade-ready. These rules ensure a high-quality design, readable print, and ease of conversion to eBook.
Below is a snapshot of reasons why professional typesetting is critical for book publishing:
- Readability: A well typeset book has legible text that is easy to read, making the reading experience for the reader a positive one.
- Looks aesthetically good: Typesetting is used to create a visual hierarchy when reading and to draw attention to the most important parts of the text.
- Is accessible: A good typesetter ensures that the text is readable for all readers.
The author’s goal for their book can determine the route in how typesetting is approached (DIY it or hire a professional). However, if a book needs to compete with bestsellers, or if it is a business leaver, the quality of the typesetting is highly important. Compare the book’s appearance as if it was meant to mirror the author. If a book is put together messily without following any set rules, this reflects back onto the author. This is why it is always important to have professionals assist you with this.
3. How to typeset a book
Modern typesetting should be done in software that is made for professional trade publishing. Many authors make the mistake of thinking manuscripts can easily be typeset in Microsoft Word then converted to a PDF file, but this is not the case. While manuscripts are written in Word, typesetters do not use Word to do typesetting. Instead, they use the content provided in the document to craft the book’s interior layout in dedicated design software. It’s impossible to follow the rules of typesetting in a Word document, and trying to do so would make an unreadable book.
There are many design software applications that are available for use, however, it is always best to work with a trusted and professional provider. At Green Hill, we can professionally typeset your book ready for trade.
If you are looking to DIY, you must have a clear understanding of the software available and how professional typesetting is done.
Below are some examples of typesetting software applications that can be useful:
- Adobe Suite: Adobe has software that professional designers use. Although it is accessible, you need to know how to use the applications. There is also a monthly subscription.
- Microsoft Suite: This is one of the least powerful tools. However, you can build a book via the booklet layout. There is also a monthly subscription.
It is important to understand that typesetters know how to do the work. Hiring a professional is always the best step forward. Doing so will ensure there are no errors in your book before you print.
3.1 Preparing for typesetting
When it comes to preparing for typesetting, there are a few things that need to be considered:
- How do you want the book to be laid out? Whether you are having a book professionally typeset or if you are going to format yourself, you need to decide on your book’s the design and structure.
- Consider what fonts would suit your book and assess their readability.
- Find a typesetter who uses a professional software or choose a typesetting software that is reliable. Consider the spacing of lines and paragraphs to assist with readability.
- Decide if you need images or other visual elements in the interior of your book. Make sure these graphics are in appropriate spaces and don’t disrupt the manuscript’s readability.
- Make sure the manuscript is completed to the best of your ability before starting the typesetting process.
- Take time going over the typeset PDF.
- Get a physical print-proof of the book to test out readability and adjust any minor issues before finalising publishing and/or printing.
A good typesetter or publisher will guide you through the typesetting process and do the harder elements for you. Contact us to discuss the typesetting process and how Green Hill can help.
4. How to find a typesetter
Finding a professional typesetter is very important as typesetting follows a strict set of rules to produce a professional product.
When choosing a typesetter, it is important to consider the following:
- Find a typesetter who has worked on similar genres of books to yours. Finding someone who is familiar with layouts of similar books is important.
- Before a final decision, ensure you see examples of the typesetter’s work. This is so you know what to expect as an end product and can facilitate an informed decision.
- Look at the examples the typesetter has given in the eyes of a reader. Are there any inconsistences? Is it clear and easy to follow?
- Educate yourself on the typesetting process. The more you learn the more you’ll be able to identify good work.
4.1 Where to find a typesetter?
There are freelance websites which advertise typesetters who can assist with projects, but there is a high probability that they aren’t “professionals”. It is always better to find a professional via a publishing company or a dedicated typesetting company.
If you are looking for quality typesetting, Green Hill can help! We include a professional typesetting service in all our packages. Not only would you have your book professionally typeset, we can set you up for the full publishing journey. This looks different for each author, but can include editing, illustration work, distribution, and print!
Contact us today to find out more.
5. Do I need typesetting for an eBook?
EBooks can be developed in a number of ways, from converting Word files to a PDF, to using eBook conversion tools. However, these ways can introduce areas of concern. You do not want your book to look like a PDF file.
However, when it comes to a professionally produced eBook, the bottom line is: Yes. All versions of books should be typeset.
You want your digital book to read and feel as similar to a print book as possible, so all of the rules need to be applied. Having a well-designed and professionally typeset eBook can approve the reliability of the book, making it easier on the readers eyes, and enhance the overall appearance of the book in the long run and in turn make your eBook more marketable.
A fixed-format eBook is designed to retain the original layout, format, and image placement over a variety of different devices and eBook platforms. Fixed-format eBooks are produced to be viewed in a specific way with a layout that takes into account the exact font sizes, images, and page breaks. This type of eBook is commonly used for children’s books, cookbooks, and any other book which has a visual element as the presentation of the book is extremely important. Fixed-format eBooks allow the author and book designer to have complete control on how they look, right down to every page.
A reflowable eBook can adjust its text and layout based on the size, orientation, and type of device or reading platform that is being used. The purpose of a reflowable eBook is to be as flexible as it can and allow the file to adjust based on the individual specifications of the book. These eBooks can be read on a variety of platforms, from smartphones to tablets and e-Readers. These eBooks are mostly commonly used for books with long forms of text, such as novels or other text-based content. EBooks formatted this way are typically not as interactive as reflowable eBooks compared to fixed-format eBooks.
Examples of good typesetting
Typesetting is one of the most important factors of creating a publishable book. Here at Green Hill, we have the typesetting skills and knowledge to give you design direction for your book specifically.
Below are some examples of different types of typesetting that Green Hill have produced.
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