Typesetting And You

Typesetting - D7K 1987 ep

Typesetting – D7K 1987 ep (Photo credit: Eric.Parker)

I apologize for the late post, everyone. I was battling with a migraine yesterday that wouldn’t let me function. I’m still feeling the after-effects today, but I’m working on destroying it with copious amounts of ibuprofen and caffeine.


Typesetting is something most self publishing writers know virtually nothing about. The majority of them think that “typesetting” is changing the page size and margins. It is, however, far more important and complicated than that. It also requires software capable of performing the task. No, Microsoft Word will not cut it.

“Typesetting” is putting a book into the format you need to print it. This means making the page size what it will be for the finished product, making sure the inside looks nice, choosing fonts, dropcaps, etc. It includes making sure the tracking (spacing between letters and words) is proper, it includes making sure the distancing between lines is proper, and it also means weeding out “widows” and “orphans”.

Widows and orphans are one of the primary targets of the typesetting process. They are defined as words or short lines at the beginning or end of a paragraph that are left flapping in the wind at the beginning of a page or column. They are typically a “leftover” sentence from the last page. They can be a few words or even just one. These are not yuor friends. While there is some disagreement about what a “widow” or “orphan” is specifically, the basic concept remains the same.

Another thing typesetting is important for is creating chapter beginnings and formatting them correctly. Do you want to use a dropcap for your first word? How are you formatting your table of contents? How are you formatting the “dedications” and so on? These things are all parts of typesetting.

Generally speaking typesetting is done in a few programs: Microsoft Publisher (available with Microsoft Office Pro), Adobe InDesign, or Scribus (a free, open-source desktop publishing software). While there are others, those are the primary three I have heard of being prominent. If you have Microsoft Publisher as I do it is an extremely useful piece of software. However, you can do the same things with Scribus without the pricetag of a couple hundred dollars.

Typesetting is one of the finishing polishes you put on your book prior to publication. It comes after all the editing has been done, and the story is finished but before cover design can be completed. The reason for that is because the typesetting determines how thick the book is which will change what the book’s spine’s dimensions are. It is not to be skipped. Improperly typeset books look awful in both print and ebook formats.

Frequently ebook writers and publishers don’t take time to properly typeset their ebooks and this is a mistake; it results in readability issues for people purchasing the book and just, in general, looks far less professional.

Long story short, you can have it done professionally or do it yourself, but you must do it if you are going to self publish your book. Those of you working with traditional publishers shouldn’t have this problem since the publisher will be handling that for you rather than you doing it yourself. Much like with editing, cover design, and so on.


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