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Typesetting for the Self-Published | by Dale E. Lehman | Jan

As a self-published author, you already know — or should — the importance of good writing, solid editing, and

I don’t know every detail of the art, and my skills surely have room for improvement

That said, by necessity I’ve picked up enough to make a book look reasonably good

Typography is the art of making the printed word legible and appealing

We generally create reflowable ebooks without embedded fonts, which surrenders much of the typography to the display

As for why you should care, the above definition makes it plain

First, you want your book to be legible because, well, what’s the point of an illegible

Second, you want the type to be appealing — that is, to feel good to the reader

Readers may not always know why unappealing text feels wrong, but they can feel it

Pick up any book published by one of the big five publishers, and you’ll have a

Any book set in block paragraphs or with ragged right margins fairly screams “amateur production!”

The easiest and best way to typeset a book is to pay a professional to do it

Presumably cost has something to do with the typesetter’s level of experience, but do your due

It can be worth it, particularly if you’re going head-to-head with bestsellers in your genre

If you’re strapped for cash, though, you can learn to do it yourself

Just bear in mind that you’ll need the right tools, it will take time and practice,

I use InDesign myself and can’t speak to other packages, except to say that Microsoft Word,

For that, import your documents into InDesign or something comparable

Although in the computer age we tend to use the terms typeface and font interchangeably, they aren’

A typeface is a lettering style, such as Arial, Times New Roman, or Helvetica

You might have two body fonts (one regular, one italic), one chapter title font, and maybe one

But if you right-justify your paragraphs, which you should, you’ll have a fixed amount of space

Moreover, in a proportional font, different letters take up different amounts of space

Result? The software fiddles every line to justify the right margin

While we’re all used to hyphenated words, they’re a bit harder to read

In other words, it deviates from your defaults whenever it must

While this doesn’t normally impact legibility, it can make the text less appealing

That is, eyes must work a little harder to scan because the spacing constantly shifts

Sounds fun, no? It’s an art, and practice is the only way to learn it

It’s applied on a pair-by-pair basis to provide a comfortable feel

While sometimes confused with kearning, tracking is the spacing between characters throughout an entire word (as opposed

It actually can be applied on single characters, but that’s not its primary purpose

In InDesign, just select the text you want to modify, then change the tracking value

That will keep words looking good, so long as you don’t over-track

Reducing tracking too much leads to illegible words (the letters get squished together), while increasing it too

With both kearning and tracking, use the smallest changes that work

Always remember your goal: legible, appealing (easily scanned) text

The last line of most paragraphs will be a short line, but you don’t want it

In fact, it should be no shorter than the indent on the first line, otherwise you’ll

On both sides of a page break, broken paragraphs should have at least two lines

Less commonly, the same word can appear in about the same place on multiple lines in a

In InDesign, select any part of one or more lines, then adjust the leading value

Any line that’s partially or completely selected will be affected

The text on every page should start the same distance from the top and end the same

For various reasons — particularly if you’ve made leading changes to fix widows and orphans — the last

Full pages of text should start at the same top location, end at the same bottom location,

Finally, the lines should feel like they’re spaced the same

Small differences won’t be noticed by readers, but sufficiently large differences will

Adjusting the tracking to fix a hyphenation can cause two more ugly hyphenations to appear farther on

Typesetting is therefore a word-by-word, line-by-line, page-by-page process requiring experimentation to get it right, at least for

With some practice, this process will yield a book that’s legible and easy on the eyes

Even if professional typesetters spot some issues, most readers won’t, and your book will look and