WHAT NEEDS TO BE CONSIDERED BEFORE DESIGNING A BOOK?
I started learning about typography when I was 16. As well as my ‘A’ level courses I had ‘Typewriting’ on my timetable. I learned to touch-type on a manual typewriter where the only font available was on the typewriter bars, and several calculations had to be done to get a table formatted nicely. More years than I care to mention later, the situation is dramatically different. I have a lovely 27-inch iMac which is perfect for designing a book as I can view double-page spreads clearly even with larger formats. I have hundreds of fonts at my disposal. And I have software – Adobe InDesign – that makes designing a book a genuine pleasure providing it is set up correctly.
There are several factors to consider before starting a book design
- Format – what page size is required?
- Margins – these will vary according to whether the book is produced as a hardback or paperback. Headers (book title, author, section headings) are often required, especially for hardbacks and non-fiction titles, as well as page numbers or other navigation markers. The inside margin (closest to the spine) needs to allow the reader to view the whole block of text without it disappearing into the spine once the book is printed and bound. The outside margin needs to allow the reader to hold the book comfortably. The image here shows a layout spread with its margins for a Royal format hardback (234 x 156 mm page size), which is a common format that I work with. The closest imperial size to this is 6 x 9 inches. (Note that, confusingly, imperial page sizes give the width first, while metric ones give the height first!)
- How many pages? Word count is not the full story when calculating the likely extent (or page count) of a book. Are there parts as well as chapters within each part? Are there lots of short chapters? Is there a lot of dialogue? Are section breaks included that require extra space? Are numbered or bulleted lists included that require extra space? Will the book be indexed?
- How many master pages? For non-fiction titles several may be required.
- Which fonts are on the cover? Will they be supplied to create the title page? Are they also suitable for chapter headings?
- Which font for the main text? What size and leading (line spacing) is required so the text is easy to read. The default leading in InDesign is 120% – 10/12pt for example – but this is a bare minimum for text in a book and something around 130% is better for readability.
- How many paragraph styles? Will additional character styles be needed for italics or bold text or other attributes?
- Footnotes or endnotes? They can easily get lost or renumbered if the incorrect import options are used when placing the text file into InDesign.