Designing Your Book's Page Layout

Self-publishing books involves a lot more than just writing the book. You also have to take all your words and make them look good on a page. The idea is that a properly designed page lets the reader focus on the material and not pay attention to whether the font is too small to read or if the text stretches too far along the page.


Before I got into self-publishing, I never paid attention to what a page looks like or what font was used or how the letters are spaced out. But now that I had to do it for my own book it suddenly became very important. I went through my all my computer books and pulled out the ones I liked. I found the publishers I liked and pulled out design that I liked. If a book design were a recipe, my book would be 50% O'Reilly, 25% Wrox and 25% Manning. I suggest you do the same. Find the ones that suit your personal tastes and make notes about what you like and don't like about them. It's actually quite fun to 'build' your own book!


While you are writing the book you need to start studying page layout techniques. This is very detail oriented and that's why you should start doing your research before the book is finished. I recommend two books for this.


The Complete Manual of Typography - by James Felici

This book makes it easy to understand how to set type and layout pages. It's critical that you read this book first to get a thorough understanding of all the nuances of how to make your pages easy to read. The only problem I had with this book is that the author spends a lot of time educating you on the history of typography. Granted, this can be interesting for those who care, but if you are in a hurry then this can slow you down. Nonetheless, this book is a must have.


AFTER reading the Complete Manual of Typography, you need to read a great ebook that teaches you how to use MS Word to publish your book. Prior to recent versions of MS Word, the self-publisher had to spend hundreds of dollars on programs like Page Maker or QuarkExpress to do page layouts. Then you had to learn how to use these programs. Not an easy task. With the latest version of MS Word you can design professional books without buying or learning additional software. But you need to read this short ebook to find out how to set up MS Word correctly. It's not hard to do, but you still need to find out what it takes to set it up. This ebook tells you everything.


Perfect Pages: Publishing with Microsoft Word by Aaron Shepard


This book teaches you the tricks of using MS Word to professionally self-publish your book. Don't waste your money on PageMaker or QuarkExpress. Use MS Word to save you time and headaches. Remember to read this book AFTER reading the book by James Felici. This ebook uses terms that will make more sense after reading the first book.


One tricky thing about self-publishing that is hard to figure out is that the fonts installed on your Windows computer can't be used to publish a book. The publishing industry is very strict about the quality of a book and they have strict rules you have to follow. The first rule is that the fonts must be PostScript Type 1. If you try to use any other type of font (including anything already on your computer) it will be rejected. Fortunately, PostScript Type 1 fonts (called PS1 fonts) can be purchased from Adobe for an economical price. While most fonts cost a minimum of $25, Adobe sells a starter set of about 50 fonts for $99 US. This starter kit has everything you need to publish your book. The fonts can be purchased here: Adobe Type Basics


After installing the fonts on your computer, you need to create a page template that uses these fonts. You also have to make sure the page template looks good when it's printed. That's why you need to read the two books about typography I mentioned earlier.


The one thing I quickly noticed about PS1 fonts is that I didn't like changing the book's content with them in my template. The fonts and page layout settings take time to load in Word and aren't as easy to edit your text with. I prefer having two templates: one with the standard Windows fonts and a second template using the PS1 fonts. I only use the PS1 font to test printouts of my pages to see how they will look when the book is finished. On a daily basis I use the Windows fonts until I'm ready to go to press.


Getting a hardcopy

You also have to get the book in hardcopy format. This involves two steps. The first is to convert the Word document to a PDF file. The ONLY program that does this properly is Adobe Distiller. There are other programs you can buy, but only Adobe produces the quality that book printers require. When you install Adobe Acrobat it adds a PostScript file printer to your computer. You print your book to this printer and it saves it as a .PS file. Then you run Adobe Distiller and it takes the .PS file and converts it to a PDF file. You also have to make sure you save the PS1 fonts within the PDF file. This PDF file is now ready to be sent to a printer (but send them a couple test pages first so you don't have any surprises). You also have to print out a copy of the book on paper so that the printer can look at it to make sure their printing plates match up with what you expect them to be.