Typesetting: An Introduction
Typesetting can be defined as the process of ‘setting text on a page’. A typesetter arranges the text in the book to create an optimum reading experience. It includes:
- Defining the margins
- Pick the right font typeface and size
- Style the sections from where the chapter starts
It usually occurs towards the end of the publishing process.
What is the difference between typesetting and typography?
A lot of you might confuse setting text on a page with typography, and that can be because of the near-similarity in word choice. But they are very different.
Typography is the art of designing text. It includes:
- Choosing font
- Use of space
- Addition of decorative elements
Typesetting is simply the process of setting that text on a page.
How does it work and what does a typesetter do?
A professional typesetter will spend their time deciding the following specifications for a book:
- Trim Size: A trim size refers to the dimensions of a document after it has been printed and cut down to its desired width and height from a larger sheet, prior to any folding.
- Illustrations (if any)
- Margin specifications (the bigger the margins, the more pages the book will need)
- Font size and typeface for subheadings, chapter headings, title, etc.
It also includes a few more specifications:
- Word stacks – This occurs when consecutive rows of text start with the same word, making it repetitive. A typesetter makes sure that doesn’t happen.
- Footnotes and tables
- Drop caps – The first letter of the first paragraph of every chapter needs to be stylized
- Adjusting spacing between characters
- Text color
Once all of these elements have been finalized, the typesetter will begin the process of setting the text and illustrations on paper.
Why is it important?
Think of typesetting as a file in which you keep important documents. They are much more neatly organized in the file than they would have been without it. It’s the same about your book. If the text is a cluttered and clunky mess, your reader will be put off after the first paragraph itself. It is important for a lot of reasons:
- A well-designed text directly influences how the readers enjoy the article or book. Just like typos and grammatical errors might distract a reader, design errors will do the same.
- Authors are rarely trained to spot even minor design errors, which digital designers and typesetters are adept with.
- Both the font and the typesetting work hand-in-hand to create a book’s unique look.
How to DIY typeset your book?
- LaTex – This is a free typesetting software which is great at formatting nonfiction books and documents. You need to be somewhat well-versed in coding as LaTeX is an open-source system.
- Adobe InDesign – If you are even a little bit proficient in designing, use Adobe InDesign, a software that professional designers use. Get it for upto $24 dollars per month.
How to work with a professional typesetter?
- Get a typesetter who has previously worked on the same genre as your book. Typesetting, or design in general, uses subliminal messaging, and each genre communicates something entirely different, but adds to the text. A typesetter who’s worked with the romance genre previously, for example, will know more about what kind of font will not be too heavy on the reader when they read about love.
- Judge the work of the typesetter as a reader. Ask for a sample of their work and go through it as a reader. Is it easy on the eyes? Do the words flow? Ask the important questions.
- Look at samples of their work independently of reading the book. Pay attention to the font, color, background, etc. To be a good judge of this, it’s important that you read up about the intricacies of typesetting first.
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