One of the more daunting aspects of book design for the inexperienced is page layout. Most people have Word experience and as I have said countless times already—Word cannot do professional page layout. In fact, it is worse than that because Word’s feeble attempts give you bad habits and poor expectations—which must be corrected.
I’m assuming that you have your preferences set up; and that you have designed a good, efficient workspace that fits your style of working. I also assume that you have set up shortcuts to apply command efficiently. However, let’s start by setting up your folders and files BEFORE you even open your InDesign Document.
Before you start your document
Again, this is just my procedure. Feel free to use or discard as you find necessary to fit your personal workflow. However, many of these things are there to solve problems I have had in previous books.
- Make a book folder: You’ll need a folder to hold all the pieces. This is critical. You will be taking these pieces and modifying them as you reformat for the different versions. It is crucial to have all your pieces in one place so you can keep track of them. Eventually you will have a print folder, a color PDF folder, an EPUB folder, and maybe even a Kindle folder. For suggestions see the new Writing in InDesign 2nd Edition due out soon.
Inside the book folder
- Make a Links folder: You’ll need this sooner or later so you might as well start right. This will hold all the graphics you actually use in the document. Make sure your links are set up as you see below, in your preferences. All your graphics will be linked. You cannot paste in graphics. They must be imported (either placed or dragged in from the Links folder)
- Make an Originals folder: Because you will be making so many InDesign versions (print, PDF, ePUB, and Kindle, with variations of each), I always need a folder to hold the original full-color InDesign files used to make PDFs, the color Illustrator files, and the original high-resolution color Photoshop files. These are important to use when you convert your print version to use in ebooks. Color costs a lot in print, but it is free in ebooks .
- If you have an original word doc: I would put it in the originals folder—especially if you have more than one. It is also a good time to check that your preferences for file handling are set to NOT create a link when placing text or spreadsheets (You can see I have it unchecked in the capture above). Very quickly you will have edited your book to the place where updating a link to the Word doc eliminates your changes.
Keeping track of your graphics
As you go through all the different versions you will be making for your book, there will be differing requirements for your graphics. Your printed versions require high resolution, black and white, grayscale, or full-color CMYK images that are either vector or 300 dpi or better. Your downloadable PDFs can handle full-color RGB with no cost to you. Your ePUBs and Kindle require 600×800 pixel Web graphics (GIF, JPEG, or PNG, at this point). You’ll use Save For Web to keep your file sizes small.
Full-size color graphics: You will need a place to store the full-resolution, full-color versions of your graphics. Remember, the printed versions will probably have black & white interior pages and grayscale images of the maps, photos, and so forth. I always make a large color version of my graphics and save it in the Originals folder of my new book. This gives me what I need for the various versions. For example, the Scribd PDF can take full color RGB versions of the graphics at high resolution. The ePUB needs color versions (though at a lower resolution). You need someplace to keep those color graphics. Of course, you could just call it [BookName] Color Graphics—maybe that’s too obvious 😉
From my color art I then save grayscale versions to exact size, which I then save in my Links folder for placing: I assume you are beginning to see the problem. There are so many versions that you must establish a clear, simple folder structure to hold them all. If not, you will quickly lose track of what you are doing and what goes where.
Make a place or find the place on your backup hard drive to back up the folder:drag your new folder into the backup location to make a copy of it. You must backup your work consistently and often. I have had a hard drive die with an unbacked-up book on it, just before the deadline of the publisher. That’s a nightmare, believe me. Remember, the warnings from the computer geeks about backing up your data are never written, “IF you lose a hard drive”. They write (and I reaffirm) “WHEN you lose your hard drive do you have a backup copy?” You will have hard drives die.
Starting at the beginning: Document Setup…
This is the dialog box that opens when you choose New from the file menu or type Command+N. Many of the choices found in this dialog box are based on experience that you may not have as of yet.
The first choice is that we always start with print chosen as our intent.
There are many reasons for this.
- Print requires high-resolution (300 dpi minimum or vector) graphics. Web and ebook design are much more restricted (GIF, JPEG, or PNG with a 600×800 pixel maximum). It is easy to lower the quality to ebook standards. It is impossible to raise graphic quality from ebook up to print standards.
- Print gives the typographic capabilities necessary for comfortable reading and clear communication. Again, it is much easier to dumb things down for ebooks.
- Print supports the full and easy use of OpenType features, multiple languages, and all the niceties.
- A printed book will still be here a hundred years from now. Who knows about an ebook?
In Writing in InDesign 2nd Edition I go through all the choices which need to be made including page size, bleeds, margins, column number, column width, master pages, automatic page numbering, sidebars, and all the rest. For a blog posting, that is far too much. The main thing I want you to know and remember:
The set up determines the framework for your typography
The better your setup the more freedom you’ll discover in your writing. Don’t believe the garbage that you “must be free to write”. The truth is that a well designed framework can give you a freedom of expression you’ve never experienced.
- Book Typography Part 6: The reality of picking fonts (hackberry-fonts.com)
- Font design is a very small portion of typography (hackberry-fonts.com)
- Book Typography: Part One (hackberry-fonts.com)