Page layout basics
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.
Many settings have to be covered for every document. Many of these are set up as you go through the Preferences in InDesign. You might want to consider setting your measuring system to inches or millimeters, for example. You should work in whatever measurement system works best for you. Every application has important decisions to be made in Preferences. To repeat, the point is to set up your applications so they work best for you.
Let’s put it together
By now you should have most of the pieces. You may have many pieces of written copy, which you are going to thread together. This would be the case if you are booking a blog, for example. Make sure you have the graphics, if possible. If you do not know what is required for professional work, please read Appendix C in Writing In InDesign on graphic production to find out. If you are like me, some of the graphics are written or designed on the spot to fill in a blank page portion. But let’s go through an assembling and formatting session. Of course we start with file management.
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 with 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. You should make this folder first or as you open your new document to get started. This is the folder you will backup every day.
Personal example: I usually put this original book folder in my RadiqxLulu folder. Name your folder what you like, but have an overall containing folder to hold all your book versions. Createspace requires all transparency to be flattened and has lower quality capabilities. So, I start with the printed version for Lulu. Once I have the book finished, I package a copy to the RadiqxCreatespace folder for the printed version on Amazon which will be linked to the Kindle version. Then I package a copy of the book to the Kindle folder and make the Kindle conversions with embedded fonts. Finally I package a copy to the RadidxePUB folder using iOS fonts for the iBook, Nook, and Kobo versions of the book. None of these take embedded fonts yet.
- Make a links folder: Put it inside your book 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: Put it inside your book folder. Because I will be making so many InDesign PDFs, I always need a folder to hold the original full-color InDesign 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 many ebooks (depending on the ereader used).
- Make a cover folder: Put it inside your book folder. You will need this sooner or later. You need a place to store the pieces until you you get the cover designed.
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 all your laboriously made 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 books require color RGB JPEGs, GIFs, or PNGs. Even Kindle uses color images for those people using their Mac, PC, iPad, or Fire to read your Kindle ebook. These are all basically Web images, and they must be Web-compatible (72 dpi RGB). They should be produced in Photoshop using the Save For Web Command. This will make the images as small as you need—and they will work better.
For example, Kindle images are limited to 127 KB. If you include an image larger than that, Amazon will optimize it for you [read that: THEY WILL RUIN YOUR IMAGE]. Even Amazon itself warns you that they will damage your image if you force them to modify your graphics.
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 😉
Always work exact size when placing graphics
You do not want InDesign, Amazon, or anyone else messing around with your images. Place them into your files at the exact size, and (to the amount possible) tell the suppliers to leave your images alone.
From my color art I then save grayscale versions for print 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 prepared 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, in reality it is always when your hard drive fails, never if it does so. Sooner or later they all fail. I would have an external drive for back-up—but remember that this drive is in the same building as your computer, so if the building is destroyed so is your back-up. If you can afford it, get a secure cloud backup. But I would not trust them either. They are too new. You have no idea if they will be in business in ten years. Apple, for example, has a horrible record in this regard and so does Adobe (so, needless to say, I do not use iCloud or CreativeCloud). Thousands of people recently lost their .mac addresses [or whatever they were]. It will not hurt to have a secure place to store a DVD after your book is printed and released. Maybe a safe deposit box is best.