As I get ready to release my new book, Self-Publishing With InDesign CC, I want to share some of the basic ideas in the book.
Self-publishers rarely know page layout standards
So, this little series will help with some of those basic decisions you need to make.
Setting up your book to be read: 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 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. 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. But all I can really do is tell Word users how to get the manuscript in the best shape so that the conversion to InDesign is faster and easier.
Starting at the beginning: Document Setup…
Here we are dealing with the frame or container of your typography. These decisions radically affect your choices. First of all, you must accept the fact that you really need to start by designing a print version of your book. Print requires high-resolution graphics. You can dumb them down to ebooks. The reverse is not true. You need to start with high-resolution color. Greyscale images are easy from the color versions.
Print PDFs make for proofing ease: What is largely misunderstood by authors and editors is that layout typos are just as bad as writing error. Print PDFs enable you to proof and edit margins, widows, sidebars, tables, and a host of other things not caught by editing the rough copy in Word.
Plus, the editor can note down changes by annotating the PDF directly. You’ll probably need to work with your editor, and maybe train him or her to use Acrobat. In addition, most of the beta readers will give comments like, “The main character’s name is misspelled in the second paragraph of page 97”. There are no page numbers to be relied upon in a Word document.
Document size [page size]
In traditional publishing, there were virtually infinite options. This is one reason why traditional publishing costs so much more. All traditional printing is custom work—to meet the needs of the individual designer. If you are publishing traditionally you would think that your options would be much larger—but this is only really true for children’s books and those designed for the coffee table. You are always constrained by the paper sizes available to the printer.
Self-publishers give up more of that freedom to control costs as we move into on-demand printing. For the on-demand print publisher, many costs are controlled by limiting the options. Plus, the equipment itself has limitations in the type of paper used and paper sizes available. As a result, document size is a given with few options. Here the concern is distribution. The fact that we can publish free is wonderful, but we must live with some restrictions. You need to make wise choices.
There are only certain sizes acceptable to Amazon (and the other retailers offered by our on-demand print suppliers). You must make at least one version of your book in a size that can be distributed through Amazon (even if you have no intention of selling any printed copies—your readers will surprise you and printed versions allow for book signings, book tables at the back of the hall when speaking, and so on). Amazon is the 500# gorilla at this point, and by far the best at marketing and selling self-published, on-demand printed books. The other options are all expensive and should be used only if you have a clear, demonstrated audience. The standard trade paperback (as close to normal as you can get) is 6×9.
My norm for printed books has become 7×10. I find that it gives me more room for graphics and better looking sidebars. For novels, many like 5×8. The problem there is how cramped the space is—more on that in a future post where we can talk about line lengths and column widths.