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Quick & Dirty Book Typesetting Tips for Writers

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about how to make your self-published book look professional and avoid common pitfalls that lead to a final product that doesn’t truly reflect your story’s excellence.

Most of those tips focused on things you need to include on your cover or style elements you need to use to make it attractive and inviting to readers.

But creating a professional self-published book doesn’t stop with the cover. The reading experience happens between the front and back cover in the pages itself. The typesetting and layout of a book are the keys to transporting readers into the world you’ve built.

Last year, Inkling Creative Strategies launched book layouts as one of our services. In 2022, two of my authors released books that went through the entire writing process with me, from editing and development to creating a book that was then published. Also, two more authors will release books I’ve typeset this year.

All of my services offer something to writers that help them reach their full creative potential so they can impact and inspire readers. But to me, there’s something really special about taking a book someone has worked so hard on and putting it into the actual format readers will see when they enjoy the story.

(I’m also one of those nerds who loves typesetting in general. It’s fun. But it’s not fun to most people, which is why they pay me to do it )

So, in this week’s blog, let’s discuss how to create a book layout that is inviting, professional, and truly allows readers to experience your work fully.

Why is Book Typesetting Important for Writers?

Imagine that you’re having a big party for a group of people. You’ve sent out the invitations, and most of them are coming. When they arrive at your house, they walk in the door and see . . .

. . . that the place is a total wreck.

Dirty dishes pile up in the sink. Dog hair clings to the spaces between the wall and floor. There’s an overflowing laundry basket in the hallway, the toilet is clogged, and worst of all, the only snacks you’ve put out are a bag of carrots, a bottle of ranch dressing, a bag of chips, and a liter bottle of flat Coke.

I don’t know about you . . . but I’d stay just long enough to be polite, have a few carrots, and then fake an emergency phone call so I could leave.

Writing is about hospitality. You’re creating a space for your readers to enter where they’ll experience a new world, meet new characters, and encounter challenging ideas. Therefore, your book needs to reflect your desire for them to be comfortable and engaged with what you’ve made for them.

If your book layout is confusing, distracting, and sloppy, that engagement won’t happen.

So, here are a few things to keep in mind as you’re envisioning the interior of your book . . .

Choose an Appropriate Font

This goes for the cover as well as the type itself. I don’t mean to keep harping on this bad self-published book cover thing, but I’ve seen so many books with weird fonts that don’t even go together.

I’m begging you, with tears in my eyes, do NOT use Chalkduster, Comic Sans, or that one font that looks like the text from a low-budget horror film from 1953.

If it was available as a font for PowerPoint in 1998, please do not use it.

I got into this a little in my last blog, but please also refrain from using Calibri, Times New Roman, Arial, or any fonts that are commonly used in word processing programs.

So, how do you pick a font? I always think about two things: the style that best fits the content and readability.

Generally speaking, there are two types of fonts: serif and sans serif. Serifs are those little “feet” and “tails” that appear on some fonts. Sans serif fonts are clean text without these flourishes.

I type these blog posts in Calibri (totally acceptable since this is an internet publication, not a printed book) because I aim to communicate information to you in a simple, easy-to-digest manner.

Think about the content of your book. For example, serif fonts tend to be more formal, so an epic fantasy novel might be a good fit for a font with those little flourishes on the characters.

On the other hand, we picked a sans serif font for a memoir a client published last year because he wanted the book to have the informal look of a personal journal.

But here’s the catch. It’s not just about appearances. Remember, if someone is going to get the most out of your book, you need to . . .

Choose a Readable Font & Size

Your font should fit the “look” of your book, but you can’t get too wild. Again, fancy fonts might seem like a cool idea, but you need to choose a type style that readers will be willing and able to stick with for the length of the book.

Ever live in a neighborhood with someone who painted their house a totally hideous color? It sucks having to drive by it, or worse, look out the window every day and see it. But, unfortunately, that’s the effect a bad font choice can have.

You also have to pick a readable text size. This isn’t just about how the book looks—it’s about the audience. I’m currently working with an author to publish a memoir heavily based in nostalgia. Most people reading it will likely be in their fifties to eighties.

We picked a font size that is a little larger than what I usually work with but will successfully accommodate older readers.

Again—publishing a book is about hospitality and creating the right environment for readers to experience your story.

Justify the Text

Justification is when you set your type so all the text is aligned on the right side of the page. As a result, it won’t have jagged edges but will neatly extend down the page in a straight line.

It just looks neater. It looks more professional. You should do it.

Here’s the downside, though. Justifying the text can create other problems. That’s why you also need to . . .

Watch Your Spaces Between Words

Especially if you’re using Microsoft Word, justifying the text can cause weird spacing between words, usually giant gaps or words that are smushed together. This doesn’t just look unprofessional; it’s downright confusing for readers.

The problem with Microsoft Word is that it’s a word-processing program and isn’t designed to do professional typography. In a program like Adobe InDesign (which Inkling uses), it’s easy to adjust the spacing.

There’s plenty of information on the internet about how to fix the spacing between words in Word, but dialing in the typography with precision isn’t as easy as it would be with a program whose purpose is document layout.

Want to Learn About Inkling's Typesetting Services?

Schedule a FREE 30-minute consultation to talk about your project and where you are in the publishing process for book typesetting.

I’ll tell you how my process works, show you some examples of the beautiful books my clients have released, and explain how professional typesetting can make your book the best it can be.

Not interested in typesetting? That’s okay, too! My consultation is for any writer with any particular need.

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