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How to layout a book: rules and best practices

Typesetting a book is a very intricate task requiring detailed technical knowledge, some of which has been passed down through generations since the first printing presses were invented back in the fifteenth century.

But how do you typeset a novel? Or a poetry anthology? And what are the best fonts to use for an academic publication?

When typesetting a book, spaces are (almost) more important than words

As counter-intuitive as it may seem, the first thing you need to think about when typesetting a book is the margins.

Margins differ in size:

  • the binding and top margins must be at least 3cm
  • the outer margin is generally the smallest and is often not taken into consideration when typesetting poetry anthologies, for example
  • the bottom margin should be smaller than the upper margin and must also display the page number

Margins are often a sign of prestige. To reduce the number of pages (and to lower the overall cost), cheaper publications tend to use smaller margins, while prestigious publishers tend to use larger margins to create more space on each page.

Line spacings are also important because they facilitate the reading of a text and make the page more visually appealing. The ideal line spacing is approx. 1.5cm, but it can be reduced in sections of the text dedicated to quotations, for example.

How do you typeset a novel?

When we talk about typesetting a book, we immediately think of a novel. This is because in our collective imagination, the concept of a physical “book” is implicitly tied to the fiction genre.

Novels comprise many pages and don’t tend to contain pictures (except for on the cover). As such, it is important to choose a legible font.  Times New Roman – which is one of the more popular choices – is a neutral font that is easy on the eyes, allowing people to read for an extended period of time.

Novels also abide by the above rules for margins. Wider margins and line spacings infer prestige, while narrower margins and line spacings are more often found in paperbacks.

The best typesetting software

You may be surprised, but one of the best typesetting programmes is also one of the most commonly used: Microsoft Word. But InDesign makes a good alternative.

Pagination.com is a piece of software that allows you to work in the cloud and to create layouts using a folder-based workflow. The end result can easily be shared online or printed out.

Having access to a typesetting tool does not necessarily mean you have the time to learn how to use it or to navigate the complex world of publishing. As such, we recommend relying on qualified professionals who specialise in editorial typesetting services and are guaranteed to produce pristine results.

Redazione Eurotrad

June 12, 2021

Redazione Eurotrad

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