Book composition. What steps are necessary?

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Composition is a mandatory step in the creation of any book and a fascinating process that requires the designer to be creative and proficient with the appropriate software

The whole process of creating a book design includes the external and internal parts of the publication. In the first case we are talking about the cover and in the second case about elements such as fonts, margins, columns, pagination, placement of illustrations and text on individual spreads. Just like every production process, also typesetting is governed by its written and unwritten rules, but it also gives a lot of creative freedom. A clear and orderly layout as well as aesthetically pleasing and original visuals can help attract readers’ attention and encourage them to buy the work

What is book design?

In the past, the typesetting of a book was done in a typesetter’s shop, where all the fonts and graphic elements of a future publication were arranged by hand, then put into columns and joined together (folding). Nowadays, typesetting has been replaced by computer-aided print preparation (DTP), and typesetting and folding are done with the help of special programs such as Adobe FrameMaker or Adobe InDesign. Breaking is the process of placing unformatted text on the page, while typesetting includes choosing the format of the book, the size and style of fonts and headings, preparing footnotes and pagination, as well as arranging text and illustrations on spreads.

Composition – some practical advice

The source material on which the typesetter works is primarily text, but often also graphic elements: photographs, illustrations, tables, charts, etc. The final product should be a clear and aesthetic design of the book’s interior properly prepared for printing or making it available in electronic form.

Layout development

At the first stage of work we choose the format of the book – this aspect has a major impact on the appearance and layout of the other elements. The size of the book also determines the number of pages and the size of fonts. At this point we must remember to take into account the client’s guidelines. The layout should match the nature of the publication and the target manner of its use. Moreover, it must be consistent and the same for all pages – symmetrical and repetitive layout is essential.

After choosing the book format, we can specify the width of margins, as well as text column sizes and bleeds. The design must make reading enjoyable and comfortable for the recipient. One of the main determinants in this regard is the visual weight of the page. With these factors in mind, you should:

  • choose readable fonts and their sizes;
  • determine proper line spacing (interline spacing) and letter spacing;
  • define paragraph styles, i.e., styles for titles and subtitles, tables, tags, footnotes, and pagination.

Adequate layout and clear page structure will make it easier for the reader to read and navigate the text.

Preparing the text

In fact, the bulk of the work here is done by the proofreader and editor, but it is always a good idea to check the material received before transferring it to the columns. We should remove such errors as double enters, double spaces, divas instead of semi-pauses, incorrect quotation marks, etc. To find these faults, it is best to use the find and replace functions or their equivalent in the program you are using.

Breaking text

The cleaned up text can be moved into columns along with images and other graphic attachments. We assign appropriate paragraph, character and object styles to individual elements. We process the whole text one by one, not leaving any fragments for the end.

Composition correction

we “fine-tune” individual elements – remove errors and hanging letters, align the bottom edges of columns, text and images, refine word splitting.

Additional materials and table of contents

At this stage we prepare appendices, bibliography, editorial footer, title pages, etc. When everything is done, we can automatically generate the table of contents using the appropriate command in the program.

It is always a good idea to check each draft for minor errors and correct them. So we look for all the “widows, orphans, bastards and shoemakers”, remove them, align the shifted columns and divide words that stick out of the text frame and may distract the reader’s eyes. Thus prepared text can be safely sent back to the principal.

Main photo: Mr Cup/Fabien Barral/

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