Formatting for Print

When I set out to format my first book for print, I didn’t know anything. I didn’t know where to find the answers or the questions to ask for the answers I wanted. Why was it so difficult to find the ideal font or font size to use in a print book? Or margins? Why weren’t there any standards?

I looked for answers. None were in the same place, and  never where you expected to find them. Fortunately, some great tools are available to make finding these answers unnecessary. Unfortunately for me, I’m a bit of a control freak, and those tools take some control away.

I formatted my first book in Word. Nothing is wrong with Word. It’s capable of producing a decent print book, but most of the tools you need are hidden in menus. After my first book, I dusted off an old copy of InDesign and brushed up on my skills.

Through a lot of trial and error, I learned about conventions and best practices. Yet I still feel as though I understand only a fraction of a fraction about interior page layouts. That’s the problem with learning something new. You realize how much you’re clueless about. I am self-taught. I didn’t take a class or go to school for design. Instead, I read every book mentioned, visit every website about book design, and browse every typesetting and typographer community I stumble across. My knowledge is a small tip of a massive iceberg, but it’s more than enough to format a book so the final product looks no different from a traditionally published book.

I shared what I learned in various communities for independent authors, but those guides barely touched the surface. When a friend suggested I publish one of the guides, I brushed the idea aside for all of ten minutes. If I published my formatting for print guide, I could go much deeper than those previous guides.

Formatting For Print was the sapling that emerged from the seed planted by my friend. And from that sapling a small tree is growing. I’ve added blueprints, or books with settings for good page design that also include inspiration for chapter displays. Think of these as templates on steroids. Instead of getting a template where you paste in your manuscript, you get the settings of the template that can be further customized.

As I told a friend, the learning curve is steep, but once you get it, you wonder why you didn’t do it sooner. The end result is a book that looks custom designed and not produced with a template that’s the equivalent of a mass-market t-shirt.

Reese Patton

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