How to typeset your own book

It’s the stuff of writers’ dreams. Your double-spaced, A4 sized, agent-ready manuscript turns into a beautiful paperback book; that first line that you agonised over for days, leaping out at the reader; your paragraphs neatly aligned and looking as they should – actual real-life pages in a beautiful looking book. Ahhh, we can almost smell the paper.

One of the highlights of CompletelyNovel is getting to help writers turn this dream into reality. Every day, writers turn manuscripts into quality paperback books, either for self-publishing or to give to family and friends as a handy editing tool. Readily-accessible tools such as Microsoft Word mean that writers can now typeset their manuscripts themselves. Once you learn the tricks of DIY typesetting, it’s straightforward and immensely satisfying to see your book take shape.

Here are some top tricks for DIY typesetting that every writer should know.

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1. Paragraph styles

The key to any book interior is consistency. This includes making sure your chapter headings, typeface, quotations and asides are all in the same style. You won’t see many books that start in 11pt Times New Roman and then suddenly change to 12pt Helvetica (unless it’s intentional, of course!).

You can find paragraph styles on most Word processors – in Word, they’re placed in a bar at the top with different fonts and headings. Once you’ve perfected the font and placement of your first chapter heading, highlight it and then right click on ‘Heading 1’ to save it as a style. Then, when it comes to writing Chapter Two, you can easily replicate the same style. You can also do the same for your main body text and any other headings and styles, perhaps a character’s handwriting, or a quote, if you’re writing non-fiction.

2. Page breaks

No more shall we press the return key multiple times to get to a new page. If you do this, you’ll find yourself having to go back and forth adding and deleting paragraphs every time you make a change to the text. Instead, just insert a page break. This will take you onto the next page, right where you want to be. You’ll be surprised how many times you’ll use this when you know it’s there!

3. Justification

Authors who typeset their own work often don’t justify their text. This is where you make sure each line meets both margins, so that it looks like a perfect rectangle on the page. This just makes things a bit neater and is a key part in giving your manuscript that extra finesse that will make it look as beautiful as it reads.

4. Prelims and Title pages

Title pages are where you get to be creative. They are the first few pages that the reader sees when they open your book. This might include a page that states title and author name, a copyright page (if you’re self-publishing) and then maybe a half-title page which also lists the publisher. Many publishers use the title pages to bring some of the aspects of the cover into the book itself – perhaps by using the same font as the title on the cover or similar black and white illustrations or shapes. There are some really great examples of title pages around – just look at the books on your shelf for inspiration!

5. Indents

As standard, a first paragraph after a new chapter or heading shouldn’t be indented, but every new paragraph afterwards should be. Although using the ‘tab’ key to indent your text on your A4 manuscript is fine, this space suddenly looks huge once you size the page down to your standard paperback size. I’d recommend an indent of 0.5-1cm to match the other books on your shelf. To alter the indent, just drag the small, top arrow on the ruler at the top of your screen. Remember to update your paragraph style with the change to save you the time of decreasing every indent!

And finally …

Whether you end up typesetting your own book or not, you’ll be surprised how often some of these typesetting skills will crop up in your writing career. If you’d like to continue your learning in more detail, there’s a handy typesetting guide on CompletelyNovel, which can be downloaded as a PDF file for free.

And, for those writers who’d like a helping hand from a professional, the team at CompletleyNovel offer a handy typesetting service, too.

Market a self-pub book

Are you serious about selling books?