1. Bakkerbaard

    Bakkerbaard Senior Member

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    Opinions on typesetting

    Discussion in 'Self-Publishing' started by Bakkerbaard, Jun 13, 2021.

    TL,DR: Can't I just do typesetting myself? Is it that hard?
    The rest of this is mostly just ranting.

    I've been busy trying to study up on all the stuff that needs to happen after the actual writing and most of it makes perfect sense to me.
    Beta readers - Yeah, good idea
    Editors - Obviously
    Cover designer - Seems reasonable

    Typesetter - What? Can't I get a computer to do this?

    There's something inside me that objects (for no real reason, apparently) to paying someone to set my feckin' margins. Even though the prices I've seen so far aren't unreasonable.
    I think it's because I know that Apple users have access to a piece of software that does it for you. I feel if it's standard enough that a computer can do it properly, I should be able to grasp it, shouldn't I? I know, by this logic, I should be able to beat any chess grandmaster too. But I understand there's a difference between calculating all the paths of a knight and making sure the widows and the orphans are where they should be.

    Anyway, since I have some remote experience in typesetting for a different medium in my day job, I'm thinking about reading up on it while I wait for my editor to Douglas Adams right through another deadline and doing it myself.
    I would like your opinions on why this is a stupid idea.
     
  2. SapereAude

    SapereAude Senior Member

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    Have you looked at ready-made templates, such as from Amazon KDP and Reedsy? They might have one that's right for your book, or close enough that it could work with minor tweaks.

    There are also any number of articles and YouTube videos on how to format a book interior for print. What do you have for software, and what type of book will this be? Novel? Biography? History? Straight text isn't at all difficult, IMHO, although there are some tricks that can make a difference between "pretty good" and "looks almost professional."

    I don't think it's a stupid idea at all.

    Reference: https://www.thebookdesigner.com/understanding-fonts-typography/

    That article is a gateway to a series of articles that will give you everything you need to know. Joel Friedlander (who passed away recently) was a professional book designer, and he put together a series of articles just to help us rookies not look quite so rookie-like. One article leads to another. Try to read the entire series.

    This one is worth the price of admission: https://www.thebookdesigner.com/2009/09/5-layout-mistakesr/
     
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2021
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  3. Bakkerbaard

    Bakkerbaard Senior Member

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    Thanks!

    I hadn't looked into it all that much yet, just in case it actually was a dumb idea, but this'll help a lot.
     
  4. SapereAude

    SapereAude Senior Member

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  5. NigeTheHat

    NigeTheHat Contributor Contributor

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    I don't think it's a dumb idea, as long as you're halfway competent with the word processor you're using. I did my own, it came out fine. Maybe it would have looked a ton better if I'd paid a pro and they'd put another 3mm on each side, but I was happy with what I ended up with.

    Remember it's not just about the skill, though. Nothing wrong with paying someone to do a job you can do perfectly well when you'd just rather spend the time on something else.
     
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  6. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Theres various places you can get templates, but it does depend on whats more important time or money... if you're happy to spend hours on doing the whole thing by hand then fine (theres one author here who did all her html manually for the epub too)... however many of us might rather be writing which is when investing in someting like vellum starts to make more sense.

    vellum is mac only but you can use it on a pc vie macincloud.. another option is Jutoh, but that only deals with ebooks so you still need to deal with th pdf for print... then theres free converters at places like d2d and reedsy (be aware that a lot of source formatting can totally screw those converters up)
     
  7. SapereAude

    SapereAude Senior Member

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    Be aware of your margins. Amazon offers margin dimensions in multiple places throughout the KDP site, and they don't agree. One is the absolute, bare minimum to get the book printed and bound. That's probably inadequate. The other dimensions they provide, on a different page, are more reasonable, but may still be "off."

    The first (and only) novel I did through KDP passed their automated quality check, which means that the text all fit within their idea of a minimum margin. In fact, I had the gutter margin set for more than Amazon's minimum but, if I were to do another book of the same size, I would go with a wider gutter margin.

    Conversely, the large non-fiction book I just did had what I thought was a generous gutter margin. I had a physical proof copy printed, and all the pages looked okay. Even so, when I tried to go "live" Amazon rejected it because their automated checker said several pages intruded into the gutter margin area. In the end, for a book that KDP's chart said needed a gutter margin of .875" I had to increase it to .98" to get it through the automated checker.
     
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2021
  8. SapereAude

    SapereAude Senior Member

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    If you are using a Mac, another option -- without buying Vellum -- is Apple Pages. Pages includes a large number of book templates.

    If you are on a Windows PC, Apple Pages has an on-line version that is (I think) free for anyone to use, and that has the same book templates available. To use the on-line version of pages, you must have an iCloud account, and Pages will default to saving your work to iCloud. Once you have the book formatted, you'll then have to navigate to the iCloud account and export the file.

    https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT208996
     
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2021
  9. Bakkerbaard

    Bakkerbaard Senior Member

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    I briefly considered buying a Mac just for Vellum, so money's not really the problem. I think it might just be some sort of misplaced pride. I make TV graphics for a living, so leading, kerning and idiot-proofing is kind of my job.
    And it's a little bit of the feeling you get when you've built your own, uhm... let's say house. "Yeah, I built this bastard myself and no, those buckets catching water are a design feature."

    Anyway, buying an extra computer or installing a second OS on my Windows Laptop seemed like last ditch options. Your Macincloud option is definitely a good idea. I'll have a look at that soon as I'm done here.
    That whole ebook-HTML thing you mentioned hadn't even occurred to me yet and I already know I can't do that.

    Also a great suggestion. If the Vellum thing doesn't pan out, I'll have a backup.

    Maybe it's because of all the sunlight I'm suddenly getting, but I'm very happy about these things. Thanks!
     
  10. SapereAude

    SapereAude Senior Member

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    If you're willing to at least consider using a template, at least download and install the Amazon Create app and take a look at their templates:
    https://www.amazon.com/Kindle-Create/b?ie=UTF8&node=18292298011

    As a certified control freak, and someone who enjoys understanding how to do things, I'm happy to format my own books. Done right, it doesn't take hours and hours -- it's mostly handled by defining paragraph styles in Word. To be honest, though, I don't have any idea how long it takes. Coming from a visual design background, I don't write a manuscript on a blank "compose" screen and then think about formatting when the manuscript is done. I always work in print preview mode, even though 90+ percent of the time that's the default 8-1/2 x 11 letter size paper.

    For books, I decide up-front what my trim size is going to be and I set up the page and some trial margins before I even start (or very soon thereafter). From that point on, I'm writing in the book, I can see how it's looking in real time, and I can (and do) make formatting adjustments as I go.

    Would I ever use one of the templates in Kindle Create? Possibly. My problem is that there's something wonky about my computer. It used to run AutoCAD, Kindle Create, the Kindle reader app, and a couple of other programs. Since about two Windows updates ago, I can no longer run those programs. I've consulted with multiple computer professionals, and nobody has seen this particular issue before and nobody knows how to fix it. What's probably needed is to totally nuke the hard drive, re-install Windows, and then re-install all the software.

    The prospect is daunting.

    If you're working in Word, you probably already know that Word doesn't have a setting for "leading" by that term. In the Format > Paragraph window, there's a setting for line spacing. I believe the recommendation is to use "Single" for e-books but, for print, choose "Multiple" and change the default '3' to something like 1.1 as a starting point. I've seen recommendations to go as high as 1.4 but I think that's far too loose. 1.1 (to me) works pretty well with most body text typefaces.
     
  11. Bakkerbaard

    Bakkerbaard Senior Member

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    Preaching to the choir, baby.

    I try to do this as much as possible too. To get a feel for what 'the reader' might see.

    At this point I'd be checking webshops for a new computer.

    A considerable part of my issues stems from working in Google Docs, I think. I started, and am still, doing that because in my work it happens a lot that I'm there and it turns out I could have come in several hours later, which means I won't have my laptop with me. Drive is a godsend for that.
    Also, it doesn't help that I picked up a Chromebook just to see what it could do for me. It's a shit machine, really, unless you're a writer.
    I've got a windows machine lying around though. I'm still getting acquainted with all the suggestions here, but I'll make something work. And, of course, if I get fed up with it I can still hire some joker from Fiverr to run it through his Vellum for thirty bucks.
     
  12. SapereAude

    SapereAude Senior Member

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    I can't help you with Google Docs. I think Google is much too intrusive into our lives, so I stay away from most things Google (although I do watch stuff on YouTube). No Google Docs, and I don't use Google as my search engine.

    Microsoft Office is available in a free, on-line version. It doesn't have all the bells and whistles of the desktop office suite, but it might be enough to handle a novel. I don't remember -- it has been awhile since I looked at it. Check it out, if you haven't already done so. On the other hand, the on-line version of Apple Pages appears to me (who has never used a Mac or Apple Pages) to be fully-featured. I did look at it recently, and I know that it includes all the book templates.
     
  13. marshipan

    marshipan Contributor Contributor

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    I use Vellum in Macincloud. It's pretty instantaneous compared to hand formatting margins and such in word. Previous to that I used Kindle Create. Which is a free Amazon program that is very decent. They are constantly updating it and I think it's comparable to Vellum. I switched because it can give you bad estimated page counts on the books sale page and I heard a rumour that it gives you a lower kenpc (Kindle unlimited page count--you are paid per kenpc read so that was a concerning thing to hear though I never confirmed that).

    Fyi, you can download your Google docs file as a docx for formatting.
     
  14. Bakkerbaard

    Bakkerbaard Senior Member

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    On a side note, because I kill far too much time with Youtube as well; I don't know who invented the ad in the middle of a clip, but they should be drawn and quartered and have their separate bodyparts put on display at the entrance of Silicon Valley as a warning.

    This has potential. But before I settle on something I wanna check out the whole Macincloud thing more properly.

    I'm also leaning to this, as Vellum seems to be favored by a lot of people I suspect know what they are doing. I'm just holding back signing up for the Macincloud subscription because I'm waiting for the editor to return some work. Which is becoming another problem entirely.

    Yeah, I know.
    With all the options available I have no excuse to not manage it. ;o)
     
  15. marshipan

    marshipan Contributor Contributor

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    You should buy manincloud by the hour. The cheapest option is $30/30hours. The hours are only used up while you are logged in and using the Macincloud. I think I recall it taking a day or two to get it up and going (processing or something).
     
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  16. SapereAude

    SapereAude Senior Member

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    Not have used Vellum, Macincloud, or Apple Pages -- given that Apple Pages comes with a fairly complete set of book templates built in, does it make sense for a Windows user to spend money to rent Macincloud and Vellum when they can use Pages for free?
     
  17. Bakkerbaard

    Bakkerbaard Senior Member

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    I'm reasonably sure you're not asking me, but I'm replying anyway because I like to believe the whole world revolves around me.
    I'm entertaining the Macincloud idea because Vellum keeps popping up most of the time I look into typesetting, like it's some magic wand. Even if it's not the program it's made out to be, I'm gonna be too curious to leave it. I'll be giving both options a try, if only for comparison's sake. Might throw Adobe InDesign into the mix too. Apparently 'the graphics package' does books too and although I have my doubts, I can run that in Windows.
     
  18. SapereAude

    SapereAude Senior Member

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    Of course I was asking you. This is your thread, and you are the person looking for suggestions.

    I can't help but think that for the average self-published author, expensive software solutions such as InDesign are not worth the money. Will it do some things that Word or pages won't do? Yes -- for example, "optical margins." But IMHO that's a very nit-picky feature of interior layout that probably 95% or more of readers will never notice.

    As an example, I'm a lot more concerned about having the tops and bottoms of the text blocks on facing pages align. If you have widow and orphan control turned on, forcing a single line to the next page to avoid a widow can result in that page being a line shorter than the next (or preceding) page. For professional book designers, that's a big no-no. Personally, I'm more concerned about that than I am about optical margins.

    But software can only do so much. I have Microsoft Publisher as part of my Microsoft Office suite, so I dumped one of my Word manuscripts into Publisher to see if it would do a better job with the interior layout than Word. It didn't. The widows and orphans were still there, and I still had to go into custom character spacing if I wanted to correct that. It can be done, but it's a manual task whether you do it in Word, Publisher, InDesign, or [__enter software of choice__]. For a novel, to be honest, it's probably not worth the effort to eliminate the occasional short page. If the book is a good read, the readers aren't even going to notice.
     
    Last edited: Jun 21, 2021
  19. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Indesign is £19.99 per month... that's not exactly expensive... if you're not planning on making £240 a year from your paperback why are you offering it at all ?

    That said Affinity publisher is nearly as good for about £49.99 (it varies depending on promotions) (note affinity publisher, not microsoft publisher which is a steaming pile of cack)

    Vellum can definitely offer a decent looking PDF for fiction (its less good for non fiction where the source document is likely to be more complicated with tables and illustrations etc) but its main benefit is in the speed at which it generates epub files optimised for each market place... course you can do that with cheaper packages but not as fast or as easily.

    The other point about vellum is that you don't have to pay for it until you want to export so you can play with it and see if it mets your needs for 'free' (free in this context being free except for mac in cloud fee if you don't have a mac)

    The other thing about mac in cloud is it works less well on slower connections... it was for that reason that i bought a second hand imac
     
  20. Bakkerbaard

    Bakkerbaard Senior Member

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    Oh. Sorry. It kinda looked like you were addressing Marshipan's post, directly above, which was about Macincloud/Vellum.
    I usually don't mind very much if people talk among themselves at my party. ;o)

    InDesign came to mind because I was surprised to find some people using it for this purpose, especially since I've been trained to associate Adobe with graphics. Either way, I have access to it through work, so I could give it a go to see what it can do for me.

    I more or less agree. But I'll mostly be going for the things that poke me in the eye when I read. Leading will definitely be an issue for me. I expect a lot of neurosis to play up and to be perfectly honest, it's not unthinkable I will give up and hand it off to a "pro" after all.

    The question seems rhetorical, or I don't fully understand it.
    By now, this novel has turned into what could probably be called a vanity project, in the sense that I don't expect to break even on it. Considering what I paid the editor alone and the effort it apparently takes to even get a book noticed, I'm guessing I'll finish in the red. And I'm okay with that.
    That being said, I'm aiming to make it look as professional as possible and that how we wound up in this thread.

    The thought crossed my mind. But for reasons unbecoming of a grown up, I would prefer to see if Vellum is worth it before purchasing a product I've been very opinionated about. It's stupid, I know, but it's my kind of stupid. Have some sympathy for my girlfriend.
     
  21. big soft moose

    big soft moose An Admoostrator Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    I know you said money was no issue earlier, that was a reply to Sapre Audre's point about Indesign being expensive..£240 a year isnt really expensive for a business (which is how most self pub authors view their books)
     
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  22. SapereAude

    SapereAude Senior Member

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    Leading is easy in Word, once you get past the concept that they don't call it "leading." It's in the paragraph format dialogue box, under "Line Spacing." The default is single, which is generally too tight. They also offer "1.5," "double," and "multiple." If you pick "multiple," you can increase in increments of 0.1. I've found that 1.1 seems to work well with the fonts I like. I have read articles suggesting going as high as 1.4, but I think that's far too generous.

    For example, 12-point type on 14-point leading is 1.17.
     
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