Official Website of A. S. Peterson


My eyes are about to explode. For the past weeks it seems I've done nothing more than stare at my computer screen all day. A large part of the reason for this possibly eye-exploding activity has been typesetting.

I told you a few weeks ago, that due to budgetary concerns I had decided to typeset
The Fiddler's Gun myself. That's not quite as self-deluded a proposition as it sounds. I've done some print design in the past on student newspapers in college, and later teaching kids to design their own newspapers at the Florida Sheriffs Boys Ranch (we even used InDesign CS3). So choosing the do-it-yourself route wasn't quite the stretch for me that it might be for others. I hadn't ever designed a book, though, so I had a lot to learn.

The first thing I did was to acquire a copy of Adobe InDesign CS4. InDesign and QuarkExpress are the industry standards for typesetting and, while it is expensive, it was worth the cost because I had experience with InDesign and I didn't want to risk the possibility of complications with the printer by using an off-brand piece of design software.

So a lot of people have asked me, what exactly is typesetting? Basically, it's the process of designing the way the interior of the book looks (technically that's two jobs, designing, the artistic aspect, and typesetting, the technical, but I'm combining the terms here because I'm doing both). It might sound simple but it's not. Considerations include, margin sizes, fonts, font sizes, line spacing, spacing between words, spacing between letters, management of 'widows' and 'orphans', and a host of other miscellany. It's about finding the 'look' of the book. Go to your bookshelf and grab three books. Open them up and compare. Chance are, they all have varying degrees of white space on the page, some have wide margins, some narrow, some words are closer together, some lines are farther apart. The chapter headings all look different. See what I mean. There is a lot to consider.

I'm going to show you a few screenshots that will hopefully illustrate what I'm talking about. (click on the images to see bigger versions.)

First of all, here's what the manuscript looks like in its raw form, in Microsoft Word:

Screen shot 2009-10-22 at 1.44.55 PM

You'll notice that there is nothing in the header, nothing in the footer, and the page numbers are all on the right side of the page because it's set up as single pages instead of two-page spreads like a book. Also notice that the right margin of the text is ragged and it's double-spaced. The font is Times New Roman, 12 point. You can see it doesn't look like a book. It looks like a term paper. That's what typesetting is going to fix.

In this next image, I've set up the basic text in Adobe InDesign on pages of the proper dimension 6x9 and added reasonable margins. Notice though, that so far there is almost no formatting. Paragraphs are not indented. The chapter heading looks the same as the body. The right margins are still ragged and the font is pretty ugly.

Screen shot 2009-10-22 at 2.07.27 PM

The first thing I'm going to do is create three master pages. These are templates used to define how each page is set up. The first master page will be for pages on which a new chapter begins. It'll have a chapter heading, separate from the text, positioned and sized in a pleasing way and the body of the text will start about halfway down the page with a page number at the bottom. The second master page will be a basic setup for the 'recto' (the right-hand pages of a book) with a page number in the footer and the title in the header. The third master page will be for the 'verso' (the left-hand pages) and it will consist of a page number in the footer and my name (the author's) in the header. (the recto-verso master pages while separate are actually one two-page-spread master page.)

After creating the master pages, this is what we've got:

Screen shot 2009-10-22 at 2.43.15 PM

The overall layout is starting to look like a book. The next thing I need to do is add some formating to the text itself. I'm going to do that by creating some style sheets. A style sheet is a defined set of formatting instructions that you can apply to sections of the text.

The first (basic) style sheet will be for your run of the mill paragraph. I'll define the indention of the first line of each paragraph (in Word this is usually one tab, or about 5 spaces but in a book it's generally less). I'll define the justification so that InDesign will adjust the spacing within the paragraph whole to make each line of text fill the entire space between margins. I also want to get rid of that ugly font and put in something more elegant like Garamond.

Next, I'm going to create a style sheet to define what the first paragraph in each chapter should look like. I want the first letter to be a 'drop cap' (an oversized letter that extends into the lines below it) and I want the first few (let's say four) words of that first sentence to be small caps.

Here's what it looks like after creating and applying some style sheets:

Screen shot 2009-10-22 at 3.02.14 PM

That's all looking pretty good but the text still looks a bit dense to me. I want to add some white space so I'm going to adjust the leading (spacing betwen lines) and the tracking (spacing between all letters) to try to make it look better.

Here's what I came up with:

Screen shot 2009-10-22 at 3.20.43 PM

That's looking pretty good, don't you think?

Once all that's done and applied to the entire book I have to go through every page and look at how words are hyphenated and how often and how closely together. Three hyphenated words on three consectutive lines looks bad. To fix it I have to make small adjustments to the surrounding text to get it formatted just so.

I also have to check for 'widows', single words (or a very short line) that ends up all alone at the top of a page. To fix those it's once again a matter of nudging things around to make it all fit together properly. The same with 'orphans', single words at the end of a paragraph that extend onto a line all by themselves.

And that's the basics. It's not hard, but it does take time, patience, and a keen eye. I'm attaching the final version of the first chapter in .PDF format so you can get a better look at it. Enjoy the preview.

Click the link below to view.

Chapter One example

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