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self-publishing : expert advice on typesetting for self-publishers

Advice on creating title pages

To start with, a little history; traditionally a book is a set of pages gathered together in a ‘block’ secured with endpapers onto the case that serves as protector. The block can be sewn together or it can be glued. Over time the half title and the title page have materialised to help the bookbinder in the gathering process and also in the identification and storage of blocks, separate from their cases or covers. In modern times the half title and title page still have their uses and are often combined with copyright information and identification of the author and the publisher.

When typesetting your book, I would advise you to always have a half title page, with merely the title and possibly the authors name on it, followed by a title page with the title, authors name, a space for the publishers name and perhaps a small illustration. The title should be consistent in style on both pages and if possible it should follow the style of the title on the cover design.

Justification, hyphenation and line-spacing

‘Justifying’ the text means you make all the lines continue up to the margins, which you can do easily using ‘paragraph’ in Microsoft Word. This allows for maximum use of space and it makes reading large amounts of set text easier on the reader’s eye. Two things you must try and avoid when setting justified text are ‘rivers of white’ and ugly, unnecessary hyphenation. ‘Rivers of white’ are visually unattractive gaps of white that run through a paragraph of text. You might want to consider separating your text into slightly different paragraph arrangements if this happens.

Unnecessary hyphenation is caused by the wrong settings in Word. If a word is hyphenated and you think it need not be, then you can force the whole word over onto the next line using a ‘soft return’. You do this by placing the cursor in front of the word you want to move on, and you press ‘shift’ and ‘return’ at the same time.

Perhaps one other thing to bear in mind when typesetting is the line spacing. It’s good to have plenty of space between each line, so that the descenders of the top line don’t bash into the ascenders of the bottom line. In general, a good rule is to add at least ‘2 points’ of line space onto the point size of the text – so set 12pt text onto 14pt line space. If you are not strapped for space, then be even more generous. But be warned, don’t get carried away, or the reader’s eye will get lost going from the end of one line to the start of the new line.

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