In this installment of How to Typeset a Book, we’ll discuss some of the finer points of typography. You may be asking right now, “You mean after five posts about typesetting, there’s even more?” Oh, yes indeed. Right about now, book designers are just warming up.
Now that we’ve dealt with the “big picture items” in the last five posts, we can begin to address the finer points of typography that should be considered when you typeset a book.
Line spacing: Lines of text that are too close to each other can be difficult to read. That’s why you’ll often see line spacing of 4 or more points in books. That means, if your text is 11 point, your line spacing should be 15 points or even more. Line spacing (also known as leading) should be significantly greater than the space between words for maximum legibility, and should increase proportionally as the line length increases.
Line spacing can help expand the page count of a small book, or decrease the page count of a long book to save on printing costs. Small changes here can make a huge difference, so feel free to experiment, as long as you don’t sacrifice readability in the process. (Try printing out sample paragraphs and folding your page vertically to compare your leading to that in books that you like. Book designers will often roughly format all the text in a book to get a rough idea of the page count before attending to smaller details to make sure the page count doesn’t exceed the amount the client budgeted for printing. Another bit of advice: A short book can’t be made into a long one, so please don’t try to fool people by adding so much line spacing that it looks silly.
Paragraph spacing: In most cases there should NOT be a line of space above each paragraph in a book (the exception might be a training manual, where the reader will be looking away from the text to follow instructions, and then looking back.) A line space above a paragraph can be used sparingly to indicate a scene change or a new section. Whenever there is a line space above a paragraph, eliminate the first-line indent on that paragraph. Both indents and line spaces say “stop” to the reader, so you don’t have to send the message twice.
Alignment: In books, an easy way to make the type conform to the book block is to set line spacing for everything as a multiple of your primary leading so that text lines up across the page. For example, if your text is 11 point on 16 points of leading, then your subheads might be set up as 20 point type with 11 point leading and 16 points (or one full line) of space above them.
But what if your subheads are two or more lines? You can’t set 20-point type on 16 points of leading, or the words will overlap. Neither can you set 20-point subheads on 32 points of leading, because that’s just too much space. But you still want your text to line up across the page. Here’s the solution: Set your 20-point subheads on 22 points of leading (which looks nice). This gives you 2 lines x 22 = 44 points. 44 isn’t an exact multiple of 16, but 48 is (16×3) so just add one line (16) plus 4 extra points above each 2-line subhead and the problem is solved. (Or you can add 16 points above each 2-line subhead and 4 points below.) I usually make two style sheets in InDesign: one for single-line subheads, and another for two-line subheads. If you have a 3-line subhead, you can follow the same process, but it might be better to whittle these down to fewer words instead.
What do you want to know? What topics should we explore together? How can we help you along your publishing journey? Everyone here at 1106 Design wants to help. Post your comment here or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Michele DeFilippo, owner, 1106 Design