The layout process

I'm a little light on sleep today, so instead of doing the entire layout process, I just set up all the remaining word-processing files so that they will be ready to lay out tomorrow. (I also laid out one chapter completely before deciding I was too tired.)

Because I'm using actual layout software this time (instead of jerry-rigging Word to do something it was never meant to do), I thought I'd go ahead and run through the process of laying out a physical book, in case there are people unfamiliar with it.

I'm using LibreOffice for a word processor and Scribus as layout software. I split the tasks between the two programs depending on which program seems to do it better.

In LibreOffice I:

  • set the body text font and font size (the idea is to pick a font that is legible when small--the smaller the type, the shorter the book, and the less it will cost. Times New Roman is a bad choice for this; I've used Palatino Linotype, which was OK, and Book Antiqua, which was better. Right now I'm using Georgia; Garamond is also a good one)
  • justify the text (to both the left and the right)
  • set the tabs for paragraph indents (you want these to take up as little space as possible while still making it obvious that there's a new paragraph)
  • remove the second hard return between paragraphs (a format I prefer for manuscripts) and replace it with a tab
  • Set the font size for the chapter number

In Scribus I:

  • make sure the chapter opens on the proper page (left or right) and set the correct page number for that section
  • set the line spacing
  • kill widows (in general I don't really care about orphans, and if a widow is long enough, I will let it live)
  • check for any really      wide      weird     word     spacing (this usually can be fixed with a hyphen or by fiddling with kerning/tracking)
  • fiddle with the chapter number so that it's in the right place and looks pretty
  • be sure the bottom lines of the facing pages on a spread line up with each other (typically only an issue on the first spread of the chapter because of that big fancy chapter number, but sometimes an issue after you kill a widow)
  • insert the art
  • set up the headers with the page numbers

I then print out the pages, making sure that they are true to size--this is really important, because stuff that looks weird at one size will look fine at another. When I'm done with the layout, I'll proof it, looking not only for regular errors but also errors in the headers, chapter numbers, art, and of course any really          wide          weird         word        spacing (orpossiblyverycrampedspacing).

Definitely don't stop with your first layout--we did three layout revisions when I worked in publishing!