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How to prepare your book for typesetting

Many people ask me how to best get a manuscript ready for typesetting. For example, can they send it as it’s ready? Does it need to be one file? What software to use? Does it matter which fonts? Can we use Google Docs?

My recommendation before starting the editorial process is to check with your typesetter these various points and remember there are always exceptions to the rules.

So let’s start with software. In my experience, Microsoft Word for Windows is usually the absolute best software for the editorial process as far as typesetting is concerned. For any other software, check with your typesetter first.

Now I would recommend assigning paragraph and character styles to the text in your manuscript to communicate what is to be set as a title or an extract. When using styles, only the style name is used. Your editor can choose any font, size or leading that they please to make the editorial process more efficient, such as double line spacing. Below are a couple of videos on how to create paragraph and character styles.

Assigning styles aren’t necessary – it just can make the process for the author, editor and typesetter more efficent. However, as long as the Word file is visually clear as to what each paragraph is supposed to be, the typesetter can within a few hours clean up the document.

If your document is going to have other character sets, for example: Hebrew, Arabic, Cyrillic or Greek, or even special terms that might be set in a different font, then either use a character style or simply choose a color (but be consistent and don’t use the highlight feature) to differentiate these words from the rest of the text. During page layout, the green text can instantly be made into a character style for say, Greek with the appropriate typeface and hyphenation rules.

Typically the typesetter will want the entire document in one go. Although the document might be later broken up into separate files for a very large job which might have many images in it, for the first stage of document preparation, it is more efficient to work with the entire manuscript in one Word file. This also ensures that chapters don’t get lost!

There will be information in the prelimns (see Anatomy of a Book) that you may not have straight away, particular information on the copyright page such as the ISBN or Library of Congress information and that is normal. Also check with the typesetter how they want the Table of Contents prepared. For example, I like it when 000 is put at the end of each entry as a place holder for the page numbers. As long as the main body of the book is provided preferably with the forwarrd, intro etc complete then typesetting can commence.

It’s important to note that not all what you do in Word will translate across to InDesign and it’s worth testing before you put in cross-references (which generally don’t work) and indices (generally do work quite well but with caveats) to understand what will carry through to typesetting and what will not. Also, footnotes will carry across nicely (unless they are in a table in which case they’ll turn into endnotes) but endnotes will turn into static endnotes. Be aware of these limitations.

A word about images. If you place your images in your Word file, then Word will “embed” those images in a low quality version unsuitable for print. So it’s necessary that you also send a folder of the images in the highest resolution possible (you are aiming for 300 dpi). I request of my clients to type the name of the image on it’s own line (including the suffix so e.g. 001 image.jpg – note how I name the image with a counter at the beginning so that the image can be located quickly) and if there is to be a caption, then this should appear on the next line (new paragraph of course). So if you wanted to be very efficient, you could assign a paragraph styles for the image and it’s caption. A script can then be used to import the high resolution image and it’s respective caption in the correct place.

The “cleaner” your manuscript is, in other words, the more times that it has been proofread, then the smoother the process of typesetting will be.

If you have any more questions on how to prepare your manuscript then please feel free get in touch with us or leave a question in the comments below.

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