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The endless decisions of paperback interior design


I’ve been working on the interior design for the paperback of Tracy Hayes, Apprentice PI the past week. It’s only the third time I’m doing a print version of my book, and the reason is obvious. It’s hard work. Well, not so much hard as it’s annoying. There are about a million decisions to make, and once I’ve committed to one, it’s almost impossible to go back on it without creating a ton of extra work.

To save you some of the trouble, here’s a list of decisions I’ve had to make for the paperback interior.

1. Where to publish?

I chose CreateSpace, because I’ve used it before. They have my tax information and other details so I don’t have to worry about those. I’ve been happy with the quality of their books too, so I have no need to change.

2. What trim size to use?

CreateSpace offers a wide selection of trim sizes for a book. Again, I made the decision easier by choosing the same size I’d used previously, 5.06x7.81 inches or 12.9x19.8 centimetres, which is about the same size most of the traditionally published paperbacks on my shelves, so they fit right in.

3. Interior margins

Margins are tricky, because the printing system might not accept all your choices. To make the matter simpler, I downloaded a template for the trim size I’d chosen from CreateSpace that has pre-set margins. It took me about an hour to find the link to it – and I have no idea how I finally stumbled on it – so I give it to you here to save your time.

4. Font(s)

There are many things to decide about fonts. What font face to use and what size? Should I use a free, commercially available font everyone else is using or buy a more exclusive font? Is clever more important than legible? (It isn’t.)

Some fonts are illegible in smaller sizes, so if you want to save space by using a smaller size, it’s even more important to choose a good font. Then there’s the matter of style. Different genres look better with certain fonts. My go to font is Garamond, which is free to use and very popular. However, it is a bit stuffy, more suitable for romance or a historical novel than a funny, modern PI story like mine. So I wanted something else.  I tested a number of fonts based on recommendations by experts. Most recommended serif fonts, like Garamond, and while they weren’t terribly expensive to purchase, I hesitated to select any of them.

As an aside, there are free versions available of most fonts, but they seldom work as well as the originals. I tried a couple of those and found that they only worked in certain sizes and wouldn’t scale at all. So be wary of copies.

In the end, my choice fell on Candara, Microsoft’s own font that was already on my Word. It’s a sans serif font that looks like a serif font, light and legible even in smaller sizes. I chose 11pts. The only gripe I have with it is that the true italic of the font isn’t very different from the regular, and that the numeral 1 is really small no matter the size of the font.

5. Line spacing

For the book interior, single space lining is often too small and 1.5pts is too wide. So I chose 1.1pts line spacing, mostly to save a few pages (paragraph --> line spacing --> multiple --> add the size you want). It looked fine with the font I’d selected; all fonts aren’t suitable for smaller spacing. But the next day, I realised it wasn’t very readable after all. So I changed the spacing to 1.2pts. Such a small change made the text more legible – and added twenty pages to my book, not to mention messed with the little details I’d already done with the layout. So I had to start anew. But it was worth it.

Line spacing together with the font size and face also affect the size of the first line indentation. A rule of a thumb is that the empty space should form roughly a square, so when you make changes to one or all of them, you have to change the indent too.

Candara with 1.1 pts line space
Candara with 1.2 pts line space

6. Chapter headings

There are endless options for chapter headings based on the genre of your book: what font to use, what size, where to place it and so on. I kept things simple and used the same font. I aligned it to the right, because I think it fits the genre of the book nicely. I also decided to spell out the numbers on it instead of using numerals; another style choice to make about the headings.

7. Drop caps

I wanted to use drop caps. It gives the opening page that little something extra. But then I had to decide how large it should be, two, three or four lines? I chose three. The font I’d selected automatically lowered the initial so it didn’t line with the text, so I had to manually change it (font --> advanced --> position --> normal/raised), because I thought it looked better. So I had to make three choices about drop caps alone.

8. Small caps

I decided to have the first five or so words in the opening line with small caps. A style choice that added quite a bit of tweaking to my layout. Paste the words you select and click the right button, select fonts and click small caps.

9. Odd and even pages

Most books have a layout where each new chapter starts on the odd page. Unless you really want to save space, that’s a good style choice to follow. I did too. But that occasionally left an empty page at the end of a chapter when it ended on an odd page. With a shorter book, like mine, they seemed annoying, so to get rid of them, I had to rearrange the chapter contents and sometimes even write new material.

10. Widow and orphan control

Most of my book has the widow and orphan control in place, i.e. paragraphs won’t break so that there’s only one line at the end or beginning of a page. However, in line with my decision to remove the empty pages, I occasionally had to allow the single lines. I tried to make sure the line had more than one word at least, but I didn’t always succeed.

11. Hyphenating

This is a tricky one. As books are justified – a decision I didn’t have to make – it occasionally creates lines where the spaces between the words are longer, which isn’t always aesthetically pleasing. To fix those lines some words need to be hyphenated. At first I hyphenated quite a lot of words, but in the end I removed most of them.

12. Page numbers

Where to put them? To the top of the page or the bottom? In the middle of the page or the outer corner? What font, what size, what distance to the body text? I chose the bottom outer corner for my page numbers, with the same font face and size. I also decided not to have page numbers on the first page of each chapter.

13. Header

Since the page numbers are in the footer, there was room in the header for the author’s and book’s names. Again, I had to choose the font face and size, and the distance to the body text. Again, I went with the same font.

14. Front matter

I actually started my formatting with this, so I should probably have listed it earlier. In print books, the front matter always has certain things, like the title page and the copyright page. But what else to include? I decided to add a page for my previous publications, but no dedication page or acknowledgements. And I don’t have a table of contents, because the chapters don’t have titles.

15. Back matter

I have the acknowledgement page at the end of the book. And I also decided to have a sample chapter of the next book in the series there. I considered putting a chapter of the first book in my Two-Natured London series there too, or a page with their covers in it, as an advertisement, but decided not to in the end.

 
Finished layout design. Word presents the odd page on the left.

So, here I am, days later with an almost ready interior for my paperback, after having made fifteen decisions for it alone. Each decision I made had to be manually implemented, and each change to them I made led to quite a bit of tweaking. And that on top of all the inexplicable things that just happened, like the horizontal line that appeared in both the header and the footer, which took me hours to get rid of. In the end, it was a simple right button click of styles --> clear formatting.

I’d like to think that the next book will be easier. At least I’ve committed to these decisions for the series. But each book has to be manually formatted, so each book will take almost as much time as the first. And that’s just the interior. Fun times ahead!

If you cant wait for the paperbackor e-bookto come out, you can read Tracy Hayes, Apprentice PI on Wattpad. Take a look, vote, and tell me what you think.

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