I’ve stuck my foot in the self-publishing door by making two books available as eBooks. I decided to go the Kindle and Nook route and after a bit of trial and error, I was able to cleanly format and upload MOBI files at Amazon.com and ePUB files at B&N.com. I have even received my first two royalty checks. After a while it became clear that there was no reason to exclude the whole analog sector of the book buying market—those who still turn actual pages. So I am embarking on the next phase of my self-publishing journey: Print on Demand also know as POD. There are any number of POD publishers out there but that’s a whole other post for later. There is a lot of work to be done before I even think about nailing down a printer.
The front cover is done but the whole interior of the book needs to be designed. Luckily, I’m a graphic artist and I have the tools and experience to accomplish that. There were a lot of questions needing answers before I could start on it. What trim size should my book be? What typeface would be the best choice? What size margins should I use? What size type and how much space between lines (called “leading” in the world of typography) should I use? My initial thought was that there must be plenty of general book design standards out there and that the information should be readily available with a quick Google search. I was mistaken.
So my aim with this post and the next two is to outline some of the choices that I have made and why. I hope I don’t get too technical on you and drive you off kicking and screaming. If you are a do-it-yourselfer, then stick with me because there is some useful information here.
There are thousands of type fonts out there. Display fonts, novelty fonts, picture fonts, sans serif, serif, script, roman, italic, and calligraphic fonts. For the purpose of a fictional book my choice was to use a classic serif type face. Serifs are those little lines or feet that grace the tops and bottoms of each letter. Times Roman is a serif face. Arial and Helvetica are examples of a sans serif typeface. Sans serif literally means “without serifs.” The advantage of a serif face is that the feet help to guide the eye along the rows of type making extended reading less of a chore.
My decision to go with a serif face was an easy one, but I still had to decide which serif font to use. Through a little research I found that a majority of printed books use only a dozen or so type faces and I culled my list down to about half of that:
I ended up settling on Century Schoolbook. It is a nice medium weight font with enough meat on its bones that the thin sections of the letterforms don’t drop out yet it isn’t so heavy that it feels overweight. It is also wider than a lot of typefaces, which gives it a bit of a contemporary feel, not taking itself to seriously. The main reason I chose it was because it is easy to read.
The page size is another consideration but a trip to the book store or yanking a bunch of paperbacks off my own bookshelf was all that was needed to make that decision. The most common size for many trade paperbacks hovers around 6 x 9 inches. So 6 x 9 it is.
That’s probably enough type tech to get you started. In my next two blog posts I will deal with issues of margins, type size and leading, and a quick discussion of orphans and widows.