How to Typeset a Book

Published with kind permission from Michele DeFilippo, Indie Book Publishing Mentor and Owner of 1106Design | 1st Published Jan 2016

The decision to ask a professional book designer to typeset your book versus typesetting it yourself is driven largely by limited budget, opinions about where your publishing dollars are best spent, and misinformation.

The proliferation of book templates has provided a low-cost option for authors wishing to self-publish a book. These templates, offered in Word or in specially designed apps, allow authors to create a book interior that looks professional to the untrained eye. However, anyone seeking to self-publish a book meant to compete with traditionally published books should be aware of book layout issues in order to properly assess whether or not the budget-friendly templates and apps will create a book that looks like it belongs among the bestsellers.

My advice? Compare the text in bestselling hardcover books from major publishers to that Word template or app. Your sharp eye will immediately see the difference. Then, ask yourself: Would a traditional publisher buy a template off the Internet to typeset books? No, and here’s why.

Book designers must attend to an astonishing number of details when laying out a book. Once you understand these issues, you may start to question what you will lose while saving money with a template or app, and conclude that it’s best to spend your time and money on marketing your professionally designed book rather than attempting to become a book designer yourself. Here are the most basic book layout issues so that you’ll know what to look for.

Text style: Will the text will be justified or ragged? Justified text imparts a formal tone, whereas ragged text is more casual and personal. The choice should suit the tone of your text, but keep in mind that reading a large volume of ragged right text can become very annoying, very quickly.

Margins: The margins should be generous enough so that the block of text has space all around it, allowing the eye to move comfortably from one line to the next while reading. When a book is bound, the pages are pinched together just a little, so if you don’t allow for this, the binding-side margin can look smaller than the outside margins. That’s a no-no.

Font: When typesetting a book, the important thing to remember is that serif type is better for text that is to be read continuously. Our mind is trained to recognize the shapes of words rather than reading letter by letter, and serifs form a link between letters.

Font size: Type that is too large can make your book look self-published, and reflect poorly on the credibility of your message. You should choose a type size that gets no more than 70 characters per line for easiest reading. How you figure that out is beyond the scope of this blog post….

The book block: The main reason that a book looks like a book (rather than a brochure or a report) is that the text is confined to a tightly-defined area on every page called the book block. When a book is opened, facing pages should end on the same line. Although this sounds easy enough, this necessary task is an incredible time sucker-upper.

Widows and orphans: Within the book block, the first line of a paragraph shouldn’t fall on the last line of a page, and the last line of a paragraph should not appear on the top of a page. Why? Because each of these situations makes the reader stop, thus impeding reading comprehension. It’s often necessary to rework a number of pages to accomplish this goal.

Word Widows: Another rule of book design, which varies from publisher to publisher, is that the last line of a paragraph should never be a word less than five characters long, including punctuation. The way around this is to adjust word spacing and tracking values within the paragraph, but very subtly, so it’s not noticeable by the reader.

Lines after a subhead: Another rule that aids reading comprehension is that at least two lines of text should follow a subhead at the bottom of the page, while still maintaining the book block. To do this, a book designer will typically go back and forth and rework pages as needed until the goal is accomplished, taking into account such complexities as bullet items.

Line spacing: Lines of text that are too close to each other (or too far apart) can be difficult to read. 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. Some 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. 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.

Alignment: Text lines must line up across the page. Look at a traditionally published book; it’s true, they line up. I won’t get into how this happens, but you’ll spend a lot of time making sure it happens, especially if you have subheads, lists and illustrations.

Word spacing: Word spacing should be fairly close to make it easier to read. A page of text should look uniform in color without overly tight lines (which look dark) or overly loose lines (which look light). The “color” should be even. This is accomplished by changing the justification settings: word spacing, letter spacing and glyph scaling. Experienced book designers know that different fonts require different combinations of justification settings to look just right. Sometimes different sizes of the same font require different settings!

Hyphenation: Hyphenation should be set so the reader isn’t annoyed by too many hyphens generally, or too many hyphens in a row. More than three hyphens in a row and it starts to look like ladders on the right margin. Avoid hyphenating the last line on the page because it forces the reader to wonder what comes next, and hold that partial word in mind as he or she continues reading. The stub end of a hyphenated word should never be the last line in a paragraph. Ugly. Also, avoid hyphenating capitalized words such as names, locations and titles.

Proper dashes: There are three kinds of dashes in every type font. Hyphens are used to hyphenate words and separate phone numbers. Em dashes are a form of punctuation, used to offset clauses in a sentence. The En dash, typically half the length of an Em dash, is used to denote duration, as in 8:00–5:00, or August 12–14.

Proper quotation marks: Use true (curly) quotation marks and apostrophes. Using tick marks directly from the keyboard sends the message, “I don’t care how this stuff looks.”

Use of small caps: Uppercase text is set slightly smaller than the surrounding text. Otherwise, your capitals will SCREAM at the reader.

Letter spacing of capitalized text: Capitalized text or small caps appearing within normal text can appear too tight and crowded; they need to be loosened up a bit. Avoid letter spacing in lowercase book text. Looser spacing always decreases readability.

Boldface and italics: Use boldface text sparingly. Bold text is like a magnet to our eyes, and will ruin the continuity of your text. Italics and bold text, when overused, can appear condescending to the reader…as if you are saying, “I don’t think you’ll understand my words unless I emphasize what’s important.”

Underlined text: Even more distracting than boldface text is underlined text, which is a typographic abomination that should be avoided.

Special characters: The © (copyright), ® (registered trademark), and ™ (trademark) characters almost always need to be reduced, sometimes by as much as fifty percent, depending on the font.

Proper formatting of ellipses: According to the current Chicago Manual of Style, ellipses should be set with a word space on either side and a word space between each dot. Ellipses mustn’t break in the middle or begin on a new line.

Watch the characters you use for lists: As a general rule, ballot boxes (check boxes) and bullets should be about two points smaller than the surrounding text. Note that having too many different kinds of bullet characters makes your book look homemade and amateurish.

Word stacks: Avoid beginning or ending three consecutive lines with the same word. Override your software for a better look by adjusting word spacing or tracking manually in that paragraph only, or by rewriting the text.

Overwhelmed yet?

Word does not contain the settings to make the minuscule adjustments listed above in a way that is invisible to the reader. And, we’ve seen many template layouts that inadvertently violate all of these standards.

One answer might be to purchase professional design software such as InDesign and learn how to use it. As you can imagine, such software involves an investment in the purchase price and in time to learn how to use it to achieve the desired professional result—following all these rules takes a lot of time. Understanding and following the rules are what book designers do, versus templates, apps, or “formatters” who do not attend to these details (and charge accordingly).

Click here for more information and then contact Michele at 1106 Design to discuss having a professional book designer typeset your book!

The “Batmobile”

The subject isn’t new but it’s amazing to see what is going on in this space.

I was talking to a friend of mine who was relating that his daughter was learning to drive, and I promptly informed him that my children will not be taking driving lessons. My seven-year-old is not interested in an iPhone – he is waiting for his Apple Car.

What is interesting is how the development is taking place. On the other hand, car manufacturers are slow to take on technologies such as Apple Car Play but on the other hand, others are making self-driving cars. How does this even make sense?

Perhaps more interesting is who is interested in the development and why. For example the Faraday Car has heavy investment from a Chinese media company. Well it makes sense if you think about it, when you get into your car and it drives itself you will want to be entertained. Volvo has understood this and has come up with a solution that will calculate your route, your travel time and then feed you appropriate content for the length of your journey (G-d forbid you should be bored for 3 minutes).

Of course the winners in this brave new world are going to be the car detailing companies. People will soon realise that there is no real need to own a car. Let Siri decide when you need a car based on travel time (although personally I would trust Waze more) and then a car will appear in front of your home ready to take you to your appointment.

But is that car going to be clean? Forget Netflix, who wants to sit in a dirty car! Never mind signage on the future taxis advertising wifi, I want to know who cleaned the car. CarSpa is going to make a killing!



Etiquette in the days of wearable tech – 72 hours with the Apple Watch

About a year or two ago, I was in a meeting with a colleague and a potential client. My colleague was sporting a Pebble watch and at that moment I decided that I wanted one. By the end of the meeting, I had changed my mind. You see throughout the meeting the Pebble was on silent mode, yet it vibrated throughout. Each time, I wondered if my colleague was more curious as to what the notification was or the conversation at hand.

When Apple launched the Apple Watch, they announced their Taptic Engine. Most people haven’t really understood the social significance of this. When the watch was released, certain journalists were given the watch by Apple to review for two weeks. One journalist made a point which was very interesting. He said that he received multiple notifications throughout a meeting and felt that it was rude to keep looking at his watch, since looking at one’s watch signals to the other party that you have somewhere better to be.

IMG_0228But hang on here. Didn’t that journalist completely miss the point? I mean he might as well have put his phone on the table in front and see the notifications as they came in. What was the point of the notifications being on his wrist? Surely the point is that nobody knows that you have a notification. Sit in the meeting, whether it’s a business meeting or dinner with your spouse, and when that event takes a break or ends, then and only then check your phone. Give a person the attention they deserve.

I think that we are so distracted by technology that we feel that we absolutely have to respond to that Facebook post in the middle of conversation with a person standing right in front of you. The same is true of WhatsApp groups etc. And you know what, if you are talking to somebody and your phone dings or vibrates, well you might as well deal with it there and then because the other person knows that you have something way more important to deal with than them. The damage was done the moment the phone dinged.

And this is what interested me about the Apple Watch. I can receive a notification and nobody around me needs to know. The watch doesn’t light up. Only I know that there is something that I might want to deal with later, and whether that later means in 3 minutes when I have finished talking to a colleague, or in an hour after a meeting, either way, the other person knows that I’m talking to them. The same way that they don’t know that I have an important meeting at 2 o’clock and am in a bit of a rush, they also don’t know that somebody posted pictures from my daughter’s kindergarten on whatsapp.

The “Taptic Engine” as Apple calls it, works in one of two ways: It either gives you a “Prominant Haptic” which feels like a vibration (which again only you feel – you can’t hear it) or a simple tap on your wrist. Unlike sound or vibrating alerts, I haven’t yet missed a tap. This is, in my opinion, the killer feature on the Apple Watch. Of course, if you can’t control yourself to wait before looking at your watch, then the feature is useless.

Rather than write yet another review, I thought I would share some some initial unexpected findings after having owned my new Apple toy for nearly three days.

I had expected not to wear the watch whilst working. I usually take my watch off when I start to work since I found it uncomfortable to wear whilst using a keyboard and mouse. However, the Apple Watch is extremely comfortable (I have the 42mm Sport with the plastic band) and I haven’t taken it off during the day.

I also expected that I wouldn’t deal with notifications on my watch whilst working. However, I find that notifications usually fall into three categories: 1) read and ignore; 2) read and short reply and 3) read and reply. Since most fall into the first two categories for me, I actually find it less of a distraction to deal with them on my wrist rather than reaching for my phone to respond on iMessage, messenger or WhatsApp.

Obviously when cleaning the house or being with the kids, not having to take out my phone for each alert has decreased the chances of me dropping it. When I receive a phone call, I can see who it is on my wrist as I put on my bluetooth headset and answer the phone.

nokia-e71-01Another nicety was something that I have found extremely frustrating for many years. I loved the fact that my Nokia E71 would display my appointments when looking at my phone. However even in the latest iteration of iOS, you have to slide down to see your appointments. Now each time I look at my watch to see what time it is, I can see the next appointment or two (depending on the watch face) and I hope that when the new version of the software comes out in September more options will be available with more complications. Of course with a tap you can see all your appointments and calendars but for me to see the next appointment without touching the watch is really nice.

I have never found reminders to be terribly good on iPhone. They work but I often miss them. Therefore I found that setting an alarm more effective since they keep making a noise until you dismiss them (after all if I don’t turn off the oven in ten minutes the food will be burnt!) Reminders work really well on the watch. I don’t miss any of them since I’m notified with a tap.

I think the Apple Watch is different for each person. For some, the ability to look at your watch and see how late the bus is going to be is very useful, for others it’s going to be the convenience of Apple Pay. For me it’s the fantastic and subtle notifications and the ability to act on them in a natural way.

Don’t they have Lego in Russia? Oh well time for a coffee…

dyson_yellow2Finding a cleaner for one’s home usually brings up various different emotions in people. None of them good of course, but for some years now we have been using a cleaning service in Modi’in that has worked out  pretty well. Well except for one little problem – there is always one isn’t there? Well, most of these cleaners don’t speak Hebrew. Or English. Or even Russian (not that I speak Russian either but that’s whole different story. The first job that I always have, is to work out what language they do speak and then I whip out my phone and tap on Google Translate. I of course have no idea if the translation is any good, but they get the idea.

Well until we get to the hoover (that’s a vacuum cleaner for those American folk reading this post). I made the mistake of buying a Dyson. And what’s wrong with a Dyson you ask? Well actually nothing. To use it, you press here, pull there. It’s kind of like Lego® except it seems that they don’t have Lego in Russia, or Poland, or the Ukraine. I’m always amazed as to how they put the thing away with the wire wrapped around the thingymejoozy and attach the parts in…well you get the idea.

But you know, with the help of my iPhone and despite the hoover, we manage to communicate the and house gets clean… well until the kids get home from school and then you wonder why you bothered.


Years ago (and we are talking a couple of decades now), I worked for a printer in Jerusalem called Dfus HaMakor. I worked in the graphics and the digital prepress department. One of my terribly exciting jobs (please add a dollop of sarcasm here) was what we called in Hebrew, “running films.” Basically we would get a pjohnny_coffee_2ostscript file from the client and put it on the computer which would then spew out very large sheets of films with the pages of their book arranged correctly for printing – that’s the short version. Actually it’s the long version too. Anyway, once we pressed the equivalent of “print” on the computer, we would just wait. And wait. Now don’t get me wrong. This was at least ten times faster than doing it the old way, but for me it was well, boring. I had to be there in case something went wrong and had to fix the file. However, often the clients would stick around to wait to make sure everything went smoothly and we would schmooze…

Often we would be there until quite late at night and there were two clients in particular, one  secular and the other a Gerer Chasid that were regulars and often we would have the most amazing conversations discussing the various rifts in Israeli society.


3ladies 2000Twenty years have passed and some things haven’t changed: They are still “running films” or more accurately plates now. And yes the conversations between different religious streams of Judaism continue. However one thing significant has changed… This time it’s not three men sitting by a computer schmoozing, but rather three ladies over their lattes. This time, rather than animated conversations been forgotten, they have been written down and made into a book. It’s a fascinating read and I encourage you to buy the book (yes, yes I’m the publisher so of course I have to encourage you to buy the book!)

So now go and click on and preorder (it should be available for order in the coming days). But wait, there’s more… If you go to the facebook page, you can see where these Three Ladies have been booked to speak.

Now I’m off to rebuild my Dyson hoover…


My iPhone is at the bottom of the Kinneret…

Thoughts on cloud syncing and backup


In one of my previous posts, I talked about how useful it can be when your data files are “synced with the cloud” but a recent interaction with one of my clients made me realise that we don’t always understand how syncing services such as Dropbox work and what the fundamental differences are between syncing and backing up.

On a recent holiday “up north” with my family, my brother-in-law was proud to show me his iPhone that he received from his work. The next day he took his family on a boat trip on the Kinneret. He pulled out his phone and was taking beautiful pictures of his children when his new toy slipped out of his hands down to the bottom of the sea.

When he told me his story, I tried to make him feel a little better by reminding him that at least the iPhone automatically syncs the pictures to the cloud. Except that he decided to turn off that feature… No iPhone and no pictures… Lesson #1: Turn on Photo Stream. Lesson #2: Don’t drop your phone in the Kinneret.

So back to my client. He had “shared” a dropbox folder with me. I am in very mixed minds about this ability to share folders. You see he was actually working on the shared folder. So when I moved things out of it to clear space for another client, the files disappeared out of his computer! He wasn’t using it as a way of transferring files but rather as a hard disk. Not a very safe way to work and to compound matters he had no backup (fortunately I did – several!)

Carbonite_online_backup_rgbSo what is a good backup strategy? I have been a great believer for some years now of paid services such as Carbonite or Backblaze. They work by backing up all your data in the background. They do not sync your files but rather copy your files to their servers via the internet. That means that if you delete a file by mistake (or even on purpose) you can get that file back. Lesson #3: Sign up for your free trial of Carbonite now!

And when it comes to transferring files, I’m still in two minds about this, but I still feel more comfortable emailing small files and using a Hightail for larger files. Called me old-fashioned, but heck I’m still using e-mail.

phanfareI also employ another strategy for my pictures. Call it overkill, but it adds a new dimension to photo sharing and that is phanfare. Yes, another paid service, but it allows you to store and share high quality versions of your pictures with your friends and family (I’m not sure that every picture needs to be shared on facebook) or not share at all (all albums can be password protected). When my NAS drive died and lost my entire photo collection, I downloaded all the pictures in hires from phanfare. The other cute advantage is that I access the 163GB of pictures from my PC, iPhone, iPad etc. I have even set up screensavers for my TV pulling the latest pictures from phanfare that have been taken. That’s a 42″ up-to-date photo frame.

Has the day of the paperless office really come?


So recently I decided to put all this syncing technology to good use.
Recently I purchased a new printer: the HP LaserJet Pro 400 and this rather slick-look printer, apart from being able to print at 1200 dpi (which is why I purchased it), it has a very nice scanner. You see, not only is it fast, but it can also scan duplex in one pass.


So I have started to scan all my documents. Every time I received something in the post that needs to be kept, I scan, save to my OneDrive folder (which I personally prefer over Dropbox) and send to Evernote. My OneDrive folder is also being backed up to Carbonite and Backblaze too, so this way my document is kept on my computer and backed up to three separate places on the cloud. Of course I have also started to go back and scan the various piles of papers organised in different places, tag and then bin.

EvernoteSo when my wife asked me this morning for my VAT form from 2013, I simply fired up Evernote, hit F6, typed VAT and… oh it seems that I haven’t yet scanned in that document…