Live in the leading—the spaces between the rules.

Stefan Mumaw


Book Design

Part 1 – Considerations before designing

I started learning typography when I was 16 – in addition to my ‘A’ level courses I had ‘Typewriting’ on my timetable. I learned to touch-type on a manual typewriter where the only font available was on the typebars, and several calculations had to be done to get a table formatted nicely. More years than I care to mention later, the situation is dramatically different.


I have a lovely 27-inch iMac so I can view double-page spreads clearly even with larger formats. I have hundreds of fonts at my disposal. And I have software – Adobe InDesign – that makes the task of designing the interior of a book pleasurably straightforward providing it is set up correctly.


There are several considerations before importing the edited text file from the publisher or author:

  • Format – what page size is required?
  • Margins – these will vary according to whether the book is to be produced as a hardback or paperback. Headers (book title, author, section headings) will often be required, especially for hardbacks and non-fiction titles, as well as the page numbers or other navigation markers. The inside margin (closest to the spine) needs to be sufficient for the reader to view the whole block of text without it disappearing into the spine once the book is printed and bound. The outside margin needs to be sufficient for the reader to hold the book comfortably. The image here shows a layout spread with its margins for a Royal format hardback (156 x 234 mm page size), which is a common format that I work with.
  • Word count is not the full story when calculating the likely extent of a book. Are there parts as well as chapters within each part? Are there lots of short chapters? If so, does the publisher want each chapter to start on a new page or can they be run on? Is there a lot of dialogue? Are section breaks included that require extra space? Are there numbered or bulleted lists that require extra space? Does the text, regardless of word count, need to fit a pre-defined extent?
  • House style – are there publisher specific requirements? Do they supply their own templates?
  • Can an existing template be adapted or does it need to be created from scratch?
  • How many master pages will be needed? For non-fiction titles several may be required.
  • Which fonts have been used on the cover? Will these be supplied to create the title page? Are they also suitable for chapter headings?
  • Which font will be used for the main text? What size and leading (inter-line spacing) is required so that the text is easy to read and enables the desired extent to be reached. The default leading in InDesign is 120% – 10/12pt for example – but this would be a bare minimum for body text and something around 130% is better.
  • How many paragraph styles will be needed? Are additional character styles needed for italics or bold text or other attributes?
  • Are there footnotes or endnotes? These can easily be lost or renumbered if the incorrect import options are selected when placing the text file into InDesign!
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© Catherine Williams, Chapter One Book Production