Sunday, October 14, 2012

Help your designer finish that layout faster.

by Aidana WillowRaven

Some of the biggest reasons a designer seemingly takes forever to design the interior pages of your book:

Using the space bar rather than 'Tab':
When the designer imports your edited, ready for layout, Word document into InDesign, one of the first things he/she does is reset the paragraph settings and margins to fit print parameters. Next, overall font is changed and line spacing is decided. These steps are rather simple and can be done to to entire document for all of its pages, whether there be 30 or 300. The following step usually involves details. Like how far down from the top of the page will the text start and the size of the paragraph indents. 

If the manuscript was set up properly by the author, the tab already embedded and adjusting the tab setting in ID is a matter of one click. If the document wasn't typed correctly, and the space bar was used to indent paragraphs, vs the tab key, then the designer will have to go from paragraph to paragraph removing each individual space. The designer can't use the find/change tool, because spaces are supposed to occur throughout the story between words and sentences. The computer can't recognize a space that is supposed to be there as opposed to one that isn't, so it must be done manually.

Not a issue for a picture book. A big issue for a novel. The 300 page book, one-two day project just turned into a week long project.

Double spacing after punctuation:
Not a huge problem, but still an added step and easily missed by the designer, is double spacing after punctuation. This little flaw, left over from the days of typing class and electric type writers, can create unnecessary gaps and orphans. Keep in mind, every step that can be avoided helps get the book done much faster.

Altering how time lapses are shown:
Like the chapter heading isuue, changing how you represent gaps in time can be frustratuing for a designer. Are you using extra blank lines? Maybe a blank line, and asterisk or five, pound signs? However you do it, be consistent throughout. Odds are the house has a set format they use, but the designer needs to be able to determine the extra lines are deliberate and not an error. Remember, the designer doesn't have time to read the book, he/she is roboticly arranging text. A line here or there may be read, but don't rely on the designer to understand your blank line represents anything other than you accidentally hitting enter twice.

Not making format oddities noticeable:
Does your manuscript have a note described in the text, or a sign, or a song sung, or a poem? The designer needs to somehow see a change in format is needed. Again, he/she is not reading, so the designer will not know to treat this text special unless you alert he/she to it.

Changing chapter heading format:
Another troublesome habit that authors often don't realize they do is change how they introduce a new chapter. For example: Ch 1, Chapter 1, Chapter One, CHAPTER I, etc. Again, it may seem trivial, but each heading would need to be re-formatted and or typed. Sometimes, authors even bounce from bold, to regular, to italicized. If you wish to make the designer's job faster/simpler, try to be aware of how you want your chapters to look, make note of it somewhere, and be sure to repeat it as you go. Remember, every step helps.

Trying to re-write your manuscript:
The biggest, most distressing thing you can do to a designer is re-write more than a paragraph or two during copy edit. Whether the house has a separate copy editor or the designer does it with the help of the author and editors, the designer ultimately has to make the corrections. By the time a manuscript makes it to layout and copy edit, there should only be minor changes needed. A misspelled word here and there, orphans created by the altered margins, hyphenated proper nouns, etc.

If the manuscript needs re-written and re-edited, correcting the layout is no longer an option. The designer will have to re-design from the start, setting the project back by potentially weeks.

Your best bet as an author is to be aware of the house's requirements, to follow them, and do what you can to save time for the designer. He/She wants a great book, too.

Art Director & VP of Operations


  1. Good points. Thanks for posting this article, Aidana.

  2. Wow, that was helpful! I have a character's diary entries in my MG novel. Thanks for the reminder to make "oddities" easily distinguishable.

  3. Excellent information. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Aidana, thanks for sharing this information.

  5. Thanks, Aidana for the information. It will be very helpful to all concerned *:)

  6. Great info & so helpful. Wish I'd read it b4 4RV published my 1st book.