Tag Archives: layout

The benefit of styles

When typesetting for print or ebook, styles are important. But what are they, and how do they help?


Just imagine the structure of your book for a minute. It’s probably something like

  • chapter number
  • chapter title
  • first para flush left with a drop cap
  • main text indented
  • divider
  • para flush left
  • main text indented

And repeat for every chapter, as often as necessary.


Now imagine that you want to increase the size of the chapter title, or change the font of the main text. Without styles, you would need to go to each small chunk in turn and change the formatting on it. If you have two or three changes to make on each chunk, it could take some time. Even using format painter, it’s fiddly and there’s the danger of missing something.


Now consider using styles. Styles come in two stages – tell the text what style you want it to use, and tell the style how it needs to display the text. So you’ll set the Heading 1 style to the right font, point size and weight, and you’ll highlight the text and apply the Heading 1 style. You can do these two steps in either order.


Once you’ve been through the entire document, applying styles to everything, it’s just a matter of changing the settings for that particular style, and that will then be applied all the way through the document, wherever that style has been applied.


One additional benefit of using styles correctly is that an automatic Table of Contents can be generated, using the specified styles to pick out the links that are needed and automatically adding the correct page number. This can be updated as the layout of the book is altered.


It’s also possible to save a set of styles, so it’s easy to copy them over from one document to another, ensuring efficiency and consistency.




How much does self-publishing cost?

This question receives many different answers, from thousands of pounds to nothing. So what’s really going on?


First of all, actually publishing your book costs nothing. Uploading files to Amazon and creating either ebook or print version does not involve a fee.


But it’s not as simple as that. There needs to be quality control of what you’re uploading. Has your work been reviewed, to ensure that it makes sense, that it’s well written, that it doesn’t contain silly typos or other errors that will put your reader off? Will your cover design attract readers to your book? Is your layout correctly formatted for whatever platform you want to publish on?


If you’re self-publishing, then all those quality control issues come down to you. It’s your responsibility to get an editor to go through your work, to get a good cover design done, to ensure the formatting is correct.


Some of these you can do yourself, if you have the skills, but editing is one of those jobs that must be done by someone else to be done well; you are too close to your own work, and just can’t see what you’ve actually written as opposed to what you think you’ve written.


Even cover design and formatting are worth paying experts for; while anyone can throw a cover together, books are a competitive market, and your book deserves a cover that will attract the reader. Likewise, formatting can be fiddly and frustrating if you’re new to it. Why not spend your time writing, and pay the experts to do their job?


There are publishing companies around who offer to do all this as a package deal, for a price. Be very wary of these; generally, they make their money from the services they sell to you, not from their share of the books sold (although they take a good slice of that too). You risk paying a lot of money for services you could have got cheaper separately, and losing control of your book as well.


What if you can’t afford to pay an editor, cover designer etc?


The answer then is not to just put it out anyway. The quality is likely to be poor, and that will put readers off anything else you write, and weaken the reputation of self-published books generally.


Traditional publishing involves a publisher liking your book enough to invest money in it. They keep part of the sales, yes, and you might lose some of the control over your book, but they are the ones who take the financial risk. Remember, if they ask you for money to publish, they are not a traditional publishing company.


So in the end it comes down to this: please either be prepared to invest money as well as time in your writing to ensure quality (after all, you’re expecting others to invest money in your books!), or find someone else who is willing to do so.


When do I need a bleed?

One issue I’m sometimes asked to sort out is a bleed. So what is a bleed and when is it needed?


bleed illustration 2As part of the printing process, pages are trimmed. This is not normally an issue on print books, because any text would be well away from the edge,  but if you have illustrations or photos in the book that need to go right to the edge, then it’s important to create the image slightly larger than needed. This way, when the page is trimmed, the image will bleed off it. This avoids an unsightly white line showing, should the trimming be a fraction off (which is very possible).


This is usually done in publishing software, which has a bleed feature built in to it. The software will add trim marks to the file, so that the printer can trim to the right size.


A bleed is always needed in a cover design.