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zpeteman
10-23-2009, 06:00 AM
I've spent a large chunk of time lately typesetting my book as I get it ready for the printer. Just about everyday someone asks me what exactly typesetting means. So I put a post up on my website describing in some detail what I've been working on and included some examples in screenshots as well as a .pdf of a finalized passage.

Since poor typesetting is an incredibly common thing in self-publishing, I thought I'd mention it here in hopes that this little slice of information might save someone else's book from becoming just another self-pub stereotype.

If you're interested, here's the link. (http://thefiddlersgun.com/files/typesetting.html)

nitaworm
10-23-2009, 06:17 PM
This is a great thing to share. I always wanted to know the details of this.

Vomaxx
10-23-2009, 08:32 PM
I haven't reached the typesetting stage yet. I'm still cutting down the trees I'll use when I begin pulping the paper for my truly "self-published" book.

--------------------
That was a joke. ;)

valeriec80
10-24-2009, 12:29 AM
Vomaxx--I just got your joke but I had to read it like three times. I'm going to blame that on the fact that it's Friday and I'm tired.

Still. Cute. :)

JFBookman
10-24-2009, 12:45 AM
Peteman, nice job on your book. You trying to put me out of business? LoL

GraysonMoran
10-24-2009, 01:09 AM
Yow. That's scary.

So why do you have to do all this to publish when you can just upload a MS Word doc to Lulu and have it come out as a book?

StephenJSweeney
10-24-2009, 11:43 AM
So why do you have to do all this to publish when you can just upload a MS Word doc to Lulu and have it come out as a book?

Because otherwise your book will look like a Word doc you've uploaded and printed ;)

No, in all seriousness, the interior of the book needs to look aesthetically pleasing - drop caps, a nice readable font, scene breaks, etc. all in the right places.

There are also practical considerations: your margins need to be correct so that the text doesn't run into the gutter and makes the book hard to read.

Type setting is easy, though. There are loads of examples on the web and, if in doubt, you can also just pick up a book from your own shelf and take a look inside.

ResearchGuy
10-24-2009, 07:44 PM
. . . the interior of the book needs to look aesthetically pleasing - drop caps, a nice readable font, scene breaks, etc. all in the right places.

. . . your margins need to be correct so that the text doesn't run into the gutter and makes the book hard to read. . . .
Which can be done in Word. But one has to know what to do and how to do it, which is the hard part. (Word does not allow for every adjustment that a real page layout program will, of course, but it has more options than most folks know.)

--Ken

zpeteman
10-24-2009, 08:17 PM
It's possible to make things look fairly good in Word but you've no where near the flexibility or options that you do in a real layout program. And Lulu's conversion process, while workable in the most basic sense, leaves a lot to be desired.

GraysonMoran
10-24-2009, 08:38 PM
Yeah, I was gonna say. You can do everything Steven mentioned in Word. And I don't notice any margin trouble with Lulu. If there is, you just do it again. It's free.

But I hear what you're saying, zpeteman.

I guess there's a tradeoff between the expense and results? And probably makes a difference where you're publishing. I doubt you're doing this for Lulu? :-)

StephenJSweeney
10-24-2009, 11:48 PM
Personally I'd recommend using something like Open Office - You can set it all up the way you want it and then export it to a PDF via it's built-in export tool.

Results should be absolutely spot on (they are for me).

ResearchGuy
10-25-2009, 01:24 AM
. . . And Lulu's conversion process, while workable in the most basic sense, leaves a lot to be desired.
I typically upload the pdf, just the way I want it. Results always (excluding occasional printing errors) look as expected. The fonts have to be embedded, of course.

--Ken

zpeteman
10-25-2009, 01:40 AM
True, uploading a PDF does give better results. You're still stuck with a POD book, though, unfortunately.

ResearchGuy
10-25-2009, 07:05 AM
True, uploading a PDF does give better results. You're still stuck with a POD book, though, unfortunately.
Which, as much as you question this, can look as good as or better than an offset-printed book. I have seen plenty of both. Offset printing confers no magic. As in so many things, "it depends."

--Ken

GraysonMoran
10-25-2009, 08:04 AM
True, uploading a PDF does give better results. You're still stuck with a POD book, though, unfortunately.

And here I thought one of the advantages of POD books was that you don't get stuck with them.

I agree completely on the quality of POD books. I've seen a lot from Lightning Source and I'd defy anybody to point out a difference between them and standard trade paperbacks.

zpeteman
10-25-2009, 08:34 AM
It's easy to spot the difference. There's nothing wrong with a POD book, it functions, it just doesn't offer any aesthetic value because POD hasn't reached the point yet where it provides many options for paper weight/color, cover stock, laminates, embossing, spot gloss, inserts, bleeds, etc. The result is that all POD books pretty much look like POD books, same glossy (eww) coverstock, same paper.

If you are printing non-fiction. None of that is of much concern. For fiction, the look and feel of the book can be a large part of the experience.

On top of that, it costs 2-3 times as much, or more.

GraysonMoran
10-25-2009, 05:45 PM
Please. How many novels go out with embossing and spot varnish and inserts and die cuts and all that jazz? Very few. Outside the horror ghetto damned few.
You go to a store, pick up a trade paperback off the first shelf you hit and compare it to a good quality POD book and you're not going to see a difference.

And those things have nothing to do with the typesetting.

ResearchGuy
10-25-2009, 07:04 PM
.. . For fiction, the look and feel of the book can be a large part of the experience. . . . .
Now you are being silly.

The indulgent design, paper, printing, binding of the original hardback edition of Everett Fox's translation of The Five Books of Moses (Schocken), gold leaf and all, was part of that experience. But a novel? Come on. Spoken like a printing snob, not a reader.

--Ken

Medievalist
10-25-2009, 07:28 PM
Spoken like a printing snob, not a reader.

--Ken

Err Ken? Those of us with visual impairments can have a hard time reading bad typography--especially if the kerning is off. Tracking the text in a single line can be very difficult if there are lots of rivers.

zpeteman
10-25-2009, 08:31 PM
You go to a store, pick up a trade paperback off the first shelf you hit and compare it to a good quality POD book and you're not going to see a difference.

I'm not here for a debate, but I do suggest take your own advice. Go to the bookstore and spend a few minutes paying attention to which books catch your eye and make you want to pick them up. You might be the sort of person that's drawn to the POD looking sort of books. Most people aren't. Check out the 'new in paperback' shelf, or the bestseller shelf. How many of those look like cookie cutter POD's and how many are well-designed, pleasing to look at, to hold, to feel.

I have a keen appreciation for the aesthetics of book design. McSweeney's books are especially gorgeous. I don't think it's snobbish to expect my own book to meet my own standards, it's just good sense. I want to publish a book that people will love, and that love affair needs to start with the cover and design before they ever get around to the reading.

I love the service that POD offers. I use Lulu from time to time to print up proof or review copies and for a lot of folks, that service is going to be exactly what they need. Personally, though, I'm not willing to give up both cost efficiency AND quality in order to print a book. I could be tempted to give up one or both but right now POD doesn't offer that option. So until they can print a higher quality book, or offer the same book at a vastly lower price, off-set is the only real option for me.

ResearchGuy
10-25-2009, 08:39 PM
Err Ken? Those of us with visual impairments can have a hard time reading bad typography--especially if the kerning is off. Tracking the text in a single line can be very difficult if there are lots of rivers.
A. Which has nothing to do with digital printing (POD) vs. offset.

B. And what makes you think I have 20:20 vision? I've worn glasses for nearly 60 years, and the eyes are not getting any better.

--Ken

ResearchGuy
10-25-2009, 08:42 PM
. . . So until they can print a higher quality book, or offer the same book at a vastly lower price, off-set is the only real option for me.
Often the real choice is between an offset-printed book that never exists because the barrier of up-front costs is too high, or a digitally printed book that does.

Offset printing per se is no guarantee of perfect production. Digital printing has its uses and can be done well. And offset printing has its uses and can be done badly. It all depends.

--Ken

zpeteman
10-25-2009, 09:38 PM
Agreed.

GraysonMoran
10-25-2009, 10:01 PM
Go to the bookstore and spend a few minutes paying attention to which books catch your eye and make you want to pick them up. You might be the sort of person that's drawn to the POD looking sort of books. Most people aren't.

I can only agree with Research Guy. You're being silly. You want your work to be really vital and are grasping at straws, maybe? Bringing in embossing and cover art and all that. There's no difference. If this was in a bar instead of internet I'd quckly bet you a thousand dollars you'd fail a test at picking out the POD books from shelf books in a test.

What you're doing with your time and expensive program is great, really. And adds to your product. But you're going way overboard in trying to pretend like not using it yields jumk and the clues should be that you're broad-brushing and tossing in irrelevant things to the discussion.

Too bad, because the typesetting thing was interesting. This whole "POD can't compare" thing is silly

zpeteman
10-25-2009, 10:52 PM
I'm a bookseller. I spend a LOT of time looking at books and considering what works and what doesn't. I'd take that bet in a heartbeat :)

MickRooney
10-26-2009, 02:02 AM
Easy guys, this is shaping up to be a local bar room brawl!:)

GraysonMoran
10-26-2009, 02:53 AM
I spend a LOT of time looking at books and considering what works and what doesn't. I'd take that bet in a heartbeat

Where do you live?

Medievalist
10-26-2009, 03:12 AM
Yeah, I was gonna say. You can do everything Steven mentioned in Word.

There's an awful lot you can do in MSWord, but Word doesn't let you kern, it doesn't handle ligatures properly, and it ignores the metrics data in the font so that the output on a high-end printer is recognizably from MSWord (Word Perfect does use the metrics data).

Medievalist
10-26-2009, 03:16 AM
I agree completely on the quality of POD books. I've seen a lot from Lightning Source and I'd defy anybody to point out a difference between them and standard trade paperbacks.

I kid you not, I can do it with my eyes closed on the smell alone (because of the ink and binding glue used). It's easier when I look at the book because most of them are not typeset, and, of course, there's the difference in the paper and cover stock, and the way the ink sits.

Mind, I used LS for years, printing thousands of books of software documentation--and yes, we typeset them.

ResearchGuy
10-26-2009, 03:23 AM
. . . Word doesn't let you kern, it doesn't handle ligatures properly, and it ignores the metrics data in the font so that the output on a high-end printer is recognizably from MSWord (Word Perfect does use the metrics data).
Would there be a visible or significant difference in output on a typical digital printer? (The sort that L.S. uses.)

--Ken

MickRooney
10-26-2009, 03:54 AM
I kid you not, I can do it with my eyes closed on the smell alone (because of the ink and binding glue used). It's easier when I look at the book because most of them are not typeset, and, of course, there's the difference in the paper and cover stock, and the way the ink sits.

Mind, I used LS for years, printing thousands of books of software documentation--and yes, we typeset them.

The typesetting is something I have noticed using MSword as the source file. But it was only when someone in the print business pointed it out to me that I honestly noticed the difference with offset and digital pod.

But wow, Medievalist, I am impressed with your nose for the glue and ink. Sounds like your have honed your most important senses during life to become a true connoisseur, Bravo!

Medievalist
10-26-2009, 05:31 AM
Would there be a visible or significant difference in output on a typical digital printer? (The sort that L.S. uses.)

--Ken

Yes. There is. You'll mostly notice it with formulas, serifed faces, and ligatures, or italics.

If you're curious, go to the local serious printer -- not a Kinkos, but someone with a linotype, and several high-end digital printers, and ask for sample sheets. They should have them to hand.

You used to be able to request specific printers at LS; I'd honestly ask your print service manager at LS about recommendations. And tell them the fonts you're going to use. It really can make a difference.

ResearchGuy
10-26-2009, 06:53 AM
Yes. There is. You'll mostly notice it with formulas, serifed faces, and ligatures, or italics.

If you're curious, go to the local serious printer -- not a Kinkos, but someone with a linotype, and several high-end digital printers, and ask for sample sheets. They should have them to hand.

You used to be able to request specific printers at LS; I'd honestly ask your print service manager at LS about recommendations. And tell them the fonts you're going to use. It really can make a difference.
Ah. The stuff I do is pretty much all simple, uncomplicated text, ordinary fonts (serifed, though, other than for headings), and not done directly with L.S. anyway (might some time, but not now and not planned -- I just don't do anything that requires any additional level of sophistication, and I don't intend to). I can make Word meet my needs. The authors and readers seem satisfied, and marginal improvements in typography would not sell a single additional book (but would add a lot of aggravation, time, and cost for me).

Thanks for the information. Good to know.

--Ken

zpeteman
10-26-2009, 08:47 AM
Tennessee

Old Hack
10-26-2009, 01:12 PM
Good typesetting makes a HUGE difference to the success or otherwise of a book. I've lost count of the number of times I've picked up a book, leafed through it, and put it down again despite its thrilling premise or fabulous writing: just because something feels wrong, somehow. And it's usually because of poor typesetting.

There's an article about this on my blog, written by Maggie Dana--a writer and typesetter. She's worked on all sorts of books, and knows her stuff.

ResearchGuy
10-27-2009, 05:30 AM
Yes, it is a magazine, not a book. But FWIW, I would assume that the folks who create each issue of Wired magazine have the best page layout tools there are. And with them, they create the ugliest magazine I have ever seen. Cluttered to the point of being trashy, with hard-to-read text to boot.

I avoided Wired for years for that reason (it has always been awful that way), but am stuck with it as a replacement for the defunct Portfolio. I was immediately reminded why I never open a copy of Wired. Ugly.

--Ken

GraysonMoran
10-27-2009, 11:30 AM
Agree completely.
The last issue I saw had a hilarious front page story. "The Tragedy of Craigslist". All about how it's being done just all wrong and should get it together. And here's one of the most successful sites on the web, run by a handful of people.
Then they had a bunch of designers show how cool it COULD be... I'm sure you can guess what I thought of their efforts. How to "Wiredize" a going a concern.

JFBookman
11-04-2009, 04:04 AM
@zpeteman, you will not convince people who cannot see what you are looking at, and which is perfectly obvious to you (and me and a lot of other people). This is especially true for the MS Word people who apparently simply cannot see the difference between what Word produces (and it's a damn good word processor) and what InDesign produces. You can't cure that with a post to a forum, unfortunately.

I print at LSI and I'm perfectly happy with their product. However, it in no way compares with the quality, flexibility and precision available with offset. Certainly there are crappy books printed offset, but that has nothing to do with your observations. I was quite impressed with the work you did on your book and I think it ought to inspire others to try to make their books better, not to dump on you for taking the design and production of your book seriously.

Check out the post I wrote on this topic for more:
Does Book Design Really Matter? (http://www.thebookdesigner.com/2009/09/does-book-design-really-matter/)

Misa Buckley
11-04-2009, 12:35 PM
Thell you what, I'd buy The Fiddler's Gun in a heartbeat simply because it looks so pretty. I picked up The Gargoyle because it had black-edged pages.

There is something to be said for paying attention to book design ;)

Thanks for both links guys. It's very interesting reading.