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Volume Layouts - Desktop Publishing for Print Books

written by: KateG•edited by: Daniel P. McGoldrick•updated: 6/24/2011

If you are laying out a print book then these guidelines can help you to make the most of your current DTP skills.

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    So, you are about to do the layout for your first book. The idea of taking on a task so large can be a bit exciting, and a bit unnerving. After all, few desktop publishers will want take on a project that stands between 200 and 600 pages in length. The task can seem Sisyphean at first, but you are lucky. Lucky, because all of the desktop publishing skills that you have been honing to this point will make the job not only possible, but enjoyable. These tips will help you take the skills you already have, and apply them in a new direction.

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    Tip 1: Find out about any required guidelines, or special requirements ahead of time

    You may be lucky enough to work for a small publisher who has a set style that's ready and waiting for those who work on the layout of books. If one of these documents is available give it a thorough read through, and maybe even create a quick cheat sheet before you begin a project. This will help keep you from having to go back to tweak things later. If, however, you are working with a self publishing author, or a print-on-demand service, guidelines may be a little bit less clear. You should not be afraid to ask questions of your clients, that way everyone is on the same page from the get-go.

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    Tip 2: Remember the margins

    The best publishers like a certain amount of balance in their work. This trait serves you well if you’re publishing, say, a flyer. Having an equal border on all sides in this case, makes sense. When you publish a book, however, things may be a little different. You will need to take into account the left margin may have to be larger. This is because it will have to have a line break for the eye, but also will have to accommodate the bindings of the page. Depending on the type of binding, the amount of actual margin space will vary. It is worth noting that staple inside stitch bindings take up the least amount of margin room, while perfect bound bindings, and other glue-based methods will require more left margin space. When in doubt the publisher, or POD service can usually give you a guideline.

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    Tip 3: Remember readability

    When working with a small amount of text the publisher can be a bit more free with his or her choice of fonts. A highly stylized, or tightly spaced font won’t pose much of a challenge to the average reader for two or three lines. After two or three pages, however, things can get sticky quickly. To avoid eyestrain take an easy-to-read font. If your client demands a more stylized font, you can compensate for that, at least a little, by suggesting that they up the size.

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    Tip 4: Image borders

    Gauging the proper size of an image border for book layouts can be tricky. As a general rule, using the same type of guidelines you would for a highly text-focused webpage will set you in good stead when laying out a book. Just remember, if you’re ever in doubt simply print out the page. You will know right away if there’s a problem.

    There you have it: some handy tips and tricks to make laying out your first print book as easy as possible. Don’t be intimidated by the size of the project. You have the skills, and now you have the knowledge.