Discount Typesetting Services

data entryDiscount typesetting services are advertised locally and on the Internet. What's entailed, and how do you make a sensible choice?

Typesetting, or the laying out of text in an attractive fashion across the page, is an important aspect of publishing, and one on which whole libraries have been written. Fonts in particular are a consuming passion to graphic designers, once being an expensive addition to their software.

Typesetting services may be part of the prepress services offered by your printer, when they may well be attractively priced. Alternatively, you may want to contract out this aspect to specialists. The golden rule is to shop around and ask for samples of work done, though this presupposes that you have the experience to judge what's acceptable to the book trade. A few suggestions therefore, on what to check, or adopt if you're doing your own typesetting:

1. Font choice. Sans serif faces are used for display headers and book covers, and serif typefaces are used for body text. You can modify to express your book's personality, but readability remains the key, and the fonts that look fantastic for a poem would be intolerable in the text of a novel. Baskerville, Bembo, Garamond, Janson, Palatino, and Times Roman are the typefaces most widely used for body text.

2. Font size. Don't make the font size too small, under 8 pt. for sans serifs like Helvetica, Arial, Verdana and Tahoma, or 10 pt. for serifs like Berkeley, Palatino and, Garamond. Fonts change their characteristics with size, and this is particularly so on covers, which need to be readable at a distance.

3. Typefaces. Two typefaces on a page is enough, and often the one typeface in its various incarnations (italic, bold, bold italic font, etc.) will do all that's required.

4. Originality. Great book designers can break the rules, but they do so after long experience. If in doubt, aim to be conservative, but with that extra attention to detail that shows professionalism.

5. Letter and line spacing. Though desktop publishing programs allow the line spacing (leading), the letter spacing (kerning) and the word spacing to be adjusted, these controls do need care. Space saving is important in journals of fixed length, but too much compression looks cheap.

7. Numbering conventions. Blank pages are left completely blank. Page numbers are not displayed on the title, half title or promotion pages. Lower case Roman numerals are used throughout the front matter pages. Arabic numerals are used for the main body text, which begins on the right-hand page. Chapter headings also begin on the right-hand page, and are not commonly numbered. Poems start on a new page, and page numbers generally appear in the bottom margin.

7. Margins have to allow for binding and trimming. Margins should be ample, but not so over-generous that the body text looks impoverished.

8. Page sizes. The mass-market paperback is 4.18 x 6.88 inches. The standard paperback is 5" x 8". Technical manuals are generally larger: 7.5" x 9.25". See what sizes your preferred printer will accept before going too far.

As always, the best policy is to learn from others. Look at the better productions of large publishing houses to see how they have:

Kept within the conventions for the particular book genre

Created a proper personality with the typesetting

Coped with individual layout difficulties

Achieved a proper balance of text and white space

Fonts

First some definitions. Font is a physical entity, the program in your computer or the description of a typeface. Typeface is a collection of characters designed to work together as a coordinated outfit. In looking at a page you can say 'What typeface is that?' or 'What font was used to set that?', but you can't say 'What font is that?' Or you shouldn't: amateurs use the two interchangeably, but typographers get cross at the mix-up. Typesetting is an art that calls on aesthetic judgement and long experience. Well-designed pages 'look right': they read easily and the typeface doesn't call attention to itself. There are no cast-iron rules, therefore, but there is good practice, and beginners are advised to study examples and conform to trade expectations. Good practice usually stipulates something like the following:

1. Use serif typefaces for text: Palatino, Garamond, Baskerville, Century Schoolbook, Georgia, Times New Roman and similar.

2. Use a non-serif or display typeface for headings: Arial, Verdana, and a host of others.

3. Don't use more than two typefaces for a page.

4. Typeface is measured in points, with 72 points to the inch. Size varies with typeface, but 10 point is the usual downward limit, with 11 to 13 preferred for readability. Larger typefaces are needed for longer lines of text.

5. Ensure you have the fonts in the italic or bold styles if you use them on your page. Your VDU will obligingly display them, but it does so by fabricating their appearance: they will not print out when your manuscript goes to press. Check.

6. Be wary of delicate typefaces when creating PoD or pdf documents: they tend to 'burn out'. Check before going too far.

7. You don't buy fonts, but a licence to use them under certain terms and conditions. That doesn't always include embedding them in files sent to the printers, and some DTP software will in fact prevent the embedding of such fonts. Stick to everyone's favourites. If you're creating e-books, you may want to use fonts that read easily onscreen, i.e. Georgia and Verdana: not too beautiful but clear, and surviving pdf 'burn out'. When all these requirements are borne in mind, you may find the bewildering choice in your font folder boils down to a half-dozen.

Beyond these brief notes lies a minefield of conflicting opinions and typesetting preferences. Keep it simple is the best advice-for speed in typesetting and corrections, safety at the printers and general appearance. Here are a few well-recommended books and sites:

Resources

Typesetting. Extensive Wikipedia set of articles.

Typography 101. Covers basics, with brief listing.

Mark Boulton. Professional's site with much good sense.

Free e-texts on typography. Short listings but useful.

Editorial Freelancers Association. Resources for editors and publishers.

All Graphic Design. Article and examples.

The Complete Manual of Typography. A good introduction. $26.65

The Elements of Typographic Style. A long-established favourite. $19.77

Desktop Publishing StyleGuide Basics of DTP design. $37.20

17 Typography Resources by Sig Ueland. Practical Ecommerce.

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