Book interior in InDesign

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This is a brief guide to making a layout for a book interior in Adobe InDesign, starting from a plain text file. I’ll do a more sophisticated one later that uses an xml file and tags. It allows you to make a nice-looking book without having to venture too far into the intricacies of InDesign, yet takes advantage of the program’s power.

1. First of all, save your text as plain text. You can’t cut/paste or import Word into InDesign. Most of the time, this will lead to the text being saved as an image, rather than as editable text.

2. In InDesign create a new file, with “facing pages” checked. This is important for having the recto-verso pages formatted appropriately for a book. Set your page size (e.g. 6″ x 9″) and appropriate margins, including the gutter. Margins of 0.75 inches all around, plus additional for the gutter, are often right. Measure some books that look nice for ideas. The gutter size depends upon the number of pages in the book. I use 0.4 inches for a 300 page book. YMMV.

3. Use “file-place” to place your plain text. A hovering icon will appear representing your text. Hold down the Shift key and click in the first page, and all the text will flow automatically. If you don’t have enough pages, add more pages. If you have too many, don’t worry about it.

4. Define character styles using the window with that name. You want at least four: first an ordinary one, which is the font and size of the bulk of the text in your book. Give some thought into this–it will make a big difference in your book’s appearance. You may then want to define a style that’s “small caps” for use in the first line. Then define a big one for use as a drop cap. Finally, one for the title.

5. Now define paragraph styles. You’ll want an ordinary paragraph style with your choice of indent and whether or not there is space above or below a new paragraph. Note that indents in books are usually significantly smaller than a “tab” in Word. You will probably want to use “Left Justify” as the justification setting. Then define a style for the first line of each chapter. This is usually a drop cap followed by several words in all caps. The “Nested Style” feature of InDesign works beautifully to allow you to define a paragraph style that is one character as your “drop cap” character style, followed by a selected number of words (usually 4) in the “small caps” style. Finally, define a style for chapter headings. You probably want to define this style so that it starts on a next page. There are many choices here in InDesign: you can place ruler marks above or below, select how much space follows the chapter heading, and ensure that chapter headings are kept with at least a certain amount of text. Play around with these until it looks nice.

6. Go through the document applying the styles to the chapter headings, first lines, etc. until everything is correct. If bad things happen–such as chapters not starting on a new page–play with the paragraph styles.

7. Next you want to define Master Pages in order to insert headers and/or footers. You should have a 2-page “A Master” by default; you can use this to do the recto-verso. Place the page numbers and author name/book title above the text box. Page numbers are found in “Type–Insert Special Character.”

8. Create a one-page “B Master” for the start-of-chapter pages. It should start about halfway down the page. To accomplish this, change the upper margin in the B Master.

9. Apply the B Master to all of the start-of-chapter pages.

10. This should be looking pretty good by now. Because you started with plain text, though, some special characters, italics, etc. may have been lost. Go through carefully. Em-dashes present a particular problem! You will probably have to insert all your em-dashes by hand. Use “Type–Insert Special Character” for special characters.

11. You can change the appearance of things automatically now. If you change your Title paragraph style, for example, all the chapter titles will change. If you change the heading on the B Master, all the text will move up or down. It will flow nicely, though, which is one of the great benefits of the program.

12. Polish the manuscript by looking for widows & orphans, bad kerning, and bad hyphenation. You can force a single line to not hyphenate by simply un-checking the “hyphenate” box under “Paragraph.”

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