Word, InDesign, QuarkXPress, Scribus … there are lots of ways to lay out a book and opinions run deep. No matter which tool you use, there are a few things you can do to consistently produce professional books.
- Start with a template. Most of the big printers provide templates for at least some formats. Createspace provides Word templates that will get you started. If you’re using different software, search for third-party templates and you’ll usually find them.
- Never use a new template as-is. Yes, even if you got it from the printer you’ll be using. The Word template from Createspace, for example, has paragraph indents that are entirely too large. The first time I used it, I didn’t notice the problem until the proof arrived. By then the risk of introducing other issues was too great and the decision was made to live with the flaw, but I still see it every time I open the book.
- Add styles to your template for common situations such as emphasis, quotes, excerpts, and whatever other elements will repeat in your book. This will save hours and prevent late-introduction errors when you need to change the margins of the chapter-heading quotes throughout the book.
- Create boilerplate pages including the copyright page, the dedication page, the author bio page, and any other standard pages all your books will have. (Yes, even if you think this is the only book.
- Create master pages (or equivalent for your software) for each major type of page that will appear: first page of chapter, right-page, left-page, last page of chapter, chapter-interstice. Set up your page numbers, author and/or chapter headers, etc. for each type.
- Then save a copy of your template before you customize it!
To really create a great template, you’ll want to understand the software you’re using. Tutorials for template creation exist for most software, and they’ll give you an idea of best practices in that software. Here are a few to get you started: