Consider While Writing: Interior Layout
By Amy Groening

Our “Consider While Writing” blog series is intended to help you plan ahead while working on the final draft of your manuscript. Planning for what lies ahead during the writing process can help ensure your manuscript makes a smooth transition into publication, and we have a few notes on what to watch out for a long the way. For this installment, we will be focusing on typesetting instructions. Our first installment is on word processing; view it here!

Plan Ahead

First, a note on typesetting: there are several phases to the textual creation of a book, and typesetting is one of the last. This is when your simple, 8.5” x 11” page manuscript is taken and formatted, designed, embellished, and laid out on a page size that’s appropriate to the final trim size of the book. It can be tempting to add some of those embellishments yourself while writing—why not insert photos right into your manuscript, or create little text boxes to hold the information you want in your call-out boxes? What a lot of writers don’t realize is that when a raw manuscript is prepared for typesetting, it is pulled into a special program that isn’t usually compatible with the embellishments the author has inserted. Even worse, sometimes those embellishments actually create more problems than they solve; instead of pulling cleanly into the typesetting document, text ends up in strange places or disappears entirely—definitely not what you want to have happen to that manuscript you worked so hard on!

Here are a few solutions that will help you avoid a typesetting snafu when you’re ready to have your manuscript formatted:

Photo Placement

If you know you want photos in certain areas of your manuscript, keep those photos in mind when you’re performing the final proofread of your manuscript.

Don’t insert the photos themselves into the manuscript—they won’t carry through at a high enough resolution to be worth the effort. Instead, name those photo files so that they are easily identifiable, while indicating what order the photos should appear in (eg: Photo 1_My Family, Photo 2_Sister at the Lake). Then, use photo placement tags to indicate where in your manuscript they should go—eg: .

Be consistent with your tagging system so that it will be easy for the typesetter to do a quick find-and-replace to find the placement guides; use the same brackets and language for each tag.

Call-out Boxes or Pull Quotes

These are the highlighted bits of text that appear in fancy boxes throughout a book; they are intended to call attention to important statements and/or embellish the reading experience. Again, you’ll want to keep an eye out for text to put in call-out boxes while you do the final read-through of your manuscript. However you want to indicate the text that should be put in boxes, make sure you’re consistent with the indicators and that there isn’t any chance that the typesetter may be mistaken as to which text you want to grab (for instance, if all call-out box text is underlined, but you also use underlining for emphasis in a different area in your book, it won’t be clear what’s supposed to be put in call-out boxes and what isn’t). Some useful ways of indicating call-out boxes are:

  • Putting the text in square brackets
    * Using sticky note comments to highlight the text.
    * Using insert tags (<>) and clearly noting the call-out box, for instance: <Call-out Box: “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.”>
    Do not:
    * Put the text in all-caps.
    * Put the text in a different font.
    * Put the text in text boxes—they won’t pull through.

Special Formatting

If there’s anything you’d like to include in your manuscript that’s a bit off the beaten track, always check with your publishing consultant or project manager first—they’re a wealth of information on special details, and may have some creative solutions of their own. Perhaps you have a diary section in the middle of your book that you’d like to set apart in some way, or some poetry with specific formatting requirements. Make a list of questions and ideas for special formatting circumstances as you’re writing, so that when all is said and done you can go into typesetting with that information in hand.

Happy Writing!

About this Contributor:

Amy Groening is a project manager at Word Alive Press. She is a passionate storyteller with experience in blogging, newspaper reportage, and creative writing. She holds an Honours degree in English Literature and is happy to be working in an industry where she can see other writers’ dreams come to life. She enjoys many creative pursuits, including sewing, sculpture and painting, and spends an embarrassingly large amount of time at home taking photos of her cat committing random acts of feline crime.

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