Welcome to another post in our series on the process of academic book publishing! We’re taking you through all the steps, from writing and submitting your proposalworking with your editor on the development of your manuscript, and having your book copyedited. In this post, we’ll discuss the next step: typesetting.

Once the author has reviewed all the edits made during copyediting, the manuscript is ready to start looking like a real book. This process is still called typesetting, from the days long ago when metal type was set into trays to be put into the printing press.

Metal Movable Type” by Willi Heidelbach is licensed under CC-BY-SA 3.0.

Today, your Word document will be imported into a layout software, most commonly Adobe InDesign. The design of a book may seem fairly straightforward, but a designer will make many decisions about how the type will look on the page, including:

  • trim size (the dimensions of the book)
  • font choice, for main body text and headings
  • font size and leading (often a balance between the need to achieve a comfortable reading experience and maintaining a good page count)
  • margin size (how much room is needed for a comfortable gutter at the spine and space at the edges for your thumbs to hold the book open)
  • the design of the running header and footer
  • design of special features such as chapter openers, block quotes, boxes, tables, bibliographies, etc.
Page design for The Power of Partnership.

The designer also needs to consider the final format in which readers will be engaging with the book: paperback, hardcover, PDF, or e-book. For example, the design of the books in our Open Access Book Series needs to work for both the online PDF and paperback editions. Since the majority of the audience for our Open Access Book Series are reading on-screen, we try to make the PDF version as accessible as possible: creating hyperlinks and cross-references to aid navigation within the document and to external resources; taking extra steps to improve the accessibility of the PDF for those using screen readers and other assistive software; and breaking the PDF down into individual chapters for easy download.

Once all these design decisions are made, the typesetter goes through the entire manuscript applying the styles to the text. This time-lapse video shows the typesetting of a chapter of our book, The Power of Partnership:

When typesetting is complete, the authors will receive a PDF of their page proofs (also sometimes called “galley proofs”) for review. At this point, it’s very important for authors not to ask for any major changes to the text – it’s time-intensive to make edits at this point and can introduce unintended errors. Authors should be looking out for typos and inconsistencies in formatting – that’s it!

While authors are reviewing page proofs, your publisher will be working on the index. In academic publishing, the authors are often responsible for this step – either doing it themselves or hiring a professional. At CEL, our editors work with authors to put together the list of terms and create the index.

Typesetting is one of the most exciting phases of book production. It’s when you can see your writing finally coming together as a real book, and it’s the final step before you can share your work with the world.

Jennie Goforth is the Center for Engaged Learning’s Managing Editor. She works with authors to shepherd their work from proposal through production in the Center’s Open Access Book Series. She also manages production of book websites and supplemental materials for the Stylus Publishing/Center for Engaged Learning Series on Engaged Learning and Teaching.

How to cite this post:

Goforth, Jennie. 2020, July 21. “Academic Book Publishing: Typesetting” [Blog Post]. Retrieved from https://www.centerforengagedlearning.org/typesetting