Pieces – Layout

No rest for the weary. Really, though, it’s not all that bad. I mentioned last time how we had finalized the cover art for my wife’s second self-published book, titled Through the Eyes of A Stranger – Pieces.

Map of Relic

A map of the world of Relic, introduced in the first book.

With that behind us, I’ve been working on the layout of the book. This includes all the formatting, fonts, spacing, styles, headers/footers/gutters and table of contents. For a typical written novel, layout isn’t too hard. You certainly don’t have all the considerations for artwork like you would in, say, a children’s book. But we do have a spattering of interior art in each of the books so far: typically about 4-6 images. In our case, these images are always placed on a blank, even-numbered (that is, left-hand) page across from the beginning of a new chapter. Although it may sound like the images should be placed in the layout first, we actually do all the ‘type setting’ stuff first. There are a few rules we follow when laying out a manuscript, and one of them is that chapters always begin on an odd-numbered (right-hand) page. That means if a previous chapter ends on a right-hand page, then you end up with a blank page between the two chapters.

Thus, when we finish with the first pass of the layout, we can easily see where there are blank pages waiting for interior art, and then decide exactly which pieces of art go where. Sometimes, for content purposes, it is necessary to ‘fudge’ the spacing here or there to get us a page in a location we would like, but otherwise it lets us avoid inserting images onto a right-hand page after the end of a chapter, which would then cause us to insert another, otherwise useless, blank.

Beyond This Life: The Book of Days

From Beyond This Life: An image of the Book of Days

When this phase is complete, we will also have another important piece of information -page count. The page count for a print-ready document is important for two reasons: For one, it lets us know exactly how many pages, from title page through to the end of the book, we are currently sitting at. This needs to be divisible by four, and if not it has to either be adjusted or enough blank pages added at the end to make it so. The reason is that one page of paper, bound along the center line and folded in half, actually makes four pages.

Beyond This Life: Sovereignty House

The Sovereignty House, from the first book.

Secondly, it’s important to know your final page count for the cover art. We have the artwork finalized – the front and back covers will not be altered unless we come upon a problem or a last-minute change of heart. The spine of the cover art, however, is not set in stone. We know what we want there, and roughly where it will lie. But until you know the page count of a book you cannot yet be certain of the width of the book’s spine! And since our cover art is done as a one-piece cover, we need to know the final dimensions in order to adjust the placement and size accordingly.

When the layout is finished, we’ll be putting together the first author proof of the book so we can check everything for alignment and clear printing.

~Meredith Purk