Layout Planning: Advice from a Professional Typesetter
It may help to figure out the book's format (say size, portrait versus landscape, available margins, etc.) fairly early on, since it can have a big impact on how you'll organize your text, graphics, tables, etc. If you don’t yet have a publisher, look at already published books of similar topics and functions to get a sense of the possibilities.
Questions to consider:
How much text, roughly, will fit on one page? Will I have illustrations? What are good sizes for my pictures? Can I use colored text? Can I use colored or gray shading in tables or text boxes? Do I want to use footnotes/endnotes? marginalia? tables? cross-references to other parts of the book? an index? numbered formulas? ...
If I have very few headings (many pages apart), can I help readers orient themselves with column headings, or chapter numbers/logos/watermarks?
Can the text flow freely from page to page? Or do I want to consider each page as an independent unit? If the latter, what will be some typical "page styles"? What do I want each page to look like?
It happens all the time that…
- Some Word manuscript that was planned for a certain number of pages, but with fixed layout, will turn out to be 30% too long a week before printing, and will have to be re-edited on short notice.
- Or the author will have produced tables that work well on A4/Letter, but are much too wide or too long for the book page (or else will have an unreadably small font size).
- Or the author will design graphics that have text in fonts clashing with the book's fonts in type and size, or with size ratios that don't fit well on the page.
- Or a large number of headings will be too long to fit on one line, which looks bad in the chosen layout.
- Or the publisher planned for some large picture bullets, but the author only supplies one-line texts that look silly with the large bullets.
- Or the pages simply look gray and drab because the author hasn't thought about the presentation (layout) at all.
So authors should try to use page margins, font sizes, and so on so that the Word pages will already look much like the finished book (or at least of the planned layout roughly scaled to Letter/A4).