• Working with a book typesetter, Part 2

    There’s been a lot of writing lately about the resurgence of beautifully designed and printed books in this age of digital books. Typography has a significant part to play in the creation of those beautiful books.

    As mentioned in Part 1 of “Working with a book typesetter,” freelance Book Designer (BD) has hired Typesetter (T) to typeset galleys for her 352-page art book. What are galleys?

    Here’s a good definition from Wiley:

    Galleys are the typeset text showing continuous word flow uninterrupted by illustrations, tables, footnotes, or figure captions. Tables, footnotes, and captions are set together in their own sections at the end of the text galleys.

    When creating galleys, dedicated attention can be given to typography without the distraction of layout concerns.

    So, BD sends her sample InDesign file and Publisher’s Word files to T for evaluation. T looks through all the files and asks BD to clarify any confusing typographic issues and to define any styles missing from the sample pages:

    • T notices that some body text paragraphs are set using Paragraph Composer while others use Single-Line Composer. She asks BD to clarify which is preferred.
    • There are poetry extracts in the Word files, but none in the InDesign sample file. BD may create and send specs for the poetry now, or she may ask T to design style sheets that BD can easily edit later.
    • The Word files contain yellow and cyan highlighting added by the editor. T needs to know if these should be retained for galleys, etc.


    Highlighted text in Word.

    Once T is clear on how things need to be set up, she begins developing a clean InDesign file. Master pages are set up, including the appropriate running feet and folios. Paragraph and character styles are created, using Nested Styles, GREP Styles, etc., when called for. Word files may be adjusted or may be brought into InDesign as is. Text is styled carefully and consistently and master pages are applied.

    T doesn’t bother fixing widows and orphans at this point because BD will be adding images to the layout and text will reflow from column to column, or page to page. But if the text measure (line length) is finalized:

    • nice rags will be created (on rag right text)
    • loose and tight lines will be fixed (on justified text)
    • ladders, rivers, and runts will be eliminated

    When finished, T delivers her InDesign file (galleys) to BD, so BD can begin layout.

    Text corrections

    One month later, BD receives first pass corrections from Publisher. Sometimes the changes are simple and it’s easy for BD to make them herself because the file is so clean. But in this case, there are numerous layout changes and 20–30 text changes on each page. Publisher sends replacement Word files for one essay and all of the footnotes. Publisher has changed her mind about the styling of captions and requests that they be set up differently.


    Sometimes the text corrections are…dizzying.

    Fortunately, BD has already scheduled T to assist in creating 2nd pages, so she sends T the marked-up pages and her first pass InDesign file. T makes all requested text changes, including typesetting the new text and editing the caption style. She may also address widows and orphans, and fix any reflow problems caused by the edits. She leaves notes on pages that require BD’s attention.

    When BD receives the file back from T, all she needs to do is make layout changes and address the notes from T. BD is relieved because she knows T has a proofreader’s eye and rarely makes a mistake when inputting text changes. This means BD can concentrate on the design and layout and doesn’t have to worry about things like spelling errors.


    If BD and T are lucky, this is the end of the story. But they have worked together on complex books that required 12 or more rounds of changes from the Publisher. True story.

    If you’d like to learn more about this process, or hire me for typesetting, I’d love to hear from you. Please get in touch so we can start making beautiful books together.


    Beautiful books.


    Office security guard Captain, protecting us from scary thunderstorms. See office manager Annie here.

  • Working with a book typesetter, Part 1

    During my 20+ years in book publishing, I’ve worn many hats: production artist, book designer, ebook developer…but the label that suits me best is typesetter. Typesetting is the work I’ve had the most pleasure performing consistently throughout my career. I love type. I enjoy handling all the little details, from fixing kerning issues to making nice rags.


    Fixing kerning issues.


    Bad rag (left). Improved rag (right).

    Over the past 5–10 years, many publishers started sending their typesetting work overseas, or asked designers to do their own typesetting. Lately, I’ve heard several people say that dedicated typesetters no longer exist. This is not true!

    Dedicated, professional typesetters do exist. Publishers and designers who care about the quality of their books and/or have unique type requirements continue to hire us. We devote our time and expertise to crafting beautifully set type and contributing to a great reading experience. [In a future post, I’ll address why attention to typographic detail contributes to a great reading experience.]

    During every year of my career, I’ve been commissioned by museums, publishers, and design studios to typeset books. So far this year (2015), I’ve typeset 11 art/museum books and am finalizing a multi-year project: typesetting a four-volume catalogue raisonné.

    catalogues raisonnés

    Two beautiful 3-volume catalogues raisonnés I’ve typeset.

    What exactly does a typesetter do?

    A typesetter sets type, but what does that mean in 2015? Here’s one scenario:

    Freelance Book Designer (BD) was hired by Publisher to design a 352-page art book. BD’s sample pages were just approved by Publisher. According to the schedule, she has three weeks to prepare first pages. But she also has two other books to design during that time.

    Because she was rushed and working on multiple projects under tight deadlines, BD’s InDesign file is none too clean:

    • some paragraph styles were created and applied, but overridden when fonts and type sizes were changed
    • no character styles were created
    • spacing was done with empty paragraph returns and tabs
    • master pages were not developed
    • running feet were placed imprecisely on individual pages
    • little attention was paid to potential kerning or hyphenation problems, etc.


    InDesign sample pages that need work.

    The Microsoft Word files from Publisher are also a bit of a mess:

    • there are dozens of files from multiple authors, all set up differently
    • no Word styles were applied
    • notes were set up as footnotes when they should be endnotes
    • small caps were typed as all caps and set at a smaller typesize
    • ellipses were set three different ways
    • hyphens were used in place of en- and em-dashes, etc.

    Galley typesetting

    BD can’t devote enough time to carefully setting the type for this book while she’s also designing two other books. Fortunately, she was aware that this might happen and she’s already scheduled Typesetter (T) to spend the next week creating galleys for this book. What are galleys? See Part 2…

    Office Manager

    Office manager Annie, little brown singing mutt. See office security guard Captain.