There are tons of self-publishing tools out there and with the proliferation of Word and InDesign templates, writers have a myriad of options to choose from when it comes to interior typesetting their paperback.
Templates are great for saving time and energy on the big things like headings, margins, and gutter widths, but you still need to do the fine tuning before you hit publish.
As a self-publisher, it is your responsibility to make sure that your book looks and feels like a traditionally published book. Yes, I’m putting that on you, not on the template.
The template can’t tell you when there is a widow/orphan even if you check that box in Word (don’t check that box, uncheck it right now).
I’ve seen both small and large mistakes happen with authors who didn’t manually adjust anything after plunking their text into the template. Don’t be that person.
I get it. You’re fatigued and you think the template will take care of everything, but it doesn’t. It can’t.
Remember to always think like a reader and don’t settle for anything less than your best. Strangers and friends will be reading your book. You want to impress them. Your template doesn’t care as much as you do about how your book looks on the inside. Don’t give into your fatigue and do the necessary fine tuning.
If you are too tired to care, hire an extra set of eyes to help you out.
Justified text formatting results in really weird spacing between words to make up for the justified text.
Ok, that is an exaggeration above that I created manually but I have seen this in so many self-published books. Whenever I see this, I know that someone wasn’t experienced enough (or too tired/lazy) to go back and fix it.
Not a good look. Tsk, tsk.
You can correct this funky text justification manually by heading to the line(s) below wherever you see this bizarre spacing taking place and add in a hyphen to one or more of the words in those lines.
Try it out and watch your spacing adjust like magic. Voila!
It’s a bit of an art form to find the right word to hyphenate that adjusts your spacing.
Whatever you do, only hyphenate where it makes sense for the reader (e.g., “be-tween” not “betw-een”).
When you’re first starting out, this will take some experimentation to find out where it makes sense to add a hyphen so as not to confuse your reader.
Go through your entire document starting at the beginning and work progressively through your document from start to finish. Eliminate all of these overly stretched spaces between justified text.
As a reader, I want a seamless reading experience and too much white space between the words in a sentence is annoying, not helpful.
Not controlling for orphans/widows.
I will admit, there was a point in Knocked Up Abroad Again (aff link) where I gave up adjusting for every single orphan and widow.
I did my best to take care of the really obvious/annoying ones but I let a few slide because it seemed that no matter how I adjusted my spacing, they remained.
You may find that you need to delete entire sentences to accommodate widow/orphan control and this can start to mess with your story. Again, typesetting is an art form.
Being able to keep all of the content and have it properly spaced—the lines and the spaces between the letters—to provide a seamless reading experience is why typesetters can charge what they do for their services.
I recently read a traditionally published novel that did zero widow/orphan control and it really bothered me. At least make an effort.
Templates cannot control for widows and orphans even if you check the “Widow/orphan control” setting on Word (don’t do that, by the way).
You need to go back and take care of widows and orphans by adding/removing words from a sentence or changing the letter spacing/kerning.
Again, work progressively through your manuscript from start to finish or all of your hard work will be erased as soon as you make any change whatsoever. Fun, right?
Headers on pages with no content or headers on title pages.
ACK! This one is easy to miss for many beginning authors because they simply don’t know how to remove headers. This is one of the main dangers of using a template.
If you don’t understand how the template was created, you can’t edit the template accordingly and you’re left with headers standing proudly at the top of blank pages.
Blank pages should be blank.
Typesetting in Word is tricky because it’s not a software that is designed for typesetting. You have to beat it into submission to make it do what you want, but you can do it.
When creating headers in Word for your author’s name and book title/chapter title on each page, you need to use your Word Sections wisely.
Create a new section and check off the boxes as such:
So, that’s really it.
Templates can result in a few obstacles that you can easily sidestep if you know what you’re looking for.
Templates are great tools for saving time and providing the consistency that readers expect in their formatting, but it’s still up to you to be sure your book looks and feels the way you want.
If you want to get extra nerdy, which I always recommend, here are some additional articles to get you typesetting like a pro.
- Fonts.com has a great Typesetting Checklist available here: https://www.fonts.com/content/learning/fyti/typefaces/typographic-checklist
- Joanne G Phillips goes into more detail on typesetting in Word and she has great screenshots to help you out: https://joannegphillips.wordpress.com/2013/08/09/typesetting-your-book-in-word/
If you’re looking to hire a fresh pair of eyes (mine) to review your manuscript before you hit PUBLISH, and aren’t afraid of keep-it-real feedback, then send me an email. I’m happy to help you avoid making unnecessary mistakes.