Styles Are Our Friend

There are many labors in self-publishing a book. Simply writing the text is a huge one. I opted to design my book myself, so that is another. Interior design is the order of the day: front matter, body text, fonts, images, captions, page numbers, chapter titles, appendices, index, all have to be added and formatted.

Originally, I did all this in LibreOffice. It was relatively easy to figure out how to add images to a document, how to work with text for various applications such as title or captions, how to add page numbers, even how to tweak paragraph placement. At that time, I thought all I had to do was to save each chapter in postscript, import it into Scribus, do whatever I was supposed to do there, and then save it, ready to load into Adobe Distiller. Of course it wasn’t that easy.

Scribus, I learned, couldn’t just take one of my LibreOffice .ps files and render as I left it in LO. Things happened that made me realize I would have to start from scratch in Scribus. And, I would have to learn how to do it.

The prospect of having to learn a new program and re-do my entire book was just a tad discouraging. I mentally kicked myself in the behind for “wasting” all that time in LO.  As I struggled to find tutorials on Scribus and researched how to put it all together to redesign my book, I realized that it hadn’t been a waste of time after all. True, I changed fonts, but the formatted book in LO became my visual guideline as I tried to figure out how to make Scribus do what I wanted. In addition, LO had made creating the index relatively easy; I had needed the images and formatting for the correct page numbers. Still, going was slow as I added text page by page. Having to format every title, every paragraph, every page number, got to be a drag.

Then I ran across a Scribus tutorial that mentioned styles. What are styles? These are a way to pre-set page formatting details so that they can be added automatically. I can create a style for different things: chapter titles, image captions, first chapter paragraph, the remaining chapter paragraphs, even page numbering. What a time saver!

Progress is still slow, I’ll admit it. There are many learning curves and learning Scribus has been no small one. Still, as I press on through my problems and challenges, it gets a little easier. The best part is that knowing in the end, it will be worth it.

A Font is a Font is a Font? Not!

I never thought much about fonts. I’ve had a few that I liked the looks of, but for the most part, it was simply either serif or sans serif. It wasn’t until I ran across aspiring authors’ questions about paying for fonts that I realized there is more to it.

As an end user, I honestly never thought much about it. Fonts are just there, on my computer. They’re in my word processor, desktop publisher, image editor, etc. I just use them. But the fact of the matter is that fonts don’t simply grow on trees. They must be designed. Someone must take the time to determine and place every jot and tittle in both regular (Roman/Latin) and italic styles, including upper and lower case letters and numerals. Not only does a font have a designer, but it also has a copyright and a license. That license determines how the font can be used. For some end uses, that means purchasing the font if they want to use it in print.

Okay. I consider myself to have an artistic streak, but honestly, reading gushing font reviews about how elegant a font is, is beyond me. When one sits down to read a book, can they honestly tell the difference? Apparently font and book designers can, and from what I gather, an author’s choice of font can reward them with the labels of either “amateurish” or “professional looking.” Who knew?

Take, for example, the standard workhorse, Times New Roman. Often the default on word processors, it was originally designed for newspaper printing. To use it as one’s primary font in a book is considered amateurish.

So here I am, with 252 formatted pages, with photos, captions, and page numbers, all in Times New Roman. On top of that, I had a particular title font that I was already using on my blog. I want to use the same font on the title of my book. Now what? For me, it meant a couple of things.

Now, I’m not against paying someone for what they do. My husband and I have tried the craft selling route, and it’s discouraging how folks want to undercut the asking price you labored to determine fairly; “I could buy that at Walmart for a fraction of the price.” (No, you actually couldn’t, but that’s another story.) Also, I think that being able to make a living at one’s craft is extremely honorable. Don’t get me wrong on that.

My considerations include an empty pocketbook and my commitment to building this book exclusively open source. It’s my way of supporting a community that has offered me so much. I believe in open source philosophy.

All of this set me on the path to trying to find open source fonts. These are often pooh-poohed by both font and book designers, which is understandable because if all fonts were free no one could make a living at it.  On the other hand, wanting to profit from everything doesn’t set well with me either. The end user should have choices. Many authors willingly pay a premium for a particular font. For philosophical reasons, I want to stick with open source.

Fortunately, there are open source fonts available. One popular source for these is Font Squirrel. I found more at the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) International website, plus OS fonts can be found through internet searches as well. Even so, open source fonts are still designed, copyrighted, and licensed under the SIL Open Font License, Version 1.1. There is also a FAQ page, which told me that these fonts can indeed be used in print books.

Whew. Now all I have to do is change all the Times New Roman into something else that is appealing. This will take some sampling and experimentation, so I’ll have to get back to you on that.

Proofreading Checklist: Chapter Formatting Details

I’ve been going through my book chapter by chapter, page by page, double and triple checking certain details.

Chapter number and title

  • font
  • font size
  • font spacing

Photos

  • correct dpi (at least 300)
  • captions
  • spacing from text

Page numbers

  • font size
  • font style
  • correct numbering
  • spacing between page number and chapter title
  • consistent location on page

The last thing I do is go to print preview, two page view. I first check for obvious problems and then scroll quickly through the pages. If the page numbers are off, they appear to “jump” as I scroll. I then correct them until they appear stationary when I scroll through the pages.