Unusually for an editor, I’m also a typesetter (sometimes referred to as a ‘layout artist’). I have typeset many dozens of books, and probably thousands of magazine articles. I like to keep up with technology, and I believe that understanding it is important to being an editor – it’s never ‘just’ about words. Understanding how form and content work together is a key part of the publishing process – and it’s fun!

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Software I use regularly (for print and digital editions):

  • Adobe InDesign – the most popular professional-standard software for laying out books and magazines
  • QuarkXPress – although InDesign is now more widely used, Quark is just as powerful and has improved a great deal in recent years
  • PressBooks – an online, template-based system for producing print and digital books quickly from the same source files
  • Vellum – a template-based desktop package particularly suited for self-publishing.
  • Adobe Photoshop – for processing photographs and illustrations to correct publishing standards
  • Microsoft Word – not for layout (although people use it for that, it’s not a professional publishing tool in that sense), but for editing and preparing books before using one of the above.

Other software I use sometimes includes:

  • LiberWriter (Kindle ebook creation)
  • Sigil (EPUB editing)
  • Calibre (ebook file conversion)
  • Apple Pages (to help clients who use it)
  • Atticus (online ebook/paperback formatting tool)
  • OpenOffice/LibreOffice (an alternative to Word that some clients prefer).

And if you use other tools, I’ll try to help one way or another! If you’re self-publishing through Amazon or IngramSpark, say, or other distributors, or indeed getting a pile of digitally or offset litho printed books, I’m used to the specifications and file formats required. I don’t do cover design (apart from on rare occasions), as it’s such a specialist area of its own, but I can format your cover correctly (e.g. including the spine, bleed and so on) if needed.

Typesetting vs formatting

Both of these terms are widely used in the world of self-publishing (and sometimes ‘page layout’ too). Traditionally, typesetting was of course the process of ‘setting’ lead type in a forme in a letterpress printing machine. (I own a vintage one myself, so I have even tried this form of typesetting – but it’s painstaking, slow work!) But now it means using computer software to create the finished interior of a book.

Some people define formatting and typesetting differently, but I’m not sure that’s hugely helpful nowadays – either way, you are aiming to make the book look good for whatever medium it will be published in, i.e. in print or as an ebook (and then there are fixed format and reflow able ebook formats). Formatting, perhaps, is the simpler term – ensuring the book is in the right format to be accepted by a traditional printer, a print-on-demand service or an ebook distributor. Typesetting is then the broader term, and has long traditions of its own; this includes things like:

  • choosing appropriate column measures and margin settings
  • picking a readable typeface and using the correct leading for it
  • setting running heads and footers
  • handling footnotes or endnotes correctly
  • making sure pages ‘fall’ readably and agreeably to the eye, e.g. avoiding widows and orphans.

Many of these things are subject to guidelines about readability for the human eye established centuries ago. Sometimes, digital formats involve compromising those. But whatever the situation, typesetting means getting it to look right and be easily readable within the constraints of the medium.

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