Adobe InDesign: a fun/frustrating experience in book design

By way of compromise, and of controlling my publishing budget, I decided to design the interior of the paperback version of my book myself. Although I'd never done anything like this before, I was sure I could rely on what I'd learned from my design degree (which I've never had a chance to use in any of my past jobs), and from my recent 16-hr Adobe InDesign course at Algonquin College. While I am still in the throws of designing the book and learning the software program, I thought I'd share a bit of the adventure with y'all so far.

To start with, you have three options for designing the interior of your paperback book: 1) Set up the file yourself in MS Word, which is a highly accessible, easy-to-use program (see advice from The Book Designer); 2) Set up the file yourself in Adobe InDesign, which is a highly technical, yet flexible, software program that you'll need to purchase (I opted for a subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud so that I could have access to the entire Adobe suite); or 3) Hire a professional to design your book interior (as a suggestion, consider TLC Graphics. I met them at the IBPA indie publishing conference in Chicago a few months ago and they are wonderfully talented!)

Since I chose option #2, I committed to learning the secrets of book design and working through the pain of interacting with a new software program, until I could produce a beautifully designed masterpiece (yes, I tend to aim high) that would rival any novel on bookstore shelves today. If you chose the same path as me, I can tell you that you are in for some serious highs, as well as lows, but in the end it will all be worth it.

To give you a sample of the process, last week I wrestled with setting up Master Pages, margins, page width (I chose 5.25"x8"), and 'placing' text into the document to 'auto flow' and add pages throughout the entire document. Unfortunately, this caused my page count to more than double to 462 pages (at which point I had a mild heart attack, since my book cover design, including spine width, was already completed). I began sleuthing around until I realized that the font size and leading (space between the lines) were not properly set to paperback standards (I opted for 11pt font with 13.75 leading), which more or less solved the problem. But then the margins on the Master Page started acting up and would not automatically link to the text frames on the pages. This issue in particular accounted for hours of research and an overwhelming feeling of wanting to retreat to my bedroom with my iPad, turn on Netflix, and watch Arrested Development while eating a bowl of chocolate ice cream.

Yet, I prevailed. I kept clicking menu items until I eventually figured out all the areas that were tripping me up. And, I must say, I'm glad I pushed through because I have now graduated to the finer (fun) points of book design! I get to play with drop caps (first letter of the first word in each new chapter), inserting images onto the title page (I chose an image from the cover, rendered to black and white with 75% opacity), re-sizing chapter headings, etc.

Am I a book nerd? Maybe so. Am I happy? Yes, and that's all that matters.  

So although learning the new software was challenging, I have managed to come out on the other side with relative grace (I work alone, so no one can hear me swearing.) And I can't even express how satisfying it is to see my ugly double-spaced, Times New Roman font, Word document transformed into a beautiful trade paperback novel!

Another new skill set to add to my resume...check!  

Stacey D. Atkinson is currently finishing up work on her debut novel Stuck, which she will independently publish through Mirror Image Publishing. 

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