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Author Topic: Book Layout  (Read 1181 times)
David C
Member

Posts: 262

lost in the woods...


« on: May 03, 2009, 10:11:40 PM »

So I'm putting my game into pdf format.  I'd like to get it right the first time, so that I have the option of using the same file for printing physical copies of the book.  I luck out, because I have access to a computer with InDesign and Acrobat.  However, I've never tried making a book with them before.  So, if people don't mind me firing off a few questions...

1) Can I layout a book in InDesign and then turn it into a pdf easily?
2) It seems to me that paying a printer to print off copies, or using print on demand, is cheaper if you do an 8.5" x 11" format. Also, then people can print off pages from the pdf easily, for reference.   Am I basically correct?
3)  InDesign defaults to 3 pica margins on all sides of the page, is this a good number?  For a full page picture, should they extend to the edge (bleed)? 
4)  Printer's marks: is this something I need to worry about, or will my letter sized InDesign file be enough for the printer?
5) What else do I need to know before I finish laying out this whole book?  It wouldn't be too fun to do the whole thing over :(

Thank you
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Lance D. Allen
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« Reply #1 on: May 04, 2009, 01:00:45 AM »

I'll take a swing at your questions while we wait for people with actual experience to show up.

1) Can I layout a book in InDesign and then turn it into a pdf easily?

As InDesign is, so I hear, better than Quark in every important way, the answer would have to be yes. I've been using an old version of Quark, and I've had little problem making a .pdf out of my layout projects.

2) It seems to me that paying a printer to print off copies, or using print on demand, is cheaper if you do an 8.5" x 11" format. Also, then people can print off pages from the pdf easily, for reference.   Am I basically correct?

I can't answer "basically correct" as a question, as I've not done the necessary cost comparisons. One thing I have noticed is that ever POD outlet I've seen does have letter format, which makes it easier if you plan to layout before choosing your POD printer. It also makes it easier for those who want to just print your .pdf for their usage. I would seriously recommend looking at Lulu and CreateSpace (at least) and comparing options, though. If the game seems like it might be a little light on the page-count, I'd consider maybe a smaller format. This is personal preference; Smaller dimensions and a beefier thickness just seems like better project specs, to me as a potential purchaser.

3)  InDesign defaults to 3 pica margins on all sides of the page, is this a good number?  For a full page picture, should they extend to the edge (bleed)?

Edge-bleed is sometimes a bit more complicated, depending on your printer. Again, do some specific research and see if they have any specific requirements for edge-bleed. Expect to pay a bit more, as well. I happen to think that edge-bleed borders look a bit nicer, but that is, like the page-count thing above, a personal preference.

4)  Printer's marks: is this something I need to worry about, or will my letter sized InDesign file be enough for the printer?

Check the big two. They'll be able to give you a much better idea of this. Mostly though, Printers expect you give them a product that's ready for print, which usually means a .pdf. They may refuse to do the conversion, or they may charge a bit extra for the work.

5) What else do I need to know before I finish laying out this whole book?  It wouldn't be too fun to do the whole thing over :(

Expect to do it over at least once. I've not got a single product available yet, and I've laid out my books at least twice each. Learn the shortcuts and methods to make it easier and avoid doing the same tasks over and over again, and it'll reduce the un-fun. Also, if you've the right mindset, layout CAN be fun, in the same sort of way that writing the game is fun. Also, once you've got a solid idea of what you want it to look like, it's surprisingly non-difficult to convert the look to different layouts. 

Specific Advice:

Always, always, always work in a two-page spread. When you pause in a particular bit of work, set the zoom to look at the pages side-by-side. Do this frequently, so you can keep a good mental snapshot of the work as it progresses. Also, realize that sometimes thin lines look weird on the screen when you zoom out, but they print just fine.

Work up a mockup page for chapter beginnings, normal mid-chapter pages, the table of contents, chapter ends (even if this is just a mid-chapter page that is less than 100% full of text), pages with sidebars/tables/diagrams/etc, basically any elements other than the standard stuff you'll be including on normal pages that will require their own design concerns, and will break up the flow of text.

When working on the mockups, don't worry about real text. Develop all the styles for headers, sub-headers, callouts, and of course body text that you're going to use in the actual product, but don't use real text. That will make it too tempting to futz with specific details like the way this paragraph looks, or the spacing here or there, or fixing the place where the sub-heading appears at the very bottom of one page, instead of the top of the next, and so on. If you let yourself get caught up, you'll waste the effort when you realize that you want to move this table, or redo that paragraph, and it screws with the whole flow.

Once you've done all your mockups, .pdf about a 6-8 page block of the layout, with filler text, making sure to include all the elements of layout that you've worked on. If it's easy to do so, print this out and look at what it looks like on actual paper, with actual ink. Look at the pages side-by-side again.

Artwork WILL screw up your flow. If you're using artwork that ties to the text on the page (which you should, if at all possible) then obviously you're going to have to add the artwork after the real text. This will be a tedious and annoying process, as the spacing of the art and the textflow will require a billion small tweaks to make it all look right. This is worthwhile. People notice inconsistencies, and it will make your product look less than professional if you don't take your time at this stage.


That's all I got. Hopefully now someone with more practical experience will come along and fill in what I've missed, support what I got right and tell you (and me!) where I'm completely wrong.

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~Lance Allen
Wolves Den Publishing
Eternally Incipient Publisher of Mage Blade, ReCoil and Rats in the Walls
Eero Tuovinen
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 2775


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« Reply #2 on: May 04, 2009, 08:40:19 AM »

1) Can I layout a book in InDesign and then turn it into a pdf easily?

Yes, that's a basic function in never versions of all layout softwares. Note that you'll still need to know some basics about the settings you'd be using to create the pdf - you need different settings for different uses, for example print vs. screen view pdfs.

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2) It seems to me that paying a printer to print off copies, or using print on demand, is cheaper if you do an 8.5" x 11" format. Also, then people can print off pages from the pdf easily, for reference.   Am I basically correct?

More or less so. It depends on the printer whether there is appreciable difference in price between a standard format or something else. Might be more true in general with digital printers than traditional ones. In any case you're unlikely to pay extra for such a common paper size.

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3)  InDesign defaults to 3 pica margins on all sides of the page, is this a good number?  For a full page picture, should they extend to the edge (bleed)? 

You'll need to learn to make your own choices on layout matters like this, don't expect the default settings to work for every project. A given size of margin will be good for some purposes and not so good for others. (A simple example is page size - the same size of margin will be proportionately larger on a smaller page than it would be on a larger one.) Same goes for presenting images: you might want to make the image genuinely full-page, in which case you need to consider bleeds, or you might choose to frame it on the page with small white margins, in which case you won't.

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4)  Printer's marks: is this something I need to worry about, or will my letter sized InDesign file be enough for the printer?

If your project is a simple, normal book with no bleeds, then your printer will likely be quite happy without the marks. Often printers can add marks for obvious projects if they need them for technical reasons. However, it's a good habit to learn to use appropriate marks, as they can't hurt your project, while their lack can confuse your printer. Always remember that the printer is likelier to be a dull monkey than a sharp monkey, so they might print it wrong instead of asking you for marks when they're actually needed; better to provide them every time, it's not that much work.

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'5) What else do I need to know before I finish laying out this whole book?  It wouldn't be too fun to do the whole thing over :(

This is a horridly difficult question, there are so many things that need to be considered for the layout to be both stylistically and technically well-done. What sort of prior experience do you have? You might want to put up a sample of your work so we can look at it and verify that you have a correct understanding of font use, embedding, typographic rules, image positioning, image formats and pdf resolution controls and a hundred other things that might be wrong without me guessing it from here. Just looking at what you're doing will help figure out a baseline of what is obvious to you and what isn't.

If I had to pick one simple rule to follow, I'd say that you should try to work uniformly and with maximal use of the layout software control features, such as master pages and style sheets. This will allow you to control the layout and make automatized changes to it much easier when you find that you need to change something about it. Uniform work will make your layout look better and make it easier to track needed changes. It will also teach discipline, which is the most important quality when doing layout.
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David C
Member

Posts: 262

lost in the woods...


« Reply #3 on: May 12, 2009, 12:10:25 AM »

I have some prior experience with inDesign.  Photoshop I've been using for nearly a decade.  I just don't have any experience making *books*.  Mostly I've made fliers.

I'll get something ready to show you guys, but it might take a bit. 
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Seamus
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« Reply #4 on: May 23, 2009, 12:08:16 PM »

What is the best method for laying out a rule book. It seems like all the tutorials on Lynda and on the Adobe website, show you isolated examples of features used on a practically finished project. I want to know how to organize my document, set it up so I can easily make the first pages of chapters look the same, import text from my word document without issues, etc.
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Bedrock Games
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BEDROCK GAMES
Eero Tuovinen
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #5 on: May 23, 2009, 11:37:23 PM »

That's a wide topic. It's probably best for you to read some basic instructions about your layout software of choice - the manual, for starters.

The basic workflow in layout is that you first design your master pages, paragraph styles and character styles. Then you plan page design - the principles of positioning and pacing that control the positioning of your pictures, charts, box text and other content that goes outside text flow. After this you import your text, which has ideally already been styled with styles that have the same names as the ones you defined in your layout program; the good layout programs will understand f.ex. Word files in this regard. After that you just go through the text, add content, correct details and make sure everything flows according to plan.

That basic plan is modified a lot by the particulars of what you want to do. For example, it might be that your chapter start pages look so radically different that you should have a different master page for them. Or it might be that you can use the same master page - in my TSoY book I can basically do this, I just add one new text box on the chapter start pages. This all depends heavily on what you're trying to make the book look like.

Aside from reading basic tutorials for your layout software, you might want to start a new thread and post your page design plans - we could comment on how to implement your design in practice if we knew what it was like.
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Publishing Zombie Cinema and Solar System at Arkenstone Publishing.
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