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I have been dabbling with the idea of publishing my own book for a while now. My independent pattern line, Poetry in Yarn, actually started out as an experiment to see what went in to independent publishing. Although it will probably be a while till I get around to putting out my own book, I’m eager to learn more about the process of book publishing and book design. Recently I saw the book Book Design and Production: A Guide for Authors and Publishers recommended on the Yahoo self-publishing group and decided to pick up a copy.

Book: Book Design and Production: A Guide for Authors and Publishers
Author: Pete Masterson
List Price: $29.95

The book starts out with a brief section on the history of books and book production. Book Design in Production is actually laid out using margins in the same proportion as the Gutenberg bible. I think that is meant as a nice tribute to the rich history of the subject rather than any hubris on the author’s part.

The book covers all the stuff you wish you knew, but didn’t: common book trim sizes, rules for margins, types of fonts, the process of book publishing, and more. The author discusses all the nitty, gritty details that drive me bonkers (such as conventions for page numbering). Oh, and you know how the copyright page at the front of a book has all those weird numbers on it? Well he explains what they are, why they’re there, and whether you really need to include them in your book.

Type and fonts also get a very thorough treatment in the book. There is one chapter on type where Masterson explains the jargon used for type faces. (The book has a very nice glossary at the end.) Then, there is another chapter on designing with type where he discusses other issues such as line and paragraph spacing.

Masterson includes specific directions for how to clean up a manuscript in Word before the layout process as well as best practices for laying out your manuscript in Adobe InDesign. The instruction are slightly outdated since they are written for older versions of the software (InDesign CS), but I still found them valuable. If reading the book makes you realize you don’t want to do the design work yourself, he provides a nice chapter on hiring a designer.

When it gets time to print, Masterson breaks down your options. He explains the types of paper available, what paper is generally used for what projects, and gives a very detailed layout of how to ask for a print quote. In fact, if there is one word to describe this book, it’s “detailed”. So many books and articles on independent publishing leave me with more questions than answers, but this one doesn’t.

This is a great resource, and I’m so glad I bought it. It’s rare to find a 300+ page book where every page is as meaty and filled with information as the one before it. Even if I do decide to hire others to do my books design for me, I feel much more educated about the process of book production and the logistics of design work.