If you are venturing out onto your first book publishing expedition, you will find many how-to sites that will throw you for a loop. However, page layout is a lot easier than people make it sound. Labor-intensive? Absolutely. Annoying? Often. Needing careful observation of detail? Without a doubt. But the skills involved are fairly simple, given the right set of tools and some knowledge. You will find most of everything you need below.
If you intend on doing a short book publishing run that will be sold via Amazon and the like, regular word processing software might well suffice. Microsoft Works word processor has enough oomph in it for many small-scale book publishing uses. Headers, footers, pagination, columns, font choices – it’s all there. All you must do is to guard against widows and orphans which are those stray bits of sentences and words that hang off unsightly places on the page (orphaned lines happen first, at the start of paragraphs (stranding the first line), and widowed lines happen last, at the end of paragraphs. Most good word processors have an option for reducing widows and orphans, but the best word processors will sometimes go awry. In the act of publishing a book, you can’t be too careful with widows and orphans.
When it comes to font faces and sizes, readability is the first consideration. Forget all those cool scifi faces. When it’s condensed into type before aging eyes, it may be nothing more than a smudge on the page. There go all your pretty words. In publishing a book, stick to the tried-and-true. YMMV, but always remember it’s not YM that counts but your readers’ eyes.
Book publishing typography convention says that sans serif faces are to be used in headers and covers. Serif typefaces, we are so ordered, are best for text for ease of readability. The most popular body text book faces include Baskerville, Garamond, Janson, Palatino, Bembo, and Times Roman. In the age of the net, sans serif Verdana, Tahoma and Arial seem to be garnering their own sets of fans, but sans serif fonts may be difficult for some people to read through an entire book. NEVER use less than an 8 point face for sans serif and nothing smaller than 10 point for serif fonts (Palatino, Bekeley).
Of course, you will want to use larger point sizes for the cover and headers when publishing a book. Remember how tiny those book covers appear on the screen!
Professional layout and typesetting is not all that expensive, if you have an extra wad of cash lying around while publishing a book. Yeah, we don’t either. In such cases, the DIY enthusiasts have tons of pages with more specific tips on these very topics. Here’s a good place to start:
DIY with Microsoft Word (includes templates) – http://www.selfpublishing.com/design/production-center/articles/ms-word/