Gathering Text Material for Books

Text can come from a number of sources and in a variety of formats. I recommend the following for compilations:

  1. As little formatting as possible should be done by the individual contributors, let the overall designer/editor set the formatting. Usually it’s easier to add formatting to an entire document than to remove various different formats from lots of little contributions.
  2. The PC is not a typewriter, single spaces after punctuation only please!
  3. Special characters, hopefully your editor is smart enough to include “true” quotations and not ditto marks (").
  4. Ditto for apostrophes, this ’ not this '.
  5. Also for the few other special characters, most  word processors have a special character mode
  6. Avoid using all caps text.
  7. There are many style books like Strunk and White available and many differing styles. If the editor changes your text to match an overall style, it doesn't mean you're wrong, its just for consistency.

Examples greatly enlarged, on the PC in smaller fonts they look the same, watch out!:

  • “true” quotations and not ditto marks (")
  • apostrophe ’ not this '
  • etc...

More guidelines for text contributions:

  • The PC is Not a Typewriter by Robin Williams
  • The MAC is Not a Typewriter by Robin Williams

If you have trouble with writing, I don't know how to help you. Are there still English majors living in the US?

Text Formatting:

For novels and the like, stick with an Oldstyle type. For text insets or books with large amounts of graphics, many designers favor sans-serif or other text fonts.

Watch out for dangling chunks of text hanging out by themselves, these are called orphans.

Design really can't be covered on such a small page, get thee to a library or bookstore.
For the editors:

  • The Non-Designers Type Book by Robin Williams
  • Getting It Printed: How to Work With Printers and Graphic Imaging Services to Assure Quality, Stay on Schedule and Control Costs by Eric Kenly
  • etc...


If you're taking pictures for publication, I hope you know how to use your camera and editor. Otherwise try;

  • Digital photographer's handbook by Tom Ang
  • Advanced digital photography : [techniques & tips for creating professional quality images] by Tom Ang
  • Or any of the 1,000s of books on the subject...

Give your editor the most pixels you can, your image can be cut down to size if needed but pixels cannot be added back without losing picture quality. Don't bother messing with any of the size or DPI settings, they are not important and you may degrade your image. For an 8.5" x 11" cover you will need an image from an 8-10 MP camera at a minimum. Once again, the more pixels the better.
If you are copying art to be included in the book, you need the following:

  • A source of even, consistent light. The more light the better Don't use cheap flourescents if possible. If you are using sunshine watch out for colors and hot spots added by the reflection of nearby objects.
  • A gray card, they can be had for as little as $6! Use it!
  • A tripod, I recommend multiple exposures at differing f-stops, there is neat software available that can combine these if needed if the contrast is otherwise too high. This is called "bracketing" your shot.
  • For pictures behind glass, use a polarizing filter. I recommend against this if at all possible.

Nice optional equipment:

  • Color card - a more expensive version of the gray card.
  • A copy lens for the camera. If you are renting a camera, tell the shop you are using it for copying, they may have a special lens for this. Ask them for the recommended settings to use with it.

Taking the shot:

  1. Set up your lights if required. Don't shoot in dim light please!
  2. Place the artwork with a gray card next to it.
  3. Set up your camera and tripod, if you are using a typical zoom lens, try to set it somewhere in the middle range to avoid distortion.
  4. Set your ISO settings as low as they can go if your camera has this setting.
  5. If your camera allows for manual settings, set your f-stop one or to down from the maximum. For example, go from F 2.8 to F 4 or something of the like unless you know the optimal stop to use.
  6. If possible, set up your camera for auto bracketing.
  7. Adjust the white balance if possible in your camera using the gray card.
  8. If possible use your cameras raw format or TIFF format, use the highest resolution setting.
  9. Verify the art and grey card can be seen in the viewfinder.
  10. Use your timer function to take the shot to avoid shaking.
  11. If your SLR camera has a setting to delay shutter actuation after the mirror is raised, use it. It will help dampen
    mechanical vibration and produce a sharper image.
  12. Review your shots, do they look OK, otherwise take another set!

If you are confused by this,  time to find a pro!

Managing Color

Not for the faint of heart! Digital Dog - Comprehensive digital color management site
ICC website

DTP Software on the Cheap

OpenOffice will work for small graphics intensive books as well as big chunks of text.
Scribus looks interesting and it certainly has more PDF option than OO but I haven't tried it out on a real project.


The non-designer's presentation book : principles for effective presentation design by Robin Williams

Getting It Printed

There are a fair number of Print on Demand suppliers out there, Here's a few:
Self Publishing at  - Has a great selection but quality is variable and mediocre
MyPhotofun - Xerox pushes them as a big user of their product - May be better for art books, I would need to see a sample!
DeHarts - small quantity Bay Area printer
Commercial Communications Inc - Small quantity printer

Royalty free images