Is Typesetting Really Necessary? A Guide for Self-Published Authors

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If you’re a budding author, you may have heard of typesetting, but the name alone doesn’t reveal much about the service, unlike self-explanatory ones such as cover design or eBook formatting. Don’t brush it off without looking into it—the truth is that professional typesetting is crucial for delivering a smooth and enjoyable experience to your readers.

Typesetting is the way text is arranged on the page before a book goes to print, and it focuses on making the reading experience immersive and pleasurable. It may not sound like a big deal—you’ve certainly never thought about the layout of the text when you’re reading—but that’s the entire point. You’d definitely notice if it were dismally arranged, distracting from the story and spoiling your reading experience. Good typesetting is effectively invisible.

Big publishers have traditionally offered this service in-house, but as self-publishing gained traction over the past couple of decades, many specialized services, such as typesetting, have become the responsibility of the authors, who typically outsource the work to professionals. While you might think that arranging text on a page sounds simple, we advise against tackling the job yourself—it’s way more complicated than it appears, and attempting the task as an amateur will likely lead to wasted time, added stress, and a subpar result.

If you plan on publishing your book in print, we highly recommend hiring a professional typesetter to make sure your manuscript is up to industry standards before you send it off to the printer. Check out our custom typesetting services to learn more about getting a beautiful interior design for your book. If you’re only publishing electronically, reach out to our eBook formatting experts

What’s the purpose of typesetting?

Typesetting is one of the final steps in the writing and publishing process. It is performed once the manuscript has been finalized, which means edited, proofread, and in no need of further modifications. You must be absolutely certain you won’t be making any changes to the content or language after hiring a typesetter because even the slightest alteration can ruin the layout your typesetter has prepared. 

Typesetting ensures that the text on the page is consistent, aesthetically pleasing, and easy to follow. To create an enjoyable reading experience, a typesetter analyzes elements such as the spacing between letters, words, and lines; the font type and size; margin consistency; and the overall layout of the book.  

Typesetting is thought of as a kind of invisible art because it’s not something a reader should notice. When neglected or done incorrectly, however, it will certainly jump out and ruin the reading experience. The text on the page is the vehicle through which your words reach the audience’s imagination, and if poor layout forces your readers out of their immersion, their enjoyment of the story will suffer.

For a professionally looking book, the size of the page, the chapter and section styling, drop caps, widow and orphan lines, kerning, and more need to be consistent, clean, and organized. If you don’t know what all these terms mean, that’s a good sign you should hand the job off to a professional. In case your manuscript includes illustrations, graphs, or tables, a typesetter will also make sure they are beautifully displayed and enhance the aesthetic of your book. Visuals can add a lot to a book, but only if they’re arranged professionally.

Does your book need typesetting? 

If you plan on printing your book and making money from sales, then we highly recommend hiring a professional typesetter. Your book can’t compete effectively unless it’s up to industry standard, and a subtle but crucially important element of a professional book is the way it looks on the inside. Considering how saturated this market is, your work can’t necessarily thrive on the merit of a great story alone—you need professionalism to radiate from the entire package if you want to make it big.

Typesetting impacts readability, ensuring the audience doesn’t get distracted by technical or mechanical errors such as double spaces, ladders, word stacks (when consecutive rows of text are hyphenated or start or end with the same word), and book blocks (when the blocks of text on each facing page don’t end on the same row). These details are something the majority of readers (and writers) don’t think about, but if typesetters didn’t work hard to eliminate them, we would definitely notice. 

A lot more goes into typesetting than readers and perhaps even authors realize. The way all these elements are designed will depend on multiple factors, including book length and genre, which is why it’s so important to hire a professional with experience and industry knowledge. These invisible elements will definitely impact a reader’s opinion of your book, even if they can’t articulate the reason why.

Do you really need a professional typesetter? 

Although the days of typesetting newspapers and books by hand are long gone, modern typesetting still requires a specific set of design skills and tools that not everyone possesses. Not all designers are good typesetters, and neither are most writers, which is why it’s still a service that’s in high demand, even in the digital age. 

Sure, you can use typesetting software to design the interior of your book yourself, but keep in mind that these are specialized tools that require previous knowledge, experience, and practice to get them right. The learning curve is steep, and it might not be worth the trouble to do it yourself. You may save money, but the costs you’ll incur in time, effort, and stress are likely to offset the savings, not to mention that your typesetting job is unlikely to look professional if you don’t already have experience in the art.

It’s important to hire a typesetter who’s familiar with your book’s genre (each can have its own styles and conventions) and who has a diverse portfolio that showcases their work. If you’re ready to start working with a professional typesetter, reach out to our interior book design team. If custom typesetting isn’t in your budget, check out our basic print formatting services, which are a more affordable option. 

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