For years you told anyone within hearing distance that you would write a book someday. Perhaps, you wanted to write about an incredible chapter of your life, share family recipes, or showcase the stunning photographs you’d taken over the years. Or maybe you just hoped to show off your downright amazing story-telling abilities.

Whatever happened to drive the powerful urge to self-publish a book, you now find yourself knee-deep in the project. The writing experience has been exhilarating and somewhat exhausting, opening up your very heart and soul to your future readers. But let’s face it — most authors will put in the time and effort to eventually earn some nice book royalties.

While progressing along the self-publishing journey, you will be faced with making some important decisions. One of the most critical decisions you’ll encounter occurs after you have completed the manuscript. This involves the formatting, or typesetting, of the book into a file that can be uploaded for print-on-demand or e-books.

Since self-publishing is itself a DIY venture, learning how to typeset a manuscript may be natural for authors who pride themselves on their resourcefulness. With excellent typesetting software readily available, tackling this next step of the self-publishing process on your own is definitely possible.

Not all authors, however, are comfortable taking on such a critical step themselves. If this is your first self-published book, or if your book has more complex interior design requirements, hiring a professional is probably money well spent. Read on to learn everything you need to know about typesetting your self-published book.

Typesetting Defined

Typesetting is the process of setting letters, numbers, and symbols onto a page. It has evolved from ancient Chinese art originating a thousand years ago to the advent of the printing press in 1440 to the modern digital software used today. Using carefully selected fonts, sizes, and assorted design elements, you can bring your book to life, evoking tone, period, and genre through the typesetting process.

When typesetting is well-executed, the resulting effect is a fluid, effortless reader experience. Margins, font selections, and spacing work flawlessly together — and it just feels right to the reader. Contrast this experience to a poorly typeset book, which can disrupt the reader’s experience.

Typesetting versus Typography

First, let’s provide some clarification on the terminology. Typesetting refers to the process of formatting text into particular fonts, point sizes, and spacing. Typography is the artistic discipline involving all facets of interior matter aesthetics, including the pairing or arranging of fonts, graphics, images, color, and contrasting design elements.

How to Typeset a Book

While the thought of typesetting may come across as boring, the truth is that typesetting plays a vital role in the overall appeal of your self-published book. As readers settle in with a new book, their subconscious begins scanning the first few pages for a well-balanced visual landscape. The smallest details, such as font selection, point size, margins, and spacing, will either contribute to or detract from the book’s readability and reader experience. Ultimately, the book’s interior content will look professional or amateur, depending on how all these important design elements come together.

As an author, you have two choices available for this step of the self-publishing journey — to learn how to typeset the book yourself or to hire a professional. There are pros and cons associated with each option, so let’s explore them in greater detail.

DIY Typesetting

Typesetting software has empowered authors who have zero experience in typesetting to format their own books. Some of these typesetting software programs are available at no cost, while others charge a fee. To learn how to typeset your manuscript, consider these typesetting software options:

  • Vellum. Vellum is a popular software program designed for Mac users. It is free to download but charges a fee to export files for publication.
  • Adobe InDesign. InDesign is appropriate for more complex books, such as graphic novels, photo books, or children’s picture books. It requires a monthly subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud.
  • Draft2Digital. Draft2Digital is a free formatting software tool for creating eBook files.


  • Saves on publishing costs when compared to the cost of hiring a professional
  • Can save time when wanting to expedite the publication process
  • Can make revisions at will and update files as needed
  • Fairly straightforward for authors of fiction novels


  • There is a learning curve to using these typesetting software programs
  • Unless you have experience in selecting fonts and other design elements, the result is likely to be inferior to a professionally formatted book

Using typesetter software can be a beneficial decision to save some time and money. However, a professional typesetter may be just as quick and have the experience to produce a much more professional look. Consider your options and choose the one that is best for your book.

Using a Professional Typesetter

While it is acceptable for a self-published author to attempt formatting their own book, the old saying “Penny wise and pound foolish” may come to mind. Sometimes in an author’s quest to save on costs, they may end up sacrificing quality. A professional who specializes in typesetting can work with you to design a customized book interior that reflects your genre, desired tone, and brand in its best light.


  • A typesetter uses their expertise to select various design elements, such as trim size, compatible fonts, margin size, and spacing, that work well together
  • Elevates the overall effect of your book’s readability and aesthetic value
  • Has the experience needed for tackling more complex book projects


  • Professional typesetters can be pricey
  • The typesetter may outsource the work to someone overseas, so always ask about this before selecting a typesetter
  • May have a longer turnaround time

Though the price of a typesetter may be a bit higher, the quality and skill you’re receiving from a professional can be well worth the cost.

Dos and Don’ts of Typesetting

If you decide to try your luck on a DIY typesetting software program, follow these basic typesetting rules for the best possible outcome:


1. Be consistent with fonts. Select a serif font and a complementary sans serif font and use them consistently throughout the book. Generally, the serif font is used for the text, and the sans serif font is reserved for titles.

2. Use page breaks. Instead of hitting the return tab to move to a new page, use a page break. This will save time and prevent headaches during the formatting process.

3. Use justification. To achieve an orderly visual appearance, select the “justify” option for aligning the body of text to have clean edges on both margins.


1. Type two spaces after a sentence. When ending a sentence, type only one space, not two, between your sentences.

2. Indent the first paragraph. The first paragraph of each chapter should not be indented. Every paragraph that follows will use a .5” indent. Some non-fiction or textbooks are exceptions to this, as none of the paragraphs are to be indented.

3. Leave “widows” and “orphans”. Widows refer to the last line of a paragraph that winds up on the top of the next page. And orphans refer to the first line of a paragraph that winds up at the bottom of a page.

If you find yourself struggling with the formatting software, consider hiring a typesetting pro to do the job for you. If so, be sure to first check out their portfolio to get a feel for their work, ask if they have experience typesetting books in your genre, and keep the lines of communication open throughout the process.

Typesetting Services for Your Self-Published Book

When time constraints or a lack of technical skills deter your typesetting ambitions, consider reaching out to the typesetting professionals at Gatekeeper Press. Our book design experts will produce a stunning and highly readable book that your readers will truly enjoy. Call us today!

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