Oh, what’s the point?

Written by Zertex

On March 2, 2018

This morning, I have printed over twenty different versions of the same two book pages, each one incrementally different to the one before. No, I’m not having a breakdown (yet), I’m just trying to choose the perfect text size for the first print run of Space Team.

I’ve never really thought about font sizes before. Most of the books I’ve written in the past have been published by someone else, and they’ve handled all the layout stuff. I emailed a Word document and several months later got back a finished book. That was where my understanding of the process started and ended.

With ebooks, the format in which 99% of my Space Team series is sold, the e-reader handles the spacing and text size for you, so you don’t have to think about it. We’re about to pay up front for a ‘proper’ print run, though, so I want to make sure we get it right. It turns out it’s a lot more complicated than I thought.

First up is the font size. 11pt Adobe Garamond Pro is recommended a lot online, but when I printed my test spread out at that size it looked too small. I compared it with a few other books from my shelves, and it was a little smaller than some, markedly smaller than others.

I bumped it up to 11.5pt, and my eye could detect zero difference. However, the bottom line of page one was now the top line of page two, so something had definitely changed, just not enough for me to notice. The text still felt small and uncomfortable-looking, so I bumped it up to 12pt font.

This time, I did notice a difference. The individual words were better, but the page looked densely packed, the letters all jammed in together like sardines. I adjusted the leading – the space between each line on the page – then adjusted it a few more times until I was happy with it.

This is where it gets complicated. The text was still a little on the small side compared to some of those other books. What’s more, the printing company, Clays, prints in blocks of 16 pages, and the current version was either 1 page over a block, or 15 pages under, depending on your point of view. That was going to leave a lot of blank pages at the end, and while I’m sure I could’ve come up with stuff to fill them, I didn’t want our first book to have 15 pages of backmatter padding.

So, after some more messing around, I settled on 12.5pt Adobe Garamond Pro font, with 14.3pt leading. It looks good, I think – nicely spaced and easily readable – and while we could’ve saved a few pence per copy by going with 11pt and keeping the page numbers down, overall this should give us a much better final product.

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