Memoir Writing – Designing and Formatting

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 15,331
    Personal history publisher Kitty Axelson-Berry discusses how to design and format your manuscript.

    Kitty Axelson-Berry: Hi! I am Kitty Axelson-Berry with Modern Memoirs and White Poppy Press. I am talking about how to write and publish your memoir, and now I am going to discuss how to design and format your manuscript. Generally, when people first pick up a book, they look at the spine, front, and back. Then they open the book and flip through the pages, stopping when they come to a photograph, the start of a new chapter, or anything unusual.

    Pages that have what is called white space and that are easy on the eye are particularly interesting. Design defines how the book will look and read. It determines the size of the book, the margins of the page, and the type style or fonts to be used, also the amount of white space between each line. Start looking at books on your bookshelf. What are your favorite dimensions? How thick is the book? How many pages? What does a typical page look like in that book? How big are the margins? What size and style of type is used for the main text? What about for the headlines, the titles? How about photos and photo captions? The first variable for you to decide on is the size of your page. Professional printers and photocopy shops will be happy to tell you what sizes are the most efficient for their machinery. Often, 6" x 9" or "5.

    5 x 8" is an efficient size. But contact the specific printer and binding you will be using and design your book in a size that will work for them. Now determine a font, a font size, and style and leading for each element of your book. Give it a style name and mark every paragraph with the correct style name. Then set up your document in the correct size and apply that correct style name to each paragraph. We recommend publishing applications such as InDesign or QuarkXPress, especially if you are including photographs, because these are considered more stable than word processing files. Make sure that all photographs are correctly inserted and that the proper photo captions have been attached. You might want to crop and enlarge many of your photos so that they are larger and extraneous background has been removed. When you are finished with formatting, you will need to review each and every page to make sure that there are no instances of only a few lines on a page or a few words on a line. Then, squeeze the words or rewrite the paragraph so that it fits better and every page looks great. Now, you are ready for prepress, printing, and binding.