book typesetting

Every printed book you’ve ever held, every ebook you’ve ever read—they all started as a raw manuscript and transformed into the polished, easily navigable product you see today. This transformation is brought about by a process called typesetting. So, what is typesetting, and what are the tools that make it possible?

What is Typesetting?

Typesetting is the process of arranging and formatting text to make it most effective for reading. It involves the selection of typefaces (or fonts), size, line length, line-spacing (leading), and letter-spacing. The typesetter also manages the white space within a page and ensures that the text flows from one page to another without unnecessary breaks.

In addition, typesetting involves setting up the layout of non-text elements such as images, tables, and graphs, as well as parts of the book like the table of contents, chapter titles, headers, footers, and page numbers.

The Importance of Typesetting

Good typesetting can make a book more readable and enjoyable. It can guide the reader’s eye along the lines of text, make the content easily understandable, and enhance the overall reading experience. Bad typesetting, on the other hand, can lead to discomfort, confusion, and even discourage the reader from going further.

Typesetting Software and Tools

Now, let’s discuss the tools that can help you typeset your book. Here are some of the most commonly used typesetting software and online tools:

Adobe InDesign

InDesign is a professional desktop publishing application that provides precise control over typography and built-in creative tools for designing, preflighting, and publishing documents. It’s ideal for creating layouts that combine text and images.


QuarkXPress is a powerful design software that’s been around for decades. It provides a range of features that give you control over text, images, shapes, color, and opacity, and it’s compatible with a variety of formats.


LaTeX is a high-quality typesetting system widely used for technical and scientific documents but it can be used for any type of publishing. While it has a steep learning curve, it’s very powerful, especially for works that include complex mathematical formulas.


Scribus is a free, open-source software that offers a solid alternative to some of the industry’s leading paid tools. It offers a host of tools that are excellent for text-heavy books and has good support for PDF creation.

Microsoft Word

While not a dedicated typesetting software, Microsoft Word is a convenient tool for typesetting. Many authors use Word for writing and basic formatting, and it’s perfectly capable of producing a well-typeset book.

Google Docs

Again, while not dedicated typesetting software, Google Docs offers a host of tools and options for typesetting. Its cloud-based nature allows easy sharing and collaboration.


Vellum is a popular typesetting software for Mac users. While not free, it’s widely loved for its user-friendly interface, high-quality output, and superb customer service.


Canva is a free online tool known for graphic design. However, its layout capabilities can be used for basic typesetting. It’s best for image-heavy and layout-focused books.


Reedsy provides a free online book editor that lets authors format and typeset their books. It’s a simple, intuitive tool for indie authors.


The world of typesetting can seem complicated at first glance, but with the right tools, it becomes an accessible and even enjoyable part of the book production process. Remember, the ultimate goal of typesetting is to create a book that readers will find visually appealing and comfortable to read. The tools listed above, ranging from the robust and professional to the user-friendly and free, can all help you achieve that goal.

Derek Murphy
Derek Murphy

I'm a location independent book designer (and book marketing genius) working on my PhD in Literature and shopping for a castle to use as a writer's paradise. I write non-fiction and YA.

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