1. Technology
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Discuss in my forum


The Role of Desktop Publishing in Creating Books, Manuals, Booklets


Parts of a book

What kind of book are you designing?

© Jacci Howard Bear; licensed to About.com
While an individual may write, design, and self-publish a book all by themselves, book publishing usually involves many different people including writers, editors, copyeditors, photographers, illustrators, graphic designers, indexers, publishers, printers, book binders, and more.

Publications, for our purposes here, refers primarily to books (hardcover, paperback, and others types) and other non-periodical publications such as booklets, workbooks, manuals, dictionaries, and textbooks. Although the designer could be involved in new versions of a book, usually it's a one-shot design job. Because freelance designers and desktop publishers sometimes wear many hats (including self-publishers), technical writing and indexing are sometimes included in this category although normally these are jobs for professional writers and indexers. While major publishers may handle all book design and layout including indexing in-house, freelancers may be able to make a niche providing these services to self-publishers or small independent book publishers.

Designing Books

Most books will have at least a front and back cover, title page, and body text. But usually there will be many elements as thoroughly outlined in Parts of a Book, which explores the physical components of hardcover and softcover books as well as the design elements that make up the text portion of most books.

Aside from the specific sections of the books, much of which is dictated by the author and the book publisher, the designer is responsible for the overall layout of the pages including setting margins, selecting typefaces for body text, headings, and any other typographical elements chosen for the pages. Text composition is usually the primary task involved with most book design unless it's a photo album with very little text.

Even with a mostly text-based book there will often be some use of photos and illustrations. The book designer may be responsible for acquiring, creating, editing, converting, and then placing images into the book. See Designing Books and Manuals for more tips and tutorials.


Most book publishing uses commercial printing processes, usually offset lithography. Other options, including digital printing, are possible for small runs and smaller publications such as booklets.

Some form of book paper is what most books are printed on. Certain books (not just Bibles) may use a premium grade of book paper known as Bible paper.

During the design phase the designer must consider how the book will be bound. Certain design choices, such as margins, may differ with the choice of bookbinding.

Software for Book Design

Whether in-house or as a freelancer, typesetting for a long document such as a book generally requires professional level tools. Adobe FrameMaker, Corel Ventura, and QuarkXPress are considered the leaders in this field; however other professional tools including Adobe InDesign and the free, but powerful Scribus will also do the job. For working with the images incorporated into some books, the designer will need professional level graphics software such as Photoshop or the CorelDRAW Graphics Suite.

16 Categories of Design Specialization

Book design shares many of the same design tasks as designing periodicals such as newsletters such as maintaining a consistent look and feel throughout a multi-page document through the careful use of repeating elements and consistent font choices and layout.
  1. Annual Reports & Proposals
  2. Business Forms
  3. Catalogs, Menus, & Product Lists
  4. Collaterals (brochures, etc.)
  5. Crafts & Creative Printing
  6. Identity Systems (logo, letterhead)
  7. Marketing Materials (ads, direct mail)
  8. Packaging
  9. Periodicals (newsletters, magazines)
  10. Presentation Graphics
  11. Publication Art
  12. Publications (books, manuals, booklets, etc.)
  13. Self-publishing
  14. Signage
  15. Web, Mobile, and Multimedia Publishing
  16. Word Processing

Pick Your Path to Desktop Publishing
Get Started:Basic Guidelines and Requirements for Desktop Publishing
Choose Software:Desktop Publishing and Design Software
Tips & Tutorials:How to Do Desktop Publishing
Training, Education, Jobs:Careers in Desktop Publishing
In the Classroom: Back to School With Desktop Publishing
Make Something: Things to Make Using Desktop Publishing
Use Templates: Templates for Print and Web Publishing

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.