Typesetting varies hugely between books and publishers – just walk into a bookshop’s fiction section and start opening up books to see this in action. It’s one of those age-old arts whose devotees range hugely in their working styles. For fiction and narrative non-fiction, typesetting tends towards classic and unobtrusive styles: if you’re distracted by the design of the page, it makes it hard to really get lost in a book. Old-school typographers have many and varied opinions on what constitutes a readable typeface (and would probably be very happy to talk about it to anyone who’s interested).
Once the in-house design team has decided on a typeface, we’ve got to decide on other details: is the book going to have ‘running heads’ (you see these often in caps running across the top of the page), and where are the page numbers (folios) going to sit – at the bottom, at the top, centred in the page, or at the edge? Does the book have chapters, and do we want these to stand out with an entire half-page devoted to the chapter title and/or number? There’s a lot to think about – and this is just for a text-only book. It’s an extremely enjoyable rabbit hole to fall down!
Once the design of the page is decided and confirmed, the typesetter sets out the whole book and generates PDFs, called ‘first proofs’. These are sent back to the pre-press department, who get ready to start checking that everything is where it should be and that no errors have crept in. For a belt and braces approach, a professional is employed for this checking, called a proofreader.