When I receive a new book for design and layout, publishers usually provide me with an estimated page count. There are many ways to modify the design and layout to produce a book that is reasonably close to the target–typically plus or minus 16 to 32 pages. Sometimes the estimates are just wrong and a book absolutely needs more pages. I’ll work with the publisher to figure out a good solution, as more than anything else, a book has to be readable.
My first step is to gather all of the text files for a book into a single InDesign file that I usually name “textall.indd.” Next, I style all of the text elements–chapter titles, heads, lists, extracts, notes, etc., using as many shortcuts and as much global styling as possible. I’ll also add page breaks to account for chapters beginning on new recto or verso pages as needed to my textall.indd file.
I always save or rename the “textall.indd” file several times while I’m styling the text in case I make any changes or mistakes that need to be undone.
For books with a lot of photographs or other graphic elements, I usually estimate two images per printed book page, unless there’s a reason to do otherwise. I recently finished typesetting a book with hundreds of photographs that were all sized to take up a single page, which made it easy to figure out the page count.
Sometimes I need to start laying out some pages to figure out how much space to allocate for the images. I always provide a sample typeset chapter or two as a PDF before producing an entire book. It’s important to fix any design or page count issues as soon as possible to avoid extra work and to maintain consistency through the finished book.
All of the work described above will bring a book well along the way to completion. After all of the design and page count issues are settled, the fun part, at least for me, is actually laying out the pages as designed with images sized and placed in the most attractive and effective manner possible.