Lockers and a piano gather dust in the basement of the old Jerome High School in Jerome, Arizona, one of the biggest in the country during the town’s mining boom. In recent years, the classrooms became occupied by artists who welcome tourists to their open studios. (Image © Jain Lemos, Jerome, AZ; 2014.)

When the designer has roughed in all of the pages of the book it’s time for reviewing layouts. In this section of The Ultimate Guide to Producing Documentary Books, I’ll cover how this stage develops. At this point, the designer will have about 95 percent of all the book parts to work with but count on seeing several TKs that you’ll need to chase down and provide.

Ideally, it would be great to meet with the designer in person but in many cases that isn’t possible. This means you’ll be looking at screen resolution PDFs. Right now, you want to consider how everything is fitting in the space allotted. Is it all too crammed? Does the manuscript need cutting or expanding? Do you need to take pages from one section and move them to another? Are you happy with the sequencing you established earlier?

Areas of the layout that tend to need the most of your attention are the opening and closing sections. When opening the book from the front cover, there is a recto end sheet, which is not really page 1 of the book in terms of signature count but the design should show the mock-up of this. End sheets can incorporate design but often they are a solid color. Either way, the end sheets need to be represented in the layout so it’s understood how they will look. The first two pages of the book are actually the verso of the end sheet and a recto half title. Though it sort of looks like one in the finished book, this is not called a spread. Instead, the half title is considered the first page in the design file, though this page would never include a folio.

After the half title is the actual first spread of the book. The left page might feature an uncaptioned photograph or be intentionally left blank but the right page will certainly be the full title page. Next is the copyright page, always on the left. Here is where you’ll likely see several TKs. As the producer, it’s your job to get this information gathered and to the designer. Details include author and team credits, printer info, ISBN, edition information, publisher’s address, Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data, FSC-certified paper logo and the “all rights reserved” text block. As for the recto for this spread, I’ve seen several treatments, but I like a dedication here.

The next spread is the TOC, which in some lengthy documentary books can take two spreads. Don’t cram the contents and add some small photos or a background image. Not every chapter has to have a representative photo. I’ve seen TOC layouts use a block of small photos as their own visual column to balance the TOC columns that works very nice. Either spread the TOC over two pages or four. Don’t split the TOC into one-and-a-half spreads. Also, page references are added when the book is fully set so this page won’t be final now. Make a note!

If your book has a Foreword, it will come next and sometimes these have folios, usually lowercase roman numerals that take into account the previous pages. If the half-title page is page i, the Foreword would be page viii and that could well be the first page number printed in the book, because the TOC usually doesn’t show page numbering.

Now it can get confusing here because if your book has an Introduction as well as a Foreword, then the Introduction starts with regular page numbering. This is because the Foreword is considered front matter and the Introduction is considered part of the manuscript, even though The Chicago Manual of Style includes the Introduction as part of the front matter section. Page numbering can get even crazier when the folios of the first Introduction spread are pages 2-3, but there is no page 1. That’s because it is actually page ix of the Foreword.

Back matter pages often don’t revert to roman numerals. The page count just continues along. These sections can include: Afterword, Acknowledgements, Technical Information, Index, Bibliography and Author Bios. Working on these pages are challenging because the text is dense and often takes precious pages away from the main book where you want those photos to run large. I like to have the last page blank so that the recto end sheet is opposite a nice white page. But sometimes that extra page has to be sacrificed.

The designer has done their best to include all of the materials you’ve provided and sometimes it’s just too much stuff for the page count. Until you see everything in layout, you won’t really know how it all fits. Maybe the budget can accommodate another half signature? It’s your job to decide what stays and what goes. Consider the big picture here for rearranging parts and make note of all the missing text so you can deliver it without delay for the next round.

Next up is going to be Dealing with Changes. While nagging details are in your mind, everything you wanted to know about serial commas can be read here.