Typesetting is a design process: the conversion of the final copy-edited typescript (usually an A4-sized document) to the required layout, style and size of the book to be printed.
It is a skilled and complex job that follows the rules of typographic design, usually carried out with software specifically designed for the purpose (although, it can be achieved with word-processing software).
The main functions of book typography are: readability (size and display of fonts), organisation (layout of pages), navigation (book parts, and page numbers), and consistency (a uniform appearance).
To gain a quick understanding of the work involved in typesetting, pick up a paperback book and study the inside. How does the layout of text and pages differ to that of an A4-size, word-processed typescript?
How I work: I used to offer a typesetting service, using the templates available from Kindle Direct Publishing (other self-publishing providers are available!), but no longer offer this to new clients. Nowadays, I contract out typesetting to a colleague who is a professional graphic designer, whose website can be found here. I pass her the final copy-edited typescript; she does her magic, and sends me back an electronic copy of the typeset document, usually in PDF format. (I can also recommend her for book cover design, and examples of her work can be viewed on her website, and on my Portfolio page: namely, Rupert's Diary, and The Death Certificate. Look out for the upcoming revision of The Marriage Certificate.)
How long will it take? In the hands of an experienced professional typesetter, it may only take a few days to produce the first proof copy. Once my colleague has sent this to me, I run a quick check through, onscreen, to ensure that certain elements of the text are displayed as they should be, and are consistent. If not, I request that changes are made. As there may be some back and forth between me and the typesetter, I suggest between 1–2 weeks for this stage.
How much will it cost? The fee for typesetting is generally arranged between client and typesetter, although I may be able to provide a rough estimate at the outset. In general, my colleague offers both cover design and typesetting packages (for paperback and Kindle e-book), starting at £350–£400.
What happens next? After typesetting is complete, I arrange for a proof copy of the book to be printed. This is sent to the proofreader for the third and final stage of editing: 3. Proofreading