Book Design & Page Layout Software: A Guide for DIY Authors

by | Nov 8, 2010

You’re an author, and you want to self-publish. After all, the juice seems to be flowing toward self-publishers, more authors are rethinking their approach to publishing, and new opportunities seem to be opening up to self-publishers every day.

The indie spirit in self-publishing leads lots of authors to want to take ownership of the entire process of book making, not just the writing. For most people trying to create a truly professional-looking book, the best solution will be to simply hire a professional.

But there’s no reason you can’t produce a reasonable-looking book if you’re willing to put in the time and educate yourself about books, and about the software you’ll use to create your book.

Here’s a guide to help you get oriented to this task if you decide to do it yourself.

tbd book layout template cta2

Guide to Book Design & Page Layout Software

There are three levels of software generally available to you if you decide to go the do-it-yourself (DIY) route:

  1. Word processorsMicrosoft Word has long had a chokehold on the word processing market due to its complete domination of the corporate environment. And don’t forget all those PCs that came with MS Office pre-installed on them.

    Most people use Word, and we also have the useful open source Open Office that reads and writes Word files, too. Other choices in this range include Apple’s Pages; Storyist and Scrivener, word processors that are also story development tools; Word Perfect, the old PC warhorse still in production, and a host of others. These are the programs writers are most familiar with, and in which you’ve probably spent the last couple of years writing your book.
  1. Layout programs—Since the advent of “desktop publishing” programs have been available that perform the functions usually taken care of by a layout artist.

    Now we have programs like Adobe InDesign and Quark Xpress to perform these functions. They allow you to bring together all the parts of a publication and manipulate them, then output the resulting job to a variety of devices for reproduction.
  1. Hybrids—There is also a midrange type of software that attempts to combine the word processing functions with layout functions. For instance, Microsoft Publisher is popular for flyers, business brochures and similar projects, and there are a lot of templates available to make creating jobs easier.

    Likewise, Apple’s Pages is really a hybrid and can be used either as a word processor or as a layout engine, depending on the type of document you create. This category is showing the most growth in recent months, with more programs coming onto the market that attempt to be “all things to all people.”

     

    Now Pages offers EPUB output, as does Storyist. Any program that provides a clean word processing environment as well as the ability to combine text, graphics and output to reproduction devices might fall into this category.

Which Option is Right For You?

It’s pretty seductive to use your word processor for putting your book together. After all, you’re already familiar with the program and that should save you a ton of time. But a word processor is a poor choice for some kinds of books:

  • Illustrated books—It can be very frustrating to try to position graphics with any precision in a word processor. These programs usually lack sophisticated color-handling also, limiting their use for illustrated books.
  • Heavily formatted books—The more formatting involved, like sidebars, pull quotes, tables, charts, illustrations and anchored graphics, the less appropriate a word processor is as a layout solution.
  • Typographically sophisticated books—Word processors do not have the very fine typographic controls you find in sophisticated layout programs. And hyphenation and justification of text simply will not look as polished as it would in dedicated software.

Pros and Cons for Each Type of Software

No matter what you choose to use as a vehicle to publish your book, there are tradeoffs. They are not always apparent, and might not affect you from day one of your project, but before you lock yourself into one solution or another, consider these:

  • Word processors, Pro and Con
    • Pro: You already know how to use it
    • Pro: The least expensive of the three alternatives, particularly if you already own it.
    • Pro: The shortest learning curve of the three types of programs
    • Con: You may not know how to use the functions you’ll need to do your book.
    • Con: Get ready to be frustrated if you’re trying to do exact placement of images on your pages
    • Con: Your options to output your pages may be severely limited, and you’ll have no support for color corrections, color calibration or many other advanced functions needed for some kinds of books.
  • Hybrids, Pro and Con
    • Pro: Less expensive than dedicated layout programs.
    • Pro: Easier to learn than dedicated layout programs.
    • Pro: Pre-built templates are available to get you started.
    • Con: Compromised functions of both word processors and layout programs may fail to satisfy or give the range of options of either type of program separately.
    • Con: Idiosyncratic. These programs may use “dumbed down” functions and language to describe the processes in an attempt to appeal to the widest variety of users.
    • Con: You may be frustrated by the availability of some, but not all, the functions of a higher-level layout program.

     

  • Layout programs, Pro and Con
    • Pro: You get complete control of your pages, with precise placement of all elements.
    • Pro: Robust support for output to all kinds of reproduction devices from low-end to high-end reproduction
    • Pro: Huge market of add-on and supplemental programs that supply even more functionality to these programs, and integrate with image editing functions as well.
    • Con: These babies are expensive to buy, and if you will only do one book, it may be hard to justify the expense.
    • Con: If you haven’t used this type of software before, get ready for some intensive training. And you can start by trying to figure out what a “pica” is.
    • Con: The variety and precision of commands and functions can be overwhelming for new users.

Recommendations

What kind of software you end up using to do your book will rely on lots of factors. But generally speaking, I would recommend:

  • Word processors if you’re on a budget, if your book is basically running text without much formatting, or if you only want to print up a few books for private use. You can dedicate yourself to learning how to manipulate these programs into producing a decent-looking book, but it may not be the best use of your time. Microsoft Word remains my choice here.
  • Hybrid programs if you’re willing to pay a few dollars for software that will give you a lot more flexibility with page layout, effects, placement of non-text elements. And if you are only a casual user, these programs will be easier to learn. I’m impressed with Apple’s Pages for layout and output to EPUB.
  • Page layout programs if you foresee doing more than one book a year, you like the idea of learning printing terms and procedures, or if you want to have complete control of an illustrated or heavily-formatted book. Keep in mind that the first books you produce will still look like first efforts. Plan to devote time to learning the software with some kind of training before diving into your project. Standards here include Adobe InDesign and Quark Xpress.

And if you do decide to design and produce your own book, check out the Understanding Fonts & Typography page on this blog. It will give you a leg up in getting your book to press.

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161 Comments

  1. ray allen

    For those of us on a budget, there are open source options such as Scribus, Calligra, and a number of flavors of TeX instead of Adobe InDesign and Quark XPress.

    Reply
  2. Shibu Chandra Mondal

    Any book designer + editing worker is there .plz contact with me as quick as possible.

    Reply
  3. Ashi

    An author must have some person to guide him/her throughout his/her life .

    Reply
  4. Ellie Kahn

    This is a great site — thank you! I produce family history books from my interviews with clients and have had to find a new printer/binder for my projects. I’ve been dong my layout just fine in Pages, but the export to pdf apparently ends up with the black text and black and white photos all in color. the printer/binders are telling that I will have to pay for all color printing, unless I do something to fix this. I’m very confused about what and how to make the black100% black, and the color as CMYK, within the same document, in order to meet the printers’ requirements. (the black text is selected as black in Pages, and the b/w photos are lowest saturation.) Is there a way to fix this. For future projects I have just gotten the new InDesign, and I hope that will resolve this. Very much welcome suggestions!!

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Ellie, I’m sorry to hear that. I don’t know Pages well enough to give you any technical advice, but I can say that controlling output like this is exactly what InDesign was made to do, so I’m sure it will be a better solution for you. There may be a program that manipulates PDFs that would solve the problem with the current book, look around and see what you can find.

      Reply
  5. Lawrence Harris

    Hello,
    After reading all the posts here on your excellent advice and replies as a newbie, I went for Serif Pageplus X9, which sounded very attractive from its website. However, after paying the very modest fee (£22) and going to the download link, I saw the file size was 1.2 GB, which is way above my 500 MB/day allowance! Pity they couldn’t let you know the file size beforehand! Luckily (?) I also ordered the recovery disc, which they say I can use to load the file.

    While now waiting for the disc to arrive I decided to have a look at Scribus. I heeded the “warnings” of the learning curve and patiently watch several U-tube tutorials and felt confident to give it a try… but I am getting stuck at first base: no matter how I try to copy my Word file into a text box as per video, I cannot get to my Word file. I can see the folder it is in, but cannot open the folder. I have tried putting the file directly onto my PC desktop and in the Documents folder, but I still can only see folders. Does anyone know what I’m doing wrong!?
    Regards
    Lawrence

    Reply
  6. Diana

    What about Book Design Wizard?

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Hi Diana, I’ve never used Book Design Wizard, but it looks fairly limited and only works on Windows. Do you like it?

      Reply
  7. Patricia Ogomola

    I have written a book using microsoft word and attempted to self publish using creatspace but my chapters start and in the middle of pages when the document is uploaded to creatspace. How can I resolve this and ensure that each new chapter starts on a fresh page?

    Reply
    • Chris DiRusso

      Make sure you upload as a PDF and use the proofing tool. I use Word for my Layout design, and I learned early on that I need to proof the PDF converted Word Doc. I write fiction and none fiction with heavy text. What works for me:
      Convert Word to PDF
      Proof it
      Upload it to Createspace
      After review proof it, for you may need to make adjustments

      Reply
    • ange

      Hi,
      How are you finding createspace? Have you got your finished product and do you like the quality?

      Reply
  8. TIM FRENCH

    I have all my text and illustrations on Powerpoint PPT.
    But I don’t know how to prepare the book dust jacket/cover
    (my text and artwork are finished).

    Can you recommend my next step?

    Thanks, Tim

    Reply
  9. Jasmine

    I am interested in writing a cookbook to be published. I am a new writer and don’t know how the design of the book should look. Currently I am just using Microsoft word to type out the recipes. I would like to add pictures to my book. Should I be adding them to my word document or do the publishers do the picture layout? Also, am I using a good program for writing a cook book?

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Jasmine, you can use Word or any other program to create the text for your book. How it will eventually be put together will be decided by the publisher. If you intend to publish it yourself, your best option would be to hire a book designer.

      Reply
      • Vali Circa

        Scribus and LibreOffice and… Ubuntu. For photo GIMP…

        Reply
        • Hannah Quijada

          Thank you for your input! :)

          Reply
  10. Yvonne Grayson

    Hi Joel – Hope you can help me. My club consists of 26 chapters nationwide. Each year, we publish a 75-100 page magazine that includes basic information pages and a summary of information for each chapter. Each chapter submits the content for their chapter and we want to provide a pre-formatted template into which they can type and insert their photos. The individual submissions would be concatenated into the annual journal. What would you suggest we use to provide this type of template, consolidate the entries and create a print-ready pdf?

    Reply
  11. Lynne

    I’m hoping someone can point me in the right direction. My daughter recently passed away and I want to put together a book of friends, family, etc memories of her. It will not be for sale but copies will be given to those involved in the project. I would like to be able to put it together and then have it spiral bound if it’s not too expensive. Can anyone give me some advice? I have never done this before.

    Reply
    • todd

      Lynne, my brother put together a wonderful tribute for our parents’ 50th. It was a projector version, not printed. I’ll see if he has anything to suggest and if yes, he’ll reply to you here….in the meantime, there is a wonderful nuts and bolts book called, self publishing in Canada….you can scan it for sections relative to what you are doing ….by Suzanne Anderson. Take care….

      Reply
    • Ria Stone

      Lynne, sorry to hear of your loss. My sister uses phonebook software to create memorial books, scrapbooks etc.

      Reply
      • Ria Stone

        Darn autocorrect, photobook, not phone book

        Reply
  12. Levi Aho

    Strange to see no mention of TeX (or LaTeX, etc.) here. Top quality results with out the cost of buying expensive software. Of course, the learning curve might be a bit steep, but there are so many resources out there. The advantage of LaTeX in particular is that one can get reasonable typogrophy with the just defaults or minor tweaks.

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Thanks, Levi. The lack of information on TeX is because I was unfamiliar with it when I wrote this post, and appreciate you supplying this information for readers.

      Reply
    • Vali Circa

      LyX!!!

      Reply
  13. connie

    I need serious assistance I am trying to upload a short story book online and every time I try to download it through amazon it tells me its not supported it allowed me to download my cover but not my word document I thought it was because it had harsh wording so I revised it and to no avail I am so stressed out I worked so hard writing my book its under 10,000 words its 14 short horror stories long can someone please help me with this issue? : (

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      You need to report the actual error message you’re getting because Amazon KDP accepts uploaded Microsoft Word documents all day every day. Not enough info in your comment to give you a helpful reply, sorry.

      Reply
  14. Stephen Tiano

    Bill,

    I got an email with your comment in it, but for the life of me, I can’t find it here. Anyway …

    I’m presuming that you’re speaking of print versions of your books. First off, Word is not a viable tool for professional book design and layout. For one thing, it’s a word processor, not a page layout program. So it’s tools on not designed to optimize all the elements that go into a book. When you use Quark or InDesign there are Book options that allow you to do each chapter separately, keeping files sizes more manageable, and then joining them in a Book folder. Then, too, when exporting (or distilling) a PDF for the printer–we don’t generally send InDy orvQuark files out to printers anymore–there are some options for optimizing graphic files for the purpose of bringing their sizes down. But perhaps most important of all is to optimize them in Photoshop before importing them into your page layout doc.

    If you want to discuss this further, feel freelance to contact me.

    Reply
  15. Bill

    Joel, Stephen, or anyone who can help me,
    I have written/published three books on golf and golf courses.
    I used Word exclusively.
    I was able to accept the layout compromises and the limitations of image manipulation, and I am satisfied with the products.
    There are pictures on every page which leads to very large files and the reason for my question.
    Several times as the files got over 300 KB, the program crashed, and I split the book into sections based on the size of the file.
    When I combined the sections, the manuscript had to be compressed.
    Now I am getting to create a second edition of one of the books, and I need to be mindful of the size of the section files.
    How should I handle the large files?
    I like th Word product, for obvious reasons which you identify, but the size of my files is a problem.
    Thoughts?
    Suggestions?
    Thanks, Bill

    Reply
    • Roger

      I also agree with Stephen, Word is not a good tool to use in designing a book. Word does crash when the file is too big and you can lose all you work.

      When designing a book I use Scribus and find it great. Some books I have produced have a many images which makes the file very large. So when I export the PDF file to be printed it can be over 1GB. I just divide it into a couple of PDF files to send to the printing company.

      Designing a book will be so much easier using another program, I will never use Word again, its a battle.

      Reply
      • Stephen Tiano

        In those cases, Roger, I’ve broken the book into a few chapters at a time. Or if worse came to worst, individual chapters.

        Reply
        • Roger

          Stephen, when I am designing the book, its one working file but do break it up into sections/chapters, just makes it easier to work with.

          Sometimes the book is mostly text so its one PDF file to send off to the printing company. A book with many images does increase the file size, so I just make 2 or 3 PDF files to send off to the company. I find sending the files using Onedrive seems to be better than Dropbox.

          We all have our own way of doing it. The main thing off course is the finished book.

          Reply
          • Stephen Tiano

            Yes, indeed. I’m actually going back to QuarkXPress for my next upgrade–leaving behind InDesign because of this hideous subscription deal Adobe’s insisting on so that users pay perpetually to use it. I’ve also been playing with Scribus and have begun to write a book about the process of using it for book design. It’s not to be just a how-to for step-by-stepping thru the design and layout process using Scribus, but a rumination on developing an aesthetic for book design and using Scribus’ tools to make books that are more than just containers for words and pictures.

  16. Michael

    Good article. Scribus and Jutoh are absent, though. Both are decent options and quite a bit less expensive than InDesign. Scribus has kind of a stiff learning curve, and Jutoh, in the $40 price range, seems a viable option for many people.

    Reply
    • Roger

      I started with Microsoft Word but have moved onto Scribus. Its a good program, yes there is a learning curve but it does all I want for text and images. I can even show the bleed area on the page, something I could never do in Word. Of course the best part its free and they are always updating the program. InDesign is costly and probably harder to learn. I am completed 8 books now and even my first couple in Word I have redesign them in Scribus. Its good for layout of images, resizing, etc. Last 2 books have been hardcover with a dust jacket, Scribus does it perfectly for me. Forget Word its a battle to do want you want in book design, go for Scribus.

      Reply
      • Stephen Tiano

        Roger,

        Over 1 Gig? Are there hundreds of photos? Are their resolutions above 300 dpi? I can’t imagine what would make such a large file.

        Reply
        • Roger

          Thats how it goes, say a 200 page book, many coloured images on nearly every page, at 300dpi, many at full page. Its not a novel with word only. Its not a problem exporting a couple of PDF files.

          Reply
  17. Jim

    Joel,
    Nice review of software options, though I have a question concerning the end result. What is your feeling about the use of block paragraphs, especially in informational, non-fiction book interiors? Acceptable in specific situations (for the entire book, obviously) or avoid like the plague?

    Reply
    • Stephen Tiano

      Block paragraphs are fine for indented material for the purpose of highlighting from main text. But if used throughout a book–in other words, no first line indent for new paragraphs, I think it looks like the writer didn’t go to far in school and never learned the fundamentals of writing. In which case, I, as a reader, would wonder whether I should waste my time seeing whether the substance of that person’s writing is as wanting as his or her structure.

      I mean, you did ask (tho’ not necessarily me, but in a public place nonetheless).

      Reply
  18. Mike

    Joel. I used Wiley & Sons for my first book, but am interested in self-publishing through Amazon for my next book. What application do you suggest for writing, editing a book with many charts (images) that can interface nicely with Amazon’s publishing system? Thanks in advance.

    Reply
    • Stephen Tiano

      Mike, doesn’t really matter what program you use, as long as you produce a printer-ready PDF at the end according to Amazon’s (CreateSpace’s) specs. That said, a typical workflow that is the start of professional results would be Microsoft Word for writing, vector drawing art done in Illustrator, photos worked in Photoshop, and page design and layout in InDesign or QuarkXPress.

      Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Mike, in addition to Stephen’s wise advice, please consider concentrating on writing and marketing your books, and leave the design, formatting, and production to a trusted professional. I think that would give you the best outcome from self-publishing.

      Reply
    • Stephen Tiano

      Mike, I do have to agree with Joel’s last bit of advice. I’ll admit to a vested interest, as a book designer, but I’m seeing a disturbing trend of DIYers who, after busting their guts writing a book, don’t grasp or don’t care that the book their writing becomes is more than just a container of their words.

      I say it all the time to self-publishers: the idea is to make a book that is at least as good as books published by traditional publishers, if not better. There are more books than ever being published. You have to give readers a sense that yours is one they want to part with their hard-earned money for the privilege of reading. So give them something that shows real care was taken in its creation. A professional book designer/layout artist gives you your best chance at that.

      Reply
  19. Sandra

    Joel, I need some help. My husband and I are editors for our local genealogical society and we publish a quarterly journal, which has about 48-52 pages plus front and back covers. It is really difficult using Word for the layout with all the elements we have to incorporate. We bought Publisher thinking this would be easier, but lo and behold, it doesn’t let you create an index, and we must have an Index at the back of each Journal!! Do you have any suggestions for us?? Thanks for your help.
    –sandra s.

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Sandra, you can still use Publisher if you have the index done by an indexer, you’ll just add it to the book like any other text. That’s the way the vast majority of indexes are handled, and the way I do them with my clients. For complex books, I recommend Adobe InDesign

      Reply
    • Tom Piercy

      Serif Pageplus will let you index as well as generating ToC. Well worth looking at and excellent value for money – a fraction of the price of InDesign and, I understand, almost all of its features.

      I’ve used it more for family history than genealogy and I can’t understand why it is not better known.

      Usual disclaimers other than a contented user for over a decade now.

      Reply
      • Robin Aurelius

        Great comment
        I will use Scribus

        Reply
  20. Barbara

    Hi All,

    I noticed some books interior include indents for new paragraphs, etc. However, others do not. My book include stories, which are followed by bullets. Is it industry standard for a non-fiction book to be indented or not indented.

    Reply
      • Barbara

        Thank you Joel, this is awesome. I appreciate all the information you provide on this site and how quickly you respond to questions. I want to ensure I have everything in place prior to hiring someone to do the interior design for me. Again, thanks.

        Reply
  21. TAWNYA

    Hi….I’m looking for software to design my next book but there are so many out there….what would you suggest for an Apple? Thank you, Tawnya

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Tawnya, I think the programs that are used the most are Adobe InDesign and Microsoft Word. Depends on the results you want to get and what your budget is. A way to get an industry standard book done quickly is using templates, and you can find a selection of them here: Book Templates.

      Reply
      • TAWNYA

        THANK YOU SO MUCH! I WILL CHECK THOSE OUT :)

        Reply
  22. Pedro Busto

    Hi, I see in section Layout programs none mention Scribus. What about it? is it good? bad? any opinion?Greeting from Argentina

    Reply
    • Roger

      I use Scribus, its great and free. I am onto my 10th book now and have used Scribus for the last 8 books. I started with Word would never go back to it.

      Scribus it good for text and images, formatting, etc. Does take a little to learn the various parts. I learnt by using to make a book. Word has a problem with size, when you have lots of images, it crashes. Scribus once you have finished your book, the file can be exported as a PDF, which I send onto the printer. I would totally recommend Scribus.

      Reply
  23. Roger

    Joel,

    Can you recommend a Index Generator program? I have seen a few programs out there.

    Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Roger, you can create an index in MS Word but you’ll need to closely coordinate with whoever is doing the layout to make sure the page references are correct.

      The software many indexers use is Cindex but it’s a professional-level program.

      Reply
      • Roger

        Thanks for the information.

        I see the Cindex program costs around $500. Maybe too professional for me. I will try out using Word to Index the book. Looks like its more work to complete but more simple to use.

        Reply
        • Pedro Busto

          if the index is titles and page number you can do it with scribus

          Reply
          • Roger

            I have made the Index pages using Word. I just went through the book pages and marked and words that I felt the reader would find useful. Once I had the list, copied and past it into a word document and edited it. Checking against every page number. It did take more time but the result came out well. I had more control and ended up with a 6 page index.

        • aamir

          you can generate index using Adobe Indesign CC quite easily….

          Reply
  24. Alberto

    Thank you so much Joel for a great article that enlighted a neophyte like me!

    Greeting from Miilan!

    Reply
  25. Graphic Dig

    Great article with a important discussion. Thanks for sharing the info and the recommendation for the page layout software as Microsoft Word, Adobe InDesign and Quark Xpress. I am using these tools and got my job done successfully. Thanks for your suggestion.

    Reply
  26. Hazel-Mary Jackson

    Thanks for the recommendation on PagePlus. I thought I would give the free starter edition a spin as I had some exposure to this software a few years ago. Unfortunately it would not install properly on my pc. It seems this is because I am running Windows 7 Pro 64 bit version, and Page Plus (x6) is not fully compatible with it. :( I do wish they would warn you in advance of things like this. Oh well, back to the drawing board.

    Reply
    • Tom Piercy

      Sorry about your problem with installing PagePlus X6. As I said I’ve not tried PagePlus Starter and I hadn’t noticed that their web site says Win XP to Win 8 but only 32-bit.

      Before I upgraded to PPX7 I was running PPX6 perfectly successfully both on my laptop and my desktop, both of which are Win7 Pro 64-bit SP1. In fact, I am still running PPX6 on my laptop. Since most of my DTP work is done on my desktop with a nice big screen that is the only one I have upgraded to to PPX7.

      I see that Serif are still selling PPX6 for only £19.99 in UK which is a lot less than PPX7. I’m not sure what it costs outside UK. Perhaps that might be worth trying?

      PPX7 does have a few bells and whistles over PPX6 but I doubt that they would be a great advantage for the project you described.

      Hope this helps

      Reply
  27. Stephen Tiano

    Hazel-Mary, take a look at Scribus. It’s open-source–re: free–but, of course, there will be a learning curve. And, hopefully, you have some design skills to do more than just pour the text into a template.

    Reply
  28. hazel-maryjackson

    I edited a special interest magazine for around 10 years. It was professionally printed by a specialist short run magazine printer. During my time as editor, more and more of the design support work was discontinued by the printers as they stripped out costs from their own operation. We were also PC based rather than Apple and that was the exception rather than the norm in the design world.
    Eventually we had to do all the design ourselves to the point where we just uploaded the .pdfs of the finished magazine onto their website. To do this and get a professional product we invested in InDesign. It did everything we needed but there turned out to be a long learning curve, diverting me from my editing role. I am a writer not a designer. So I focussed on writing and editing and a colleague went on a course and learned how to use it for our small team.
    That was a few years ago. I gave up being editor around 2 years ago and have turned my hand to writing. I have written a book of prose and poems with a lot of illustrations (mostly hand drawn) which I would like to publish as a limited run for family and friends and grandchildren. It is in Word and I have scanned in all the illustrations. Is there anything less sophisticated than InDesign you would recommend for doing the layout, given I have a “graphical eye” but no InDesign skills and not really time, or inclination to be honest, to learn them? I still work on a PC BTW.

    Reply
    • R Thomas Berner

      As I said before, it might be simpler to hire someone (me?) although you could try Microsoft Publisher, which does not have the learning curve that InDesign has.

      Reply
    • Tom Piercy

      I’ve found the pc-based Serif PagePlus great for (very!) limited run books, in my case family history stories with half-tone and vector illustrations. I have found it easy to use, and much better value than MS Publisher. Disclaimers; it is some years since I compared the two products – things might have changed since then – and I have been using the various iterations of PagePlus for some years now so I have had some time to become familiar with its interface.

      I can send the output directly for PagePlus to PDF for uploading to Lulu and have been more than happy with both.

      There’s a free version (PagePlus Starter) which I have not used and
      a review of the current version X7 at http://desktop-publishing-software-review.toptenreviews.com/pageplus-review.html

      Hope this helps

      Reply
  29. Rich Elliott

    Let’s say your book has been published before by another publisher, and now after several years, the rights have reverted back to you, the author. Now you want to self publish your book.
    Is it OK to simply make a PDF of each page of your book? (After making edits to the copyright page of course.)
    This question relates to what does the author really own when the rights revert back to him. Does it include the page layout?

    Reply
    • R Thomas Berner

      I’m not a lawyer, but my guess is no. I’ve had several books returned to me and I’ve reissued/republished some, but always in my own format. I never even considered making a pdf of the book to resell. As a writer, you own the content, not the formatting of the content.

      Reply
    • Joel Friedlander

      Rich, although R Thomas Berner is probably technically correct, it’s hard to see why the former publisher would object, since they’ve already let you know they are no longer interested in retailing the book.

      Reply
  30. R Thomas Berner

    If you’re not doing a lot of books, the software required to do a professional job can be very expensive. I’ve not only invested in the software (InDesign, Photoshop, etc.) but numerous courses at a community college. Before I got hooked on the Adobe products, I used Microsoft Publisher to do newsletters. That seemed to work. It might be the solution for one-time publishers. Also, some people freelance as book formatters for a decent fee.

    Reply
  31. Pedro

    Hi, I’m new in book design and don’t have mpney. I read about scribus, what’s your opinion about it?

    Reply
  32. Heidi-Marie Blackwell

    Hi Jeanne,
    I saw your comment and have wondered the same thing in the past. I now have been using Creative Cloud for about eight months. My rationale for making the leap is similar to yours in that my software all became dinosaurs and with my most recent computer upgrade buried all but Freehand. I could not buy all new software for financial reasons and in my search discovered Creative Cloud. I went with the full package that allowed the download of several of their software, i.e.: Muse, Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Edge and their fonts…I’m in designer Heaven for the same amount I pay for our phone bill. You can go for fewer software downloads for less per month…I think it is limited to two or three.

    I have used Adobe products all my professional career and really only had a short downtime learning what all the new bells and whistles I had missed through updates that I did not take on. I find their products quite user friendly. They have a vast amount of learning videos and forums for user questions and I bought the Classroom In A Book Guides for Muse and InDesign and I was up and running in no time. I don’t know Publisher so I cannot tell you how they compare.

    My advice is if you have many books to put together and more websites to build, it is worth the leap. I am a professional designer and I’m not giving it up any time soon. I would be interested to see what other comments you get. Best wishes.

    Reply
  33. jeanne illenye

    I’m an artist and designed my website and books using MS Publisher…a very outdated program, I understand, and the newer version is not user friendly…and features in the old version have become deactivated somehow through automatic software updates. So I need new programs, but which? When I was finally ready to upload my first book designs to blurb, I saw it didn’t accept Publisher files and I loathe preformatted templates, being a creative person. They only accept Adobe products but I’m wondering how much of a learning curve I’m going to have and if it’s worth getting involved in their new “Cloud” subscription arrangement since they’ve discontinued actual programs that one can purchase on disc. What do you suggest? Thanks, Jeanne

    Reply
  34. Stephen Tiano

    Oy! Don’t be thinking even a little bit about fonts. Get your novel written first. It’s just so sway premature and irrelevant this early. Leave all design and layout thoughts until there’s a complete work and all it’s pieces can be seen in context.

    Reply
  35. ShawnWJD

    Hey I really love your blogs Joel .

    my situation is pretty straightforward, I’m writing a novel , and was getting my head very wrapped up in ‘fonts’ , and now the layout question , although this is before I’ve even written much . . my only issue is that somehow my sense of design is somehow connected to the things I write on my page . . does that make any sense at all ? the fonts i use , to the layout I have set up , all affect the way that I write because of what i ‘see’ , and I wonder what is your advice to take some of the burden off , if I decide to just focus on the story , and hire someone to do the layout professionally later , considering I have some issue with what I’m looking at for the duration of the writing experience . . . should I bother with fonts ? or maybe I am answering my own question , and it is sort of in-between . . as long as I give it a look that supports my general vision for the time-being . . for some reason I worry that it won’t ‘look right’ when I get to the end , and will want to change too many things . . I have already acquired a few good fonts I like though , but I’m not sure if Open Office reveals the depth of the font , and that would explain why I can’t print it to look good right now . . is this true ? sorry for the long question , especially if it is not completely on topic . But it’s a key thing for me !

    Reply
  36. Heidi-Marie Blackwell

    Hello Sara,

    I’ll place my card on your desk as a possibility. I have been a graphic designer/illustrator for over 35 years and I’ll tell you without even looking further, there is no need to redraw your work. If you will look at my portfolio on blackwellstudios.com and care to go further, I would be pleased to submit an estimate.

    Heidi-Marie Blackwell

    Reply

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