HomeAuthor WritingMinistryChristian DesignFormatting your books and ebooks: DIY or paid?


Formatting your books and ebooks: DIY or paid? — 14 Comments

  1. Two questions, both of which may be answered in your blog archives, but I haven’t found them yet.

    1. What exactly does InDesign do that Word doesn’t do? I have two print books self-published via CreateSpace using Word. To me they look good. I just don’t understand what InDesign does.

    2. I’ve read some of your past posts about different fonts, and I take it you don’t like Times Roman for books. Isn’t this, however, somewhat a beauty and the eye of the beholder thing? I like a serif font, and TNR is my preference. That’s what I used in my books. Most of my professional engineering colleagues prefer the sans-serif Arial and use it in their printed items, including new-book-length reports. Or maybe I haven’t read enough of your site to understand what it is you say about what fonts to use for professionally designed books. Would you point me to a post or two?


  2. Hi David,

    #1: InDesign does many things not possible in Word. Kerning and tracking may be the most obvious. Opentype feature substitutions are another. Nested styles for automated run-in heads are another. Easy keyboard shortcut setup of any command needed including all your styles so you can format by shortcut which is 5-10 times faster than Word. Ligatures, swashes, and all the specialized characters. Multiple language work. Precise control of spacing down to six or more decimal places. Incredible tables with graphics in individual cells all linked for better printing. Anchored objects for images that can be precisely located and still travel with the copy. The list goes on and on.

    #2: Times Roman. As a typeface design it has its merits. However, its co-option by bureaucrats who require it has made it very distasteful to a huge number of readers. For many (myself included) bureaucratic choices of font, layout, and Word [which are very obvious visually to the trained eye—and equally obvious sub-consciously to almost everyone] cause me to round-file documents done in this manner without reading. For my experience tells me that bureaucratic output never has any content. It is only used to prove to supervisors of oversight committees that something was done. It’s proof you had a meeting, not that any substance is contained in the document. Arial has the same problems.

    You can look in the typography and readability categories of the blog. You’ll also find materials in the font design category. let me know if you still have questions. Thank you for your interest.

  3. Hi David
    Do you actually write in InDesign? I write in Word, using styles, then put the text into InDesign.
    For ebooks I use Word, then use Smashwords and/or Kinstatt to translate to ePub.
    I do think InDesign is brilliant for typesetting. Not sure about writing in it…
    Thank you for your helpful comments.

  4. Re: TNR…

    Like you, my aversion to this typeface has a lot to do with its overuse in business documents (Arial was in that same boat before MS changed its default font in Word), but there’s an actual typographic reason for me, as well. TNR was designed for a specific purpose… to be readable in newspaper columns and at small sizes. I find there’s a heartiness to it — almost to the point of inelegance — that prevents the bowls from collapsing. These characteristics simply aren’t needed for most books.

  5. I also greatly dislike the bold of TNR. I’ve done some pretty stuff using only regular and Italic. The Bold & Bold Italic are beyond saving (for me, at least)

  6. Sorry, but you still haven’t convinced me regarding the necessity of purchasing InDesign for typesetting a novel. I’ve found LibreOffice sufficient for producing an appealing interior design. Even kerning and tracking can be modified when necessary.

    I’m not impressed with HTML output from LibreOffice, but producing concise HTML for an ebook doesn’t require anything as expensive as InDesign.

    FWIW, I have Flash and Photoshop. I’ve had Dreamweaver, Pagemaker, HoTMetaL, Contribute, VisualStudio (has an XML editor), etc. 🙂

  7. Hi Lianne,

    Your arguments are all valid, BUT only if you do not start with your print design. There are dozens of reasons why you should always start with a print design. InDesign is essential for that. You will not believe how much trouble that will save you over the years.

  8. I start with a manuscript that has page, paragraph, and character styles that format the document just the way agents and publishers like to see it for submission. (TNR 12pt, double-spaced, no headers or footers, etc) I may also have ‘stealth’ drop caps formatted.

    For print, as a start, I switch over to my 6″x9″ page, paragraph, and character styles, which include things such as headers, footers, automatic blank page insertion, and front-matter formatting. So now the book is Garamond with Myriad Pro or some other font for chapter titles. Widow and orphan control is the way I want, along with hyphenation. Borders, font size, etc are all in my styles. At that point, I verify that no scene breaks are near the top or bottom. A bit of typographic detailing–perhaps drop caps–and most of the work is complete. On to insuring that there are no visual oddities.

    For ebook, I start from the original manuscript again.

    I’d be happy to understand how much work InDesign would save me. Would you consider the following example?

    I have a novel that is in my standard submission format. To get to my first proof, here’s what I’ll do:
    1) Take an earlier novel that has the the fonts and styles I want to use. Select all text and delete.
    2) Select all text in my new novel. Copy. Paste into the ’empty’ copy of the earlier novel.
    3) Fix any scene breaks that are too high or low on the page.
    4) Export to PDF and see what it looks like. Verify the embedded fonts are correct. Verify the italics are correct.
    5) Upload it, along with a dummy cover to CreateSpace and order a proof.
    This is what I’d call a 90% proof. Not finished product, but close.

  9. Yup! For novels that will work fine. But novel’s only $50 formatting job anyway. I forget about them as I do mainly complex non-fiction formatting. I just spent 16 hours [and I’m very fast] converting a letter-sized Word doc [which they thought was fully formatted] to half-letter, including several levels of lists, several tables, and about 20 snapshots [each one of which had to be corrected quite a bit in Photoshop].

    It depends on what book you are doing. A novel will sell almost entirely ebooks, probably 50-60% through Kindle. Complex non-fiction is still usually close to 50% print, less than a quarter Kindle, nearly a quarter PDFs, and the rest ePUBs through various vendors.

  10. Pingback: Self-Publishing: Carnival of the Indies Issue #27 — The Book Designer

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