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Why InDesign is even less optional than it was — 11 Comments

  1. No cost? What about the $600/year Adobe subscription. What about training costs? What about the opportunity cost involved in learning a complex program, and keeping up with updates. Then there’s still the fact that many people have very amateur design sense. I’ve seen a lot of horrible websites and newsletters produced by people with expensive design programs. I have no reason to believe that book formatting would be any different.

    If one enjoys the design process, then InDesign might be a good thing to learn. For others, the time might be better spent writing more in order to afford outsourcing.

  2. If you need to pay for that, it’s a necessary expense. I have to have it for my normal graphic design business. Every book I produce and release I save $500 to $1000. For this lastest book, “Writing In InDesign CC 2014 Producing Books, I have nearly 500 pages and over 300 graphics. How much do you think formatting charges would be for this. I would charge $1,000 to $1500 dollars for the formatting [usually $2-3 per page] plus I usually get $5-10 dollars per graphic inserted—assuming they are provided in usable shape. That’s $3,000 or so. I guess I’ve saved $2,400 this year for this book alone.

    In addition is the fact that you have the artwork in your hands under your control. Sure there’s a learning curve. But if you publish even 2 books a year you have saved several hundred dollars or much more even after you subtract the CC subscription costs. This is true even for simple novels.

    I’ve seen horrible stuff stuff done by so-called professionals also. What I call the “professionally ugly” style has been mainstream since the 1990s. We won’t even get into the butt-ugly “flat UI” lemming rush currently taking place. 😉

  3. BTW, Michael, I’m grateful for your response. It is a common one. it’s the same type of argument used when buying a Chrome book or an iPad to write in. POOR TOOLS make for poor work. InDesign is the best tool. If you are a professional writer, you need to consider this option unless you are writing very popular books in popular genre.

  4. I agree that the right tools are necessary for any job. I was a web designer for 16 years and watched the tools mature from BBEdit to Dreamweaver, in addition to Photoshop. My comment was in response to the list of costs in the post. Doing self-designed books won’t necessarily save any money and ,in most cases, will provide a less professional result, even with the best tools, than hiring a good graphics person. I spent a good deal of time with Quark because I was hired by a print shop to do web design but ended up working on a number of print jobs, too, fortunately not as lead designer. I know how time consuming getting up to speed with pro level software can be.

    Good graphic design is a complex, multi-faceted set of skills, which usually takes years to learn well and months in which to get even a basic competency. Writing is hard enough in and of itself. Achieving competency in book layout is possible but adds a heavy burden onto the learning curve.

    I taught web design through Washington State University continuing education for six years. I had a number of students create their own functional websites that were optimized for SEO. However, among the hundreds of students I taught over that period only around a dozen actually came up with professional level graphic designs on their own. When I could, I would attempt to persuade the people to use professionally designed templates, but too many had to do the design part themselves. Students would show me their sites with great pride and I would cringe inside at their creations. I’ve seen the same thing with self-published books. Ouch.

  5. I certainly agree, Michael. I taught a Curriculum I wrote called Business Graphics (digital publishing) from 1996-2009, mostly at Albuquerque Technical Vocational Institute. In all those years there were only a few dozen who could work on a professional level. However, my call is to teach—not critique. I’ve conversed with several readers of the books who are doing very professional books. I’ve watched Joel Friedlander dumb things down to Word. I don’t doubt he’s making a fortune. But we both know that Word really can’t do it.

    The readers who like my book are those who are authors with a side business of producing books for other authors. At least, I hope that is true. Regardless, it has amazed me how well the various editions of WII have sold. So, I just pray, write, pray, release, toss it up and see if anyone salutes. What else can I do?

  6. Sorry to rag on you, David. Of course someone has to make books that teach book design skills with InDesign. And, I, too, cringe at the thought of Word files. I had a set of regular expressions I used to strip all the crud out of Word HTML. Even then, it was a pain to deal with.

    I’ll grab a copy of your book. I’ve recently found this blog and appreciate your work. I’m mixed about whether or not to do my own book layout. Basic epub and mobi are easy enough for me but the fixed designs you speak of would require some time in which to get up to speed. Running through the workflow might make my decision better informed.

  7. You’re not ragging on me. They are valid concerns.

    For production You start with the print design with everything formatted with styles [including the graphics]. Then it is relatively simple conversions [downloadable color PDF, ePUB FXL [embedded fonts and 150 dpi color images], ePUBs with embedded fonts, and ePUBs with no embedded fonts. Plus, a Kindle version with embedded fonts & all graphics resized to less than 125K [the kindle version uses the embedded font ePUB and simply converts it with Kindle Previewer]. Then it’s a direct export of the finished books. I got all six versions uploaded, repaired, fixed, and re-uploaded in a nine hour day yesterday.

  8. I’m assuming that it’s possible to get templates for standard book sizes. Is that so? I write fiction and wouldn’t need any embedded graphics other than a possibly chapter or section dividers. Do you cover this in your book?

  9. I will be very interested in seeing your templates when they are done. Through Adobe’s monthly subscription program, I have Indesign CC, Adobe Acrobat Pro, etc., and am faced now with the learning curve for InDesign. Before I found this post, I found this fiction template for InDesign CC. It may be helpful:

    http://graphicriver.net/item/interior-fiction-book/6519667

    Thanks.

    Tom

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