For the past two decades, I have taught digital publishing skills. For the past fifteen years I have written and published books, both traditionally and on-demand. I have taught skills to present digital content transparently, effectively, and gracefully. I’ve learned how to present reader-centered books to my students and followers. But Word [and word processors in general] cannot do this. There are skills and capabilities that are necessary which are simply not available in Office. Here’s a short list:
- Typography: The skill to use fonts, paragraph styling, and page layout to invisibly communicate content—using point size, leading, small caps, ligatures, oldstyle figures, lining figures, ems, ens, discretionary hyphens, tracking, kerning, and much more. All of these things are controlled with styles: paragraph, character, and object. For this you need a professional page layout program.
- High resolution images: You want vector graphics if possible. Printing requires 300 dpi minimum for photos and bitmapped images. You’ll need Photoshop for the high resolution images. JPEGs, GIFs, and PNGs won’t work. They need to be PDFs, EPSs, AIs, PSDs, or TIFFs for printing quality work.
- PostScript (or PDF): This is a page description language that is required by book printers. You must be able to create and proof in PDF. This requires InDesign, Photoshop, and Acrobat Pro. All printing companies now require a PDF to print from. If you give them anything less, they make their own PDF and you have no control over what results from that conversion.
- Page layout: A thorough understanding of columns, margins, alignments, indents, gutters, lists, tables, headlines, subheads, sidebars, running heads, drop caps, and much more is required
- Building ebooks: The real problem is designing your ebook without being forced to write it in code. InDesign is getting pretty good at this.
Writing in InDesign gives you layout power
You can use a subhead for clarity, a kicker as a small lead-in style to emphasize a header, lists to recapture the reader’s attention with their rhythmic order, a sidebar for peripheral information to entertain the good readers, a table for overly complex lists, and much more. I know you can do some of these things in Word, but not at a professional typographic level.
In InDesign you work in layout view and reader’s spreads. You can actually see what the book will look like when it is printed. You can see on the page, as you write, how clearly the content is being communicated—or not. It helps you change your content into something that communicates clearly and easily to your readers. It lets you see boring areas and fix them as you write. It provides the control you need to speak to your specific niche—emphasizing unique niche concepts as you go. You can also see when you’ve gone too far and lapsed into mere busyness and clutter.
This is especially true in ebooks. Both ePUB and Kindle are so restricted that you need to keep careful watch over how your content is going to be portrayed.
Basically writing in a page layout program gives you tools that word processors have a hard time even imagining—which could not be accomplished in those glorified typewriters even if you perceived the need. You will learn to communicate much more clearly.
When I write, I focus on you, the reader, and on what I can do to help you. I try to put myself in your shoes and answer your questions. This is true for both fiction and non-fiction. Many novels could be helped a lot by better formatting of quotes, for example. Easy, in context, access to maps and diagrams is essential. Many of these things become apparent while writing in InDesign.
This is not easy or automatic. I write about using InDesign. It’s hard to avoid assumptions on my part. Obviously that is difficult as a daily InDesign user for well over a decade (plus a decade of PageMaker and Quark use before that). I can easily forget my many questions which nearly overwhelmed me as I started out. (Plus InDesign and the Adobe engineering team have provided answers to most of those original questions with updates adding solutions these feature requests to the application).
You need WYSIWYG control
You do not need absolute accuracy (though InDesign CS6 has made strides in that direction for print books). As an aside, I’m asking you to file a feature request about this issue in a posting I just uploaded on my Font Design & Typography On-Demand blog.
You need to seriously consider these issues as you write your book. It will help your readers a lot.
What do you think? Why do you write in Word?
If you are writing in InDesign, let us know how you solve this issue
Email me directly, or post a comment please.
- Awesome Tool: Adobe InDesign (cobaltkobold.com)
- If you care about your readers, write in InDesign! (hackberry-fonts.com)
- Exporting KF8 (a Kindle Fire book) from your book in InDesign (bergsland.org)