As you know, I am convinced that you are hurting your chances with your book if you do not use InDesign in the production process. This is even more true now that InDesign CC 2014 has added the direct export of fixed layout ePUBs. Plus, no one exports the quality of PDF produced by InDesign for print and downloadable PDFs.
InDesign now has five ebook export options
Actually, with all the options, there are even more possibilities than that and I’m not including DPS app publishing—mainly because it is so expensive. PDFs are the best, but ereader support is spotty and the online book distribution sites normally do not sell PDFs.
- PDFs for print [usually greyscale] with vector or 300 dpi images CMYK
- Downloadable PDFs [can be interactive] with vector or 300 dpi images RGB
- ePUB3 FXL [can be interactive] with 150 dpi web graphics RGB
- ePUB3 Reflowable [with or without fonts] with 72 dpi web graphics RGB
- ePUB2 Reflowable [with or without fonts] with 72 dpi web graphics RGB
Don’t limit your books’ potential with non-professional formatting
I know many of you are dependent on Word. That’s not a problem if you are hiring a book designer to put your book together in InDesign. If you intend to publish with Word, there are some real problems unless you are doing simple, text-only books. Although it is true you can use Joel Friedlander’s Word templates, I do not recommend that path. I know many demand a Word solution. I don’t doubt that he has a popular product line [and yes, I believe they are the best Word templates on the market today]; but, Word processors simply cannot produce professional results. Quantity of users does not correlate to quality. It’s closer to the lemming mentality—and yes, you are headed for a cliff.
That cliff has to do with production time and book quality, of course. But more than that using Word really restricts your ability to communicate with the reader. Writers like to believe that it’s only the words which matter. This is simply not true. The formatting of the book greatly influences your reader about the book’s quality, professionalism, and trustworthiness.
Why you need InDesign in your toolkit
First, what is my focus? You will discover that what I am doing is working creatively within InDesign to produce completed books almost as a fine art exercise while maintaining excellence and meeting production needs. What I want to share with you is a method, an attitude, a ministry of service to the reader which is enabled by the typographic power of InDesign. I am discussing one-person do-it-yourself publishing, direct communication from author to reader.
Books are not entirely about words
Of course as a writer this may not make much sense to you. But please hear me out. For years I have taught graphic designers that the content is all that matters. Now I am teaching writers that presentation and layout are a big part of your book. For designers, this has been a major fight because many never read the copy they design into books and printed materials. Now I am dealing with writers who do not see the need for typography and layout skills. In the publishing world there is a real disconnect between the writers and the book designers. They are treated as two entirely separate skill sets. It is better for them to merge, as much as possible. This is one of the real benefits of self-publishing‚ if you use professional publishing software. Word is office software which works quite poorly in professional publishing.
The traditional publishing model is not good for you or your readers
The traditional model is completely bound up [or broken up] into areas of expertise that are assembled production style into the finished product. This works relatively well for mass-market content where the audience is understood by everyone in the process.
- Manuscript submission: often with an agent required “to grease the skids”
- Editor (-in-Chief?): Acceptance of project and contract signing: setting up royalties, rights, and so on; Fitting project into publisher’s production plans and series developments
- Acquisition editors: Setting up the work team, with veto authority over both concept and content (often expecting you to change your concept to meet their perceived need) though they often do not understand the niche.
- Marketing team: determines focus, market, demographics (this information is also used to convince you to change your concept or focus)
- Technical editors: make sure that technical details are accurate and instructions actually work
- Copyeditors: fix grammar, rearrange copy, regulate consistency; often having full veto authority over content [though they are commonly ignorant about your topic]
- Illustrators: Fix up rough sketches from authors, converting them to professional graphics—often drawn by people who do not understand either the content or the audience
- Peer review: manuscript is sent to peers in the field to determine relevance and acceptability. These peers are determined by the examination of their existing customers through the marketing department.
- Art department: determines layout, typography, sets up digital workflow to conform to the publisher’s current standards with no say by the author
- Cover designer: Authors are rarely consulted and never allowed to do the cover
- Page layout: a production job within the art department after manuscript approval. This is normally completely outside the author’s control—”the realm of professional design”.
- Proofers: typos and typographic errors which must be “fixed” in the copy even if the author knows they are converting standard niche usage into actual content error.
- Print-ready file production: Magic done by pros to the bafflement of the author (as far as they are concerned).
- Production proof: author often does not even see this
- Production: outside author’s control
- Packaging: outside author’s control
- Marketing: outside author’s control
It’s all about money. Books must support this huge bureaucratic infrastructure. Production costs run from tens of thousands of dollars on up to millions. If you cannot count on selling thousands or millions of books, they cannot afford to publish your work. It’s no wonder why your royalties are so small! It commonly takes a year after the manuscript is completed to produce the book. For time-sensitive work, this does not work well. The need can be fulfilled and gone before a traditionally published book reaches the marketplace.
But I’m a small niche writer
Most of us are. Here we begin to see the modern reality of publishing. The change is of the same type as we saw with the conversion in television from three, then four, gargantuan mass-market networks to the current reality of thousands of channels on cable and satellite. The same thing has happened in magazines where there are now over 10,000 magazines in the US alone. There are now millions of active blogs. We are currently publishing over a million different book titles per year. Obviously things have changed a little.
Even self-publishing can cost a lot of money
So, what is a writer to do? You do not have many options unless you have enough money to pay for all the services of a traditional publisher. One thing is certain, you do not want to go cheap and hire someone without references. Most pros will edit a sample to see if their style matches your need. Above all, you do not want someone who will beat your Word doc into submission and get it acceptable for an upload. If you are paying a pro to format your book, make sure he or she is using professional tools. The only two professional tools are InDesign and QuarkXPress [and Quark users don’t have the Creative Cloud plus their exported ePUBs are not nearly as good and you have to pay for additional software to do apps]. Everyone has different figures as far as cost is concerned but these are some rough and probably minimal cost figures if you hire your production help:
- Copyeditor: $500–1000
- Book formatter: $500–1500
- Proofer: $250–500
- ISBN: $100–$250 per book unless you buy a large block
- Cover designer: $100–500
- Printer: $2000 or much more
- Press release: $500
- Book review: $1000
- Marketing package: $2,000 to $10,000
- Books to give away: $1000
- Website: $2000 plus $50 to $100 a month for ISP, Web access, site maintenance, et al
- & on & on & on
So, what do you do if you do not have ten to fifteen thousand dollars with which to gamble? I’ve been challenged on the Book Designer blog with figures more like $2,000–$4,000 total. Guy Kawasaki puts the figure at about $4K in his APE book. But that’s still a lot of money (and marketing costs are not included). I’m expecting to sell 500–1,000 copies of my new Writing In InDesign CC 2014 Producing Books with a gross profit of well under $5,000. I’d be a fool to spend it all up front.
You must learn to produce your own books.
For the past two decades, I have taught digital publishing skills. During that time I have written and published books, both traditionally and on-demand. I have taught skills to present digital content transparently, effectively, and gracefully. 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. It is true, that ePUBs and Kindle books cannot do many of these things either. But you will find it is very important to start with print quality which you can then dumb down to ereader levels.
Five areas where InDesign is the best option
- Typography: The skill to use fonts, paragraph styling, and page layout to invisibly communicate content: 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. Many of the necessary adjustments cannot be done in a word processor.
- 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.
For example, covers must be created at printing quality to enable all the various sizes required by Apple, Amazon, Nook, B&N, the Ibooks Store, and so on. Kindle is currently requesting 1593 x 2500 pixels for the JPEG cover images uploaded for your Kindle books. That is more pixels than 5” x 8” at 300 dpi.
- 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 (like a Word document), 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. Just a simple sidebar with a text wrap around the overlapping portions of copy is impossible in a word processor if you want that sidebar anchored to the relevant text.
Writing in InDesign gives you layout power
Until you’ve tried it, you will find it hard to imagine the power of writing fully formatted. You can see the page as it develops and adjust things to help the reader understand your points. You really can help the reader comprehend your message. That’s what excellent book design is all about.
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.
Even more important, you can add graphics and illustration in the midst of the content which talks about that artwork. Charts, graphics, closeups, diagrams, and info-graphics can be an immense help to your readers. This is where page layout apps like InDesign truly shine. Photoshop is part of the package. Plus, InDesign can produce graphics faster and often better than specialized illustration apps like Illustrator.
You will be able 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.
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 that glorified typewriter even if you perceived the need. You will learn to communicate much more clearly, focus on the readers, and on what you can do to help them. It will make your book a far superior tool for connecting with your readers.
When you’re done, it’s ready to print! Ebook conversions are very easy and fast
By working fully formatted, your InDesign document is the complete book—though you will need a separate document for the print cover. If you print on-demand, it can be available to your readers in a couple weeks or less (even tomorrow, depending on the suppliers you use and whether you still require a printed proof). If you produce an ePUB or downloadable color PDF, they can have it to read this afternoon. A Kindle book might take another hour or so. All from the same content. In many cases, you can do it at no cost to you—other than charges to see a printed proof. Even distribution costs have gone away. Lulu and Amazon include distribution free.
This type of rapid release cycle is now normal
It will become second nature to you after you do it a few times. It is really fun as well. Once the book is nearly ready for release, you can begin to ramp up your marketing efforts. EVen with a traditional publisher, you will be doing all the marketing. You now write some friends, beta readers, reviewers, and even the general public who might find the book relevant.
The conversion process for ePUBs is in a great deal of flux at present as the industry stabilizes on standards. There are not even ereaders for many of the new, proposed ideas for standards. As a result, this area will be changing a lot in the near future. But currently, there is no tool that is nearly as good as InDesign CC for the entire process. Nothing else simply exports PDFs for print, color PDFs for download, fixed layout ePUBs, reflowable ePUBs with embedded font or not, Kindle KDP will simply convert your ePUBs when you upload them.
Publishing costs for my new book, Writing In InDesign CC 2014 Producing Books: Zero $ What I’d charge a customer to do a book like it? $3,000 to $4,000!
Welcome to the 21st century!