Tag Archives: microsoft word

Considerations for Developing a Paperback Book (Including Creating and Revising an existing title)

As more writers eschew the mountainous path to publication via agents, editors, and traditional publishers, making wise decisions about self-publishing becomes not only more necessary than in times past, but vital if we want to compete with the million-dollar titans and their armies of production teams. And, yes, any one of us who has walked the level path around the mountain long enough has heard the cries for world-class quality by now. Fourteen years after the debut of Amazon’s Kindle e-reader, the message about moving from rushed amateurism to edited professionalism has become loud and clear.

But, if we take the cries for quality seriously, then why would we consider converting the reflowable text from a KDP e-book into a crappily formatted paperback edition? Wouldn’t we want those cries for professionalism to extend to all formats, from content to presentation?

What it looks like when KDP offers to convert your e-book into a paperback.

If we care enough about our readers to give them a paperback or hardcover edition of our e-books, then we should also care enough to give them a quality copy of that paperback or hardcover edition. That means delivering the quality inside and out. And that means not skimping out on the tools that make such quality possible.

Now, for self-publishing writers who have no design or technical sensibilities, then outsourcing layouts and cover designs to a professional is the best bet. Common sense dictates this, even if the wallet screams for mercy.

But, what if the wallet is too thin? You want to get the book out to the public, but you’d also kinda like to eat a few nights this week. What then?

Well, there’s still hope. If you wrote your book on Microsoft Word or Scrivener (with Scrivener being the much cheaper yet more sensible writing tool for writers), then you could probably upload your document (MS Word) or converted document (Scrivener) directly to KDP, Draft2Digital, or whichever service you’re using to get your book out, and cross your fingers that it’s good enough. After all, maybe it is good enough. If you’ve spent any amount of time setting up sections in Microsoft Word, or establishing hyphenation rules as I’ve outlined in my 2016 article “The Art of Hyphenation,” then your .doc or .docx file may work well enough. It certainly would for a generic e-book, and there’s no reason for it not to work if your book is straightforward fiction with no special design considerations.

But what if your book is supposed to have fancy formatting? What if you want your chapter headings to have a cool shape embedded into the page behind them? Well, the good news is you can still do this. The bad news is that you can’t really do this in Microsoft Word. You’d need a special layout program for that. The worse news is that the most-used and best-known layout program for books (especially nonfiction) is Adobe InDesign, which if you know anything about InDesign, you’ll know that it’s from Adobe, the makers of needlessly expensive subscription software that has too few updates to justify the ridiculous pricing.

The better news is that Adobe isn’t the only company making software that self-published writers can use to better their products. The best news is that its strongest competitor does not require a subscription, and its buying price is very affordable.

Yes, I’m referring to Affinity Publisher, and if you’ve kept up with my blog or YouTube channel since April 2020, you’ll know I’m a fan of all things Affinity. In fact, I’ve used Affinity products (Designer, Photo, and Publisher) to redesign my paperback version of The Computer Nerd.

Now, maybe you’re happy with Microsoft Word and Microsoft Paint for your book design. I mean, if my book had this cover, it wouldn’t change a thing about the words inside.

An example of what not to do when designing a cover for your book.

And maybe that’s fine. But I don’t think anyone would buy a book that looked like that. And I don’t think they’d want a book that looked just as shoddy on the inside, either.

This means I have to consider what my readers want before constructing the paperback version, including what they may find aesthetically pleasing.

And this means upgrading my functional but basic Microsoft Word interior:

Into something more intentional, like what I can accomplish in Affinity Publisher:

Yes, after researching and practicing the self-publishing game for many years now, I’ve learned a few things about how to make a paperback worthy of seasoned readers. And now I’d like to pass them along.

Here are the considerations you might want to make before uploading your formatted document to KDP or some other distributor where readers might accidentally find you.

Interior:

(Microsoft Word)

Pros:

  • You probably already wrote your draft in MS Word, so preparing for readers is just a matter of uploading to KDP, Draft2Digital, or Smashwords, provided your document is formatted in a way that passes inspection.
  • Creating e-books in MS Word and uploading them to Amazon is really easy and intuitive. Even if you choose not to create a paperback edition, you can still create a functional e-book through minimal effort.
  • Converting text to PDF is also very easy. If you do base your paperback on your MS Word document, then you’ll want to first “Export to PDF,” as that will preserve your format.
  • Even though MS Word is not a formatting tool, it can still handle basic layouts appropriate for fiction, like headers or footers, section breaks to permit alternative headers and footers and page layouts, and page numbering within headers or footers.

Cons:

  • Microsoft Word is not technically a formatting program, which means it can’t do complex formats, including those common to nonfiction, textbooks, and magazines.
  • Fixing a typo in a formatted Word document can throw off the layout for the entire book.
  • Because pages shift around so easily, wrecking pagination and other position-dependent sections of text or images is a constant headache. Be careful not to breathe on your text too hard.
  • Hyphenation and other typographic solutions are wonky at best.
  • Special formatting like embedding shapes or images behind text, or creating special designs for aesthetic effect is impossible.

How to Use Effectively:

  • Remember that everything from your title page (front) to your promotions for other books (back) will be part of the same document. To prevent insanity from taking over your layout, remember to set up your book by sections and be mindful of how right (recto) pages differ from left (verso) pages, as well as how both differ from first pages. And remember that these three page layouts are your only considerations throughout the section. If you need a new layout, then you need a new section.
  • Convert to PDF when you’re finished.
  • Don’t upload your PDF until you know you’re finished with it. Changing anything translates into hours’ worth of revision work.
  • Check out my article on hyphenation on how to handle the nuanced elements of formatting for paperback books in MS Word.

(Affinity Publisher)

Pros:

  • Inexpensive but powerful software that you need to buy just once!
  • Integrates well with its two companion software for images and designs, Photo and Designer.
  • Allows for custom layouts via “Master Pages” that you can apply to any page, eliminating the need for sections.
  • Because it’s a layout program, it allows you to arrange your text and images however you want, including through layers. This makes it possible to create fiction, nonfiction, textbooks, and magazines—whatever you want!
  • Basic formatting techniques like custom pagination, drop caps, and hyphenation is both simple and intuitive to use.
  • Making a change to the text while allowing the document to adapt is fairly simple.
  • If Photo or Designer is installed, you can edit images on the fly using the Studio Link feature.
  • Some repetitive tasks like starting a new chapter on a recto page a third of the way down can be handled automatically (with instruction).
  • Exports to PDF.

Cons:

  • Still not quite as advanced as Adobe InDesign, especially when it comes to handling text outside of margins.
  • Just because it’s easier to format interiors in Publisher than it is in MS Word doesn’t mean it’s quicker. Revisions (if needed) go a lot faster, but the initial design can still take hours to accomplish.
  • No software is perfect. You’ll still need to review the entire document for extra pages added whenever you make changes that risk pushing the text down past the orphan line.
  • Creating and applying Master Pages can take some getting used to.
  • Not ideal for writing, just for formatting. Any additions or changes you make to the text should begin in your origin document.
  • Doesn’t allow for simultaneous bold/italics/underline enhancements to text, if you even need that kind of thing. Your font family of choice will need a version that simulates bold italics to get that effect.
  • Isn’t ideal for electronic formats. Only print.

How to Use Effectively:

  • Buy the dedicated workbook and keep it near your desk. When it comes time to design your book, refer to Chapter 5. Trust me, it’s all the advice and considerations you need. It’s what I used to remake the paperback edition of The Computer Nerd.

(Adobe InDesign)

Pros:

  • Can do most everything Affinity Publisher can do, except for using a Studio Link to swap in toolbars from its companion Photo or Designer apps (Photoshop and Illustrator respectively).
  • Can actually do more than what Affinity Publisher can do, like manage text and characters outside the margins (if I’m not mistaken).

Cons:

  • The COST!!!

How to Use Effectively:

  • For this, I defer to anyone who knows the program because I don’t. I know what it does, but I don’t know all that it can do because I don’t use it. I just know it’s powerful, if not complicated. But really, Affinity Publisher makes more sense if you’re interested in creating an excellent product for one low cost.

(Scrivener)

Pros:

  • It’s capable of creating a formatted text for publication.

Cons:

  • No one actually understands how to do this effectively.

Honestly, I love Scrivener as a writing and organization tool, but I have no interest in trying to turn it into a publication tool, even if Scrivener 3 tries to simplify it. Last time I investigated its formatting tools, my brain transformed into a pretzel. Wasn’t worth it to me. If I ever look into its formatting tools more seriously, I’ll revisit the topic. But honestly, a combination of MS Word and Affinity Publisher can accomplish everything I need to create a worthy paperback novel (or e-book).

Exterior:

(Microsoft Paint)

Pros:

  • You’re joking.
  • Okay, it’s probably already installed on your computer.

Cons:

  • It’s Microsoft Paint.

(PaintShop Pro)

Note: This is the program I’ve been using for years until I found Affinity Photo.

Pros:

  • It’s better than Microsoft Paint.
  • It’s lightweight enough to keep you from getting overwhelmed by features.
  • Can handle moderate editing through layers and brushes, including cropping, burning, dodging, and other essential modification tools.
  • Integrates well with subsidiary programs like Painter Essentials and GRFX.
  • Doesn’t require a lot of memory to run.
  • Has a user-friendly shop integration to plugins that are actually good.
  • One-time fee (per annual version).
  • Often appears in a Humble Bundle.

Cons:

  • Saves only in RGB format (making it horrible for print books).
  • Has limited features for special effects. To accomplish certain actions, you might need to use a plugin or another program entirely.
  • Doesn’t have access to LUTs, making color treating difficult.
  • Upgrades are annual and require a new payment to access (though these are still mostly affordable, especially if you wait for them to show up in a Humble Bundle).
  • Almost double the cost of the superior Affinity Photo (unless you wait for it in a Humble Bundle).

How to Use Effectively:

  • First of all, note that I do not recommend PaintShop Pro for designing paperbacks. You need the CYMK format to design print items effectively, and PSP cannot save or display in CYMK. For proof that it’s bad for print, look at the differences between my original paperback (PaintShop Pro 9) and my updated paperback (Affinity Photo) for The Computer Nerd.
  • That said, PaintShop Pro is still competent for electronic book cover or interior picture design (in RGB format), as long as you don’t need anything fancy.
  • Just remember to use layers and save in the native format before you export to JPG. This will come in handy if you need to make adjustments down the road.

(Affinity Photo and Designer)

Note: I’m including both software because you may need either a photo composition (Photo) or a vector composition (Designer) to create your covers.

Pros:

  • One-time fee of $50 (when there are no sales).
  • Single purchase includes all future updates and upgrades (at least until Affinity releases a true successor).
  • Can handle layers, blends, masks, inpainting tools (for smart erasing), LUTs, and all the things you need to make an effective cover or composite (in both print and electronic forms).
  • Can save in CYMK, TIF, and other nonstandard formats (including PDF).
  • Integrates with Affinity Publisher for on-the-fly image editing.
  • Has useful workbooks and tutorials available.
  • Can integrate with useful app plugins like Luminar 4 and Painter ParticleShop.
  • Has a built-in plugin store for easily adding new brushes.
  • Has one of the best designer communities on the Internet (and YouTube).
  • Can mimic many of Photoshop’s special tricks, like using smart objects for mockup designs.
  • Directly incorporates stock photos from Pixabay, Pexels, and Unsplash (though you still need to check their licensing before using them in commercial works).

Cons:

  • Still not quite as advanced as Photoshop.
  • Image filter designers rely heavily on Photoshop for designing their special tools, keeping Affinity Photo as an afterthought (though they still might work).
  • Even though it handles smart objects well, Affinity Photo still cannot replicate Photoshop’s “actions,” which renders many design tools useless.
  • It cannot yet handle objects designed for Lightroom.

How to Use Effectively:

  • Really, just do what I do: experiment, watch tutorials, study the workbook, and experiment some more.
  • LUTs, blends, and gradient tools are your friends.
  • Invest in stock photos, especially Depositphotos during Appsumo deals (in May and on Black Friday), to get the most of your image potential.
  • For more generic photos, including image filters, make use of the integration with Pixabay, Pexels, and Unsplash. Just remember to convert them to Raster.
  • If you’re designing a paperback, design for the front and back cover, not just the front.
  • Always start your composition in CYMK format if you expect to print it. Likewise, make sure to use “transparent background color” if you plan to use PNG images to prevent unwanted backgrounds.

(Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and Lightroom)

Note: I don’t use these programs, so my perspective is based on videos and research.

Pros:

  • These are the top tools of the industry.
  • If it can be done, then these are the programs that can do it.
  • Every plugin and theme designer builds for them.
  • Finding instructions on how to use them for your specific use case is easy.

Cons:

  • Requires an expensive monthly subscription to use.
  • Doesn’t get updated nearly often enough to justify the price.
  • Adobe.

How to Use Effectively:

  • See my note above. That said, any sophisticated photo or vector manipulation tool needs layers and masks to work well, so you should learn how to use those features.

Other Options and Conclusion:

Hopefully this article and these checklists will help you make a decision on how to approach your print books, or even your e-books if you wish to keep things simple. If you want to see a longer form explanation of how these differences look, then check out my companion video on the topic, released earlier this morning.

But, if you want to bypass all the potential pitfalls that come with formatting for e-books and paperbacks, you could invest in a tool designed exclusively for formatting. The top performer in the market right now is Vellum, which boasts “beautiful books,” although I’m not sure what its record for paperbacks is at the moment. I just know it’s well-revered as an e-book creation tool. If you check out any presentation on Vellum, you’ll soon agree that the books it produces are top of the line in design. But is that you’re only option? And is it even your best option?

Other tools for exporting books include Calibre (my preference), Kindle Create, and the Reedsy Book Editing Tool.

Or, if you’re willing to wait a little longer, you might be interested in a new challenger entering the ring soon that will likely upset the competition.

Meet Atticus. Get on the waiting list. Learn more at Kindlepreneur.

But if you can’t wait for Atticus, just remember this:

Calibre is good for e-books only and works by converting your text to HTML (the native language of e-books), which you can then design as uniquely as you want, as long as you don’t have to make any drastic updates to your text after you’ve formatted it.

Kindle Create also designs e-books only, and provides just a handful of themes that may or may not be good for your book. It’s also limited in how it handles front and back matter. I think it also designs for Kindle only, which means you’re probably not going to get much out of it if you’re creating for other platforms. But on the positive side, it can create not only reflowable books like novels and memoirs, but it can also create textbooks and comics (early access feature, as of this writing).

The Reedsy Book Editing Tool is a bit friendlier when it comes to publication options (it creates both e-book and print editions), but it still struggles with front and back matter (or did the last time I tried using it). And like Kindle Create, its theme options are limited, if not too limited. That said, if you’re looking to go wide, this is your free tool of choice.

Note: Calibre, Kindle Create, and the Reedsy Book Editing Tool are all free to use, so it doesn’t hurt to give each one a try to see if they’re useful for you.

Lastly, Vellum is the big dog in the formatting space, and its purpose is to design not only the best looking interiors, but also the best organized books, which means boxsets are a specialty feature here. But it’s also expensive ($199 for e-books only or $249 for both e-book and print access), and it’s only available for Mac, which means many authors won’t get to use it even if they buy it (unless they want to spend even more money on a Mac emulator). Also, like all the other tools, it’s unfairly limited in its theme options. That’s actually authors’ number one complaint about it.

But if none of these options work for you, then consider why. Do you prefer to do things manually? If so, then I hope my checklist will inform your choices. But if you prefer using tools that do the formatting for you, but you just don’t like how limited the above options are, then get on the waiting list for Atticus. I can tell you right now that its theme options alone make it worth the wait. It’ll also be available for Windows, not just Mac. It will cost you some cash to own, but not nearly as much as Vellum. And, well, let’s just say there’s more to come.

Regardless of what you choose, though, I hope your publishing considerations go well. Even if you’ve designed an ugly book like I had back in 2015, you can still fix it. With the right tools.

The Art of Hyphenation

Recently, I revisited my novel, The Computer Nerd, to update its paperback version with the changes I had made for the e-books last month. Because print and electronic have two vastly different formats, simply porting one to the other is no straightforward task. Even with the foundation already set, I have to review how even the smallest change shifts everything around. At the end of the day, I find myself having to check and recheck the entire book to make sure nothing’s out of whack. Inevitably, something slips through, and now I completely understand the frustration that professional typesetters must feel when they piece a new book together. And though shelf space is cited as the number one reason why publishers don’t want to produce print books over 120,000 words (approximately 480 pages), I think the real reason is that their typesetters will up and quit if they have to deal with laying out anything over that mark. In short, it’s kind of a pain.

One of the worst parts about designing a paperback book is not so much setting the page size, or even determining which size best represents the book (something we can discuss in a future post), but the finicky hyphenation that one must consider if he wants to keep his lines from stretching too far across the page.

Consider:

compressed line
Hyphenation example #1

Over:

stretched line
Hyphenation example #2

I don’t know about you, but if I have to read a continuous stream of compressed, stretched, compressed, stretched, line after line, I’d get a little eye-fatigued. Nobody wants that.

So, the best way to handle the reduction of such a visual seesaw is to hyphenate the text.

But how?

Well, the first step is to consider your source file. It’s my understanding that the best program to use for any kind of book layout, whether you’re a professional or an indie, is Adobe InDesign. It supposedly has an algorithm that really gets close to accurate on the first pass (I’ll never claim that any program will get anything perfect by itself), but at a price tag of $19.99 a month (yes, you can only subscribe to it; you can no longer outright buy it), I think the professionals and the financially talented are the only ones likely to use it.

And good for you if you’re one of the successful people who can afford such a program. For the rest of us, especially those who are producing indie books on a tight budget from a spare bedroom in our parents’ houses, or at Starbucks because it’s the only place we can afford the Internet, or the bus station because…you get the idea, we’re stuck with the average quality hyphenation feature that Microsoft Word offers.

hyphenation selection
Example of how to hyphenate in Word

Okay, yes, it’s mediocre. But it’s there. It’s functional. If you want to hyphenate your self-published novel—because the only reason you would need to worry about the hyphenation feature is if you’re self-publishing—you’re going to have to get comfortable using it. It isn’t particularly fun. But it works.

Now, there are plenty of tutorials on how to use Word’s hyphenation feature out there. A particularly good one can be found here, and if you just need to learn how to hyphenate, I’d check that link out. It’s helpful. But, if you want to learn how to hyphenate effectively, then let me share with you what I’ve learned and put into practice.

Now, before I continue, I should emphasize the title of this post. It’s not “Hyphenation 101.” It’s “The Art of Hyphenation.” Understand that art is subjective. You can decide your own formula when you’re ready to hyphenate your own paperback or hardcover. I find that this formula works best for me. And again, this assumes that you’re using Word. If you’re using InDesign, then I’m jealous, and I’m guessing you operate by different rules set by your secret society of privileged layout artists.

First of all, you should consider why Microsoft Word’s “automatic” hyphenation feature is gross and terrible and the perpetrator of your book’s greatest eyesore. It hyphenates based on space used versus space free within each line. It guesstimates where the word you’re using may naturally split, even if it doesn’t understand the word or the syllables you’re using to form it. Even though you can set parameters on how often within a set range it chooses to hyphenate, chances are it will hyphenate in the most ridiculous of places, making your book appear messy and broken.

When you choose “manual” hyphenation, you have a lot more control, and thus, you can come up with a better plan for how your book should look.

manual hyphenation
Example of hyphenation in action

Notice, under manual hyphenation, Microsoft Word gives you the option to accept or reject its suggestion. You can also cancel the current session if you feel you need a break from the monotony. I like to cancel after every few changes to ensure that I’m happy with the layout so far. The thing to consider is that hitting “undo” on a hyphenation session will erase all changes you’ve made since your session began. By cancelling every few changes and checking your work, you reduce the number of words you’ll reset if you have to undo for any reason.

And because it’s really easy to make a bad hyphenation decision (it’s often difficult to see how this hyphenation works in conjunction with the surrounding text when your windows take up so much visible space), you’ll probably want your core draft and your hyphenated draft to be two separate files. That way, if you seriously mess something up along the way, you won’t cause any real damage.

Now, when should you accept the hyphenation? Again, this is up to each artist according to his need. But I find this system works well for me:

  • Never hyphenate a word that breaks on the first two letters. Ex: If you are hyphenating the word reiterate, don’t hyphenate if the suggestion leans on breaking it at “re.” Two letters won’t overstretch a line enough to justify a break there.
  • You can hyphenate a word that breaks at the last two letters, if you want. Even though it won’t affect your finishing line much whether you accept or reject it, it could affect your starting line if a word like straighten is moved down to the next line (creating an eight-character stretchmark) by a lack of hyphen.
  • Even though it’s okay to break at the last two letters of the word, it should probably be avoided if that means leaving only two letters for the last line of the paragraph (or worse if it’s the last line of the page or chapter). Really, unless you have enough letters leftover after the hyphenated break, it’s probably a good idea not to break the last word in the paragraph.
  • If the word has three or more syllables, then it’s a good idea to manually choose the break yourself if Word is suggesting a break on a two-letter syllable. For example, if Word suggests you hyphenate sporadic at “ic,” and you don’t think moving the whole word down is the right choice either, which is what choosing to ignore it would do, then you’ll want to highlight the hyphen between “spor” and “adic,” since that would more evenly distribute the word across both lines. Again, this should be common sense, but Word does not break according to common sense. It has none. It does things mathematically. It’ll split the first line that feels too stretched, then it’ll split the next line because the first change caused a new stretch, and it becomes a vicious cycle. Make good decisions when hyphenating. Second-guess Word’s suggestions constantly. Don’t form ladders.
  • When it comes to three-letter syllables, I tend to accept them, as long as I haven’t just accepted another one within the last three or four lines, and as long as it doesn’t suggest it at the last full line of the paragraph.
  • I rarely accept any suggested three-letter hyphenations on two-line paragraphs. I just don’t see the need for it. This applies primarily to lines of dialogue that run just past the word wrap threshold.
  • I never let Word break a word where it gets the syllable wrong. You shouldn’t, either. Doing so is just sloppy editing.
  • It’s best to skip breaks on capitalized words. Odds are you’re breaking at the start of a sentence, and that’s a weird place to break anything. But you also don’t want to ruin the integrity of somebody’s name. I also think breaking already hyphenated words, like two-digit numbers, is weird.
  • Using hyphenation to break a word at the bottom of a page is probably okay, but breaking it at the end of a chapter is a little ugly.
  • Lastly, I prefer to keep my hyphenation count per page to the barest minimum. The other reason I tend to cancel a hyphenation session often is because I want to double-check the frequency of the suggested hyphens that I’ve chosen to accept and make sure that I don’t have more than three or four to a page, especially if they’re in close proximity to each other on that page. I find that if I do have too many on a single page, or more than two in a four-line space, then I want to hit “undo” and try again. This minimizes the work I have to redo. But yeah, having too many on a single page gives it that cluttered and choppy look. It’s not worth it.

So, that’s a general overview on how I like to hyphenate my books, but this isn’t a hard and fast set of rules. Writing is a medium littered with exceptions, and the art of hyphenation is wide open to those exceptions. Sometimes the line stretches too long if you don’t break that proper noun or all caps word in half. Sometimes breaking the word on a three-letter syllable on a two-line paragraph looks better than not. Rules are nice to follow, but certain conditions may present challenges that require defiance. At the end of the day, you might just have to split focus between the fo and the cus in order to keep the following line from pushing Sweeeeeeet! down to a spot by itself and pulling its origin line across the floor like a tired rubber band. But if you can avoid it, you should. Or, if you’re struggling with the ethics of splitting a good word in half, look at how your favorite books handle it. Sometimes the best strategy is to emulate your mentors. It certainly makes the heart feel better.

How do you prefer to hyphenate yours? Sound off in the comments if you’d like.

If you want additional advice on putting together your own book, I’d recommend these articles:

“Book Design Basics—Use Hyphens for Justified Type” by Dave Bricker

The above article is Part 7 in Dave Bricker’s Book Design Basics series, and the other parts are just as helpful, so you should read them.

“Why Self-Published Books Look Self-Published” by Joel Friedlander

A helpful reminder on the elements you need to keep your book looking professional (including hyphenation).

Self-publishing: Expert Advice On Typesetting for Self-publishers

A decent overview. Take notice of its “Shift + Enter” advice.

Note that some of these articles use professional terms like “rivers” and “ladders” to describe phenomena within the hyphenation universe, and if you want to use these terms, too, then check out these articles to find out what they mean. We call that educating ourselves. 🙂

Today’s Image Credit:

Palette Graphic by Liz Aragon, submitted to sweetclipart.com

Direct Link: http://sweetclipart.com/artists-palette-paint-and-brush-583

License Information: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/