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    Should I Format My Book in Microsoft Word?


    Have you begun to write your book, or have you already formatted your book, including illustrations, in Microsoft Word? Word is an excellent program for writing, but a poor one for book design. This is especially true for books containing images. When you place an image into Word, its quality is reduced, making it unusable for high quality printing, although it may look fine on a computer screen.

    Printers usually don’t accept books in Word format, and you should be wary of the ones who do. If a printer assures you that he is willing to accept your book in Word, he may be signaling that he is willing to produce a sub-standard book. The printer may offer to convert your Word file to a PDF (for a fee) but he is not a book designer. This means that your book will look exactly as it did in Word, marking it is an unprofessional effort.

    However, the effort you have put into formatting the book is not wasted. Your draft manuscript in Word, even if you have placed images in it, can be a visual guide for your book designer, showing what you wish your book to look like. Keep in mind, however, that Word is a very limited program. Design software can do a far better job, so asking a designer to simply reproduce a Word book’s format is limiting the outcome.

    Do you really need a book designer? Of course, you can simply take your Word document to a local copy shop and get it spiral bound. But if you want a professional book, a book designer has expertise and software you are unlikely to be familiar with.

    For example, most printers require PDF files formatted to specific page size specifications. Creating these files requires considerable skill in using complex software programs like Adobe InDesign or QuarkXPress. In the same way, the colors used in your book can be adjusted with some fine-tuning of color profiles within Photoshop and InDesign. These programs can take years to learn. If you’re not experienced at working with them, your best bet is to hire a book designer to prepare your files, who will know what the printer wants, and will provide fonts, page layouts, and other attractive book features not available in Word.

    When submitting your Word text to a book designer, the only things you need to format are the headings and chapter breaks, bold or italic words, and any bullets and numbering. Don’t bother to customize the text or margins. Your book designer will be removing it from Word and placing it into the design software, so that much of the formatting you laboriously created will be redone anyway.

    What about your images? Provide them separately from your Word text. This may require sending a CD, as the file sizes for high resolution pictures can be large. Your photos must be in a digital format, and they should be scanned at a minimum of 300ppi and saved as .jpg, .psd, .tiff or .eps files.

    The best way to communicate with your designer about where you want the illustrations placed is to note it in the Word text. Simply skip a line, and then write the file name of the image where you would like it to be. For example:

    (insert image 54 here)

    Ideally, if you name each of your image files by their location in the book (number 1,2,3, etc.) we can simply select the image and place it in the book in the correct order. How logical!

    You should understand that it is unlikely that the final book will be an exact match to your draft. The Word page is an 8.5x11” letter format, but your book will probably be a different size. It also has different margins for binding, so your designer will be moving all your text and image elements around to fit their new page size best.

    Book design is both a craft and an art, and part of the pleasure of having your book done professionally is to consult with your designer. If you wish, you can ask about the many possibilities for typefaces and other design features, and get involved. The interior of the book is just the beginning. When you get involved in your cover design, you’ll discover how much fun working with a book designer can be!

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