Saving Money by Building Your Own Book Block with Microsoft Word

Even though e-books are the way of the future, there are still a lot of people who read regular print books. Just taking stock of people I know, only a few of them have e-readers; most are still reading print books. I decided that if I was going to go through the work to prep my manuscript for an e-book, I might as well take the few extra steps to prep it for print. After all, I’ve already gone through the manuscript critiques, paid for copy editing, and purchased a cover. All that’s needed to make the book ready for print is a back cover, an ISBN, and a manuscript conversion into a print-ready book block.

If you hire a professional typesetter to create the book block, the cost runs somewhere between $4 - $5 a page. My manuscript is relatively short—about 100 pages—but even so, that’s a pretty big expense. Since I didn’t have an extra $400 - $500, I decided to prep my own book block using Microsoft Word. The process turned out to be challenging, fun, and very do-able for the average computer user. Here are the basic steps:

Step 1: Select trim size. I use both Create Space POD (owned by Amazon) and Lightning Source POD (owned by Ingram), so I picked a trim size offered by both printers: 5.25” x 8”. It might seem odd to use two POD printers, but hear me out. I have a sneaking suspicion that Amazon gives preferential treatment to authors who publish with their POD (by offering discounts, free shipping, or higher possibility of popping up on subject searches, etc.) so I figure I might as well give my book a leg up and sell direct through them. I also want my book to be available to bookstores and schools; most stores and schools have accounts with Ingram, so making my book available through Lightning Source gives me access to these buyers. (Create Space also offers distribution through Ingram, but they take a larger percentage than if you upload your book directly to Lightning Source yourself.)

Step 2: Prepping the file in Microsoft Word. I purchased How to Self-Publish Your Book Using Microsoft Word 2007 by Edwin Scroggins. (He also has the same book for Word 2003 and Word 2010.) Scroggins provides step-by-step instructions for prepping a book block with Microsoft Word. For the most part, the instructions were pretty easy to follow. For the few parts I found challenging to understand, a little trial and error on my part resolved the issue. When I finished the book block, I felt very accomplished.

Step 3: Proofing the book block. Once I finished my book block, I read through the manuscript to locate lines with too-large spaces between the words. When a manuscript is justified in Microsoft Word, the program will sometimes force large spaces between words to fill out the line. Once I located these spots, I was able to eliminate them. This can be done either through  kerning (adjusting the spacing between the letters) or by hyphenating words on adjoining lines.

Step 4: Converting the file to a print-ready PDF. I downloaded Adobe Acrobat, which you can get on free trial for 30 days. Then I followed the instructions on Create Space and created my PDF.

The whole process, from start to finish, took me about 10 hours. No small amount of time, but for me, worth it for the amount of money I saved. I also enjoyed the process of picking my own fonts and designing the book block. With luck, the process will be easier the next time I do it.

What are some other ways authors have found to cut down on book production costs?