Don’t worry about the need to learn something new

Twenty-four weeks after the second day of the new year

First of all, Author and Sister would like to thank you. The last blog post wasn’t an easy one for them to publish, and you’ve been extremely supportive. They will, of course, continue to update you on their Canada Quest. But now back to work, there’s a lot to be done in the coming weeks.

The need to change the way you’ve been working and to adapt to the use of new tools comes with the territory. Ultimately, you want to turn that document you’ve written—or that stack of papers, if you’re the hardcopy type—into an ebook and perhaps also a print book. This means that you need to master the right tools to do both. If you want an ebook that will be offered, say, on Amazon, Amazon provides instructions on what you need to format your manuscript into one. If you want to create a paperback, consult your book printer on how to best prepare the text document before you submit it.

In the process, you might find yourself needing to use new software. Author, for example, used to be most comfortable writing in MS Word. That’s the word processor she’s worked with for years, and that’s what she wrote The First, Oracle’s Hunt, and the draft of her next book for you in. But back when the time came to turn The First into a print book, she read the instructions provided by Ingram Spark (the book printing company Sister had selected, as you know if you’ve held one of Author and Sister’s paperbacks) on how to submit to them the text document. And then she read a bit online to understand what traditional publishers do to make print books, had a good look at some of the paperbacks she has at home, and then read a typesetting book to understand what needed to be done to make the text more readable, which is part of preparing the layout of a print book (she chose The Complete Manual of Typography from Adobe Press, a very thorough book, because she wanted to dive right in and learn it all at once, but you can choose anything that’s suitable for you from the many other books available on the subject). And that’s when Author realized that Word wasn’t suitable as a page layout software, which is what you need to make that document you have on the screen before you, the manuscript you’ve worked hard to write, look like an actual book.

In a page layout software you can feed in the book size you choose for your paperback and the page margins, position the book and chapter titles where you want them, select the size and position of page numbers, decide on the font you want for your text, as well as line spacing and indents, place images in if that’s what you want, pretty much anything: a page layout software allows you to “build” the book, and essentially see it as it would be when it’s printed, all except the cover. Take a paperback and open it. You see the way text and images are organized, the way all pages are laid out exactly the same way? That’s what you do in a page layout software. You can make any change you want until you’re satisfied with the result, and then you save that result and send it to the book printer as a file, usually a specific PDF format.

That’s what Adobe Indesign does. Actually, it does a lot more, but that’s what Author uses it for. It was one of the page layout software options mentioned in Ingram’s instructions, and she decided to try it. It was a bit of a shock, using it at first, and if you’ve ever tried to transition from Word to Indesign without any preparation you’ll know what Author means. But, you know what, Adobe provides free video tutorials, and you can purchase from Adobe Press tutorial books, too. Author, you should know, didn’t prepare. She usually prefers to learn by simply clicking on buttons and seeing what happens, hoping nothing explodes. That’s what she did with Indesign, too, and fortunately it worked. As it turned out, formatting The First for print taught her a lot, and when it was time to do the same for Oracle’s Hunt, she approached Indesign (and typesetting) with greater confidence. It now felt familiar, and it will become increasingly efficient to work with, with every book she uses it for.

As for the ebook, which is a format you’ll certainly want to publish, here Word remains Author’s software of choice to prepare it in. It’s highly comfortable to follow Amazon’s instructions in it and to make the necessary format adaptions in the manuscript, and then you just save the document in the format needed to upload it to Amazon (html, but you don’t need to know anything about it, you can make all preparations in Word). And there you can easily preview it as many times you as you want before you yourself approve it for publication.

This could all look intimidating at first, but it really is not as difficult as you might think. Look, Author didn’t know any of this when she decided to publish her books, either. Until then, it was just her and the so-familiar Word and the occasional scribbling in a simple notebook. And then she read Amazon’s instructions on how to prepare an ebook, and tried to do as they said, and messed it up quite a few times before The First’s ebook came out right. And then Author and Sister decided to publish a paperback for the First, and Author came face to face with Ingram’s instructions and the long way to figuring out Indesign and how to typeset—Author can’t tell you how many times she printed a spread of pages again and again to make sure it looks right, how many ink cartridges and paper reams she went through. But with both the print book and the ebook, preparing the second manuscript for publication was easier, and it will get easier with every book. For you too, this part of the work will get better with every book you publish, as your knowledge and experience grow. And you know what, if you’re worried that you won’t know exactly what to do even after reading all the instructions or watching tutorials, never forget that endless resource, the internet, where between designated websites and writers like you, you can get any question you have answered and find worthwhile advice, certainly a listening ear.

This week’s tip from Author and Sister for the new writers among you: you might feel you don’t have the time, writing probably isn’t the only thing you do and you’re itching to get your book out there already. And perhaps you’re used to doing things a certain way, you don’t want to try something new. But if you take your writing seriously, and if you want to see it published the way you want it to be, you will necessarily find yourself facing the need to learn new tools and methods. Don’t shy away from them, take the time to learn and to choose what’s best for you. Remember that it’s an investment—learn now and you can use your newly acquired expertise at any time you need later. After all, you are planning to write more books, aren’t you?

And just one more thing: you can do it.

A quote from our blog post about formatting

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