People often ask, “What software do I need to self-publish?”

The answer I usually give is that you can use whatever you are already familiar with. There is no one-size-fits-all solution for your project. There are many variables to consider.

What will work best for you will depend on several things. What kind of book you are writing (do you have a lot of photos? Is it color or b&w? Is layout critical?)? What formats are you going to make available (PDF, Kindle, Nook, print, etc.)? Are you doing it all yourself? How computer literate are you? These are just some of the factors that will have an impact on the best route to having your ready for the public.

So which one is the best? Here are a couple examples you can use:

  • If you are writing a novel on only plan to sell on kindle–You would be fine with simple word processor (ie Word) which you will automatically convert to Kindle when you upload your file to KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing).
  • If you are writing a fully illustrated children’s book for print–You will want to have a what-you-see-is-what-you-get (WYSIWYG) layout and design software that’s great at handling large graphics with a bleed, and be able to write a PDF file directly from that.
  • If you are writing a cookbook that you will sell only as a PDF–You will want a layout and design software that will give you lots of flexibility with layout, fonts and formatting, and be able to save directly to PDF.
  • If your book doesn’t fit any of these categories, or you are going to be selling through most or all formats–You will need to have a combination of programs and be fairly proficient with them.

Now I know I’ve given you a lot of information and haven’t really told you anything ūüôā so here’s what the process has looked like for us (broken down into content and cover design):

Content

Trina did most of the writing using¬†Microsoft Office Home & Student 2010. This is the most common word processing software out there and is great for sending the content out for editing and review. Anyone editing can “track changes” and then when it comes back you can accept, reject or modify any modifications.

Once the writing and editing was done (for the most part), I copied the text, without and formatting, into an¬†Adobe InDesign CS6¬†(I actually have CS2) document.¬†InDesign is a very powerful and flexible program for creating multi-page layout and design documents. I have lots of control over the¬†appearance¬†of both text and objects. It allows me to assign either paragraph or character styles to sections of text which I can then make global edits to (if I want to change the font for every chapter title I can do it with one step). I can also change the appearance of text like how wide the font is, the character spacing, line spacing, and much more (if I want that font to be italics but it’s not an option? I can change the base-line shift of the characters which will give them an italicized look). When I’m happy with everything, I can “Save as” a PDF and it I will end up with a PDF that looks exactly like my original.

The first version that I worked on was what would be the print version of the book for two reasons. First, I knew that the paperback would take the longest to have reviewed and approved. Secondly, the PDF version was really just a simplified version of the print version. I removed blank pages that were part of the print version so that each chapter started on a right hand page. I also changed the page number alignment so because the PDF¬†doesn’t¬†have facing pages. I also made sure that all the internal and external hyperlinks worked (did you know you can click on a chapter title and it takes you straight to that¬†chapter? or you can click on the reference to the blog and it will open up your browser to the blog?).

With Real {Fast} Food, the front cover of the PDF is a different size than the interior. I used Adobe Acrobat XI Standard for that. I created the PDF without a cover page in InDesign and then I edited the PDF with Acrobat to add the front cover. You can also use Acrobat to create PDF files from other programs like Microsoft Word or Publisher (there are also resources online that you can use but they are not as flexible and the final product may not be as true to the original).

Okay, back to content–to create the Kindle version I started from an html file. From InDesign I “saved the file as” a html document. The result is not pretty and required a lot of “cleaning up.” To actually “build” the ebook format I used Mobipocket Creator. I created my project using the html file I just saved. For this you have to be at least a little familiar with html. Using Mobipocket I added my cover, filled in all the details of my book like title, author, ISBN number, description, etc.. I also did all my html edits from inside the Mobipocket project so I wouldn’t have to re-do something that didn’t import correctly. I also created the Table of Contents for the ebook here. You can add tags in the html that Mobipocket can read to build the TOC that the reader will use and have¬†hyper-linked. If you have any pictures in your book you will also have to make sure that you link to each of them too.

After you “build” your ebook, Mobipocket creates a .prc file which will upload directly to KDP.

The conversion to Nook is a one step process of converting the .prc file to .epub. I simply went to 2ePub.com for that.

We make use of Create Space for on-demand printing for the paperback version. For that I used one pdf for the content and another for the cover design.


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Cover

Cover001

I don’t use¬†Adobe Photoshop CS6¬†much¬†(I actually have CS2), but did you know that the photo for Embracing Beauty was taken in front of a green wall? We thought that the green was the color that we wanted for the cover, and the room with the green wall, had the best natural lighting for a photo shoot. Once I started working on it, though, it just wasn’t working so, Photoshop to the rescue. A little work with the magic wand, and then some adjusting the color curves to take the green hue down a little, and could “paint the wall” any color I wanted.

Once I had the “knockout” of the person on the left, I started in¬†Adobe Illustrator CS6¬†(again, CS2). I prefer to create my graphics with Illustrator over Photoshop. I placed the photo (with a transparent background) over a filled box. I then used the eye dropper tool to pull different color from the shirt in the photo for the “wall” until I found one that looked good. I then added a little gradient shading so it wasn’t quite so “flat” and you see the end product. The drop shadow effect on the text helps give depth to the whole cover.

Once I was done with the design, Illustrator allows me to save in almost any file format imaginable, from PDF for the paperback to jpg for the Kindle.

So there you have the process that we used to get from Trina’s journal to your computer or nightstand. I’m not an expert by any means, most of what I know about ebook formats, I learned from Google. So if you have a book and you are thinking about self-publishing–If you can turn a computer on and find you way to Google–And if you’re willing to spend a few late nights pouring over html with¬†several windows opened to¬†w3schools.com, you can do it!

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