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I have written a short book on an unusual topic which is definitely not fit for publication with traditional measures. Nonetheless, I still care very much for layout and design, but have no budget to hire an artist.

Is there any good self publishing software that can help me put this book into print? I looked at blurb, and a few others, but it's not obvious how to choose.

Advice?

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    Have you looked at existing software? What is your budget? Will the book have pictures or diagrams? – Neil Fein Aug 30 '14 at 20:50
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    Blurb is not a software but a publishing platform. Are you looking for a software like Word or InDesign that runs on your computer to lay out your text and create a file that you can send to a publisher? Or do you seek a platform like Blurb or Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing who offer some limited layout options when you enter your raw text but mainly focus on publishing your book? – user5645 Aug 31 '14 at 14:12
  • Thanks for the clarification, I am looking for software to make a nice looking book. I suppose from there I can self-publish otherwise. – Teusz Sep 2 '14 at 13:19
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For layout: Scribe is a free open source page layout program. For typesetting: you can use LaTex to typeset your book. For writing: I would recommend Scrivener. If you need a free program, use LibreOffice or Openoffice. Do you have $5? Lots of artists and cover designers advertise on fiverr.com. Many offer high quality work. If you want to get your text out there, simply post the plain text on pastebin. No need for layout or typesetting.

Edit: If you just want a "nice-looking book," use LaTex. Lyx is a front end to LaTex and is a good stepping-stone to LaTex. Both are free. While many people think that LaTex is for math or academic papers only, its creator, Donald Knuth, said that it was designed "to create beautiful books." Many typesetting and page layout decisions will be made for you (within the general specifications you set, such as page size, font, etc.) by LaTex. This is much easier than to have to make these design decisions yourself. Why not stand on the shoulders of giants?

  • +1 for LaTeX - getting typesetting right in WYSIWYG editors is often a pain. – Matthew Iselin Sep 15 '14 at 8:15
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    LaTeX is very hard to use. If the OP is very tech oriented, then LaTeX might be good, otherwise OP is more likely to be successful with Word. – William Hertling Sep 15 '14 at 22:57
  • You can try Lyx as a front-end to LaTex. – user26732 Sep 18 '14 at 17:31
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Professional typesetters usually use Adobe InDesign.

I write novels in a program called Scrivener. I normally export from Scrivener directly into MOBI and EPUB (for ebooks), which is supported by Scrivener.

For my print books, I would normally export from Scrivener into Microsoft Word, and then give the Word file to my designer, who would use InDesign.

I'm a programmer by day, and a writer by night, so I decided to see if I could build a solution to automatically typeset the printed book. I exported HTML from Scrivener, wrote some Ruby code to structure the HTML, then styled everything using CSS, and used a program called PrinceXML to turn that into a PDF. However, like LaTeX, this is a complicated, technical solution.

Depending how complicated your book is (just words or lots of structured information and/or graphics), you may be able to hire a designer for as little as $200 or as much as $1000.

If you aren't technical, and can't afford a designer, you can do a reasonable job using Microsoft Word if you take the time to learn all the print design principles.

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