A Pro Book Designer Finally Drags MS Word Layout to New Highs for Self-Publishers

Professional book designers will tell you that you simply cannot use a word processing program like Microsoft Word to create a finished print file for a self-published book. Professional book designers at publishing houses use like Adobe InDesign, which is a part of Creative Suite, Adobe’s extensive multimedia all-singing and all-dancing software. However, as long as MS Word has been around, DIY self-published authors have pushed the most popular word processing software to its maximum limits with varying results. Perhaps it is time to modify that opening statement by professional book designers. It is not so much that you can’t use MS Word for an interior book design layout, rather you will never achieve the same level of precision and characteristics offered by a high-end dedicated book design tool like InDesign.
MS Word was designed by Microsoft to be an office and home word processing tool, not a sophisticated design tool for the creative industries. MS Word does not have the array and font flexibility, letter and line spacing, nor the ability to easily deal with complex typography or hyphenation. lf you are a self-published author and decide to use MS Word for your book design project,  accept that using it will always be a compromised solution over professional design tools and services. Though the use of MS Word in self-publishing has resulted in many diverse opinions, many DIY online platforms facilitate MS Word as their primary load-up file of choice, including Lulu, CreateSpace and Smashwords. The rise in the number of self-published books over the last ten years has meant that many printers and author service providers have had to meet self-published authors half way in an effort to remain in a highly competitive market.
Aaron Shepard, an author and publisher, even wrote a book seven years ago about using MS Word for interior book layout called Perfect Pages (though Shepard only recommends using versions before MS Word 2007). For years, Joel Friedlander, a professional book designer, warned self-published authors of the limitations of MS Word as a design layout tool and to steer clear of it if authors wanted first-class results. Recently on the excellent thebookdesigner.com, Friedlander’s resource website for authors and book designers, he announced a shift in his approach and opinion of Word:
“Of course, we were right that you can’t create a truly professional quality book in Word, since it doesn’t have the typographic chops to produce great type, and it’s pretty hopeless at layouts that demand precision.
But the plain truth is that thousands of authors ignored all the advice and stuck with the program they already own and use: Microsoft Word.
I’ve seen the books, with the page numbers in the wrong places, the chapter opening pages that have running heads because the author couldn’t figure out how to turn them off, the tiny margins, inconsistent use of type, awkward font choices.
Truly, many of these books look dreadful. And that’s where I made my mistake.
If you look at the masthead of this blog, it says:
“Practical Advice to Help Build Better Books”
Wouldn’t it be better to help those poor authors struggling to turn a word processor into a layout program? Isn’t there some way I could help them create books more easily, ones that didn’t make people cringe, that didn’t shout “self-published” quite so loudly?
So instead of whining about Word, I decided to find a way to make it better.”
So, after two years of planning and five months of development work with design associate, Tracy R. Atkins, Joel Friedlander has launched BookDesignTemplate.com, a service offering a host of industry-standard interior book templates in MS Word. As someone who self-published two books using MS Word as a layout tool several years ago, this service would have saved me so much frustration and hair-pulling over many weeks. While a search of the Internet will turn up resources with MS Word templates, many of them are simplistic, poorly designed, and lack the professional look needed for a published book. I’m amazed no one until now has put together something like this before.
Having used Word for book layout and witnessed some pretty impressive results from real MS Word aficionados, I always believed if you pushed Word to its absolute limits, you could end up with a template and finished book of reasonable industry-standard. The fact is that while many self-published authors are comfortable with Word as a processor, they lask the real expert know how to explore and use many of its hidden capabilities. This was an exercise just waiting for a professional book designer like Friedlander and his associates to grab by the scruff of the neck and drag it screaming into the professional end of the industry. Here’s hoping that one day soon all self-published books will at least look as good as some of the book templates Friedlander’s new design service has to offer.
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