Thursday, July 14, 2011

Layout Help for Print on Demand Books

While it is true that most sales for a self-published author will come from ebook sales, I think having print books as well is a great idea as there are many people who still prefer to have a book in their hands (and you probably want books for yourself to sit on the shelf). While formatting of ebooks is incredibly easy, laying out a print book to look professional is a bit more challenging.

For Ridan, we do our book layout in a program made by Adobe called In Design. This software is rather expensive and takes quite a bit of time to master, but does produce incredibly beautiful results. I recently ran across an alternative that I found so worthwhile that I thought I would share it here.

Below are three very quick and easy videos showing you how to get a professional looking layout using As the name implies, this is free software but as I'm an ex-programmer and know just how much work producing such a product entails, I highly recommend you donate a little if you do use this program and find it useful. Here is where you can download the software.

The following videos take you step by step through the process of setting up a professional looking layout. They take just a few minutes to watch and I highly recommend them.

Part I

Part II

Part III

See, that's not so hard is it? Once you have your interior layout and know your page count you can calculate the spine width that will allow you to do your cover (which will be in separate pdf file).

Armed with these two things, you're all set to choose a printer/distribution partner. The two I recommend the most are Create Space and Lightning Source. In February I did a comparison of these two and proclaimed Create Space the winner. Since that time some information has come to light that has made we re-work this post so if you've not read it recently it's worth a revisit. Here is the link.

I hope this helps!


Gisele said...


Thank you so much for sharing invaluable information. This is really great stuff!

P.S. there seems to be a problem with the software link.

Ruth Madison said...

I had no idea OpenOffice could be used this way!

jnfr said...

Robin, if you have time at some point, I'd love to hear your take on paper and cover stock for POD books, what looks best, what's most cost-efficient, anything else you have to say about that.

Unknown said...

This is very timely. Thank you!!

Steve DeWinter said...

As always. Giving us what we need to be successful! Thanks Robin.

David Gaughran said...

Thanks Robin.

I'm considering a print version of my next book, so this is great timing. Once I get the digital editions out next week, I need to get my head around all this.

Eloheim and Veronica said...

Thanks Robin! This is great. I love having paperback versions of my books. Sold 4 of them last night in fact! I believe my genre - spirituality - may be more conducive to paperback sales than fiction titles are.

I've sold about 50/50 ebook/paperback so far.

Between paying for interior formatting, paying extra for back cover art set up, and paying LSI set up fees, I've had to pick and choose which books to set up in print.

If we can swing the set up ourselves, that decision will be much easier!

Thanks again,
The Choice for Consciousness: Tools for Conscious Living, Vol. 1

The Homo Spiritus Sessions, Vol. 1-7

Robert Bidinotto said...

Once again, that's so valuable. Thanks. I may give this a shot on my next book, Robin.

India Drummond said...

Thanks, Robin! This is perfect timing for me. I had decided to wait until the sales of my ebook had paid for itself (editing, cover expenses, various bits and bobs know how it is) before I spent the money on Create Space to do a print edition(I wanted to do the expanded distribution.) Since many indie authors I know say their print sales are around 10% of their ebook sales, I figured if I only sold a few copies of the ebook, it would be a waste to do all the work for the print edition.

I was completely caught by surprise when my book sold enough copies to cover my freelance editor's bill in the first month! This has left me scrambling around trying to figure out how to do a pdf, and none of the freebie options I've looked at gave a result anywhere near satisfactory. I'd rather not put out a print book at all than put out a crappy looking one!

Anyway, just watched all three of these vids you posted, and it all seems very easy. Much easier even than the ebook formatting. That surprised me! (Probably because the 'help' files on CreateSpace are ironically named.)

So, I will be putting out print editions of my urban fantasy that's already out, and the two that are due later this year, I'll prepare print editions to come out at the same time as the ebooks.

Thank you so much for sharing!

(Also, as a side note, if anyone watches the vids, be sure you 'like' and/or 'favourite' the video on YouTube. It really helps the video content creators, because it can push them up in the listings and bring them more viewers. A small, free thing you can do to say thanks.)

Isabella Amaris said...

Thanks, Robin! This is really useful information and could not have come at a better time. I'm one of those who wants my books out in print as well as ebooks. Layout/formatting was something I was beginning to worry about. Am gonna start experimenting with OpenOffice as soon as I can. Thanks again.

Unknown said...

Great info!

Lisa Nowak said...

I'll admit, I didn't watch the videos. Twenty minutes of my time is too valuable to waste these days when I already have an effective method. However, I imagine that they probably use a technique that's very similar to what Aaron Shepard outlines in his book Perfect Pages. That method uses Word. I found his instructions very easy to follow. He does tend to skip steps, like telling you where to find the Paragraph Formatting box, but if you know Word, you shouldn't have a problem.

Suzanne said...

Excellent timing. I'm looking into book layout right now. Thanks so much! Off to Tweet it. :-)

Suzanne Adair

Robin Sullivan said...

Glad it was of help to you - and thanks for the tweeting.

Robin Sullivan said...

Hey Gisele - thanks for letting me know - I just fixed it - not sure what the problem was.

Robin Sullivan said...

@jnfr - I personally like the white stock (over creme). For POD you usually don't get a bunch of choices of weight for paper and cover stock - if you do a short run printing then you can choose. I always suggest going with the paper that they have readily available and in stock. Usually 50# up to 60# text for paper and I like a 12pt cover C1S (coated one side) for cover stock.

Robin Sullivan said...

Wow it looks like I hit good timing with a number of people - This makes me a happy camper.

@Eloheim - 50/50 that's a great ratio - Ridan's is more like 95%/5% ;-) Also if cost is a big issue - use Create Space $39 setup rather than LS ($117 setup). If you're not selling a lot through channels (i.e doing a bunch of direct selling. I revamped my CS vs LS post recently - worth a revisit.

Robin Sullivan said...

India - congrats on the sucess of your first month's release and glad you found the videos helpful. Also thanks fo reminding people to thanks the creator by liking them. I'm off to do that now ;-)

Robin Sullivan said...

@Lisa - yeah if you already have a system that works for you no reason to watch these. I personally think Open Office does a better job at this than Word. I've tried to help others setup the various header/footers page size on and on but word just isn't a layout program like InDesign. OpenOffice seems a bit better suited (IMHO) but no reason for you to change if you've already figured out your own method.

Eloheim and Veronica said...

Hi Robin,
I did read your post on LSI/CS. I'm still not 100% clear about how the whole discounting thing works and the repercussions of those decisions. It seems like there is a whole lot to take into consideration.

I sell most of my paperbacks in person at events I hold.

I have my LSI account set at 25% discount right now.

I chose LSI because I didn't really want all my eggs in the Amazon basket.

I get a 50% discount on setup at LSI as a member of the IBPA. So the major cost to take into consideration is the interior layout and the additional cost of cover art/layout. The links here have the potential to make a huge dent in that.

Thanks again,
The Choice for Consciousness: Tools for Conscious Living, Vol. 1

The Homo Spiritus Sessions, Vol. 1-7

Kate said...

I envy your inDesign abilities. My sister (creator of my covers) is well versed in all those adobe products.

These are great videos and I will be sure to pass on the link!

jnfr said...

Thanks for the paper/cover info, Robin. I'll keep that for reference.

Wendy Tyler Ryan said...

I agree with E & V. The genre of the book will determine which version you sell more of.

When I published my book, Fire's Daughter, I knew that I had to have a print version if only for myself. How could I not. I have been selling print version of my book which is a fantasy, but I have sold more e-books.

I have been using createspace's templates and have mastered the ins and outs of stripping word etc. I think my final product looks pretting darn good.

I am interested in checking out this new program though. It might me too complicated for me!

Robin Sullivan said...

Eloheim and Veronica said...I did read your post on LSI/CS. I'm still not 100% clear about how the whole discounting thing works and the repercussions of those decisions. It seems like there is a whole lot to take into consideration.

I sell most of my paperbacks in person at events I hold.

Eloeim...for the books you sell in person - buy those from CS - they'll be cheaper. For books sold via online stores - have them go through Lightning Source - but I would reduce the discount to 20% - no reason to have it 25%.

Hope that helps.

Robin Sullivan said...

Wendy Tyler Ryan said...I am interested in checking out this new program though. It might me too complicated for me!

Wendy - I think you'll find that the videos really hold you by the hand and it is not complicated at all. That's what I found so good about this particular series - and I highly recommend it.

CreateSpacer Jen said...

Hello Robin,

Thanks for declaring Createspace the winner :-). I have always use their guidelines/standard in formatting the book of my clients that are now sold in Amazon. I am comfortable with their system. I have not used Open Office yet in doing the layout, I do use InDesign and MS Word. Thanks for this tips and tutorial, really great!

CreateSpacer Jen

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