top of page
  • Writer's pictureR. Lennard

Publishing tools

Week eight of the Tech Savvy Writer posts. Today, we're covering publishing tools.

Authors everywhere are groaning after my ending last week. There is no magic button when it comes to publishing a book. Or a graphic novel, or magazine or anything else you’re wanting to publish.

Ronah took 17 years to write. Partly because life got in the way. As I was heading towards the end of my university studies, I really wanted to hold that book in my hands.

Tears, callouses and creative cursing are usually involved in the end production. If you're wanting to find out where to start, these tools will give you a beginning point.

But there are programs that can help you hold your dreams in your hands.


How to make a book:

I researched, and found a print on demand company that printed out the first draft of Ronah . There are only five of these books in existence. And they probably belong hidden in the bottom draw for the gremlins to devour. Why did I go to all that trouble? Because I didn’t think I would go any further with it. I just wanted to see what it would be like to hold it.

And now, 15 drafts and two editions later, Ronah has led me here. It’s still a bit surreal.

If you’re like me, and you’ve worked your fingers to the bone creating that book and want to hold the finished copy, how do you go about making it?

I start with setting up a template in Microsoft Word. Make sure that your size and margins are correct for the type of book you’re after. If you’re using special fonts and you want to make sure that they’ll actually work, make sure you go to

  • File

  • Save As

  • More Options

  • Tools

  • Save Options

  • Make sure that under Save, Embed Fonts in the File is checked.

To save it as a PDF that will be printable, you need to go

  • File

  • Save As

  • Choose PDF from the drop down option

  • Click More Options

  • Then click Options

  • Make sure the PDF/A box is ticked

This doesn’t automatically happen if you just go File – Save As PDF. You have to go the long way the first time you set it up on a computer – and if you’re using a public PC, it’s good to check that option is ticked each time.

InDesign part of the Adobe suite – if you get Photoshop, InDesign is also worth it. Like most Adobe products, there is a fairly steep learning curve, but there are lots of excellent tutorials out there to walk you through how to create a book. Fully customisable, InDesign delivers beautiful results, but is a very labour-intensive way to format your books.

As we discussed before, Scrivener is also able to not only help you write your book, but it can also create both print and ebooks with relative ease, if not with the beautiful customisation of InDesign.

Vellum is a tool that is recommended by a lot of authors, but it is designed exclusively for Mac users. At $250, it produces both print and ebooks, and is reportedly easy to use. There is a work around for Windows users – but it involves ‘renting’ a Mac In Cloud – that costs roughly a dollar per hour. There is the option to trial Vellum, but you can’t generate files in the trial version.


How to make an ebook:

Sometimes though, even if the urge to hold a book in your hand is strong, there’s an even better reason to set up an ebook instead. I have a friend who edits by creating an ebook and marking notes in her Kindle.

Vellum and Scrivener, as we just discussed, are great at creating both print and ebooks. There are other ebook creating tools that you can use as well, but the two that I’ve used are Caliber and Draft2Digital.

I find Caliber a bit is messy. I love the fact that it’s free, but I struggle to figure out the interface, and to make sure that I am actually editing the correct part. There are many authors who do it flawlessly, and I’ll be honest and say I haven’t given a great deal of time to learning how to use it to create ebooks. It is, however, a great free, ebook reader.

Draft2Digital is the main one that I use. If you have pretty formatting in your ebook, you aren’t going to like it. Or, at least, I don’t. Draft2Digital is brilliant when you’re starting out, or if you want to use it like my friend does to edit. It’ll put in all of the formatting, drop caps and section breaks for you once you upload your word doc. You can pretty much sit back and watch it happen. You may have to tweak things, but it is a far less labour intensive way to create an ebook.

Once you have all the formatting done, it’s time to print the book out and hold it in your hands.


Where to get printed/published

Draft2Digital will publish your ebook, but if you want a physical copy, head to Blurb, Ingram Sparks or Lulu. They all vary in price.

I’ve found that Blurb is the cheapest as far as printing and shipping within Australia. Like many of the other places, wait for the sales – there’s always a sale. They also have amazing customer service, so if anything goes wrong, it’s usually just a matter of sending an email away and it’ll get sorted.

Ingram Sparks has a set up cost that you can get waived if you complete the Nanowrimo Challenge. They are quite a bit stricter with what files they will accept compared to Blurb. The wait time for Ingram is also significantly longer than Blurb, but if you’re wanting to reach more people, Ingram is the way to go.

If you’re wanting a hard cover book with more options, you should really check out Lulu. They offer some beautiful hard cover choices, complete with a linen cover under the dust jacket.

I can’t give you prices on any of these, as it all greatly depends on the size and format of the book, how many pages it is, and what paper you choose. All of them offer calculators for you to check the price before you commit to buying. Or selling.


Stay tuned for next week, when I'll share some helpful tools about internet blockers and music.


bottom of page