WORD VS. INDESIGN and other common first-time author questions

Last week I got an e-mail from a first-time author. He asked a lot of questions that are really common from these people, so decided to post this.

Q: I spoke a few weeks ago about laying out my MSWord file into 5.5×8.5 book format. I would like to get some clarification on a few things. Other publishers or printers are telling me that typesetting is needed because a number of glitches could occur with the file conversion from my Word file to whatever you use to work in. True or not?
A: Word is not a layout program. If you can find one book from one major publisher in a major bookstore that’s done in Word then congratulations. If you don’t care about looking a little self-published, or your book is not going to be for bookstore distribution then fine — go ahead with whatever you have if you’re happy with the way it looks. Just convert to PDF.

“If you can find one book from one major publisher in a major bookstore that’s done in Word — congratulations.”

Apart from file glitches, why is it felt by printers that typesetting is needed? Does it have to do with character spacing, kerning and those types of technical details of design that my Word file would not be able to do?
A: Yes. Its like using Powerpoint to make a bookcover. Powerpoint is 72dpi presentation software. If you want professional results, then you need to use professional tools.

Is the difference between typesetting or using my Word file with Times New Roman going to be noticeable to book buyers, distributors, etc.?
A: Can’t answer for the book-buying public. What we don’t want to do is give bookstores reasons to say no to your book.

Reading about proofreading makes me think that what a proofreader and what a designer does would overlap quite a bit. Isn’t widows and orphans, end-line hyphenation, etc. something you look for when designing the interior?
A: There’s a certain amount that a good designer and good software programs catch — and look for, but even the best program is not a physical person, reading and checking.

I don’t know if you also incorporate the cover art into your design or not, but, if so, a question: If I send a file with the cover art, but my designer and I have estimated the wrong page count, can you adjust the spine size on my art file before it goes to the printer?
A: Probably — depends a little on how its done, and what’s supplied — and how much things might need to be adjusted. We want pdf files for print here. If you’re willing to pay to have adjustments, then fine, otherwise our program does work very well if followed carefully.

I guess I will need to get my ISBN, EAN, SAN, LCCN numbers to my designer or do you provide a service to secure some or all of these numbers? I guess the ISBN I need to secure separtely since you are not a publisher. (I’m still trying to decide whether to self-publish wholly or let a small publisher with an imprint do some of the work.)
A: ISBN is crucial, completely forget about EAN and SAN unless you’re planning on selling tens of thousands of copies to big chains. ISBN is publisher specific — you’re the publisher and you need to get it. http://www.SelfPublishing.com is authorized by Bowker to sell one-at-a-time, and the link is on our home page. If you’re doing more than one book, then its much more economical to buy a block of 10 numbers directly from Bowker: http://www.isbn.org/standards/home/index.asp. LCCN is nice if you want to pay for it, and looks good on your copyright page, though it has nothing to do with whether a reader will pick up your book in a bookstore.


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