My main goal with a self-publishing project is that the book not look self-published when it is sitting on a shelf, or someone is holding it in their hand and turning the pages.

I am no great designer, but I have some facility with InDesign and I usually can see when something looks bad. So, my first step is to go to a bookstore and look at books of the approximate size and style I am producing. Once I have one in I like, I buy a copy and use it as my template.

I have already decided I like the way this book looks, so, I measure the margins. I count the lines per page. I note the way the headers and footers are populated with author names, book title, and page number. I estimate the font size. (it will surely be between 8 pt and 12 pt) I look through the front matter. (everything before the actual book) I look at the back matter.

Before I go to InDesign, I prepare the content in Word. It is an easier program to work with for things like spell check, inserting page breaks, and editing. I don’t “place” my content in an InDesign document until I have a pretty clean copy of the text. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but if you do major edits in InDesign, you may find it throws your formatting off, so, I like to get most of the work done in Word first.

Now, I create an empty InDesign file of the appropriate size (6″ x 9″ in my case), give it the correct size margins (inside 1.1″, top 1.25″, bottom 1.75″, outside 1″ in my case).

I then go to the master pages and insert my headers and footers, just like in my template book.

Now, I go to Page 7 of my InDesign Document, leaving six blank pages for “front matter”. I “place” my word document at the top of page seven, holding down shift, so that InDesign automatically creates enough pages and text boxes to fit your manuscript and populates the book with the text.

Now, if I have created my Styles in Word, (see my post Preparing a Word Document for Publication) my Chapter Headings are in one style, my body text is in another style, if I have any “special styles” for poetry, quotes, captions, etc. those pieces will automatically be imported in the correct style.

Now before you do anything else, go through the whole manuscript and see that everything is basically how you expect it. Check that everything is there, start to finish, and that all the styles are correct.

I will describe finishing touches in a later post.