Self-publishing: file formats from writing to proofreading

Most manuscripts are written and edited in MS Word or other word processing programs. The program you then use to design and proofread your manuscript depends on the type of publication.

Editing your manuscript in Word format

You can do all the editing in Word (or another word processing program). For more information about the editing process, go to: The three stages of editing.

If the manuscript iincludes different chapters and/or headings and subheadings you’ll need to make sure you use appropriate fonts for those headings/tiers (e.g. large font for major headings; slightly smaller for the next tier down; and so on – or use the different heading fonts provided in Word). That way,  the graphic designer will know how to tier the headings in the designed document.

The formatting in a Word document will need to be kept simple for easy conversion into the graphic design program. The graphic designer will tell you what fonts to use for headings and sub-headings. If there are any graphics, images or diagrams, they will ask you to leave those items out of the Word document and those items will need to be inserted during the graphic design stage. And you’ll need to type in a ‘tag’ (or whatever type of identifier the designer has requested) wherever a graphic, image or diagram needs to be inserted into the publication. 

After editing, file formats for hard copy publications

The designed manuscript is (usually) submitted to the printer in PDF format.

Designing your publication in Word

Usually books are designed using a design program (such as Adobe InDesign).

However, if the manuscript is mainly text-based (for example, a novel) and quite  simple in design, and you don’t wish to design it in InDesign, you may design it in Word format. The manuscript is then submitted to the printer as a  PDF file, and most printers then create a ‘final press proof’ (in hardcopy).*

Errors may have been created in this final  stage, and you want your printed books to be error-free. So we recommend you  always check or proofread the ‘final press proof’ before giving the printers approval to print the books.

* However, print-on-demand printers do not provide ‘final press proof’s.

Designing your publication in a graphic design program

All manuscripts can be designed then proofread in a graphic design program; for example, Adobe InDesign. The manuscript is then submitted to the printer as a PDF file, and most printers create a final ‘proof’ for you to check.

Checking or proofreading the ‘proof’ to make sure the  book is error-free prior to printing is highly recommended.

File formats for electronic publications

Your manuscript needs to be designed  in a format compatible with the e-publisher’s requirements.

For more information about epublishing, go to:

Helpful links about publishing

Proofread by Dee Sansom, On Time Typing

Sally-Anne Watson Kane is owner/operator of On Time Typing, specialising in self-publishing services: writing, editing, proofreading, graphic design and producing publications. For more articles go to: blog.

Image: Pixabay – Creative Commons licence (no attribution required)


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