Most authors initially create their work in a word-processing program. Word processors are specifically designed to handle large quantities of text. MSWord has a number of features that also allow writers to control the final appearance of their work. These formatting tools can be used to generate print-ready PDFs that can be sent directly to a digital press. Using these tools is not difficult, but it can be tricky. Much depends on the way you set up your document and your work habits.
The best way to become familiar with formatting tools is to try and use them. Learn to develop work habits that help you to streamline your efforts and reduce the chore of formatting to a simple click of the mouse.
Master pages are used to store information about margins and placement of headers, footers and page numbers. Separate masters for the title page,table of contents, front matter, text pages and any special layouts (dedications, certificates, photos) are set up as needed. You can store many page masters in a single document. Separate documents are needed for different page sizes. I recommend saving each new set-up to be used as a template for future projects. Give each template a descriptive name for easy reference. Copy and rename the file as you begin each new project. I always copy my master templates to CD so they cannot be altered.
Stylesheets are probably the most helpful formatting tools.Taking the time to learn how to use them will give you a big boost when it comes to laying out book pages. Attributes can be assigned to control font appearance, size, tracking, leading, space between paragraphs and more. Once a style has been created, it can be applied to select words and paragraphs up to and including the entire document in a split second. You can build different versions of styles using alternate fonts, etc. and save them to a master collection for instant formatting of new work. Stylesheets can be copied from one document to another.
Building a good library of master templates and stylesheets is a good way to reduce the effort required to begin a new project. Don’t forget to test your template by printing a few pages. The results can be immediately judged and corrective measures taken to improve the outcome. Once you have the right answers, toss all the experimental files and save the good one to your master library. This practice will help you to become more consistent and organized. Your presentations can take on a more sophisticated look with less effort.
I will be covering more specifics about preparing files for digital printing in future posts.
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