How-To / Self-Help

Step-by-step guide for preparing your How-To / Self-Help book for printing.


Prepare Your Manuscript

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Writing a How-To Book


Those who have undertaken the task of writing a How-To book will often say that computer software posed a significant challenge to them. This is why at the outset, we recommend using software that is user friendly. Below, we have provided a list of the most common software used for creating a How-To book. The list is complete with comments and a rating system from one to five. 

Do not use two or more varieties of software to produce your manuscript. Choose one type of software and stick with it. If the software you have originally chosen is causing problems, we would suggest copying the files to a Microsoft Word document. While Microsoft Word is not a perfect software, we have found it to be among the most stable.  


Always remember to save your work and, just as importantly, keep a backup of all your book files on another computer, disc, or USB drive.


Use a single computer. Using two or more computers or a variety of software can cause a number of problems with your file, the most serious being text-re-flow. Text re-flow is the repositioning of text on the page. For example, if the word “Sunday” appears as the first word on a page on your computer, that same word may end up on the last line of the previous page when we print the proof of your book. Using a single software on a single computer will minimize the risk of developing problems like this later on.






We have listed a variety of the most common software used to create your How-To book.  We have rated each type of software according to its performance.  




Microsoft Word

Most common program for writing manuscripts. Microsoft Word accounts for approximately 90% of our submissions.

4 out of 5
Microsoft Works

Microsoft Works is similar to Microsoft Word in many aspects, but is less stable when dealing with larger files.

2 out of 5
Microsoft Publisher

Microsoft Publisher has grown in popularity and is now considered an excellant software for your page layout.

4 out of 5
Adobe PageMaker

Adobe PageMaker is now mostly obsolete, but a good software as long as your file can be saved in the PDF format.

3 out of 5
Adobe InDesign

The ideal software to use is Adobe InDesign, due to its incredible flexibility and professional status. Unfortunately, the software has a steep learning curve and is quite costly.

5 out of 5

WordPerfect is very user friendly, but has been plagued by font issues.

1 out of 5
Google Docs

Google Docs is a very flexible application that handles word processing very well. Because Docs is exclusively online, it autosaves all of your work so you never lose any important files.


Docs is completely free, and you can access it here.

4 out of 5






We would strongly advise having your file edited before you submit your manuscript to be produced. This is to avoid delays in printing due to last minute corrections and the added cost of printing several proofs. First, as a cost saving measure, we would suggest a friend or family member who is qualified do the editing. Another option is to hire a student from a local community college or University to do the editing. A third option is to hire a professional editor. Although we do not provide an editing service, we would be pleased to recommend a qualified editor.  

As the author, you should never do the final edit. If there are mistakes you probably won’t catch your own mistakes, no matter how many times you read through the manuscript.





Choosing a Binding Style


The most common page size for a How-To book is the 5.5" x 8.5" inch format. The most common binding style is the quality paperback format.                  





Page Layout


The information found in this step is designed for those who wish to produce their own page layout. For complete information on having our professionals create your layout click here. 

Page layout is a term which refers to the way in which text and images are situated on a page. The layout of your manuscript should be adjusted to look exactly the way you want to see it in print. Quite often people will look at previously bound books for their ideas. Sample How To or reunion memory book layouts are very helpful for showing how to set headers, position page numbers, set margin width, or choose a font style. 
In order for your book to have a professional look and feel, there are four basic principles to follow.  

In order for your page layout to be visually appealing and to keep the readers interest, you should have contrast on your pages. Use a contrasting type for headings, keeping the headings very different from the body type. Don't go overboard, use one type for the body copy and a different one for the headings.  Consider a newspaper and how the headings are larger and bolder.  


Choose one justification and stick to it.  As a rule, center justification will give the page layout a formal look.  It is commonly used for wedding invitations, formal announcements, etc. Left justification will give a more conservative professional look.  Full justification within the layout will give your pages a clean orderly look.  With full justification, your headings could be either left, right, or centered on the page.  


Create a sense of unity to your book  by adding a few visual elements that you like, and then repeating them throughout. Look through some of your favorite books to see what they have used on their pages, you may get some inspiration. Perhaps a decorative ornament under the heading of each chapter, or a decorative drop cap to start each chapter might give your book a special look. 



Margins, Header/Footers
When setting the margins for your pages, it is important to not set them less than .75 inches to ensure that proper space between the printing and the edge of the page remains at the binding edge. We recommend that when choosing a margin setting for your page layout, you should allow .125 inches extra for the binding edge. For example, if you have selected a margin setting of .75 inches for the top, bottom, and right hand side of the page, the left hand, or binding edge should be set at .875 inches. This makes the text appear balanced on the page when the book is bound. Microsoft Word uses a measurement which is referred to as a gutter. When using the gutter, margins should all be set at .75 inches with a gutter measurement of .2 inches. Care should also be taken when placing information in the headers or footers, such as chapter heading or page numbers, that sufficient room remains between the edge of the print and the edge of the page. A header/footer measurement of .5 inches is a common setting for a standard page layout.


Setting Type
When typing your manuscript, forget everything you learned in typing class. Computers have come a long way from the typewriter, and the rules for professional page layout are different. Here are some basic layout tips:


Only use one space after periods.
Choose either a double space between paragraphs, or an indent. Do not use both.
If you are choosing to indent your paragraphs, you need not indent the first one of each chapter.
Watch for hyphenated words at the end of each line. If there are too many, you may want to adjust your kerning (this is the space between your letters).

Choosing font styles for your book is very important for both the appearance and for transferring files for printing. The most common fonts used for this style of book is Garamond. Remember to choose a contrasting font for your headings. A sans serif font such as Arial is a common choice. A sans serif font is one without the "hooks" at the ends of each letter. These "hooks" help to guide the eye from one letter to another making the text easily readable. This is why sans serif fonts such as Arial should never be used for the main body of the text.

In regard to printing, it is important to ensure that all fonts being used are resident in your Windows or Mac font folder. This includes both bold and italicized versions of each font. Simply using the bold or italicize commands on the toolbar may not necessarily ensure the font is available. For example, Microsoft Word will manufacture its own version of a font if it is not already installed on your computer. If this is done, the bold font will appear to be two images side by side when printed on a commercial digital press. The italicized versions may not print at all. The simple solution to font problems is to avoid unusual fonts such as Wing Dings and Symbol, and stay with more common book fonts such as Times New Roman and Garamond.



Copyright, ISBN 
Copyright, ISBN, CIP, and Library of Congress information should be placed on the page directly after the title page. This page is commonly known as the copyright page. If you have decided to produce your own page layout, we will check to make sure all the necessary information is included on this page. For more information on copyright / ISBN and CIP applications click here. 


Page Numbers/Chapter Headings
The title page and chapter headings should always be placed on a right hand page. It may be necessary to leave a left hand page blank in order to start a chapter as a right hand page. Inserting a section break at the end of each chapter will automatically force the following chapter to begin in the proper right hand position.


When numbering the pages in your book, you should also keep in mind that right hand pages are always odd number pages while left hand pages are even numbers. It is also common to number the pages preceding the first chapter with roman numerals.

If you are planning to add photographs to your How-To book, they must first be scanned. For those who prefer not to scan their own photographs, we offer a complete high quality scanning service.

There are many brands of scanners available on the market. Even the most inexpensive scanner will be able to produce the high quality images needed for printing.
For best results, photos should be scanned as 300 DPI TIFF or JPEG files. Some scanners automatically default to 72 DPI between uses so be careful. Photos scanned and printed at 72 DPI would not be considered acceptable for printing.

Higher resolution is not necessarily better. A resolution over 300 DPI will only increase your file size (sometimes dramatically) and cause your computer to run more slowly.   





Cover Design


A professional cover design is available for a one-time fee of $125.00.



Sending Your File


Files which exceed 10 megabytes in size could either be placed on a jump drive and sent by regular mail, or sent through our FTP site . Our FTP site is an excellent way to send large files quickly and easily.


For information on sending your manuscript for self publishing, please call us toll free at
1-866-944-2999 to speak to a customer service representative.




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