How-To / Self Help

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


Prepare Your Manuscript

(866) 944-2999





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 and designed to work with the larger files that are common with many How To book projects. 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 of 1 - 5 stars. 

Do not use 2 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 2 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 “afternoon” 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 How-To book. This problem is not insurmountable but in most cases is avoidable. 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.  Software such as Family Tree Maker is commonly used to create charts and complex family tree graphics.




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

Very serious text flow issues; so much so, that many printers will not accept Microsoft Publisher files.

1 out of 5
Adobe PageMaker

Adobe PageMaker has a large learning curve, and proves difficult when transferring larger files.

2 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
Corel WordPerfect

Corel WordPerfect is very user friendly, but completely incompatible with modern printing presses.

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




Unfortunately for users of Corel WordPerfect, font restrictions built into the software make it very difficult to print the file on our large commercial presses. We would strongly recommend copying the file into Microsoft Word before proceeding.

If you are interested in purchasing software to write your How To book, we would suggest you search online at Amazon.




Editing Your Manuscript


Editing is a term which simply means To prepare (written material) for publication, as by correcting, revising, or adapting. 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.





Choose a Binding Style


The most common page size for a How To book is the 8 ½” x 11” format. This is the easiest format for placing a combination of text and photographs on a page. It also allows a choice of a single or double column page layout. The second most popular page size is the
5 ½” x 8 ½” format. This format is usually used when there is a minimal number of photographs and the two column layout is not required.

The two most common binding styles for a How-To book are hardcover and paperback binding with paperback binding being the most popular. The two main considerations when choosing a binding style for your How To book are:




While our paperback books are the highest quality available, our hardcover books are specifically designed to out-last all other types of binding and to be passed down from generation to generation.
Orders /

A clear advantage in choosing our hardcover binding for your How To book is our 50 book minimum order. If re-orders are necessary, you may order as few as a single copy of your hardcover book at the original price per book. This allows you to order only what you require and eliminates the risk of paying for unnecessary copies. The minimum order for paperback books remains at 200 copies with a 200 copy minimum re-order.  







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 ¾” 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 1/8” extra for the binding edge. For example, if you have selected a margin setting of ¾” for the top, bottom, and right hand side of the page, the left hand, or binding edge should be set at 7/8”. 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 ¾" with a gutter measurement of .2". 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 ½” 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.
Indent paragraphs one em space.  This is equal to approximately two spaces. 
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.

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 books are the Oldstyle fonts, as they are easily readable for large body copy.  Among the most common are Times Roman, Goudy, Garamond, and Baskerville. 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. Children's books are commonly set in a slab serif font, because of their clean straight lines.  Some common Slab serif fonts are New Century Schoolbook, Classic SSK, and Clarendon.  

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 high quality 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 scanning service which includes photo touch-up and adjustment for overexposed or underexposed images. For more information on our scanning service click here.

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


In Binding Style, we touched on the fact that most How To books are produced in the hardcover format. If you have selected the paperback format for your How To book, our designers will incorporate any images you provide into the cover design. For complete information on our cover design process, click here. If you have selected the hardcover format for your How To book, there are several options available when it comes time to decide on what style to choose for your book cover. The most common styles are:


Linen or leather finish book cloth with gold or silver lettering. (This option is the most economical and the most popular. Line drawn images can also be gold or silver stamped on the book cover. Our designers will create the necessary artwork at no additional cost).
Linen or leather finish book cloth with dust jacket. (Dust jackets are printed in either grayscale or full color.  Our designers will create a cover design at no additional cost.


How To Book
The most common question we receive is regarding the price of our various services. The cost of our more common services are as follows:


Manuscript Typing $1.50 per page.
Page Layout (Typesetting) $1.50 - $1.95 per page.
Photograph Scanning $1.00 ea. - $3.50 ea. (depending on quantity)


The cost of producing a How To book is dependant on several variables. We have based our sample price on the following specifications:

Quality Hard Cover
Page Size 8 ½” x 11”
200 Pages (black printing inside)
Linen or Leather Finish Book Cloth with Gold Embossing 
50 Copies

Price $19.95 ea.

Our price of $19.95 per book is based on an order of only 50 copies. Remember, there is also no minimum order for re-orders in hardcover.  Once you have ordered the minimum 25 books and need more copies, you can order as few as a single copy of your book at the original price per book. All family history books are kept on file and can be reprinted in 2 weeks. 




Sending a File


One difficulty in producing a How To book is that photos will dramatically increase the amount of memory needed to store your manuscript. 

Files which exceed 5 megabytes in size could either be burned onto a CD and sent by regular mail or sent through our FTP. 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.




Examples Contact Us Send Files