Thursday, 26 September 2013

Justified or Ragged Right for Self Published Books?

Formatting a book involves more than simply typing words onto a page, it involves ‘shaping’ the text so that it looks right and is easy to read. Text can be formatting in 4 ways. It can be centered, aligned right (left ragged), aligned left (right ragged) or justified. Which alignment is best for self published books?

What is Justified Text?

Justified Text can be Ugly
if columns are narrow.
Simply put, text that is justified forms a ‘block’ on the page. The alignment on the left and the right of the text are straight, except for the final line, which likely will contain a shorter line. See image.

Justified text can look neat and visually appealing unless each line is short and therefore possess fewer characters. This will not pose a problem with novels, as the lines all run the entire width of the page and therefore each word will posses equal relatively equal amounts of space. This can be seen in the upper 2 screenshots which possess quite a few words per line.

When Justified Text Looks Ugly

But if the block of text is quite narrow, as can be seen in the lower screenshots, there are fewer words per line, meaning that if a line has long words, there are likely to be ugly gaps between them. This can cause ‘rivers’ to appear between words. I have highlighted these rivers in yellow. The upper right image shows these gaps are generally thinner and occur quite evenly throughout the text. The lower image shows these gaps quite are wide in places.

Many readers find such rivers distracting which makes the book difficult to read. In such cases, it might be wiser not to justify the text.

When to Use Align Left in Text

Ragged Right Text in Books
Align left, otherwise known as ragged right, means that each line of text are not equal in length and is determined by the number of characters and spaces in each line. Ragged right has a more organic look about it and might be the better option in text arranged in narrow columns (see 1). This will rid of the ugly rivers that appear to stream between words in shorter lines, but the length of each line will vary, giving it that ‘ragged’ look on the end of each line. 2 and 3 shows how ragged right will generally appear less ragged if each line is longer.

Book Formatting Tips 
Depending upon the situation, a blend of the 2 might work best. In the case of novels, justified is no problem and is most often used throughout, as there are many characters and spaces on each line. Rivers are less likely to occur. Titles and chapter headings can be centered or aligned left, depending upon the style of the formatting.

How to Format Text

But if each line is quite short, and fewer words make up each line, align left might be best. This will eliminate rivers between words. In my example, I used justified for large blocks of text that run (or almost run) the entire width of the page. However, I will use align left for text snippets, and captions such as small blocks of text. Image captions might look best if centered. Ultimately, it is about whether the text looks good and is easy to read.

How to Format Text within Books

Formatting text within books is a fine art that requires sensitive decisions. Justified will look good if there are a fair amount of words on each line, and white rivers are less likely to happen. However, if the text is arranged in narrow columns or in small snippets, longer words could cause rivers between the text. In such cases, align left (or ragged right) will take the ugly rivers away, but the right side will have an organic and more uneven look about it.

More Articles on Book Formatting

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

I Can’t Make Pictures and Text do What I Want in my Book

Creating a book with images, text, diagrams and complex elements can be a nightmare when self publishing on POD for the first time. Book formatting picture books such as art books or science books seems to be an art in itself. Having gone through the process myself, have learned a few things to make text and images do what I want when converting onto PDF, fine tuning the look of the book or uploading onto POD platforms such as Createspace.

Why Avoid Floating Images

When initially faced with the task of formatting books with pictures, floating images within text seemed to be the answer. However, unless the images are placed inline with paragraphs and do not affect subsequent elements, will tend to slip around or misbehave when converting the file. The larger the book, the more of a nightmare the task became.

This is because re-positioning the images would have a knock-on effect upon the formatting on the following pages. Like a domino effect, a slight adjustment could mess everything else up. The answer to this, I found was to ‘anchor’ the images, graphics and textboxes within tables.

How to Use Tables in Books

Becoming a master of using tables is the key to formatting a book when self-publishing. Within Word, you can insert a table with cells for the purpose of inserting images and text, ‘isolating’ these element from the rest of the page. There are many ways tables can be used for page formatting, such as the following:

Using Tables to Format Books
Creating a contents page.
Placing images alongside text.
Inserting captions to images.
Formatting columns.
Creating headers.
Formatting graphs
Creating diagrams
And more.

The image shows how tables can be used in various ways. Click on ‘table properties’ after highlighting a table (see image 1) and various options become available. ‘Borders and shading’ can be used to tailor the look of the table, such as outlines, or make them invisible (see image 2). The table’s area can be shaded in for colourful blocks of colour within a book (image 3). This can make a book look more attractive.

You can utilise tables in book formatting in the following ways:

A table with 2 or 3 cells can be inserted into a page if a piece of text is to exhibit columns. Each column can be spaced evenly or tailored to suit.
A table within a table can be inserted if wishing to insert a piece of text alongside an image and then ‘floated’ within a larger table. This anchors all elements within one frame without affecting elements outside of the larger table.

Alternatively, a 2-cell table can be inserted within a larger table if the caption needs to be a different colour to the rest of the text.
The outlines of each table can be made invisible by clicking ‘table properties’ and selecting ‘borders and shading.’ Select ‘none’ for outlines. This will rid of all outlines.
The background to a text area can be made any colour, by ‘filling in’ the colour of the table. This can be done by clicking ‘table properties’ and then clicking on ‘borders and shading.’ Click ‘shading’ and select desired colour.
The table itself can ‘float’ within another table.

See screenshot of how I used tables to format one of my books which contained complex elements by the use of tables.

Tips on Book Formatting

 Floating Text and Anchoring Text

Avoid floating text without the use of tables unless the page elements are very simple, as such formatting can be quite unstable within a book. Floating within a larger table is OK, as all elements are confined within the larger table.

Using tables for book formatting makes the task more manageable. An image, piece of text, captions, graphics and diagrams can be inserted within cells of a table without fear the rest of the book will get messed up and misbehave when converting the book into a PDF, fine tuning the look of the book or uploading. Incidentally, when uploading a book file onto Createspace, discovered that the old Word format (1997 – 2003) seemed to behave more than the more current version. For this reason, I always upload my book file in this format for POD platforms.

More Articles on how to Format Picture Books

Thursday, 19 September 2013

My Images are Always Less than 300 DPI when Publishing on POD Platforms

Making sure images are more than 300 DPI (dots per square inch) is not easy when first publishing picture books on print on demand platforms such as Createspace or Lulu. How does the writer ensure each image is at least 300 DPI within picture books?

How to Create Great Images for Picture Books

Obviously, the pictures have to be good quality in the first place, meaning, good lighting, sharp focusing and high resolution by the use of a good quality camera. But this is different to the DPI setting, which can be lower than 300 DPI even if the images look great on screen. Print on demand publishers will also alert you of images that are less than 300 DPI. Createspace’s preflight download will inform on which images will look pixilated in print, but cannot change it. So how can this be remedied?

How to Avoid Image Compression

How to Prevent Image Compression on Save
Firstly a few things to avoid when creating a book with images.

1 Never copy and paste an image into the Word file. Always ‘insert image.’
2 Word will automatically compress on save unless told otherwise. To avoid this, click on any image and ‘compress image’ option will come up on the toolbar at the top of the screen. 3 Click on this and a dialogue box will come up.
4 Click on ‘options’ and untick ‘automatically compress on save.’ Ensure the ‘print’ option is selected (see screenshot above for clarification).

How to Avoid Compression on PDF

PDF Images are Still Compressed to 220 DPI Despite Print Selection
Fourthly, most books are submitted as a PDF file on self-publishing platforms. The standard PDF program will compress the pictures even if you don’t want it to. Despite the ‘print’ option being selected, the Adobe program will compress the images, to 220DPI which is still higher than if the ‘online’ button is selected, but is still not good enough for print books. This is why I no longer submit my book file as a PDF. Createspace’s PDF converter is of a more advanced version than standard, and images are not compressed when my book is uploaded on their platform.

Getting Images to 300 Dots per Square Inch

The only way I have found to avoid image compression is to submit my book file as the original word document. But there is a further complication here, as if I submit my book as a Word (2007) document, floating images and tables misbehave and my book file’s formatting messes up in the online book previewer. The only way around this is to save the book file on the older Word version, the Word (1997 – 2003) version. This ensures that image and text elements behave as they should once going through Createspace’s book converter. Again, make sure ‘compress images on save’ has been unticked before inserting images and saving.

How to Increase Image DPI

So once the document is created in Word (1997 – 2003) and image compression has been turned off, you are halfway there. The only thing to do now is to ensure the images themselves are at least 300 DPI before inserting them into the book file. Here’s how.

Right click on any JPEG and click ‘properties.’ This will reveal what the DPI of the image is. Chances are, it will be less than 300 DPI. To get the DPI higher, you will need an image editing program. Paintshop Pro will do, but I use Irfanview. It is free and will batch convert all images within one folder to whatever DPI you want and create a separate folder afterwards. Incidentally, ensure all the images to be inserted in your book file are in one folder before progressing further.

Free Image Software to Increase DPI of Images

How to Batch Convert Images for DPI with Free Image Software
Once you have installed Irfanview, open it up.
1 Now click on any image within the picture folder containing the images that will be in your book.
2 Click ‘file’. Click on ‘batch conversion/rename.’
3 A large dialogue box will pop up. Click on ‘advanced (see image above).’ More options will come up with fields you can infill to requirement. Set DPI value to 300.
4 Ensure ‘preserve aspect ratio’, ‘use resample function’ and ‘don’t’ enlarge small images’ are selected. Also tick the ‘create new subfolder option to retain the original picture folder.
5 Click OK.
6 Now click on ‘add all’ and the program will convert all the images in the folder to images of 300 DPI and create a new folder. I have provided a screenshot for guidance.

High Image DPI for Book Publishing

Setting Pictures to High DPI
Beware once you have created a new subfolder with images all of 300DPI as if you edit them in any way, the DPI could be altered. Paint, for instance will sometimes lower the DPI if editing has been performed and then saved. This is why I would conduct all editing before batch converting. If however this cannot be avoided, just double check the DPI has not been affected after image editing. If this has occurred, just open that image on Irfanview. Click on ‘image’ on the tool bar at the top. Click on ‘resize/resample’. You can then reset the DPI of your image.

Your images are now ready to be inserted into the Word document and all will be at least 300 DPI.

How to Get Images to High DPI

Images can look good on screen yet the DPI might be too low for print, meaning they will look pixilated and blurred in print. Firstly, avoid automatic image compression every time the book file is saved on Word by unticking ‘compress on save.’ Always insert images, never copy and paste. A free image software program, such as Irfanview can be downloaded for the purposes of increasing DPI of all images within a picture file. They can then be inserted into the book file before publishing onto a POD platform.

More about Self Publishing Books on POD