InDesign vs Word, does it matter for book design?

indesign vs word

Adobe InDesign vs Ms Word… Does it really make a difference which one I use to layout my book?

Most indie authors have probably asked this question at one point or another. Unfortunately there aren’t always very good answers given. Read along, with this edition of InDesign vs Word, and I will explain the differences, with pictures too!

I know most authors have copies of Ms Word already, and it has so many features that seem like it will make the page look good. SO it’s natural to want to use it instead of paying a designer like me to use InDesign to lay it out. Most authors don’t have the desire to spend 0ver $600.00 for software and use it one time(not to mention the steep learning curve).

So why can’t I just use what I have? It looks the same!

To start things off Ms Word is a word processor, its  a great tool for typing and getting those manuscripts put together, or heck, even making a flyer for next Saturday’s yard sale. It is not a layout tool, and can not handle typography, and paragraph composition very good.

Adobe InDesign is professional layout and design software. What’s that mean? It’s made for precise layouts, handling typography, and graphic elements very well. It is not a word processor.

That sounds like designer, and typophile nonsense to me, can you prove it?

Yes…yes I can, and I’m glad you asked, after all I did promise pictures. Below you will see a side by side comparison of the same 178 word(3 paragraph) excerpt from the novella Chivalry and Malevolence I designed for Rae Z Ryans earlier this year.

InDesign vs word

Click to view larger

Both of these paragraphs have the same word count with Palatino typeface at 12 points. The first thing most people will notice is how much more spaced out the lines are(we call this leading, pronounced led ing not leed ing).

There is not much fine control for this in word. InDesign allows precise control, which is essential for different size typefaces, and width pages.

Now I have heard the argument “but I like more space between the lines” OK, and that’s ok, but I assure you that it does effect the flow and read-a-ability, over the long haul. It needs to be adjustable, to account for different size pages and type styles. Plus, notice of three short paragraphs, it adds three lines!

Image how much that would add up over 60,000 words or more? That over 1000 extra lines, or about 30 extra pages. Pages cost money to print, unnecessary ones cut into your bottom line, need i say more?


The next thing some of you may notice is the justification, and paragraph composition. In simple terms this is when all the text in a paragraph is positioned so it is even on both left and right margins. This is the industry standard, and looks very nice when done well.

This is done by what is called tracking, and by hyphenating words that are too long at the end of a line. Word has virtually no manual tracking control, and its automatic justification is not very good. If you look at the two samples above, you can see the Word paragraphs have very uneven spaces between words, which causes unneeded hyphenation. This causes very choppy reading, not to mention wasting space, and looking ugly!

Hanging Punctuation, it’s a good thing, I promise.

Another subtle yet important thing to consider is hanging punctuation. And Word is lousy at it. But what is it, and why do we want it?  In the first example below you will see it done properly in InDesign, and I will explain.

indesign vs word hanging

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You may need to click for a larger view, but notice on the right margin there is a light green line. This is where all the text is justified to. Notice how the punctuation, that lands at the margin,(green arrows) are pushed out into the margin slightly? This is hanging punctuation. It allows the text in every line to form a visually straighter line down the margin.

The following example is how word handles the same thing, judge for yourself.

indesign vs word unacceptable

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Notice The red line for the margin, and how the punctuation doesn’t extend over it much…if at all? Because of this, everywhere you see an arrow, there is more white space there and it forms a visual wave(rugged right) down the margin line. In this example it does it on the left too with the quotation mark.

Rivers and poor tracking. Rivers are gaps between words the line up with another gap in the line directly beneath. When this happen two, three or even more times it for a “river” of white space through the paragraph. It is distracting to readers, and can cause fatigue, and slow reading.

InDesign prevents this by using advanced algorithms to compose each paragraph. If there are still small issues, the designer has the tools available to manually alter the tracking.

Final thoughts

These are just some of the issues for using word to layout a book. Now keep in mind, Word is a great tool, it just was not intended to be used for layout and publishing purposes.

Designers have a saying; just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

Just because a program has a feature doesn’t mean you should use it, or that its the right tool for the job.

There are many other reasons from what I touched on here why the industry uses specialized software like Indesign, and I may continue this Indesign vs Word series in the future with more.

So if you take one thing away from this article, let it be this. Yes you can get your book into print with word, but I can guarantee it will not look like, or even compare with a professionally published book. Isn’t that why you are publishing in the first place? To sell copies, to be taken seriously, and to make a name for yourself?

I understand it costs extra money, and free is much more enticing. But it should be taken into account when budgeting for editing, cover design, marketing, and all the other costs associated with getting a book to market.

As always I’m happy to answer any questions about this or any other topic. Leave a comment, use the contact page, or Facebook.

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12 Days of Redesigns

12 days of redesigns

12 Days…

12 Covers…

12 Redesigns…


To kick off our new cover redesign contest we are doing one cover redesign for each of the twelve days of Christmas, for only twelve dollars! That’s, 12 days of redesigns.

Do you have a lousy book cover, or one that you just haven’t been happy with? Maybe you just need an updated or new look for that second edition. Perhaps you just want to see what another designer is capable of…for very little risk.

How does it work? It’s easy just sign up while there are still spots open, and we will redesign any one existing book cover for only $12.00. You can take the deal at $12.00 with no strings attached or add on any of our other services, the choice is yours. Be sure to check out our portfolio, and premade covers to get some ideas.

(you will be responsible to supply any specialty stock images or illustrations). I will work with you and provide freebies when possible, in the spirit of the holidays. But if you have a special stock in mind you will have to supply it at your expense. 

And that’s it…the rest of the process will work just like any of our traditional design packages. The redesign can be anything you want. You get a brand new, custom, one of a kind book cover re-do…of course there is only 12 of these redesigns available.

If you miss out don’t worry,there is the option to wait for the monthly redesign contest to begin in January, or purchase a custom design package, for our standard quick turnaround time.

I will post more information for the contest as we get closer, but don’t miss out on this great opportunity. Contact us for more information, or to grab your spot on the 12 Days!

How to Install Adobe Photoshop Brushes

how to install adobe photoshop brushes

This tutorial, How to Install Adobe Photoshop Brushes, Is the first part of a multiple part series. The series will cover Adobe Photoshop basic tasks. There are many instructions and tutorials on these subjects, but the questions do still come up from time to time. If there are any topics you would like covered, leave a comment, send me an email, or you can always find me on Facebook.

All of these instruction will be demonstrated using Adobe Photoshop cs5, but the process is pretty much the same for all versions of cs and Photoshop Elements.

How to Install Adobe Photoshop Brushes

.abr File…..Now what do i do?

You found the perfect brush at last! It will put the finishing touches on your masterpiece, or maybe you just needed something to spice up that email or blog post. You buy it or downloaded it from a free source, and what is this you see? A .abr file…. and no instructions! Not to worry, follow the simple tutorial below, and you will be up to speed in no time.

Step 1

(note: this step can be skipped, but i don’t recommend it.  It will be easier to organize later when you have a large amount of brushes.)

The first thing we need to do is get that .abr file into the brushes folder in Photoshop. Simply drag the .abr into the brushes folder. The default location is:

Windows-  C:\Program Files\Adobe\Adobe Photoshop cs5.1\Presets\Brushes

Apple-  /Library/Application Support/Adobe/Adobe Photoshop CS3/Presets/Brushes

Open Photoshop, and continue below.

Step 2

Select the brush tool from your to install adobe photoshop brushes select brush

Step 3

You should have a brush menu on the top bar now. Click the arrow next to the size to install adobe photoshop brushes brush top menu

Step 4

The brush selection menu lets you chose brushes, sizes, and hardness quickly. In the upper right corner click the arrow to open a drop down to install adobe photoshop brushes brush menu

Step 5

In the drop down menu select Load to install adobe photoshop brushes load menu

Step 6

Navigate to the file source, if not the default i listed above.  Select the .abr and to install adobe photoshop brushes select load

That’s it your ready to use the new brush! You can keep repeating these steps for new sets of brushes. Freshly loaded brushes show up at the end of the list in your brush selection menu.

There is another method to install, and organize the brush menu. I will make another tutorial to cover that in the future.

I hope this How to Install Adobe Photoshop Brushes tutorial helps out.

These basic topics may seem trivial to some, but can really slow down and stump a beginner.

Until next time!

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Custom Covers, what in the world do I want?


raven tree design custom covers, what in the world do i want

Custom covers can be anything you can dream up!

Blood Sweat, And Tears

You spent months, years, even decades writing, and perfecting you story into a work of art. Don’s fall short on the cover of your book. Authors have great vision and creativity to dream up whole worlds, and immerse us readers in whatever story unfolds. Take that vision and be sure to get your custom cover designer on the same page…get it, page, books author, ah never mind.

You start sifting through hundreds of designers and start to think custom covers, what in the world do i want? Now obviously i would love it if you chose Raven Tree design to create artwork for your masterpiece. This isn’t a sales pitch, this post is simply about what information you need to get from your designer, whether it is me, or ABC design company.  Not only what you need to get, but what you should have ready when you start discussing your cover project.

Keep your dream the way you see it, but…

Authors are generally fall into two categories; those who know what they want, and those who don’t have any clue what would show that story. For those who know exactly to the pixel what your design will look like. Like i said above keep your dream the way you see it, but… try to be open to creative suggestions. With that said, don’t ever let a designer bully you into something you aren’t in love with.

When you design your custom cover think of the classic “show don’t tell“. I know I know, you deal with that every day, you don’t want to hear it about a picture on the cover. Think about it we normally look at the pictures, and images first and read titles, or authors last.

With that in mind, you need a main focus, or idea for the custom cover. As a designer, I like to really know the book. Offer as much insight to your story, main characters, environment, and general mood.

Personally, I like a chapter or two in addition to blurbs, synopses, and press releases. I want to feel the emotion, and “see” the vision you haven’t spent so much work on.

Always prepared, and forget nothing…

or was it always forget and prepare nothing? I forget, OK OK that’s the last bad joke i promise.

So far we learned what you should expect from the designer up front. We also learned a little about what you should offer up. But what else should you have ready and prepared for kicking off your brand new cover project?

First thing first, think of everything you may want included. With Raven Tree Design, and many other designers the more you order together upfront the bigger discounts you get.

I know it is easy for me to sit here and tell you to order one of everything, heck make it two of everything. But seriously if you can stretch your budget a little bit in the beginning, it can really save you a lot later on.

Why is it usually cheaper to bundle? Well i cant speak for everyone, but for us it has to do with momentum, time, and just good ole marketing.

When I say momentum and time, I mean once a project is started and you know what it en tales it is easier to manage workflow if I know what the full scope is. Not having to start all over when an add-on service is ordered months down the road.

What do i mean by “good ole marketing”? It just means it is incentive for you to  use my services for more, and keep your business, even if it is at a reduced fee. I do want to make people happy at the best price possible, but i, like every other business, have bills to pay.

So there is how to start a custom cover, in a nutshell.

Thanks for reading along, and check back for more tips, tricks, and reviews.

Bad jokes and puns at no extra charge!

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