Archives for September 2016

Joel Friendlander Template Review

There are many ways in which self-published authors can format their books.  I recently had a chance to check out Joel Friedlander’s preformatted book templates. He has a number of templates available. Each is designed for a specific purpose, such as non-fiction, memoirs and novels. The templates are available for use with either MS Word or Adobe InDesign. Each template type has a number of styles to choose from and they are available in a variety of the most popular trim sizes.

The basic version of a template allows you to create a print book file, but some templates offer an upgrade that also allows you to create an e-book file. There are different licensing options to choose from based on how you plan to use a template. The least expensive option is to purchase a template to be used for a single book. If you plan to use a template for more than one book, a multiple use option is available and if you plan to format books for others, a commercial license is available. (Enforcement of licensing seems to be on the honor system.)

I purchased the Microsoft Word version of the novel template called “Flourish.”

The differences between fiction and non-fiction templates are found in the preformatted styles that are included in each. Novels don’t require things like bulleted or numbered lists so these styles are not included in the novel template but they would be included in a non-fiction template. If you’re not sure which kind of template you might need, rest assured in knowing that you can include things like a bullet list even if it’s not a style that’s included in a template you’ve purchased. You can always add custom styles to your book file as needed.

You pay for your template with a credit card or Paypal and receive a link in your email to the template’s download page. Download the template to your computer and open it to begin a new book project. (You should immediately save your book project under another name so you don’t accidentally overwrite the formatting of the master template.)

I had a short book I was working on that was around 6,000 words, divided into 4 chapters. Following the instructions that were provided I copied and pasted the contents of the book document into the template then saved the Word document under a different file name.

There were some things in my original document, like extra paragraph returns, that transferred over into the template that needed to be removed. That’s not unusual. Most writers put in too many paragraph returns when composing a manuscript and they have to be removed when creating a print file. Joel has a Youtube tutorial that explains how to find and remove them. (The video uses the InDesign template, but the same steps can be used when formatting in Word.)

Customization

One of my chapter titles contained too many words to fit neatly on a single line using the preformatted font size for the chapter opening page. I was glad to find that the styles in the template are not locked. They’re completely customizable. When working in MS Word, any of the style presets can be changed by right clicking on the top ribbon on the current style you’re using then selecting “modify” and changing the settings as needed in the dialogue box. I liked the style of default title font, but I reduced the point size from 32 to 18. I also changed the point size for the chapter number to match the new title size. When I was done, the chapter opening page looked great.

Joel only offers templates in a limited number of trim sizes. I planned to submit a file to Create Space for a book with a 5 x 8 trim size. The template I purchased was for a trim size of 5.5 inch x 8.5 inches. This was the closest trim size available. I took a gamble when I purchased it, hoping the margins could be changed. The other change I wanted to make was to the inside and outside page margins.

The default page margins were set at .92 inches for the inside and .75 for the outside. Margins this wide might be needed for a book with 400 pages, because a wide inside margin allows readers to view the text near the gutter of a thick book. But my book was only going to be 32 pages in length and these wide margins weren’t needed and didn’t look right. Changing the margins was easy to do. I opened the margins tab in Word (Page Layout > Margins > Custom Margins) and set the overall page dimensions to 5 x 8 inches and the inside and outside margins at 0.6 and 0.5 respectively with the gutter set at 0. (Be sure to verify that you’re changing the settings in the document for the book you’re working on and not the master template.)

Evaluation

When I was done formatting my book, I looked at the preview of the print file and I was impressed. The file produced seemed to be professional enough to meet the needs of most authors. The entire process of formatting my short book took about 1 hour. I liked this template and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a preformatted template solution, but there are some things about the MS Word version that bothered me.

healing-book-screenshot

For example, I would like to see better control of line spacing. If you add subheads to your manuscript, (even the preformatted ones) it throws off the line spacing and text on opposing pages doesn’t line up properly. Correcting it can be time consuming, if it can be corrected it all. To be fair, this is not actually a template problem, but one native to MS Word and I’ll discuss that more in a minute.

There is also the issue of poor baseline control. Many self-published authors print books with ragged, uneven baselines. (It’s become one of the telltale signs of a self-published book.) The baseline is an imaginary line at the bottom and top of a page. A professionally designed book has text touching the baseline at the bottom and top of every page, without irregularities. At Inkity Press, we format our print books in InDesign. This program has a colored line that represents the baseline. We adjust the text box and add or subtract text to a page when necessary and change paragraph breaks to make sure there is text on every page touching the baseline. InDesign gives you precise control over text placement relative to the baseline as seen in the image below.

 

baseline

Baseline and text box as displayed in Adobe InDesign

Microsoft Word doesn’t provide a tool that shows the baseline of a page, so you never know if your text is at, below or exactly on the baseline. That means the baseline of a book formatted in Word is bound to have irregularities. It’s one of the limitations of Word, and it’s one of the drawbacks of using this kind of system, but it isn’t going to be a deal-breaker for most people.

In terms of the quality of the end product, Microsoft Word will never match the quality of a file created in Adobe InDesign. InDesign is the gold standard for creating print book files and that’s not likely to change. But InDesign can be a beast to learn and since Adobe has moved to cloud-based leasing agreements, you’ll be paying them the rest of your life to use their software. (That is unless you go with the now freeware version of Adobe InDesign or Creative Suite 2. If you’re curious—CS2 is not compatible with Joel’s templates. They’re only compatible with CS4 or later.)

Most authors are already familiar with Word, so it’s not surprising that many have opted for the less-than-perfect print books produced by this user-friendly platform.  Word may not produce the best looking books, but many authors find its ease of use to be of greater importance. Using preformatted templates like Joel’s in Word does offer a nice alternative to InDesign.

In summary, if you’re looking for an easy way to format your books for print and e-book, Joel’s templates make the process simple, they’re reasonably priced, they’re customizable and they seem to work well.

* Note: I did not purchase the e-book option for my template. According to one tutorial video, the conversion to an e-book with one of his templates involves importing the finished Word document into a free e-book program called Calibre. Once the book is in Calibre, it can be formatted and exported to virtually any e-book format.

Joel’s templates can be found here: Joel Friedlander Templates