As an author, I spend countless hours typing away at my computer. I try to take my time developing characters and formulate plots and subplots. I cringe at the thought of trying to do my job before computers came along; I never liked using a typewriter. Word processors make it so much easier. There are multiple word processing programs out there like OpenOffice and Google Docs. If you want a comprehensive program tailored more for the author, you can look into novel writing programs like Scrivener or NewNovelist. For a decent exploration of programs, you can check out the post Software for Writers. As for me, I prefer to use MS Office Word.
I started with Word because it came installed on my PC, and I am accustomed with it. It is more than sufficient for writing manuscripts and sharing for critique groups. The problem that I run in to is publishing. If you are publishing your own work, it needs proper formatting for printing. I would suggest using a template in Word, but there are not any available in their list of templates. I have read many complaints in forums on this very dilemma.
So what options does a self-publisher have? This depends on how you are publishing. If you are using the services of companies like Lulu, iUniverse, or CreateSpace, they will likely have templates you can download or services that can guide you in your endeavor. There are also programs that work with Word like Book Design Wizard, which properly format the book based on what you need. Some of these options are free while others will cost you; it depends on what you are willing to spend and how much time you have to format on your own. I have used both CreateSpace and Blurb for my publishing.
Blurb is a POD company and great for photo books and albums and they have a downloadable program that formats everything according to your book choice dimensions. It is a free service and the program is straightforward for the computer challenged, but the printing costs are high, and that will inevitably raise the cost of your final product. That must be an important factor in your decision of publishing. One of my books, The Bamboo Bear, is a 7×7 softcover format and 20 pages long. It is full color, but the base price is $12.99. I do not see many people paying that much for a short children’s book, no matter how good it is.
CreateSpace offers valued publishing and downloadable templates for Word. The base price for books is also very reasonable. If I printed The Bamboo Bear with CreateSpace, the base price would be about $7-9; this is less than other POD’s and makes the book more marketable. They, along with others, offer e-book conversion, which can come in handy if you want to broaden your market. The templates, which are available for every trim size available, are simple to download and make it easy for you to cut and paste your work. Once you are finished, you simply save it to PDF and upload your work.
Even though there are many options for the self-publisher to format their next big seller, what is most important is the writing. Take time to research what will work best for you after you finish the manuscript.