As a self-publishing author, it’s likely you want your final book to be the very best it can be so you attract the widest audience possible. To achieve this goal, your message must be clear and your book’s design must be appealing. This will ensure that readers are engaged from beginning to end of your narrative.

Once you’ve written you manuscript – drafting and rewriting it until you can’t make it any better yourself – it’s time to consult a professional. But paying for all the services you need to self publish your book can be an expensive exercise. Editing, proofreading, cover design, page layout/typesetting services, as well as printing, ebook conversion and the cost of uploading your book to online retailers like Amazon, can all add up.

While it’s a wise investment to pay for professional assistance, there are certain things you can do at the outset to help you save money. If you ensure your manuscript is properly prepared, your editor or designer won’t need to spend time on tasks that you could do yourself. The well-known saying ‘Time is money’ is 100% correct!

So what are some ways you can prepare your Word manuscript that will help you to save on publishing professionals’ time (and so be good for your wallet)?

DIY tips to save on publishing professionals’ fees

These following tips are a great place to start to help you save money on publishing professionals fees.

Draft and redraft your manuscript

Never send the first draft of your manuscript to your editor. After you’ve finished working on your manuscript, put it away for a week or two. Then, get it out and reread it carefully again. It’s amazing how putting a little distance between you and your writing can give you a different perspective. Keep redrafting until you’re certain that you can’t improve your written work any further.

Ask others (particularly beta readers) for initial feedback

If you’re brave enough and not overly sensitive to potential criticism, ask others to read your manuscript and give you their opinion. For fiction writers in particular, you may be able to access beta readers who will read your work for free and give you feedback regarding what they think works well or not in your story. If you can find someone who is well versed in your book’s particular genre, it can be ‘a match made in heaven’! However, you need to recognise that some people will only give you positive feedback. You also need to hear constructive criticism at the macro level – Does the story make sense? Are the characters believable? Do any parts of the story drag? At this stage, don’t be overly concerned about micro-level problems with your text, such as spelling or punctuation.

Don’t get fancy with page formatting

When you type up your manuscript in MS Word or some other word formatting software program, it is not necessary to go to a lot of effort to make the page layout look ‘pretty’. That’s the book designer’s job. Varying fonts or adding colour just makes more work for the designer as they will need to strip out any extra formatting in order to apply font styles that work best for your particular book project. It is important to note that a lot of text formatting doesn’t transfer correctly from Microsoft Word to Adobe InDesign (common graphic design software used for formatting/typesetting books). The best approach is to keep it simple – use a standard font such as Times New Roman or Arial in 12 point and single spacing between lines. By all means, use italics and bolding where your writing needs emphasis but steer clear of that underline button.

One space or two?

In the world of publishing today, using two spaces after the concluding punctuation mark in a sentence is a no-go. One space is all that’s required. Consider the designer’s frustration (and the extra work that is involved) when even before importing your Word document into InDesign, they need to spend time fixing this common error. And for your own sake, keep in mind that they unusually charge by the hour.

Number the pages in your manuscript

To keep your editor happy, always number the pages of your book manuscript. If they need to discuss a certain point in your manuscript, it’s far quicker for them to direct you to a particular page number and line number. And if for some reason your editor is marking up your manuscript in hard copy and a rogue breeze causes the pages to flutter to the ground, they’ll be more likely to look kindly upon you if you’ve numbered your manuscript’s pages.

Indenting paragraphs

The best way to show your editor where a new paragraph starts in your manuscript is to indent it. If they have to guess … then you know what comes next … time equals money. A much worse transgression is when authors use the space bar in order to move to a new paragraph or to create a new chapter. This action will also irritate your designer. Microsoft Word has a variety of default techniques for you to set up your page workspace so that you need to do as little extra work as possible when typing in text.

Supply your images in the correct format

If you have written a non-fiction manuscript, you may wish to include photographs, illustrations, diagram, charts or tables in your book. With your designer’s workflow in mind (and your wallet’s!), create a image folder separate from your manuscript where you assemble of the graphics you want to include in your book. A good practise is to use placeholder text to advise the designer where you would like your images to appear in the book (i.e. type in the relevant position in your manuscript: ‘Insert photo 12 here’).

Where possible be sure to supply your images in high-resolution format to ensure that they will not appear blurry when printed.  If your images are too large to send as email attachments, you can use a file-sharing platform such as Dropbox or WeTransfer. Alternatively, you can copy your images to a USB and post it to your designer via snail mail.

Using Track Changes in Microsoft Word

Most editors these days mark-up written text in MS Word using the Track Changes function. It’s the easiest and most efficient way for editors to communicate their professional opinion with their clients. If you aren’t already aware of this feature in Word, it is worthwhile to make the effort to familiarise yourself with it.

If you are able to accept or reject your editor’s suggested edits yourself, it will save them a lot of time and, of course, benefit you financially. Using Track Changes may seem daunting at first but if you can master it, you’ll be glad you did.

Work closely with your publishing partners

To ensure you have a smooth ride on your self-publishing journey, everyone involved needs to work together as a team. Investing time in applying these tips to your manuscript and learning how to use all the technology tools available to you is a worthwhile practice. Not only will your publishing partners appreciate your efforts, but your budget will be healthier as a result.