Self-publishing has had a bad reputation caused by too many authors producing badly-written, self-edited books with amateurish cover designs and poor interior formatting. Fortunately, more and more authors choosing the self-publishing route are educating themselves to learn how to produce professional-looking books. This means hiring an editor, a professional cover designer, and a book designer who uses professional-grade publishing software to format the text. Most authors do not have these skills and do not understand all that goes into good cover design and formatting. Save up and hire people who do! Please do not contribute to self-publishing’s bad reputation.
Those who publish their memoir or book of life stories solely for family and friends do not need to hold themselves up to the highest standards. Family will appreciate whatever you write, even if it is not written that well, even if it is printed and bound by a local copy shop. Do have a few family members and friends read the manuscript and note any typos or grammatical errors or sentences that are not clear in meaning.
Authors who publish for family only can format in MS Word. Authors who publish with Amazon’s CreateSpace can submit MS Word-formatted manuscripts–not recommended, but some may insist for financial reasons. Authors who use Lightning Source or the new Ingram Spark for printing had better use Adobe InDesign or other pro-grade publishing software for their manuscript formatting. Authors using MS Word should be knowledgeable about the finer points of the program and learn some basics of proper book formatting so the interior of the book will look asthetically pleasing and readers will have a pleasant reading experience without eyestrain. Do NOT use Times New Roman as your font, or the Calibri default font of recent MS Word versions. Those are good for reading on the computer, not so good for reading on paper.
Many authors are now formatting their MS Word manuscripts for ease of e-book creation. A number of e-book publishing companies use MS Word documents to convert to e-book format, but the proper formatting requires knowledge of using Styles. Authors can learn how to format for e-book by reading instructions from the company they will use to publish (Amazon Kindle Direct, Smashwords, Nook Press, etc.), or can hire someone to format for the e-book version of their book. Many book designers are learning how to format for e-book, so ask yours about that. Some e-book sales and distribution companies such as Book Baby and FastPencil will create the e-format for you as part of their client services.