The Free Self Publishing Toolbox

Last Christmas, I worked up files to self-publish a novel my father had written while he was in college. I ended up making a softcover to test the concept and a hardcover to make it nice and pretty. I used as the POD publisher, and I used several free tools to design the text layout and the cover. He recently had me redo the softcover version so he could give copies away to some friends and family for Christmas. In my day job, I’ve also used these tools to release a softcover through CreateSpace.

They’re all free, and taking a little time to learn them can save you a bundle when you self publish a book. I mean, for most novels, is it really worth $5-$10 PER PAGE to have someone lay out your text? (Which is what I’ve seen several people charging…)

The templating system has been much easier for me to understand and make use of than anything I do in Word. Even though none of the big POD places take the .odt files directly (as far as I know), Writer has a super-slick one click to pdf button. The pdf it makes is just fine to upload to Lulu, CreateSpace, and several others.


Inkscape is a vector based graphics editor. I to make templates for covers of books released through  It also has a “vectorize” function that produces neat effects.

The Gimp

I use the gimp for most of my graphics heavy lifting. It’s basically an open source photoshop competitor. This program took a little more getting used to, but it is very powerful.

So what can you do?

Here’s a pdf of one of the templates I have worked up for laying out text.

OpenOffice produced layout example

And here’s a pdf of the cover I just worked up for my Dad. I used both Gimp and Inkscape to create a graphics file, then to turn it into a pdf.

Example book cover (Common Ground)

There you have it

With those free three tools, you can save yourself $500 or more for layout and cover design services.

2 thoughts on “The Free Self Publishing Toolbox

  1. Nice work man! I’m going to have to keep these tools in mind! The nice thing with Open Office is that you can export to the more ‘common’ formats also!

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