Publishing Your Prose with Blurb BookSmart® Part II

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Publishing Your Prose with Blurb BookSmart®, Part II


Are you writing a novel, a memoir, or maybe a volume of poetry? You may have wondered how Blurb’s bookmaking tools can help you get your raw words into a finished book. In this series of posts, Blurb Content Manager (and novelist) Forrest Bryant walks you through the entire process, from an unformatted Word manuscript all the way to a finished and bound Blurb book. This series is adapted from Forrest’s recent webinar on the same subject, which is archived on the Blurb website.

Start up BookSmart

In Part I of this series, we took a look at the manuscript and reviewed some good tips for making sure your files will play well with Blurb BookSmart, our desktop software for Mac or PC. Now that we have the manuscript files squeaky-clean, let’s open up BookSmart and start laying out our book!

For this tutorial, we’re going to assume you already have the latest version of BookSmart. If not, get it now. BookSmart is free to download and use, but you’ll need to register for a Blurb account first. You’ll also need that login info when it’s time to upload and order your book. The steps that follow are for BookSmart 3.0, the most recent version at the time of writing.

pic 1 Publishing Your Prose with Blurb BookSmart® Part II

After you’ve installed and launched BookSmart, the first thing you’ll see is this welcome screen. Click “Start a new book” to get started. Once you’ve saved a book in progress, it will show up on this screen so you can return to it.

pic 2 Publishing Your Prose with Blurb BookSmart® Part II

Choosing a book size


Now BookSmart wants to know what size book we’re planning to make. Blurb offers several book sizes, including two designed specifically for the kind of text-based book we want to make: Trade and Pocket.

The Trade size measures 6 x 9 inches (15 x 23 cm). This is a standard size in the publishing industry: most of the nonfiction or literary books you find in bookstores or libraries will be this size, or close to it. So if you’re writing a novel, memoir or nonfiction book, this will be a very familiar size to your readers.

The Pocket size is a little bit smaller. It’s 5 x 8 inches (13 x 20 cm). That’s still a good size for novels, maybe a bit snug for nonfiction. But I find it’s a really nice size for poetry.

Both of these book sizes are printed on a 60# cream-colored text paper, like you’ll find in a lot of quality literary books.

I should point out that you don’t have to use these two book sizes. You can make a text-based book in any of the sizes Blurb makes. But you can only import Word docs into the Black and White Text sizes, and only the Black and White Text books use the cream paper. The other book sizes use bright white coated or textured papers that were created with photos in mind. Black and White Text books can have photos too, but they’ll print in grayscale — no color. When they’re printed, the look and quality of the photos is similar to what you’ll find in your local newspaper.

I’m going to choose Black & White Text Trade for this demo. We can also type in our book’s title and author name here. Then click “Continue.”

Import your manuscript

In Part 1 of this series, I recommended that you save your manuscript in  Microsoft Word .doc format and put each chapter in a separate file. To import those chapter files directly into your book layout, select “Word Documents” on the left side of this screen and click “Continue.” If you’d rather cut and paste your text into the book or just make up the text as you go along, select “None” instead.

pic 3 Publishing Your Prose with Blurb BookSmart® Part II

Now let’s go get our chapters. Click the “Get Word Documents” button on the left, and navigate to the folder where you have your chapters. Remember, only DOC files with the .doc extension can be imported. BookSmart can’t import DOCX or other formats.

Select the chapters you want to import and click “Choose.”

Now you see all of your chapters listed in the box on the right, in the order they’ll be imported. If that’s not the order you want, you can rearrange your chapters by clicking on the chapter you want to move, then using the blue arrow buttons to move it up or down the list.

You can also delete a document from the list by clicking on the title, then clicking the “Remove Document” button. The file will still be safe on your computer.

By default, the files are listed in alphabetical order. So a good tip is to use the chapter numbers at the start of your file names. That way, when you import, they’ll automatically show up in the right order. Click “Continue.”

Choose a Layout

BookSmart treats each of your chapter files as a distinct unit. Each new chapter has one layout for the opening page, where you can show “CHAPTER 1” in nice big letters, and another layout for the rest of the pages in the chapter. This screen gives you a few basic options for each. There will be lots more options once we start working with the individual pages of the book. For now, this is enough to get us started.

Click the button under the layout you like to select it. For most people, the default selections will work just fine.

pic 4 Publishing Your Prose with Blurb BookSmart® Part II

Click “Continue,” and BookSmart will import your chapters!

The BookSmart Interface


Before we dive into formatting and editing, let’s take a quick look around the BookSmart interface to get our bearings.

pic 5 Publishing Your Prose with Blurb BookSmart® Part II

The big window in the middle is where you do all the editing and formatting. BookSmart is showing us the front cover first. We haven’t designed this yet, so right now it just looks like a big empty rectangle. But you can see that the title and author name we typed in earlier are automatically put here for you. We’ll come back to work on the cover later.

pic 6 Publishing Your Prose with Blurb BookSmart® Part II

Down below the main window is the page selector. Here you can navigate through the full book and select the specific page you want to edit. BookSmart gives you several ways to choose a page: use the scroll bar, the blue arrow buttons, or just type in the page number.

If you want to zoom in closer to a page, just use that slider to the right of the arrow buttons.

pic 7 Publishing Your Prose with Blurb BookSmart® Part II

On the left of the screen, there’s a layout selector. This shows all the possible layouts you can apply to the page you’ve selected. If you want to make this page have two columns, or add a photo to the page, or change it into a chapter head, you can do that here.

There are a lot of options to choose from. If you’re really daring, you can edit any of these layouts or even create one from scratch by clicking the “Edit Layout” button all the way at the top of the screen. But for a standard novel, the supplied layouts should be more than enough.

Below the layout selector, you’ll also find a “My Photos” section. If you’re going to put pictures in your book, you have the option of letting BookSmart retrieve all the images from your computer, or from an online storage service like Flickr or SmugMug. We’ll discuss images later in this series.

Reviewing at the Imported Files

OK, now that we know our way around, let’s see what happened to those files we imported.

The first file in our import list was Chapter 1, and sure enough we can find Chapter 1 beginning on Page 6 of our book. Click on that page and you’ll see something pretty cool:

pic 8 Publishing Your Prose with Blurb BookSmart® Part II

Since this is the first page of the chapter, it’s using a special layout: the top half of this page is reserved for the chapter title. And right there at the top of the page is the title of our chapter, taken straight from the name of the chapter file: “Chapter 1 The Beginning.doc” becomes “Chapter 1 The Beginning.” That’s why we were so careful about naming the file.

If we jump ahead to Chapter 2, you’ll see that again, BookSmart used the file name as the chapter heading. And you can also see that BookSmart inserted a page break between the two chapters.

Look around your book and you’ll see that quite a bit of the work has already been done: we’re well on our way to creating a beautiful book. Now we’re ready to get into the nitty-gritty of page design. In Part III, we’ll tackle text styles, page headers and footers, images, and more. Until then, don’t be afraid to experiment on your own. It’s your creation: dive in and play!

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  1. Part I and Part II of this series have been great. I am trying to find Part III but can’t locate a link, so does Part III exist??

    I am particularly interest to know how to add images to a prose based book, as I am writing a memoir and would like to include photos. Are there any other blogs that cover this topic?

    By Penny
      February 2, 2013 – 3:32 pm   Permalink
  2. Hey Penny,

    Thanks for the compliment! I let Forrest know that you’d like to see Part III – we’ll see if he can cook something else up. Any specific questions you have?



    By Kent
      February 8, 2013 – 2:49 pm   Permalink
  3. I have exactly the same problem as Penny. My wife and I are preparing a memoir of our Appalachian Trail hike, mostly text but with colour photos as well. How do we do that?

    By Bob
      March 17, 2013 – 4:44 pm   Permalink
  4. Hey Bob,

    Here’s a page we put together about putting together books that are more on the wordy side. You can also use any of these tools to incorporate images too:



    By Kent
      March 18, 2013 – 5:37 pm   Permalink
  5. Thanks Kent, that certainly looks viable.

    By Bob
      March 18, 2013 – 11:21 pm   Permalink

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