Make tables readable in your self-published book

When self-publishing a nonfiction book, you probably will want to include tables of some sort. If writing a book about rock climbing, for example, you might include a list of the National Climbing Classification System.

The problem with tables created in Microsoft Word is that they don’t resize well. In Word parlance, a table is a “fixed format element.” So if you create a table that is six inches wide, the text likely will be unreadable if you shrink it to fit on a paperback page that’s only five inches wide or look at it on an ereader screen that’s only three inches wide.

You have a couple of solutions.

One option is to create the table only after you know the paperback’s size and then limiting the table’s size to those measurements. So if the book size – discounting the gutters and margins – is 5 inches wide by 6.5 inches tall, the table must be no larger than that. To ensure it fits an ereader, you’ll want to make the table even smaller, say 3 inches wide by 4 inches wide. Doing this ensures there is no shrinking of the table at all, as it’s designed for the page or screen.

A second option is to make the table a picture. This is useful if there’s no way to make the table fit the page’s actual size, usually because there are too many rows or columns in the table to make that viable. You still can create the table in Word. When finished, take a screenshot of it and then save the screenshot as a jpeg. You may need to do some cropping to make the screenshot show only the table.


My name is Rob Bignell. I’m an affordable, professional editor who runs Inventing Reality Editing Service, which meets the manuscript needs of writers both new and published. I also offer a variety of self-publishing services. During the past decade, I’ve helped more than 300 novelists and nonfiction authors obtain their publishing dreams at reasonable prices. I’m also the author of the 7 Minutes a Day… writing guidebooks, four nonfiction hiking guidebook series, and the literary novel Windmill. Several of my short stories in the literary and science fiction genres also have been published.