Computer requirements for self-publishing

We’ve previously noted that to self-publish you’ll need a computer with an Internet connection. But that’s sort of like saying you need a car to move across the country. True enough, a car alone will get you there, but what if want to haul three bedrooms worth of furniture with you? A car then isn’t sufficient to the task.

For hardware requirements, virtually any laptop or desktop made during the past four or five years will be adequate. Mac or PC is irrelevant. The more of the self-publishing process you wish to do on your own, though, the more memory you’ll need to run the software on your computer. As for an Internet connection, a high-speed connection is best. Old-style dial ups will work, but you run the risk of crashing and having to resend files, which can be a real headache.

For software, you should ensure that you have a program for:
• Word processing – This allows you to type, edit and store your manuscript. Microsoft Word (available in Microsoft Office packages) is most commonly used.
• Manipulating photographs – Most computers come with some photo-oriented program, but you’ll probably need something more than what usually is on a Windows system. Adobe Photoshop is most widely used; the program can be expensive, though, so if you know of somebody who already has it, see if they will help you out by doing a little work for you. You also can use it free on a trial basis, usually for 14-30 days.
• Making pdfs – This may not be necessary depending on the self-publishing house you go with, but odds are that you’ll need it. Typically your Word manuscript, cover designs and photos must be uploaded as pdfs. Adobe Acrobat, which is standard on Windows, allows you to see and manipulate pdfs.
• Designing books – As with Adobe Acrobat, you won’t need a design program unless you plan to create picture books or a series of books. Microsoft Word can be used to format (placing text within margins and adding page numbers) simple, text-heavy books, such as novels. Microsoft Word, however, is an extremely difficult and frustrating program in which to format, and unless you’re willing to put in the time, your book will look amateurish. Adobe InDesign is the prevailing design program.

Of course, obtaining each of these programs requires that you gain some proficiency in using them. Believe it or not, you’re probably already familiar enough with Word and Adobe Acrobat to use them for self-publishing. Photoshop will require a small learning curve, and InDesign can take a few days to learn just the rudiments of. On the plus side, if you own and know how to use each of these programs, you could begin an independent business formatting self-published books for writers!

Alternatively, you can pay others – either freelance contractors or the self-publishing house itself – to handle the formatting of this for you so that all you need is Word. If you plan to publish just one book, this probably is the more cost-effective option. If you plan to publish several books, seriously consider investing in the above software or their equivalents.