Over the years, many people have asked me how difficult it is to lay out your own book, and specifically how hard it is to learn desktop publishing programs like Adobe InDesign.
The answer is: it depends.
I used PageMaker, Quark XPress, Ventura Publisher, and FrameMaker before using InDesign, so for me learning how to use InDesign was no big deal. Conceptually, it works more or less like any other desktop publishing program and is also similar to other graphic programs, such as Corel Draw or Illustrator.
Once you understand the theory behind features such as styles, layering, and master pages, moving from one system to another is far easier. In my case, I just learned the terms InDesign uses for various tasks and was productive laying out books pretty much immediately. (This article on interior layout and this one on cover design talk more specifically about some of the InDesign features you’ll want to learn about for book layout.)
If you don’t have a background using similar software, learning InDesign will be considerably more difficult for you than it was for me.
When I taught classes on Quark XPress, I learned that for some people, the way desktop publishing software works is not intuitive. People who are used to the linear approach of a word processor sometimes have trouble adapting to the idea of drawing “boxes” on a page and placing text or graphics into them. Other people pick up the idea easily.
In my case, although I am productive with InDesign and use it all the time, I still loathe Adobe’s user interface. I find all Adobe products annoying because of the way palettes work. But that’s just my personal preference. Your mileage may vary.
If you opt to do your own book layout with InDesign, you may want to get a good reference book. In the latest version, the InDesign program help is even worse than in prior versions, and only available if you are connected to the Internet. (Over the years, I’ve found that desktop publishing books by David Blatner are extremely good.)
But if the idea of learning yet another software program makes you cringe, the best option may be to find someone else to lay out your book for you. Also consider the fact that laying out a book involves more than just software knowledge. As a business owner, your time is worth money. Take your level of computer savvy, patience, graphic design skills, and willingness to learn new software into account before you tackle doing your own book layout with a program like InDesign.