Ken's Guide: Indie Publishing on Linux (1. Introduction)

Ken’s guide to producing a professional-quality self-published physical book using free software on Linux.  (Picture from Metropolitan Museum of Art)

The Purpose of this Guide

This is a guide to producing a professional-quality self-published physical book using free software on Linux. I believe it fills an important hole in the available offerings. There are countless books, websites, and blogs devoted to writing, producing, and marketing books. These almost exclusively focus on ebooks and the use of a windows/mac environment. Physical books generally are an afterthought, and often are treated as little more than printed copies of the ebook. In a very real sense, the tail has come to wag the dog.

Commercial tools for typesetting, design, and layout exist on PCs and Macs, but those tools and operating systems have major drawbacks. Navigating the forest of how-to sites on self-publishing, it is easy to get the impression that Linux is ill-suited to writing and publication. This is far from the truth. I'll say it now:

1. There is no better writing environment than Linux.

2. Every single stage of the writing, querying, and self-publication processes may be accomplished with aplomb using free software on Linux. For those who prefer not to use Linux, most of this software is available on PCs and Macs as well --- with all the attendant advantages.

This guide is the first in an anticipated series based on my own experiences writing, querying, and self-publishing a variety of books. Future guides will explore a Linux-based writing work-flow as well as practical aspects of novel writing.

Unlike many how-to posts which provide only generic information, I will offer details from my own projects. It is my hope that this will encourage others to explore Linux as a platform for their creative work. Perhaps a few programmer-types may even be inspired to try their hand at writing. Though mysterious and daunting from the outside, writing has a lot in common with software design. In fact, programming methodologies can be of great help in that endeavor.

Who is this for?

There are two key emphases in this guide: (1) producing a high-quality physical book, and (2) doing so using well-established free software on Linux. It is my hope that these posts will be of great utility to those interested in both aspects, of some utility to those interested in only one, and of potential interest to those exploring options or simply curious or open to new things.

Producing a professional-quality product requires an investment of time and effort. There's nothing wrong with choosing not to, though in that case this guide probably won't be of much use to you. But if you're just unsure, it may give you a clearer sense of what's involved. Hopefully, this will persuade rather than deter you from pursuing such a project.

The guide probably will be of use even to those not using Linux, and I recommend it to everyone who cares about producing a beautiful book. This said, most of what I describe requires some facility with the unix command-line. This can be easily enough acquired by anyone conversant with the basics of computing.

General Outline

The Tentative Plan is something like this (though I may add or rearrange posts):

This introduction
My Three Major Preferences
Cover Design I — General Considerations
Interior Design I — Front and Rear Matter Arrangement
Cover Design II — Step by Step Guide (imagery)
Cover Design III — Step by Step Guide (cover elements)
Cover Design IV — Step by Step Guide (file production)
Cover Design V — Illustration and Illustrators
Interior Design II — Basics of LaTeX and Markdown
Interior Design III — Margins, Fonts, and Spacing
Interior Design IV — Headers, Footers, and Other Elements
Interior Design V — Front and Rear Matter Specifics
Interior Production for Printing
Interior Production for Qeurying
Interior Production for Other purposes