Self-publishing a Book with LyX


I write 1000 words in my journal nearly every day. Some days I miss, and other days I write up to 2500 words or more.  The result is that I produce between 25,000-30,00 words a month of personal observations, notes, story ideas, rants, and records of what’s going on with the family — a hodgepodge of private material where I feel free to write anything I want. Material never intended for anyone else to read. My writing compost heap, as it were.

A year’s worth of this journalling produces the equivalent of a novel in terms of length. It recently occurred to me that there was nothing to prevent me from turning this into a privately printed paperback, through a self-publishing site such as I can think of a few reasons for doing this: it’s easier for me to dig out material I’ve written if I can see it on the printed page, it can become part of my family legacy after my demise, and it’s a good exercise in book creation. Above all, it’s a reward for my efforts. I can have three or four copies printed so I can mark up one of them and keep the others from getting dog-eared.

Once I’d decided to proceed, the next decision was what software to use. I’m not a fan of Microsoft Word for long documents. It’s feature rich, but sometimes unstable. Open Office Writer is a better choice. But better than either is LyX, a graphical front end to the LaTeX publishing system. The typeset ouput from LaTeX is superb, with exceptionally fine font kerning, and there are several well-defined book classes to select from. I’m working with Book (Memoir), a newer class that’s highly adjustable.

My Dell Mini 10V netbook is a dual-boot Windows/Linux computer and I prefer to work with LyX in Linux because it’s easy to set up all the LaTeX components. In Ubuntu you simply select and install LyX from a menu of installable programs, and everything else you need gets installed along with it.

LyX uses several LaTeX utilities in the background to create final output, including excellent PDF, the format preferred by Lulu. I’ve set my book size at 6×9″ and have re-learned how to create master-child documents so I can work on each month in a separate LyX file. LaTeX has a strong indexing module, so I intend to index my journal fairly extensively. Things like family events, camera equipment notes, writing ideas, health notes — things I want to locate easily.

So far I’ve set and edited January and February 2009 but I’ve not yet started the indexing. Is all this effort worth it? For me, yes, though I can understand how others might prefer to access their journals electronically. I like having a physical book in hand. I’ll post updates on this project as it progresses.

Addendum, 5 Oct 2009

I realized that my journal might make too fat a book for the binding at 6×9″, especially after indexing, so I’m beginning to think 8.5×11″ and double-columned.

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