Rolling your own
Once the initial edit of your manuscript is complete, there is nothing left to do but pick a fancy typeface for your title page and send the book off to the printer, right? That seems to be what a lot of authors believe, and there are plenty of so-called publishing companies on the Web who stand ready to separate those gullible authors from their money. Please don’t be gullible.
I guess the first notion to disabuse you of is that you can print a proper book from your Word manuscript file. You cannot. Don’t even think about it. Word is the wrong tool for the job, and your manuscript file is not ready to print in any case. Aaron Shepard can show you how, with great diligence and months of study, you can produce something acceptable using Word; but the end result will bear little resemblance to the edited manuscript file you begin with and will still represent a compromise, as even Aaron acknowledges. Doing finished composition in Word is like repairing a fine Swiss watch with a baseball bat. Even Microsoft doesn’t use Word to typeset its manuals.
The large point here (oxymoron alert: a point, in mathematics, is dimensionless) is that no matter how brilliant your manuscript, you need to present it in a visually appealing way to attract the largest possible audience. An amateurish appearance is a short stave that will seriously affect the potential sales of your book. Distributors, reviewers, and booksellers will reject out of hand a book that looks amateurish the moment they open it. The gatekeepers to the book distribution channels, in other words, expect to see a professionally designed and produced book, even if they understand that you are a self-publishing author. In fact, the reason self-publishing authors have such a hard time getting past these gatekeepers is precisely that, as a group, they publish so many amateurish books. You want your own to be the shining exception that stands out from the group.
Can you design and produce your own book to professional standards? Yes, absolutely. If you have visual sense and a willingness to study and learn about book design, if you have or are willing to obtain appropriate page layout software, if you are willing to seek and accept criticism as you go along and make suggested improvements, you can do it. Book design is an arcane art, but it is not a secret art. Those of us who do it learned how; you can learn how, as well. The more important question is this: Is book design something you are interested in becoming good at or are you just trying to save a few bucks to get your book out? If your answer is the latter, then you are being penny wise and pound foolish; and you will come to rue your choice.