How to Make PDFs for Print on demand – WITHOUT Adobe

When you publish a paperback book through any number of POD providers, you need PDF files for your cover and your interior. Like many authors I’ve had to shell out cash to buy Adobe products to make those PDFs – but that was in 2009. It’s 2012 and there are free programs out there now that actually work! (NOTE: I’ve experimented with both programs and uploaded a test book on Create Space. The files were accepted but because it was a test I have NOT submitted it for review nor had a proof printed. I can’t imagine why either one would be a problem, though)


Like Adobe Professional, Cute PDF has a “print” option that will install itself in all your programs. You can get it here -= there’s a paid version and a free version, the free version is what we want:

When it installs it will pop up and tell you that it needs to also install something else (I don’t remember the name of it,but it has a P and some numbers.) Go ahead and tell it okay. However, it will also want to make your homepage and add a toolbar, so make sure to uncheck those boxes. During install a black DOS box will pop up and say something about “ghost” again, it’s fine.

To use it, open your formatted document in word, then go to print and choose CUTEPDF from your list of printers: (your list will look different than mine because you will have different printers than I do)

Now you need to set your printer properties so that the page size is correct: Depending on your version of word, you may get to the printer properties in a different way. If you don’t know where to find them, go to google and search “Word (your version) how to set printer properties” and you should find a page or two that tells you. I have Word 2010, so I click printer properties and get a pop up box:

clicking advanced gives you another new box. Click on whatever it says next to “page Size” (mine said Letter by default) and a drop down box appears. Pick the custom size:

Another new box pops up. Type in your trim size. in my case it is 6×9

Hit OK on all the boxes and then hit print. unlike Adobe it will NOT pop up the PDF when it’s done, so you’ll need to go open it manually.

So how does it look? Well, not quite the same:

click to see full sized
click to see full sized

You can see them both here: (no, it’s only the first chapter, not the whole book 😉 But it gives you an idea)

For the price, the difference is likely to be negligible. Free vs several hundred dollars. Of course, I’m not sure if this will work with Lightning Source, who has much stricter PDF requirements.

But can we PDF the cover with this? Probably, however I have not figured the settings out (if you know how to do this, please leave it in the comments and I will update this)

Meanwhile, for the cover, let’s use…


Inkscape is a free vector program that you can use to PDF the wraparound covers. You can get it at – the download link is in the bar at the top of the page. It took me a little bit to find it:

install it, open it and you’ll get a tiny little window:

You can make it big if you want, or leave it little. It doesn’t matter. Now go to File>Open and open your already prepared cover. Then go to File>Save As. A dialog box pops up. Choose PDF from the drop down list

Hit Save – a new box will pop up. Change the DPI to 300:

hit OK and that’s it. So how do they look? The pdf created with inkscape is actually larger than the one I created with adobe photoshop: (both at 100%) but the quality of the images is exactly the same.

but if you’d like to compare you can get them here to see for yourself –

The bonus to Inkscape is it is also a vector art program – if you’re interested in those things – aka like adobe Illustrator – and can save as SVG files, which can be resized without changing the picture quality (if you’re curious about what I mean, check this out – – use Ctrl and the + to zoom in a bunch of times. Now go to any image on the web and try it. You can see how the other image pixelates as it gets big, while the svg doesn’t. Snazzy, huh?)

What programs do you use for making your PDFs? Have you used these before?

7 thoughts on “How to Make PDFs for Print on demand – WITHOUT Adobe

  1. Lauralynn Elliott October 25, 2012 / 6:49 pm

    Joleene, I just save my manuscript as a PDF through Microsoft Word. I wonder if the older versions of Word don’t allow that. And I know some people don’t use Word when they write. Have you ever tried doing it that way, or do you use another word processor besides Word?

    • Joleene Naylor October 25, 2012 / 7:01 pm

      I think in some cases you have to have a plugin for that, depending on which word version you’re using, and of course as you mentioned there are a lot of people who don’t use Word. I haven’t tried any of the other programs, so I have no idea what their capabilities are. But yes, if you have Word that will save in PDF already then you’re all set 🙂

  2. Ascension For You October 26, 2012 / 5:58 pm

    HI Jo, very informative. You are so helpful, giving your time up to advise / support others, another great article! I’d still prefer to use your expertise direct though!!! LOL … cheers D

    • Joleene Naylor October 28, 2012 / 8:21 pm

      I try to be helpful where I can 😉

  3. Marcus Clearspring October 27, 2012 / 9:25 pm

    How about or the new fork of OOo called LibreOffice. They have PDF output built in. I’m not sure how compliant it is with publishing standards though. Both programs can import MS Word docs.

  4. williamkendall1 November 2, 2012 / 5:32 pm

    Filing this one away for future reference!


  5. Ruth Ann Nordin November 6, 2012 / 12:32 am

    Wow! This is such an awesome post, Jo! Thanks for writing it. 😀

Comments are closed.