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Word To PDF Conversion Guide

If you’re self-publishing a book using Microsoft Word, you have to know how to convert Word to PDF files. Having a consistent and accurate PDF to upload for print is a necessity. We often refer to this as a print ready file

Thankfully, Word makes it pretty easy to convert their DOCX files to PDF for you.

Creating a Print-Ready PDF With Word

Every version of Word since 2014 offers a simple “export to PDF” option. Let’s look at the basic DOCX to PDF conversion using both Mac and PC versions of Word. You can also check out Microsoft’s instructions on their help center.

Word To PDF Conversion For Mac

Go to File and select Save As…

The Save As… menu will open. Give your file a title and select the location to save. Then select PDF from the File Format menu. Be sure to select Best for printing.

Your DOCX to PDF conversion will take a moment. By selecting Best for printing, Word will preserve your image resolution and provide font embedding for fonts you own. 

Word To PDF Conversion For PC 

Go to File and select Export. Then select Create PDF/XPS Document

MS Word Export to PDF Menu

This opens the Publish menu with options to select a location to save to and Standard or Minimum Size printing. Always select Standard to get Word’s best PDF format presets for your file.

MS Word Export to PDF Settings

You can also see additional options using the Windows version of Word under the Options… menu. Most of these settings don’t need to be adjusted.

MS Word Export to PDF Options

Once you’re satisfied, click Publish and your DOCX to PDF conversion will begin.

Page Size in Word

There is one lingering quirk about your Word files. It goes like this: Word always defaults to an 8.5 x 11-inch page size. You should get the page size set before you do any of the more complex formatting. Unless you want to print an 8.5 x 11 book, you’ll need to correct the page size to create a print-ready PDF. 

The process for updating page size is the same for Mac and PC, so we’ll cover it quickly for both. Go to File and select Page Setup…

Select a Custom Size to set your page dimensions. Remember, you’ll need to add a bleed margin to your document.

It is vital that you create and save a custom size with a unique name. If you do not, Word may revert your page size to their default (8.5 x 11 in) when exporting your PDF. We’ll cover how to verify your PDF page size below.

What Makes A PDF ‘Print-Ready’?

We created an in-depth guide with lots of details about creating a PDF, including file specifications, colors, and more. You can download it for free right here:

Book Creation Guide

Our free guide to creating your book PDF files and preparing your work for publishing and printing with Lulu.

A print-ready PDF will be an Adobe PDF with images at the correct resolution for your printer (for Lulu and most others that’s 300dpi), embedded fonts, and flattened layers. If you’re creating your file with MS Word, flattening layers shouldn’t be a concern, as Word appears to flatten them automatically when exporting. 

Fonts will embed if you own them. That includes the fonts that come with Word and any you’ve purchased and added to your library.The specifications may vary with your printer, but ‌PDF documents want to be a single layer, high-resolution file.

How to check your PDF specs

Most computers come with Adobe Acrobat Reader installed. This free software is great for reading PDFs, but it also provides some basic information about the file that can help you know you’ve made a print-ready PDF.

After exporting from Word, open your PDF in Adobe Reader and navigate to Files > Properties.

The PDF properties will include information about the file name, specifications, and other useful data. Start on the Description tab and verify the page size. 

If your Word document is correct, you will see that final size for the PDF. Your PDF page size determines the page size of your book. If the PDF’s page size does not match the size you want for your book, you’ll need to go back to Word, resize your file, and export a new PDF.

Next look under the Fonts tab.

See that (Embedded Subset) following the font? That means fonts are embedded in the PDF.  

Word to PDF Converters

Always adhere to our PDF Creation Specs when exporting your PDF. You should also note that Word is built to handle simple page layout. If you’re creating a more complex book, you will want to use Adobe InDesign or Affinity Publisher (an inexpensive alternative to InDesign with a wide range of layout options). 

No matter how you create your file, be sure you carefully review your print-ready PDF before uploading. Look at the layout, page size, and check for embedded fonts so you can publish and print successfully!

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Paul H, Content Marketing Manager
Paul H

Paul is the Content Marketing Manager at Lulu. When he's not entrenched in the publishing and print-on-demand world, he likes to hike the scenic North Carolina landscape, read, sample the fanciest micro-brewed beer, and collect fountain pens. Paul is a dog person but considers himself cat tolerant.

6 thoughts on “Word To PDF Conversion Guide”

  1. Paul, thanks so much. Very excited to hear Lulu is coming out with a major overhaul that should take care of this issue. It is impressive how well Microsoft does in constantly presenting technical challenges – the Word 2011 I started this project with worked just fine for the conversion! And I just heard big changes are coming to Office 365 April 21st. Let’s see what that brings. Thanks again for your prompt and informative response. Jerry.

  2. Hi Paul, on a Mac, I’m using Word 365 to convert a docx manuscript to PDF, choosing the “Best for Printing” export option. It all looks great on the computer after I save it. But when I upload this PDF to Lulu for conversion, the simple images that were ‘text wrapped’ (i.e. within the text of the paragraph), are not lining up. The images ‘in line’ (i.e. between paragraphs with no text wrap) appear fine, just as they looked on the PDF I uploaded. Any idea how I can solve this problem with the ‘text wrapped’ images? I’ve tried a bunch of workarounds, but none have been successful. Thanks very much, Jerry.

    1. Hi Jerry,
      I’ve experienced this with wrapping text many times. It’s wildly frustrating.
      I’m not sure exactly what Word is doing that our system hates about the way text and images align, but the best luck I’ve had with fixing this is to flatten the PDF after exporting from Word. Unfortunately, that usually means having access to Adobe Pro or InDesign. There are some PDF conversion sites online like SodaPDF and DoPDF that can flatten the file as well, though only if your file size is pretty small.
      On the positive side, we’re nearly ready to release a major overhaul to our entire website, including improvements to the way we handle PDF pre-print checks. In the files I’ve tested on our Beta version of the site update, I haven’t seen any shifting or distorting with PDFs created by Word.

  3. Hi Paul,
    Thank you for your help. I think I have it figured out now! I ran a test file and it worked. Whew!

  4. Some of us don’t have Word 2013 or higher. I have Word 2010. None of the options in your blog work for me. I have published a lot of books through Lulu–both personal and as an editor for an anthology. WHY are you making things so difficult for me now? Why can’t you just convert my Word file to pdf as you used to?

    1. Hi Barbara,
      As technology updates and improves, we have to keep our system up to date too. Since Lulu doesn’t control how Microsoft chooses to develop their software, we have to work with the options they provide. That doesn’t mean you can’t export a PDF from Word 2010, but it does mean we can’t provide you with Microsoft’s best practices for creating a PDF.
      You can find Microsoft’s instructions for exporting a PDF (including for Word 2010) here: https://support.office.com/en-us/article/save-or-convert-to-pdf-or-xps-in-project-desktop-d85416c5-7d77-4fd6-a216-6f4bf7c7c110#ID0EAADAAA=Windows

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