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Word To PDF Conversion Guide

Even though Microsoft Word lacks the simplicity of more powerful page layout software, Word remains the most popular way for authors to create their book files. Thankfully, Word has gotten better in recent years at performing Word to PDF conversion. Having a consistent and accurate PDF to upload for print is a necessity for authors. This means Word isn’t doing anything revolutionary; rather they are finally catching up with other tools.

Creating a Print-Ready PDF With Word

Every version of Word 2013 and newer 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 the option Best for Printing is selected.

Your PDF will export shortly! By selecting Best for Printing, Word should preserve your image resolution and provide font embedding for fonts Word recognizes. 

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 print-ready 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, though, for some files, the PDF/A setting is helpful for embedding fonts.

MS Word Export to PDF Options

Once you’re satisfied, click Publish and your PDF will export promptly!

Page Size in Word

There is one lingering quirk about Word you have to allow for. It goes like this: Word always defaults to an 8.5 x 11-inch page size. If that’s not the size you’re planning to for your Word to PDF conversion, you’ll need to resize the Word DOCX before exporting.

Unless that’s the size book you’re making, you’ll need to adjust the page size. You should get the page size set before you do any of the more complex formatting. Do not rely on your printer to resize your file. Because this is your book, you should provide your book’s files ready to print exactly the way you created them.

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 the Page Size you’ll use from the drop down.

If your page size is not included or if you need to add a bleed margin to your document, you’ll need to create a Custom Size. That option is at the bottom of the Page Size drop-down list.

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 (so 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

Includes PDF specifications, spine guides, and formatting terms to help you print your book.

In general, 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 they are included in your version of Word. If you added any fonts that do not appear in the default list Word offers, be sure to look closely at your PDF after exporting. We’ll cover how to do that below.

The specifications may vary with your printer, but generally, PDF documents want to be a single layer, high-resolution file. 

For Lulu, use the guide above to prepare your PDF. Following our specifications carefully will ensure your published books are ready quickly. Print books will use this file as you provide it to create your book, so scrutinize the file before uploading!

Video Guide

Get a quick look at adjusting your page size and exporting from Word to PDF with our YouTube export guide!

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 your word processor, 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 was sized correctly, you should see that final size for the PDF. Always check the size! Your PDF page size determines the page size of your book. And resizing will mean content either shifts or stretches; neither bode well for your printed book.

Next look under the Fonts tab.

See that (Embedded Subset) following the font? That means your font is embedded in the PDF. If you see any fonts in this tab that do not feature the (Embedded Subset), you may not see that font reproduced perfectly in your printed book.

Word to PDF Converters

There are lots of web-based services that can convert your DOC or DOCX to PDF for you. Using a tool like SmallPDF or SodaPDF for files made with older versions of Word may be a good idea. But if you’re running an up-to-date copy of Word, there is really no reason. Word can export to PDF just fine.

Sometimes an online PDF converter is helpful for troubleshooting more complex files too. If you’re exporting from Word and the PDF is missing elements or the content is not aligning properly on the page, doing a conversion with SmallPDF to compare is often helpful. 

Please note that third-party converters may assign some settings to your PDF that cause errors when uploading to Lulu or sending to our printers. Always adhere to our PDF Creation Specs when exporting your PDF.

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A Note on Complex Files

I’m not a fan of MS Word. Let’s just get that out in the open. If you’re an author and you write fiction, memoirs, or any other type of book that will be predominately text, Word is probably fine. But if you include even a few images or use columns in your text, I strongly encourage you to consider a true page layout program. Tools like Affinity Publisher are relatively inexpensive and offer a wide range of layout options

Don’t expect Word to be an effective way to layout a file with anything more than simple text and moderate design needs. Beyond that, you’ll want to look for other tools. Thankfully, we have gotten to a point where MS Word can perform DOC to PDF conversions cleanly. That alone is a boon to self-publishing authors who are well versed and comfortable using Word. 

Creating Your PDF to Perfection

Creating a PDF for your print-ready files is easier than it’s ever been. Just be sure to carefully review, set your specifications correctly, and always export with the best print settings.

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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