Self-Publishing: Formatting

The newly revised Translight has been uploaded to Amazon. A new print version is also available along with a modified cover. I’m starting work on the re-edit of Chroniech.

I thought I would spend this week talking about formatting your book. I spent a considerable amount of time trying to find a computer program that could format my book interior for the print version. There are a number of programs available ranging from very expensive to free. After searching and trying a few of the free ones, I went back and used Microsoft Word. I’ll discuss how I did this in just moment.

My biggest disappoint was with Microsoft Publisher. In theory, it should be able to import a Word document without screwing up the page formatting. This didn’t happen. It inserted blank pages where none was before and began page numbering at the title page (which Word did not). When I deleted the offending blank page, Publisher would mysteriously reinsert it after a few seconds (presumably after it reformatted based on the page delete). I have been unable to find any good reference books on Publisher and how it can be used for actually publishing a book. Anyone have any ideas?

Formatting Your Book
Taking the time to format your book’s interior is a time-consuming activity. But, it's a step you should not forego. Failing to properly format both your printed and Kindle interior will brand you as an amateur among those who know. Right now, my books brand me as an amateur but I’m making the needed changes to correct that. If you’re just starting out, there are a number of important things you need to learn and keep in mind. If you’ve already published, perhaps you should consider going back and fixing your interiors as I have.

The details of how to format your book are easily found in many sources on the internet and vary depending on the type of book you're creating. For myself, the rules of interior formatting can be boiled down to a few items I keep in OneNote. I frequently reference this information while I’m doing my final formatting. You should do this final formatting after your final edit, just before publishing your book. If you later go back and make changes, you’ll have to check your formatting again before publishing the revision.

A very good reference I recommend is “From Word to Kindle” by Aaron Shepard. There are also free guides on Amazon’s website and scattered all over the internet. When you read these books and articles, read them with the intent to learn. Take notes, and then refresh your memory just before you begin the formatting process. It is also best to have a good working knowledge of how to use your word processor. Most people never take the time to read a single book on how to use Microsoft Word. It is well worth your time to do so!

Instead of trying to explain each and every setting, I will list my collected notes at the end of this post. I hope they will be a good starting point on your interior.

Formatting the interior of the printed copy of Translight was actually easier than I thought and I used Microsoft Word to do so. One reason I wanted to find a professional publishing program was so I could do micro-kerning to adjust the pages. If you can’t do this, you end up with a book that might have only a few lines on the last page of a chapter. Since chapters are supposed to begin on a right-facing page, this can leave your book with a page that’s mostly blank followed by a blank page and then a new chapter. It doesn’t look good.

To fix this using Word, select a page or two of the end of the offending chapter and make a tiny change to the line spacing of those paragraphs. Decrease the spacing by a couple tenths of a point. This change will not be noticeable to the vast majority of readers. View the results. If there are still some lines on the last page, use CTRL+Z to reverse your change and then go back and select some more. When you have the right number of paragraphs selected, your text will reformat to eliminate the offending page.

CreateSpace does a wonderful job of verifying that your interior meets their requirements. One of the most frustrating things that I go through every time I upload a new book to CreateSpace is caused by how Microsoft Word displays the pages in its two-page per screen view. CreateSpace always begins printing on a right-facing page. If you preview your book as I always do in Word using the two-page per screen view, the right-facing page is on the left!

There are slightly different formatting requirements for the Kindle and the print versions of my books. I generally format the Kindle version first and then make a copy of it for use in the print version. Making changes after you format your book presents a challenge because now you have two copies you have to make changes to. If your changes are extensive, it's probably best to discard the print version, make your changes in the Kindle version, and then rebuild the print version. This will take a lot longer, but you will be assured that your printed version is formatted correctly.

CreateSpace recommends that you download their template for formatting a book. I have never used any of their templates before until last week. I downloaded the cover template and used it to build my new cover instead of using CreateSpace's cover creator. This gave me better control over the final product. I used Adobe Photoshop Elements and the results were quite good even though I am far from a Photoshop master. Before you can get your hands on a template though, you need to have your interior formatting done because the template is built based on the number of pages in your book.

Below, are my collected formatting notes (in no particular order) that I’ve gathered from my various readings over the past couple of months. Some of these will apply to all books and some may only apply to books with no pictures.
  • My printed books are 5.25 x 8 with an interior font of Garamond 11. First line indent is set to 0.3” with line spacing set to “at least 15 point”.  Text is justified with automatic hyphenation turned on and window/orphan control turned on. Margins are mirrored with the following settings: Top – 0.7, Bottom – 0.7, Inside – 0.8, Outside – 0.5.
  • Chapters always begin on a right-side page.
  • Make sure the following Word styles are available for formatting: Before Scene Break, Chapter Text, Left Flush, Main Text, Scene Break. These styles are used to format the printed as well as the Kingle version. [NOTE: These are styles I created in Word. I import them into the document if they're not there. These are the only styles I use for all of my text. Small changes to the individual style to adjust typeface, etc. are done on a paragraph by paragraph level.)
  • Use of dash: It is always “space M-dash space”.
  • Do not use manual page breaks. Use “page break before”. This is built into the Chapter Text style.
  • Start off by selecting everything and formatting as Main Text. This eliminates all use of the Normal style which Kindle sometimes alters and it puts the text into a known starting configuration. Prior to doing this for the Kindle version, change the fonts of all the styles to Georgia.
  • Never use the “spacing before” setting in paragraph style. Use “spacing after” in the previous paragraph. This is built into the Before Scene Break and Scene Break styles.
  • The most common color for interior pages is cream. This cannot be changed in CreateSpace once a book is finalized.
  • Download and use the CreateSpace book cover template.
  • The first line of each chapter and the first line following a scene break are not indented. To ensure this happens when displayed on the Kindle, set the left indent to 0.01” otherwise Kindle will indent it automatically. This is accounted for in the Left Flush style.
  • San-serif fonts (i.e. Arial or Calibri) are to be avoided at all costs.
  • Make sure the text color is set to automatic. Setting it to any other color will cause problems with Kindle.
  • Use Georgia font for all Kindle text.
  • Make sure “Keep track of Formatting” is turned off.
  • Page numbering for print books begin at page 1 which should always be a right-hand page.