Self-Publishing: Formatting Step-By-Step

Honor Thy Enemy (Galactic Alliance book 3) and Peacekeeper (book 4) are ready for upload. I've been working so hard at getting the books ready for upload that I haven't actually uploaded the latest versions yet. Starting with Peacekeeper, all of the other books will be formatted without any re-editing. These later books have been proofed by my wife and I believe they are in good enough shape to remain as they are. With four books behind me, the rest should move along rather quickly and then I will be able to get back to writing. The itch has become very strong.

I'm also happy to announce that I've been invited to speak at the February 6th meeting of NEORWA (North East Ohio chapter of the Romance Writers of America) in Kirtland, Ohio. I know exactly what you're next question is and it is the same one I asked when I got the phone call. Why would a science fiction writer be invited to speak at a romance writer's meeting? It turns out that romance writers are interested in world-building. I'm also a self-published author and I'm sure their members are interested in hearing about how I've done as well as I have. I'm looking forward to this opportunity.

Step-By-Step Formatting
I thought I would share the details of what I've been doing the past few weeks and what I've learned. I use Scrivener to produce my first draft and then I transfer it over to Word for the final work. Word's default font and settings puts the entire manuscript in Times New Roman font with the style set to Normal. I'm not going to rehash what I wrote about in my post about formatting. If you haven't read it, you can do so here.

First things first - make a backup copy. I start with the Kindle version first because it can be easily used to build the Createspace version. I name the copy something like "Peacekeeper (Kindle).docx". The first thing I do is to remove all of the standard styles from the style gallery. I then import my specially created styles and then add them to the style gallery toolbar at the top of Word. I also turn on the feature to display formatting marks. This sets the stage for the rest of the formatting.

If you want a baseline to begin with, you can type CTRL+A to select the entire document and then change everything to the style you've created for the main text. This might have unwanted side effects such as removing italics etc. Since my formatting is already fairly close, I don't do this step anymore. Starting at the top of the manuscript, I highlight each group of paragraphs and then click on the appropriate style.

For Kindle, it is important to watch out for manually entered page breaks. These are ignored by the Kindle converter. Chapter headings use a style that instructs Word to insert a page break before the heading. I remove all manual page breaks as I work my way through the document. I pay particular attention to the first paragraph after a chapter heading or scene break, making sure I set that paragraph to the flush-left style. Scene breaks and the text just before a scene break also get their own styles.

I work my way through the document paragraph by paragraph, highlighting large sections where possible, and selecting the appropriate style. Make sure you periodically save your work! When I'm done, I'll take a short break to let my eyes (which by now feel like they're bugging out of my head) rest. I will then go back over the entire book using CTRL+Down-arrow to move down one paragraph at a time while keeping my eyes focused on the font indicator at the top of the application. Everything should be set to Georgia. If not, then I missed something and I make sure that missed piece is formatted correctly. To finalize the document, I make sure the header pages and ending pages are appropriate for the Kindle version (I use slightly different text for Kindle and print versions).

I then go over it one more time putting Word into multi-page view. This gives me a large view of entire pages allowing me to spot formatting errors. I double-check that all paragraphs after a chapter heading and scene break are flush left and I make sure my chapter numbers are correctly sequenced. After a final save, I convert the document to a "Web page (Filtered)" file. I do a final quick check to make sure the conversion didn't do anything strange and call the Kindle version complete.

To make the Createspace version, I make a copy of the Kindle version and name it something like "Peacekeeper (Createspace).docx". The first thing I do is to right-click all of the styles and change them to match the desired print formatting convention. I use Garamond font and also set the text to be justified with auto-hyphenation turned on and line spacing set to "at least 15 pt". I change the page size to match my printed version making sure to set the margins appropriately and turn on mirror margins. This should take care of the vast majority of the changes you need to make.

Next, I locate the start of the first chapter and insert a continuous section break at the end of the previous page. I pull up the header and footer editor and create the page headers and footers. I don't use footers but you might. I use different headers for odd/even pages because I want my page numbers to appear along the outside edge of the page. You must turn off the "like previous" setting and make sure you set your page numbering to start at page 1 on the page where chapter 1 begins.

Save these changes! Since all of the styles I use in Kindle are named the same as the styles I use in Createspace, modifying the style settings takes care of the majority of all reformatting. I put Word into the multi-page view setting and start flipping through pages. Chapters must start on a page on the left-side of the screen. If not, I must do one of two things: Insert a manual page break, or alter the line spacing to shorten the previous chapter. The choice depends on how many lines are on the last page of the previous chapter. If there are more than 4, I insert a page break. If the previous chapter is quite long, I can often move 5 or 6 lines up.

To move the lines, select several pages of text in the previous chapter making sure you don't cross a scene break, right-click and select paragraph. Make a small change in the "at least xx pt" setting. I typically don't drop the setting by more than 0.3 points. If you change it too much, the reader is going to notice. Scroll down to the bottom of the chapter and check the results. If the lines are not entirely on the previous page, hit CTRL+Z to reverse your changes. You can then highlight more or use a slightly larger change in line spacing. After doing this a few times you will get a feel of how Word behaves.

Once this is done, I go back over the entire book making sure I have not missed something. I look at page numbers and the formatting of the headers as well. One thing I missed and had to fix was a missing underline in the header of the even pages. I don't know why it didn't appear, but I had to fix it after an upload. Once I'm satisfied, I make sure the header pages and trailing pages are set for the print version.

The Createspace version is saved in PDF format using the ISO 19005-1 compliant or PDF/A formatting option. This is the type of PDF that Createspace prefers and if you don't use it you will receive a polite warning from them. I then load the PDF into Adobe, set it from side-by-side view, and look at each and every page to make sure the formatting is correct. Word does not always output a PDF in the exact same format as you see it in Word! If you find errors here, you'll have to make the change in Word and export it again.

Finally, I can build a new cover using Photoshop. I use the page count from the PDF to have Createspace build me a cover template. I use this template to make the final cover. I flatten the file and output as a PDF. One word of caution, if you use Photoshop do not flatten the master copy! If you do, you can no longer edit the elements. I made this mistake once - never again.

Using the finished cover, I display it as large as I can on my monitor then use a screen copy program such as the Snippet tool to grab just the front part of the cover. I use Photoshop to make the cover at least 1560 by 2500 pixels in size and save as a high-quality JPG. I write a blurb and then upload everything.

It's a lot of work and it takes a lot of time. But, it's what a professional writer would expect from a publisher and since you are your own publisher, it's what is expected of you. Take the time to format your books properly. Take the time to read up on how this is done. Read widely because there are differing opinions out there. Document your fonts, your settings, and your other formatting choices so your books remain consistent.

As always, if you have any questions, please feel free to ask me. I'm not an expert, but I have learned a huge amount over the past few months and I'm always glad to help out.

Happy holidays!