Formatting Your Book for Publication

If you don’t want to format yourself, yet you don’t want to have to pay too much, then there aren’t many things you can do.

Let’s start with Kindle, since more than likely 100% of you will publish on Amazon through KDP. What are your options if you don’t want to format your file for Kindle?

1. Actually, just format it, FFS. It’s easy. I pulled this out of an old blog post I did last year. Some of the info isn’t correct anymore, but you can still take a look at it here.

First, make a copy of your manuscript (just in case something goes wrong). This one shouldn’t have any headers or footers. If you have page numbers and/or a don’t steal my shit copyright header for your beta readers, remove them all.

The biggest thing with conversion is Tabs will screw everything up. If you use the Tab key to make your indents for your paragraphs, you’re going to have one messed up converted file. Here are the steps to take out your Tabs:

Removing Tabs

Press the Paragraph Show/Hide button in the Paragraph section of the Home tab so you can see the formatting marks.
Highlight (select) your whole document.
At the far right of the Home tab in the Editing section, click on the Replace button.
Click the More/Special button in the bottom left corner of the box.

taking out tabs

Select the Tab Character.

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Leave the Replace with field empty and click Replace All. This removes all the Tabs.

This should have taken them out. If, for some reason, you used the Spacebar to make a tab, go into Replace, and in the Find field hit the number of times you used the Spacebar to make the Tab (maybe five? Six?), leave the Replace line empty and hopefully Word will find all the Spacebar spaces you used for tabs and pull them out.

But now you have a whole book that doesn’t have any indentations. I’ve seen books like this. Don’t do it. You want your book to look as professional as possible so put them back in:

Putting your Tabs Back In

Again, select or highlight your whole document.
Click the little arrow at the bottom right of the Paragraph menu in the Home tab. Or right-click your mouse and select Paragraph from the menu.

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In the Indentation section of the box change Special to First Line and enter 0.25. This is how long your Tab is going to be. If you want it shorter you can do 0.23 or something. I use 0.25.

Click OK.

This puts all the Tabs back into your document, but you don’t want the first paragraph of your Chapters and/or scenes to be indented (traditionally published books usually do not have the first paragraph of Chapters or scenes indented) so you will have to go through your whole novel(la), look for the Chapter starts and scene breaks and take the tab out of the first paragraph. When you find those, put your cursor in front of the first letter of the first word, right click your mouse, select Paragraph and in the Indentation section, change By to 0. This will manually take the one Tab out.

When you start a new document, it’s easier to go into Paragraph, change First Line to 0.25 from the beginning, then you don’t have to go through all this after you’re done. It will take a little getting used to, to not have to hit the Tab button at the beginning of every new paragraph, but it will be worth it in the long run.

KDP Formatting Instructions at a Glance:

Take out all the Tabs, put them back in with the instructions above. Don’t indent Chapter starts. First paragraphs after scene breaks have started to become optional.

If there is any in your document, remove headers, footers, and page numbers.

Use a common font. I use Georgia for my Kindle, Garamond for the paperback.

Drop caps are not e-reader friendly, at least not in my experience, and I don’t have enough patience to make them work. Remove those as they will probably mess up your paragraph during conversion.

Set your margins to .5 all around–top, bottom, left, right.

Set your line spacing to 1.5. Not single, not double.

Select your all your text and set to Full Justified.

Don’t use a bunch of Hard Enters to make new pages. Please insert page breaks to create new pages. Lots of hard enters will not convert well. Insert page breaks after you Title Page, Copyright page, dedication page, acknowledgments, Table of Contents, and after each Chapter End. Use them to separate your back matter from your author page.

insert page break

If you have spaces between your paragraphs, you’ll need to select your file again, go into Paragraph and change After in Spacing to 0 pt. This takes out all the unnecessary spacing between paragraphs. (You will want to do this so you are not accused of making your book longer for the extra KU page reads.)

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To add your website or author page in the back, say, on your author page, use https:// with the rest of the website in the link.

What you’ve done is made your file as simple as possible. If you have graphics or formulas or are publishing a nonfiction book with all the bells and whistles, then I would suggest buying a book or researching how to format a complicated document. These instructions are for a fiction book with the general front matter and back matter only.


If you follow those guidelines for your Word document, you should be good to go conversion-wise. But if you don’t even want to do that then you can:

2. Use Kindle Create to format your file. The file won’t belong to you–you format it and then publish right to KDP. So you wouldn’t be able to use the file for other platforms like Apple Books or Kobo. But if you all want to do is publish to Amazon, download the App, upload your book into it and just fiddle with it until you like what you see. Watch the videos to learn how. I played around with it, and I formatted a 50,000-word book in an hour. Look here for details.

3. Use a template. The templates are already set so all you do is copy and paste your document into it. Most of these cost money, so look at these at your own discretion. You can start here: Beautiful Templates for Book Design Success

4. Draft2Digital says they’ll let you format your book on their site for free, and let you use that file wherever you want. You can even use them just to make a file for Kindle. You don’t have to go wide to use their free services. I haven’t ever tried them simply because once you get down how to format a file for Kindle, you don’t need anyone’s help. But if you just want to upload your document into D2D after you create an account, give it a try.

5. Buy a Mac and buy Vellum. I  hear Vellum is the best at formatting e-books and paperbacks. I don’t have a Mac but I plan to treat myself this summer so I can buy Vellum (although, if it’s as good as I hear, I’ll be tempted to redo all my books). If you don’t have a Mac or Vellum, and can’t afford either one, maybe you can ask someone who does to format for you. Maybe offer to trade for the favor. You never know.

6. I also hear Scrivener has formatting capabilities. I don’t use it–I write in Word. But if you use Scrivener, you can try it and see how you like it.

You’ll note that I don’t have the instructions on how to put a Table of Contents in your file. I think they are stupid for fiction. But that’s just my opinion and not a very popular one at that. If you want to know how to make a clickable ToC for your e-reader file, read the instructions I had to hunt down when I made a box-set for Summer Secrets a couple months ago.


Formatting your paperback is a bit harder.

1. I will always recommend using an interior template from CreateSpace or KDP Print. These templates are the same, you just download them from different websites. Choose the formatted template which has all the headers, footers, and end sections in place so your page numbers and your author name and book’s title are on the pages they are supposed to be on. If you take a look at any trad-pubbed book, you’ll see there aren’t headers on Chapter start pages, or headers or footers on front matter or back matter. The interior templates takes care of most of this for you. The only issue I had with them at all is that I usually have more chapters than the template allows, so I have to monkey with the end section breaks myself to create more chapters. Most of the time I just copy and paste the section end break of a previous chapter into the end of the next chapter and that works for me. If you have any working knowledge of Word at all, you should be able to do this without any hassles. The front matter and back matter is all laid out for you as well, so just copy and paste page by page, or chapter by chapter. The template is “chunked” meaning you can’t copy and paste your whole document into the template at one time. The chapters and front and back matter are broken up by section end breaks.

Have patience. If you do 98% of the work, I’m willing to bet you have a friend who would look it over and do the other 2% if you just can’t get it right.

2. If you don’t want to go this route, I’m afraid there isn’t much you can do for free besides get a very good working knowledge of Word and start from scratch to do it all yourself. I took a college class in Word, and I still couldn’t do my formatting without at least getting a good start with the template. But you can always look for a paid template. Most websites that sell e-reader templates sell interiors for paperbacks too.

3. Pay for a formatter. Reedsy has freelance interior design recommendations. They maybe be a bit expensive–that’s my guess just by looking at their qualifications. Fiverr pulled up a lot of options for interior formatting as well, and what I saw were reasonably priced. Of course, always ask for referrals, or other books they’ve done to get an idea of how their books look.


 

As always, I recommend learning how to do this yourself. If you’re going to be a prolific writer, or even if you’re just going to write a book or two a year, you might as well learn how to do it. Hey, you might even get good at it and you can trade services with other people. That’s what the writing community is all about: I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine. If you can format for someone, maybe they’ll beta read for you, etc.

I know there’s stuff I’m forgetting. I mentioned Draft2Digital but not Smashwords. If you want to publish through Smashwords, they have their own system, and I’ve read their how-to-format-your-file book so that it will convert through their “meatgrinder” process.  I’ve never published through them, so if you’re interested, here is their STYLEGUIDE that will help you format your file to upload to Smashwords. It’s long, but Mark Coker makes it funny, so there is that.

When I first started formatting, it was a lot of trial and error. Make use of the interior viewer on KDP, KDP Print, and CreateSpace. Trust me when I say what you see is what you’ll get. If you get caught in an upload, fix, upload, fix, upload, fix, upload, fix pattern and you feel like you’re going to go mad, take a step back, go outside and come back later with a clear head. There is nothing worse than trying to format when you are quivering with rage.

Try practicing on short stories or novella. It’s a lot easier to work with few words then build up to a complete MS when you kind of know what’s going on.

I hope this blog post helps you format!

Good luck!

Up next is cover design!

Thanks for reading.

How Free is Self-Publishing?

It costs absolutely nothing to publish a book. Nothing.

free

There are free word processing programs like Google Docs. You can use a library’s internet and computer. Platforms like Draft2Digital and Amazon’s KDP will provide you with some kind of book identification number so you don’t have to buy ISBNs for your books.

All you need to do is write, make a cover in Canva using their free website, use a free for commercial use picture from Pixabay, Pexels, or Unsplash, and you are a published author. All for free.

But when isn’t that a good idea?

Do you know Amazon has over 7 billion books in their Kindle store? And writers publish more every day.

So not only are you competing with everyone you know on Writer Twitter, you are competing with writers who are not on Twitter, big time indies who don’t have much time for social media. You’re competing with traditionally published authors, and those authors range from anywhere between The Big Five to tiny university presses.

You’re competing with writers from the US, Canada, (do you know how many writers I know who live in London, Ontario? A lot!) the UK, Australia, and many other countries.

Over 7 billion books.

Okay. What what is this blog post really about now that I’ve made you feel like crap?

Spending money.

Self-publishing is free.

Until it isn’t.

I do everything myself. For my trilogy, and Wherever He Goes, I wrote them, edited them. I formatted them and did the covers. The orangy hue on the third is my fault. I didn’t have the skill to fix it. It doesn’t look bad on screen, but the paperback could look better. That’s just the way it is, and I accept that.

What can you pay for when you self-publish?

  • Editing
  • Formatting
  • Cover

Those are the three big ones. But we can go further:

  • Beta Readers/Critique Partners/Book Coaches/Book Doulas
  • Blurb writing
  • Reviews/Arc review services like NetGalley
  • Advertising, ie, Facebook ads, Amazon ads, Promotions
  • ISBNs
  • Paperbacks for giveaways
  • Giveaway fees like on Goodreads

No one is saying you have to pay for all of that–or any of it.

It’s up to your discretion how much money you want to pump into your books.

See, this is the problem. No one wants to admit that they publish their books to sell them. Which leads an author not spending one dime on their books.

They are publishing for themselves. I repeat this over and over again like a broken record:

If you only publish for yourself you have no right to complain if your books do not sell.

But if you can admit you want people to pay to read your work then you have to take a hard look at your book.

Is the cover you made yourself doing the job?

Is your blurb up to snuff or is it confusing and off-putting?

Are there typos in the first few pages of the Look Inside?

If you can’t put out quality work yourself, then you’re going to need help.

It’s that simple.

And that difficult because saying you need help is a lot easier than being able to afford said help.

That being said, you can teach yourself how to do these things.

If you just shut down on me, it’s because you don’t want to take the time to learn. That’s okay. I wear clothes every day. That doesn’t mean I want to learn how to sew.

But what I’m trying to tell you is that you must find a happy medium between doing things for yourself and hiring out the help you need to make your book desirable to readers.

Because remember, readers have 7 billion choices.

Listen, my books aren’t pretty. Use the look Inside Feature for any of my books and you’ll see basic formatting. The embellishments are non-existent.

That’s fine. I taught myself enough to get by, and that’s good enough for me.

Readers aren’t going to care if you have fancy chapter headings if your story sucks.

So, being I’ve published a few things, I can suggest where you should put your money–if you have any, or where you should ask for favors from friends–if you have any. Just kidding!

  1. Editing. If you’re a newbie writer, this means a developmental edit as well as a line edit and proofing. Plot holes, flat characters. Developmental editing can be more of a job for a critique partner or someone from your writing group. Ask someone who reads your genre so they have a handle on the tropes and feel for the type of genre your book is in. Once you have a stellar story and a solid look inside sample, you need a good cover.
  2. Cover. Canva.com offers design classes. You need to train your eye and learn what makes a good cover. It can make or break your book. Plus, if you push your book in any way, ads, promos, giveaways, your cover will be the selling point. Look at your genre on Amazon. Look at templates. Try to duplicate them yourself in Canva. You may need to spring for a photo, but that’s not as expensive as you might think. I buy mine on canstockphoto.com for seven dollars apiece. Photos are even cheaper if you buy a credit package.

    A word of warning though. I write romance, and slapping some text onto a smiling couple is a lot different than making a cover for an Urban Fantasy novel. Fantasy, of any kind, requires a certain kind of cover. Negotiating a price with someone on Fiverr is a lot better than publishing a book that does not have an appropriate cover. Your sales will stop before they even start. I’m sorry, but that’s just the way it is.

    Sometimes you can find a pre-made template that’s cheap.

    Sometimes you can even find a photo on a photo site that is already doctored to how you need/want it to be. Set aside hours, days, if not weeks, to click through pictures. I’m barely 20,000 words into my next book and I’m already looking at photos.

  3. Formatting. Formatting for Kindle takes five minutes. All you need to do is set the options in Word so when you upload it into KDP it converts correctly. If you go wide and you use Draft2Digital, you don’t even have to do that. (Smashwords is a different story, and your Word file has to be formatted correctly or it won’t convert through their “meatgrinder” and they won’t publish your book.) Draft2Digital seems easier to work with, but I’m in KDP Select and haven’t used either of those services.

 

What is the cost of self-publishing? It can cost as much or as little as you want to put into it.

Someone opening a business always needs to invest. Paying for services is investing in your book business.

I used to think that I didn’t want to invest in my books because I may never get that money back. But that was incorrect thinking.

If my books are well-written, have a nice cover, and are formatted as to not turn anyone off from reading it, eventually, I will see that money returned to me by way of sales.

My books will be sold for years and years.  As I slowly make a name for myself, my sales will increase. It will take time, but I’m in it for the long haul, and I have patience.

I’ve put money toward my books by way of taking the time to learn how to do things for myself. I read lots of editing books. I read tons of blog posts about what makes a good cover. I’ve practiced making covers. I’ve learned to format my files. It took time. But time is money. I’ll eventually see dividends on the time I invested in my books.

time is money

It’s a personal choice.


This blog post begins a self-publishing series about how you can do most of these things by yourself if you want, and where to look if you don’t. I’ll give you the resources I used to learn and you can decide for yourself if it’s easier for you to hire out, or if you can’t afford it, where you can spend time learning things on your own.

Look for my next blog post about editing resources.

Thanks for reading!

 

What Do You Say When People Ask You . . .

. . . why did you write/are writing your book?

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Some authors say their characters called to them and wouldn’t let them go. Some say a plot jumped into their head, and they had to get it down on paper before it disappeared. Some say it was part of a series/trilogy, etc. and they had no choice but to continue or abandon ship.

Why did I write Summer Secrets?

Because I’m insane.

That’s the short and easy explanation, but in reality, it’s much longer.

I had just come off from writing On the Corner of 1700 Hamilton. If you haven’t read it (and I know you haven’t because I can count the copies I’ve sold on my two hands and feet), you’ll know that it’s actually two novellas. One in the male’s point of view called 1700 Hamilton and the other novella is the same time frame but from the female’s point of view called On the Corner of Hamilton and Main. I know, completely crazy titles, and this was the new author in me—mistakes I won’t make again.

But I digress.

Anyway, so what I’m getting at is that writing novellas is fun, easy, and quick. I wrote on the weekends at work, transcribed once a week and actually had a life outside of writing, but I still felt like a writer. Writing novellas isn’t as daunting as writing full-length novels. By the time you reach 10,000 words, you’re halfway done. There’s something freeing about that—there isn’t so much pressure.

So, I kind of got sucked into writing novellas, and I wanted to write more.

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Conveniently, after 1700 was published, I was brainstorming with my friend Jewel, and we were talking about writing novella series. She had her own ideas, I had mine, and at work one day I outlined five novellas, characters and all.

This is where the insane part comes in.  I didn’t realize how long it would take me to actually write five. I’d just signed away five to six months of my life. But hell yeah, it sounded like fun. How bad could it be?

It wasn’t that bad. But in the middle of the 5th novella, a character “called to me” (yep, I just wrote that) and I realized he needed his story told. So five novellas I’d estimated at about 20,000 words a piece turned into 6 novellas, and after it was all said and done, turned out to be almost 160,000 words.

It takes a lot of time to edit 160,000 words. It takes a lot of time for someone else to edit 160,000 words. Let’s not mention formatting them and designing covers.

Never mind losing six months, I lost a whole year. On novellas.

But damn, are they good.

See, that’s why I can’t regret writing them. They are well-written, they are all part of the same story, told chronologically, and I learned so much writing them and editing them that I could never feel bad that I decided to do it.

Maybe I’ll be a little sad if they don’t sell—but I won’t be too worried about it, either. They are not the genre in which I want to keep writing, so building an audience won’t do be a lot of good unless they want to branch out as readers.

Never feel bad about what you’re writing. Somehow, some way, your project will serve a purpose.

What are you writing about and how did you decide to start?

Vania Blog Signature

 

CreateSpace Adventures Continue

Monday I received my proofs from CreateSpace. For the past week I’ve been going through the first one (Novellas 1 – 3) editing them, looking for typos, and checking formatting. It’s taking a long time, and today I resubmitted the first one again. I found some typos (probably not all of them, but c’est la vie) found where some ellipses marks were broken, a fragment that should have been deleted. That kind of thing. There was also a novella that was spaced at 1.5 when the rest was single spaced, so I fixed that and lost about ten pages. I had to redo the page setup and adjust the spine to reflect the page loss. girl-792039_1920

But I am making progress, and I’ll be very excited when I’m finished reading these and submitting these for the last time.

It does make me wonder if I’ll ever get faster. If I’ll ever be able to write a book, read through it once, submit it, give the proof a quick once-over, and hit approve. This is only my second go-around so I shouldn’t be too hard on myself.

And I’m proud of myself that I’m not rushing through this. It’s cool to hold my books, but when someone else holds them, I want them to be as perfect as I can make them.

The month is slipping away and I was hoping for an August 1st release. If the proofs can come back without needing any tweaks, I might be able to do it.

Wish me luck.

The Right Attitude to Move On

I work in a call center typing for the deaf. There are lots of them out there, so I don’t think I’m going to out my work location. If you put together where I live with what I do and zero in on me, then you have way too much time on your hands and should be writing, not stalking me. But this post isn’t about where I work; it’s about knowing what you’re doing. See, my call center manager worked her way up. She was the secretary, then the HR manager, then she was hired to be the manager, but she never did what we did. She didn’t know how to process calls. Do you know how much respect we gave her when she walked around the call floor making sure we were processing our calls correctly? That’s right, none. If we had a call processing issue or had a question, she couldn’t help. She had to call the floor supervisor over for assistance. When a brand new trainee in their first hour of their first shift ever knows more about the job than the manager, something’s wrong.

If you’ve read my other posts, you know I’ve had trouble with CreateSpace accepting my files. I was trying to be fancy, and I’ll just full out admit that didn’t work out. I’ve never hidden what I don’t know–pretending you know it all closes you off to learning what you don’t, and that won’t help.

reading-1246520_1920You’re never too old to learn something new.

I stripped my file of everything I was trying to do and swapped the font with the original one in the CreateSpace template. Hey, guess what, that was accepted. No kidding, right?

When I tweeted about my problem, several people supported me, some even tried to troubleshoot my problems. And this hit home for me because it just reinforced something I already knew but I hate admitting–there will always be someone out there who knows more than you. 

Self-publishing is an ever-changing industry and what you know today you probably won’t know tomorrow. That’s just the way it is. But by doing things yourself, muddling through with the knowledge you do have will help you learn more and more.

I was talking to Thomas Jast, the subject of my interview I posted yesterday, and he said with IngramSpark, if you do it this way and this way, the sky’s the limit. He didn’t see me because we were on chat, but I rolled my eyes. I would imagine that holds true for everything you ever try to do. If you have the knowledge and the know-how, the sky’s the limit. I’m sure if I knew more than I do, I could have forced CreateSpace to accept what I wanted.

But I don’t.

Do I have the determination to figure it out?  Maybe. It depends on your priorities–do you want to master CreateSpace or do you want to write? I think I would rather put out a book that looks good (maybe a little boring, but it still looks good) than waste hours of my time trying to figure something out. I mean, software is complicated–just because you pay for and download PhotoShop doesn’t mean you’re going to know how to use it. I could download all the software I need to make an interior and cover CreateSpace will accept no matter what I do to it, but is there a means to an end doing that? Probably not since I don’t aspire to do this for anyone else.

sprout-1147803_1920Determination can take you places.

I received emails from CreateSpace this morning. My interior files and cover were accepted. They still had to tweak both covers–they said my spine text was too big so they centered it and made it smaller. They keep saying I have images smaller than 300 DPI, which is frustrating because I know it’s not true. (This is something I learned last year when I published 1700.)

Surprisingly, even with all my issues with CreateSpace (caused by my own stubbornness) converting my files to Kindle was just as bad. It took many adjustments to make the Kindle file look good in their online viewer. But hey, guess what, I did it.

 

colorful-1289308_1920Give the lady a gold star!

 

Today I’ll be ordering my proofs. I’m going to trust CreateSpace knows what they’re doing–it’s obvious they know more than me–and I’m going to hope that my proofs come out so I don’t have to fix them anymore.

So the story about my manager at my work? I guess the moral of this little post is to take pride in your work, take pride in what you do, take pride in doing things for yourself. Sure I could have hired someone at Fiverr to format and convert my books for me. It would have saved me a lot of headache and time, oh so much time. But would I have gotten the same sense of pride when I hold my books in my hands? Maybe. I don’t know. But I do know when I hit publish on those books, I’ll know that I did all the work myself, that from cover to cover is me, and no one else. There’s pride in that.

I want to be a prolific writer. I want to crank out books people love to read. I never want to lose joy and pride in publishing a book. I never want what I do to become so ho-hum I could take it or leave it.  I love writing, and even with the problems I’ve encountered, I love the designing and publishing aspect of it as well.

Always ask for help. Read books and blog posts. There’s no shame in asking for help–one day you could pay it forward.

But be careful where you’ll hold firm, and what you’re willing to compromise on. I would rather have my book published and have it look decent than try to push through all the bells and whistles and have it come out looking less than its best.

The ultimate goal for me is to put out these books and move on. I already have the next book in my head needing to be put on the page.

How about you?

young-woman-2268348_1920Keep on keeping on.

 

(Pictures from http://www.pixabay.com)

Which Came First? The Chicken or the Egg?

This is going to be a touchy post. Not uncomfortable touchy-feely like your creepy neighbor, more touchy-feely like you’ll probably get mad. At me, at my thoughts about the indie-publishing industry, whatever.

Indie writers are famous (infamous?) for not liking being told what to do. They don’t like being told to write every day, they don’t like being told not to genre-hop, they don’t like being told write to market. No head-hopping, no weird 1st person to 3rd person shifts in the middle of a novel, no using their artistic license to do what they want.

And that’s really great–up to a point. Yes, write what you love. For sure. Use 100 POVs in a novella because you think they fit, do that crazy cover because you want to stand out. Do whatever the hell you want because it’s your book, you’re self-publishing it, and you don’t have to answer to anyone.

There’s disdain for the traditional publishing industry. I know there is because I’ve felt it myself. When I attended the Minnesota Writer’s conference I went to a workshop on how to self-publish your novel. That she ran her own self-publishing firm seemed a conflict of interest to me, but anyway, her firm hired out everything. She hired out the editing, the proofing, the formatting, the cover. They did it all for you for a hefty tune of $5,000-$10,000. I could hear dreams shattering around me like fragile champagne glasses thrown against a stone fireplace mantle. (Romantic, yes?) Having already published 1700 for free (I only paid for my ISBN number) I sat there shaking my head.

But between then and now I had a realization. She wasn’t trying to rip anyone off. On the contrary, what she was actually trying to get across was that when you self-publish, especially when you self-publish, you are in charge of the quality of your book.  You are in charge of how good the story is, you are in charge of how eye-catching the cover is. You are in charge to make sure the inside of your book is not a hot mess. The speaker of that workshop discouraged a lot of people from ever trying to self-publish because they didn’t know where else to look for information. They didn’t realize that you could self-publish for free (or for cheaper than $5,000!).

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It’s too bad because the only thing she was trying to press upon the attendees of her workshop was that a certain standard is expected when a reader opens a book.

Traditional publishing is under a lot of fire lately for not being flexible and not changing their ways to adapt to what the publishing industry is turning into. I agree that to keep up with the output of indie authors they are going to step up their game and do things differently. But while distribution and output may change, the point is, quality is something a reader can always expect from a traditionally published book.  And whether you want to believe it or not, a reader is going to want that same quality from your book, too.

Oh, I know, you’ve found typos in books. I read a book recently and a whole speech tag was missing in a sentence. I don’t know how it slipped by an editor, but it did. There have always been typos. And there will be more as the publishing industry has to tighten their bootstraps and make budget cuts. But for every little mistake that slips by in a trad-pubbed book, there things a reader can expect to get from a book they bought from a big publisher:

  1. A story that makes sense in terms of plot, characters, and POV.
  2. A cover that looks nice that will hint at what the book is about.
  3. A blurb that also makes sense and makes a potential customer want to read the book.
  4. Formatting inside that doesn’t distract from the reading experience.

An author who is traditionally-published doesn’t have to worry about that stuff, and unless they go hybrid and self-publish as well as have their books trad-published, they won’t have to.

But you will. Not knowing isn’t a valid reason. If you want people to read your book, and read the next one you write, and the next, you have to take ownership of your work. It isn’t unheard of for indie-authors to revamp their first books as they publish more and learn more. I redid the cover for 1700, fixed typos, and fixed some formatting errors.

Anyway, the point I’m getting at with this post is that you are responsible for the quality of your book. Going rogue in the name of artistic license may feel good at the time, but how good is it going to feel if it ultimately means giving up sales and maybe even sullying your reputation as a writer?

The best way to know how to format your book is to look at one. Check one out at the library, or go to the bookstore and look through several in your genre. When I wrote my front matter for 1700, I took the book I was reading and copied it. You’ll notice in a trad-pubbed book the margins are justified, there are pages numbers, the book’s title and author name in the headers. There aren’t any spaces between paragraphs (this is a big pet peeve of mine).

There’s no doubt that the publishing industry is changing. But like anything that changes, you want things to get better, not worse.

Tell me what you think! Am I being too picky?

Other articles on self-publishing quality:

http://www.writing-world.com/publish/lulu.shtml

http://www.writing-world.com/publish/format.shtml

https://self-publishingschool.com/5-book-formatting-mistakes-to-avoid/

https://forums.createspace.com/en/community/thread/1434?start=0&tstart=0

 

Don’t Rush to Publish!

Probably the best advice I can give you about publishing is not to rush.

I’ve always promoted doing as much as you can yourself—especially since your first book is pretty much a loss until you write more and have more books available for purchase. When it’s when it’s your only book available, you’ll never get back what you put into it. (Unless you have a tangible way to measure pride and satisfaction.)

Combining the fact that this is your first book with doing it all on your own is dangerous. You’ll never be sure if your book bombed because you’re an unknown author and this is your first book, or if it’s because your book sucks. Publishing a superior product rather than a POS will take some of the guesswork out of the question.

You want to put your best work out there, so when you have more books available you don’t have to waste time fixing it. Being it is so easy to update files in Kindle Direct Publishing, you may get into the habit of updating your files and covers all the time. It’s a waste and you’ll never move forward. Fixing your files in CreateSpace is easy too, but your book isn’t available until your files are approved, and CreateSpace’s approval time is longer than KDP’s. People still can buy your Kindle book while the new file is being approved, but it will be your old file.

Here are some tips to not rush:

Cover

Never publish your first attempt at making a cover. Make many covers. Many, many, many. Try different pictures, fonts, and color themes. Take your best two or three and turn them into a contest on Facebook or Twitter. Enter all the names of the people who chose the one you decided to use into a drawing and give a signed copy of your book to the winner. Ask for lots of feedback. There are plenty of people online who are willing to give you an honest opinion.

Research your genre, watch picture manipulation videos to learn how to do what you want. If your idea is too much for you to do on your own, or you just can’t get your vision from your head onto the computer, ask for help.  Don’t publish your first attempt. Keep it clean, keep it professional. One day you may change your cover to bump up sales, or because your skills have improved, or because you found a better picture. All I’m saying is, don’t make it a habit. You’re supposed to be writing more books.

Formatting/Book Interior

The inside of your book needn’t change much. As you grow your library you may want to add those books to a list in the front or back matter letting your reader know they are available. Maybe you’ll want to fix typos, but don’t get caught up with this. You’ll never stop editing, and I feel it’s disrespectful to the people who previously bought your book before your fixes.

CreateSpace takes 12-24 hours to approve files, and your book is not available during the approval process. You can lose sales going into it to fix to too many times.

KDP takes five hours, but don’t use this as an excuse to fix every little thing. Plus you want your paperback and Kindle files to match. Publishing your book as close to perfect as possible will save you lots of time in the long run.

Blurb

Changing your book’s description is simple enough, but if you offer a paperback you’ll want your product information to match the blurb on the back of your book. Again, CS has to approve any changes and this takes time. Blurb writing is difficult, every writer loathes it. I find it easier to write blurbs for others than for my own books. Research how to write one and get plenty of feedback from people who both have and have not read your book. The people who have read it can tell you if it’s accurate. The people who have not read your book can tell you if the blurb makes them want to read it.

Editing

I’ve written a lot about editing in my publishing series, and in two prior blog posts. Editing is the worst because of all the waiting, waiting, waiting. For other people. To read your work. You’re waiting on someone (or hopefully many someones) to read your work and you can’t say anything or you’ll seem rude. If you pay someone, hopefully, you come to some kind of a time agreement. If your friends are doing you a favor, you need to be patient. I’ve edited for people who have published before I was done. Please don’t do that—especially if they keep you updated and they are finding things. It’s rude, and frankly, it hurt my feelings. What I advise you to do is forget about publishing it. Work on something new. Work on your cover—can you make it better? Work on your website, or write a few blog posts and schedule them out so you’re ahead. Try to get into a blog tour, or ask some of your friends who run blogs to interview you. Beta-read or edit for someone else. There are plenty of ways to fill your time and still feel like you are moving forward career-wise.

Be patient.

Don’t rush into publishing. It will save you a lot of time down the road, and a lot of regrets, because you’ll never now how many sales you lost because of a poor cover, or your first 20% in the Look Inside feature has typos in it and a potential reader didn’t want to take a chance on the rest of your book.

It took a year or more to write your book. Waiting a bit longer won’t hurt.

What’s your biggest publishing regret?