Thursday, April 26, 2012

Self-Publishing Basics Part 1--Formatting

You can easily find a ton of help out there for self-publishing, if that is your goal.  I am new at this, but I have followed self-publishing for almost a decade.  I want to impart some of what I have discovered and chronicle my journey into self publication.  My first book, Dark Mountain, was just released.  I am making it availabe in both print and electronic versions, because I believe that both mediums are important.  Some will laud one over the other and there is much debate over print vs. ebooks as well as traditional publishing vs. indie publishing.  I believe that there is an audience for both print and electronic books.  I also believe that authors should be able to enjoy the benefits of both traditional publishing and self-publishing.  Neither has to be mutually exclusive of the other. 

Formatting Your Book For Print

The biggest hurdle in self-publishing a book is that you need to incur some extra-writerly talents and skill sets.  One of the first skills you must use, once you decide how you are going to market your book, is to format it for publication.  Obviously, this step takes place after you have written the book and edited it thoroughly. 

You will probably be formatting for several formats (Kindle=html; CreateSpace = PDF or .doc; Smashwords = .doc, etc.), so remember to always have a clean copy or two of your original manuscript.  I kept five:  one for editing (clean manuscript with bookmarks at chapters so I could easily navigate when fact-checking); one to submit to agents (that didn't pan out); one for print publication (page numbers, headings, cover pages, etc.); and two for the electronic version--one in .doc or normal MS Word, and one in .htm format. 

This can get confusing, but if you name them to remember, it makes it easier.  You can also put them in separate files, to keep it straight.  The point is, be prepared to do formatting more than once, especially if you are publishing it in multiple formats.

First, I recommend highly that you stick to MS Word.  It is the easiest to use and has the most widely recognized format.  In fact, to publish to Smashwords, it is almost impossible to get your manuscript accepted without it.  Each version (2003,2007, 2010) each has its benefits and inconsistencies, but they are all generally the same. 

Second, get your manuscript edited.  I will cover this in another post, but it is still an important step you cannot ignore.  It will cost money, but it is worth it.

If  you are seeking to have your book published in print (via Lulu or Createspace or others), I recommend that you download a template for the size of book you are seeking to publish.  This can be everything from a mass market paperback size to a common 6" x 9" trade paperback.  Once you do that, it can be as simple as copying and pasting your book into the template.  You can alternately study the template design (page widths, margins, gutters, sections, headers and footers, etc.) and apply those to your manuscript.  Don't forget to save the document under a different name (instead of "Title.doc," save it as "Title 6x9.doc" or something similar). 

This step can be daunting.  Some publishing service providers offer a service that does the formatting for you for a charge.  In fact, at any one step, Lulu, CreateSpace and other print-on-demand (POD) publishers offer services for a fee.  Often, they are great bargains.  Mostly, if you have the technical savvy, patience, and time, you can do them yourself for free.  I did them myself and saved over $500 total. 

Formatting Your Book for Electronic Distribution

If you are seeking to digitally publish your book, then start with your clean, original manuscript in MS Word.  Select "All" and then "Clear Formatting."  You should see a pretty plain document, with all the fonts removed.  This is the best way to start your formatting for Kindle or Smashwords.  Save the document as a different title--"Title Clear.doc" or "Title Digital.doc" will suffice.  Then, you can go in and create bookmarks, paragraphing, etc.  Re-save the document and then "Save As" html, formatted.  This is the format that Kindle demands in order for it to be published in its newest format.  It can also be converted this way to Epub and Mobi formats (Apple, B & N, etc.) as well.

I could go deeper, give more information, but these are the basics.  To provide more information, this would be a very long post.  I can, however, recommend heavy research.  Each provider (CreateSpace, Kindle Direct Publishing, Lulu, Smashwords, B & N direct publishing) offers TONS of help, links, and information on how to publish.  In addition, there are ebooks online as well as other blogs that offer more in-depth information about formatting.

NEXT UP:  COVER DESIGN