Today we’re going to talk about formatting your book.
Formatting is something that you either get, or you don’t. Some people find it an easy task, and others—like me, don’t.
I think that the formatting is something that goes by the wayside in many respects, but a badly formatted book can completely ruin the reading experience for a reader. Blank pages in books, writing out of alignment, font size too small or too big, wrong text, it ALL makes a difference to the experience that you’re selling to a reader. Not only that, but it can be an incredibly frustrating business for someone inexperienced at it.
I know through my own trial and error how I nearly didn’t bother with the paperback for any of my books for this very reason. It’s complicated, frustrating, and disheartening. Then when you do finally manage to embed everything, align everything, number your pages etc. etc., you order your sample book. You wait with eagerness for days—possibly a couple of weeks unless you want to pay for expensive super-fast shipping, to finally get your book in your hands and find that, actually, you did it all wrong and it looks terrible.
Formatting isn’t something that a new writer thinks about. I mean, you wrote it in Microsoft Word, so how hard can it be to upload? Simple answer? Very.
It’s not just a matter of just uploading your edited book. Each format—whether it be paperback, Kindle, Nook, iBooks differs from platform to platform. That’s where your formatter comes in—or mine.
Meet Karen Perkins. Amongst being an incredibly talented author of several popular pirate adventure books, she also owns and runs LionheART Publishing Services. It’s like a one-stop shop for everything an author will need. Whether it be cover design, editing, proofing, and of course, formatting.
I’ve known Karen a long time, we’ve beta read for each other several times, and I can honestly say that she’s an absolute pleasure to work with.
I’ll hand it over to her, and you can get to know her and her work a bit more.
About Me and My Self-Publishing Journey
I have been passionate about books since I first learned to read, and also had a very active life, including being a very keen sailor. Unfortunately, I injured myself in the Contender European Championships in 1995 (although still won the ladies title), which resulted in a condition called fibromyalgia. This is an extremely painful and debilitating condition and resulted in the loss of my previous career as a financial advisor.
I started writing, almost as therapy, and it quickly became a compulsion. I cannot see myself ever stopping now! I struggle to travel, and realized this would work against me in looking for an agent and traditional publisher so I decided to self-publish as a way to show publishers I was able and willing to promote and market my books online, as well as—hopefully—prove sales and gain positive independent reviews.
I enjoy the publishing side of writing so much, I have not submitted to a single agent since I pressed that ‘Publish’ button the first time, nor do I expect to. All three of my current books: Ill Wind and Dead Reckoning in the Valkyrie Series (historical novels about piracy and slavery in seventeenth-century Caribbean), and Thores-Cross (a historical paranormal stand-alone novel) are #1 best sellers in their categories on Amazon--Ill Wind and Dead Reckoning in Sea Adventures, and Thores-Cross in British Horror.
I also established LionheART Publishing House when I published my first books and this has grown to offer copyediting, proofreading and formatting services for other self-published authors, as well as book cover design and book trailers. In the past year, I feel very privileged to have helped over one hundred books be published on four continents—some very successfully.
To help indie authors who prefer to have complete control over their books, including the editing and formatting, I have also recently published The LionheART Guide to Formatting, which is a comprehensive, step-by-step guide to formatting e-books and paperbacks in Word 2010 and covers formatting your manuscript for Kindle, paperback and Smashwords, as well as taking you through the upload processes. This was recently followed by The LionheART Guide to Editing, in both UK and US Editions.
There are three main avenues to publish your book as an Indie author: Kindle (KDP), paperback (usually CreateSpace) and EPUB (usually Smashwords), and each avenue needs a different format, each with its own challenges.
Kindle (KDP). The main difficulty in your Kindle format is that what you see in Word is not necessarily what you get on a Kindle after your Word file has been converted to their mobi format. This means indents have to be properly set (tabs or a number of spaces don’t convert well), and watch out for spaces at the ends of your paragraphs and extra paragraph breaks with can result in blank pages in the Kindle book.
CreateSpace is an Amazon print–on–demand company. Publishing through them means your paperback will be available on every Amazon site in the world (including Book Depository), and they will print and send a copy of your book to order. You therefore have worldwide distribution with little or no set up costs. This is also the format where you can add your own style to the finished book, with headers and footers, different fonts etc., and the main issues here revolve around the sizing of the file, and formatting page numbers etc. correctly.
Smashwords is the difficult one. They convert your file into a number of formats, the most important of which is EPUB, and distribute to a wide range of online e–book companies, including Barnes &Noble (Nook), Kobo and iBooks. Because your book has to meet the criteria of all these sites, the requirements are more stringent than for KDP above. The best way to ensure your book passes is to use their Nuclear Method, which strips out all the existing formatting, and then start again. It is time consuming (and at times frustrating), but it is the best way of ensuring there is no stray formatting, such as hidden bookmarks or fields, that would cause your book to fail their review process.
Watch your text size and line spacing. Many readers do not like books with large text or spacing, as it means they have to turn the pages more often. All the main e-readers do have settings for font size, so if somebody does prefer larger text, they can set their reader accordingly. Many e-readers can only cope with the Times New Roman font, although some, such as Kobo, allow the reader to select their preferred font, and e-books should always be formatted in TNR to avoid any corruption. Also I see a lot of e-books with empty lines between every paragraph, which can mark your books as self-published – people are not used to reading fiction where every paragraph looks like a block paragraph, and these should be reserved for when there is a change in time or point of view.
Many self-published authors present ellipses as three dots together with no spaces…like this. This has the effect of linking the two words and it may result in them being presented on a new line, leaving a half-line and spoiling the justification of your work. Leaving spaces in between . . . does mean it may be split over a line in an e-book, but this is regarded as the lesser of two evils and is the standard format in the publishing industry today.
The best piece of advice I can give when formatting e-books is to keep it simple. There are so many different brands and models of e-reader, each of which has a wide variety of individual settings available, your formatting needs to present as well as possible on each variation of device and your readers’ preferred settings.
You do have more leeway with paperbacks as the finished book will present in the same way as Word, for the most part. Most fonts in Word are licensed for print and can be used to add style to your title page and chapter headings, and you can control where each page ends, so you ensure your book presents as well as possible.
The main things to keep in mind here are the margins, checking punctuation does not cross a line and arranging your book so that the dedication and first chapter etc. are placed on the recto (right-hand) page, as well as setting headers and page numbers.
My final piece of advice is to check, recheck and check again – the best formatting is not noticed by our readers. When somebody reads one of our books, we want them to be lost in the characters, their world, and their stories, and not be distracted from their reading by empty pages or lines, inconsistent indents, or incorrectly sized text.
I hope you find this useful and more information can be found on my website: www.lionheartgalleries.co.uk.
Happy writing and I wish you every success with your books.
Contacts me if you have any questions, I am always happy to help, and you can reach me at:
firstname.lastname@example.org | Amazon Author Page |
Smashwords Author Page | Facebook Valkyrie Series |
Facebook Lionheart Publishing | Twitter Valkyrie Series |
Twitter Lionheart Publishing | Goodreads |
LinkedIn | Google+ |
You Can Purchase The LionheART Guide To Formatting Here: Formatting Guide
As Always... Happy Reading!
Claire C Riley
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