Formatting For the Fun of It!
As an indie author, I find myself trying to save money where I can. Realistically, it could take years to make back what an editor and cover designer can cost. Still, I have zero regrets about reaching out to experts to help get my project polished!
Back with the first novel, I found myself looking for tasks that I could do myself. There are many professionals out there who can format the interior of your book fit you and I am sure it would go much smoother than doing it yourself. But I was willing to learn and so, like with most things, I found a class and jumped in with both feet.
The timing was perfect for the formatting class on WANA International. I had just come off the high of an online writers’ conference put on by then, and I was itching to learn all the ins and outs.
I was shocked that I was the only person signed up for it. Talk about one-on-one instruction! The teacher went through every step of formatting for both print and various ebooks.
For those of you who are thinking about formatting your own book let me say it is very doable. It is tedious and a little scary and you will end up with about a million versions saved just in case, but it is manageable.
the first thing you do is strip out all the things you direct formatted while typing and editing. Say goodbye to centering, spacing, italics, bold, all the times you hit return to space things vertically. Everything you do while you type without even thinking about must be removed before you can format your book for publishing.
The Smashwords formatting guide refers to this as the “nuclear method,” and urges you to hug a loved one when it’s over. 😊I would suggest a glass of wine as well.
My teacher walked me through this method and then walked me methodically through formatting a document in Word using styles. Styles are those lovely things in the top ribbon that I have never paid any attention to! They can make you cry, but when you finally figure them out, you will be saying “how cool!”
I found it easier to go through and create all my own styles for various sections – title page, dedication, about the author, chapter headings, body of text, first paragraphs etc. By creating my own styles, I removed the element of surprise and could manipulate the interior exactly as I wanted.
Once you have gone through and tweaked and assigned every little bit of your novel to a style, you will find that adjusting things like your chapter headings is a piece of cake. Adjust the style and every single chapter heading in your novel is adjusted instantly.
I did learn that there are some differences between formatting in Word 2010, 2013 and 2016, as well as formatting in Word for PC vs Mac. For the most part, I was able to come up with a work around by googling the issue and geeking out for hours on end.
One of my issues was resolved by saving my novel as an older version .doc a opposed to the more recent .docx that came out in 2013. However, this can be an issue for some ebook formatting if the program or distributor requires you to use .docx.
Formatting is still a challenge for me, though it I still getting easier. It just isn’t something I play with in my normal day-to-day life. But I found that I enjoy it and if I can save $1500-2000 by handling it myself, it is time well spent.
I don’t remember how long it took me to format my first book. I think I have blocked it for fear that I would never do it again if I remembered the experience. But the second book took one morning and a few extra cups of coffee to produce my print version. The ebook versions gave me a little headache, but even that didn’t scare me off.
For those of you ready to take the plunge, you must get the FREE Smashwords guide even if you some not plan on publishing there. It walks you through every step! Check it out here. Using Styles may not be spelled out for every situation, but once you know the basics, you can play with it one section at a time to see what look works for your book.