Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Formatting Books for Dummies

By Cindy M. Hogan
Formatting-a word that meant nothing to me until I published my first book. It was all an inky black process and it didn't have to be.

Reader's love a well formatted book

Formatting is the process of getting your book in the right form to be printed or turned into an eBook. Formatting is what makes your book look good to the reader. The right formatting creates reader-love and the great thing is, the reader doesn't even realize why they like it so much.

I'm giving you an overview of the process so that you'll know where to go to either do it yourself or pay someone to do it.

Formatting for a print book is different from formatting for an eBook-crazy, right?


Do it yourself:

You will either choose to go with a print-on-demand company that both prints and distributes your books as they are ordered, or you will choose a printer and a separate distributor. In either case, these companies tell you what format they want your book in so that they can print it.

Lightning Source is one print-on-demand company and Createspace is another. (There are others, but these are the two I'm most familiar with.)  Both tell you on their sites exactly what they want and need from you.

If you go with a printer that is separate from your distributor, they too tell you exactly what they need from you.

After you upload your file, they will either give you a hard copy or a soft copy to review. Hard copies come in the mail and soft copies are files on your computer. You have to approve each page. And I might add, that your book should be perfectly edited at this point. If you upload it to your printer and then it needs some things edited, you will pay out the nose to get it done.

Hire it out:

I formatted my first book by myself and it turned out all right after a lot of tweaking(not to be confused with twerking) and anguished bellows. If I can do it, you can, too.

I hire it out now. It costs me about $80 bucks, which is a steal. I use the time I save to write. But, if you like figuring stuff out (and there are a ton of how-to books on this now) then save your money and do it yourself.


You want your book to uploaded to all these sites: kdp.com, nookpress.com, Smashwords.com (they distribute to apple, diesel, kobo and other retailers as well as libraries-you can upload to each site if you choose. Right now, I'm doing it the easy way by uploading to Smashwords and having them distribute to all the retailers except Amazon and Barnes and Noble -if you like formatting, then do it yourself. You will make a touch more and have more control.)

When I started publishing two years ago, the only real resource for eBooks was Smashwords and conversion software like mobicreator and mobipocket. Now there is a ton of free software: Calibre and Sigil, for example, and mobicreator (owned by Amazon) is no more.

Do it yourself:
To get a clean document use the Styleguide by Smashwords. Then you can upload it to Calibre or Sigil to create a .mobi (for Kindle) or an .epub (for all other readers) Then you can send copies to whomever you please in the format they like.

In the beginning, it takes patience to format your books
Kdp.com (Amazon) helps you out, too. Here is their help page  (They now accept word documents)

Nookpress.com (Barnes and Noble) Help page (They now accept word documents)

Smashwords Style Guide here (They format your book into a ton of different formats and then distribute it to retailers for you for a small cut of the profits.)

Once you've uploaded your book, you should always preview it and download the file to your computer to see what, if anything you need to fix. All of the three main sites allow this and encourage it.

Hire it out:
If you don't like all the tedium of doing it yourself-it's only tedious the first few times, I hear, then hire someone.
Smashwords has a list of approved formatters- go here to request the list. It will cost you between 30-60 bucks. I pay $30 per book and she formats it for Smashwords, .ePub, and .mobi-totally worth it to me. She guarantees its acceptance, also. I have a good friend that also does formatting for me when I need it. Why do I have 2? They both have their pros and cons and good formatters are busy and sometimes their schedules don't fit our deadlines.

I love how eBook retailers are making it easier and easier for authors to get their work out there. Nook press even lets you edit on their site now.

Why do I hire it out? 
First off, I hated the tedium of formatting. I have friends who do it themselves and it only takes them about 30 minutes because they pushed through that tedium. If you're short on cash, it's definitely the way to go.
I'd rather be writing. :)

What do you think? 
Will you (or do you) hire your formatting out
or are you a do it yourselfer?

By Cindy M. Hogan
Bestselling author of the Watched TrilogyAdrenanline RushGravediggers, First KissStolen KissRebound Kiss and Rejected Kiss.


Donna K. Weaver said...

Now you post this! lol It's quite a process.

Canda said...

Great info--I'll be needing this in a couple of months.