How fast is this month going! With Blind Faith and A Little Taste of Naughty so close to being released, I'm shocked I still have all my hair!
This week I'm bringing you the very talented L. Bachman! Her post is intended for unpublished authors or authors who want to do everything themselves, but readers can get a little insight at a few of the things some authors have to do to bring you our books.
Book Formatting Tips
When I began independent publishing, I faced many things, including formatting. Some go the route of hiring a formatter, but many, like me, teach ourselves to digitally format, eventually learning to format for paperback. I started by researching the best and easiest methods. I found that YouTube is a wonderfully useful tool because I’m a visual leaner. I have to see what I’m trying to do before attempting it. With videos and guidelines provided by Amazon themselves on what they required, and using a free program called Calibre, a book management and format converter, I played around with samples of writings I had done, eventually creating beautiful formats.
Amazon’s guidelines are explained within the page of their website entitled Types of Formats, but that’s a lot of reading for me when trying to learn something, so I did a lot of testing and working things out to fully understand. There are key things you do need to know when formatting, which this site clearly explains. Mobi, epub, txt, pdf, and doc are formats. Mobi is the format when a document from Word is converted. That works for Kindle and Mobi supported readers. Epub is the format for Nook, Barnes and Noble, or supported ereaders. Pdf is the format given to a portable document read by Adobe readers, used for contracts, and used for ARCs. A txt is a simple text file, usually made in notepad on the pc and saved. Finally, doc is used for word program saved documents. It’s the most basic of document formats. According to their guidelines, Amazon will accept these, but that will still leave you in need of formats for other readers that may not accept them. I can only speak of my own experiences in writing these things, but I am aware other authors do things differently. Some programs they use save directly to the format they need. Some programs we use after updates can indeed do this, but I convert with Calibre.
When I begin formatting, I usually begin with checking my front and back matter. Front matter usually contains a title page, copyrights, table of contents, acknowledgments, and a dedication. Back matter usually consists of an author biography, a list of previous work, a list of where you can find the author on the internet, and addresses of importance, like a fan club mailing P.O. Box. A tip I recently came across for how to help yourself with sales and spreading the word of your other works, especially a sequel, is to add an excerpt. I have read authors who include a bit of their work in the back matter of their books. If you’re writing a series, I recommend including the last chapter of the previous book to help set the mood for the reader, help them get where they need to be before beginning the next leg of the reading journey.
When you’re formatting digitally in Word, you can highlight chapters and create bookmarks. When I began learning how to do this, I wasn’t sure how it would translate into digital books, but I learned that bookmarks actually create the digital table of contents for ereaders. You can skip chapters, travel around the digital world of the electronic edition of the story, and get to additional information, such as the author’s biography. While making your bookmarks, make sure all of these are saved correctly before you save the final edit. Testing them with a click should send you to the location it’s linked to. If it doesn’t, delete and remake it.
Following the guidelines Amazon provides will help you greatly, even if you do not publish with them digitally or use their website, Createspace, for paperbacks. Typically, Times New Roman with a font size of twelve is key for many formats. It’s basic and translates well in conversions. Spacing between paragraphs varies. I use a .5 point above and a 10 point after. To begin the paragraphs, I generally pull my Word arrow at the top of my document over to the halfway point between the beginning of the margin and the one-inch mark, or four dots over.
These are basic tips and advice. If at any time you want some help, I recommend using guidelines by Amazon or other ereaders’ websites. Anyone you would publish with has a guide on how to format your story to fit their readers, or help on how to use things like drop caps, which I love.
A few final tips I recommend is whatever font is used on the book’s cover, continue it over into the title page. It gives a professional appearance to the work. I learned of this after noticing several books I had on my shelves did this. It carries the branding you’re creating for the series, the story, and the professionalism a bit more. When I began this journey a year ago, I knew my fellow writers would be a good place to begin. Everyone has had to start somewhere, so asking questions should be welcomed. In my experience, the indie community has been one of helpfulness. I do know some hateful people are out there. If you can, avoid them at all costs. Keep your head up because you’re beginning a journey that will lead you into an amazing network of people who will understand you, help you, and simply be there.
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