How to Self-Publish Your Novel Professionally – Step Three: Interior Formatting

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Edit: Clearer instructions on page numbering.

Alright, so your content is done. Your cover is done. What’s next? The interior formatting. I’ll tell you right now that I am not going to tell you the easiest way to do this. Why? Because I know nothing about Word. I’m sure some of you will know an easier way than this, but this is how I did it and it worked for me. My print version looks great. It works.

Before anything, you’re going to want to download Createspace’s template. I actually recommend copying the page specifications from that to a new document so that it’s completely fresh. You should have mirrored margins and the page dimensions should be the same as your cover (if that wasn’t obvious). Do not alter their suggested margins. You don’t want your text looking funny.

I used Microsoft Word for all the formatting. I typically use LibreOffice to write, so I had to copy the file over to a computer with Word on it to get everything looking pretty. If you don’t have Word, go to a library and use theirs for a day. You need something with full editing capabilities.

  1. First, you need to do the opening page. This is basically going to be your title restated in print. You can skip that, if you want, but most books have it. Do you want your book to look like other books? If so, don’t skip this.
  2. Next, the copyright. You know how I told you all to apply for copyright for your book? Did you do that yet? (I mean, I didn’t, but that’s because our printer broke, I’ll get to it). You’re gonna need that for this part. You put that in as well as the “this book isn’t based on your mom” thing and “if you pirate this you die” as well as your ISBN.
  3. Third, you can make a page for previous work you’ve published. For me, my third page says “A fairy curse novel” because it’s in that universe. All the other books in the universe will say the same thing, then the back page will have all the books published so far. So if this is part of a sequel, you can put that there. If you want to put reviews like they do in NY Times Bestseller books, go ahead. Also any dedications or acknowledgments.
  4. I then have a blank page. That’s fine. Gotta love blank pages.
  5. Next I have a map someone drew for me. It is the most amateur thing about this entire book, but it looks good enough. I don’t have the money to pay someone so hopefully people will think I’m going for the simple look rather than the poor look.
  6. I have another blank page. Typically, you don’t want anything like the copyright or dedications beside where your story starts. It’s just distracting.
  7. Alright, now the story starts. Notice, I haven’t mentioned page numbers up until now. That’s because you shouldn’t have page numbers before the story starts. Supposedly, if you create a page break between the last page and this page, you can start the numbering at 1, but I couldn’t get it to work, possibly because the document has mirror margins. What I had to do was create three separate documents, one for the pages before the story that didn’t need numbers, one for the story, and one for the part after the story that didn’t need numbers. So now that you’re finished with the first few pages, covert that to a pdf and save it as “Start” or something like that.
    EDIT: You should be able to start the page numbering by inserting a section break at the end of the first section. You then have to unclick the “link to previous” option for both the header and the footer. The footer/header should now say section 1/section 2 and so on. Do the same thing for the last section or for each chapter break if you want a chapter heading in the actual header.
    Formatting the bulk of the story just required common sense. Go through and look for single words that have been left on pages of their own and make sure line breaks look alright. Do NOT use **** for a line break in a printed book or anything like that. It looks super unprofessional. I used two paragraph breaks and started the new section without an indented first line. It works great.
    To start a chapter, you need a chapter heading. Whatever you do, don’t make it a random italic font in large letters. Or Comic Sans. It looks bad. Use the same font you use for the story and make it a few sizes bigger or get a free font off the web that looks cool. Just use your common sense for this one. Do the fonts work? Are they easy to read? Could you expect to pick up a book that looked like that in the bookstore?
    As for page numbers, the mirror margins mean that page 1 and page 2 will be different. So you can put the number for page 1 and all odd numbers on the left and the number for page 2 and all the even numbers on the right. Do not put them on the same side. One of them will be eaten by the book’s spine when printed and it will look like shit.
    If you want, you can also put your name/ the book’s title in the header. Lots of books do this, just “Author Name” on the top of one page and “Book Title” for the next. If you want each chapter to have it’s own header saying which chapter it is, the only way I know how to do this is to break up each chapter into a separate document and convert them to a PDF. It will be extra work, but the finished product should look normal.
    Again, once you finish with the story save it as a PDF named “middle”. Or “farts”. Really, it just has to be something you’ll remember.
  8. Not everyone will have something at the end of the book, but I don’t think it looks right to go from “The End” to the back cover. I added an “About the Author” segment. Again, no page numbers. Make sure that for your proof copy the back cover is left blank, because they’re going to print PROOF real big (assuming you’re using CreateSpace). Save the file as a pdf named “end”.
  9. Alright you now have three separate PDF files. Again, sorry if there is an easier way, but this is how I did it. Go to this site and upload start, middle, and end. Download the result. Upload that to CreateSpace and see if there are any issues.
    If for some reason the margins aren’t coming up right, it could be because you didn’t merge them right. Say that you had the blank page before your story in the first document. That’s fine, but then your second document needs to start on an even page or the margins won’t be correctly placed. To do this, leave the first page in the second document blank and when converting it to a pdf, only convert page 2-251 to the pdf. That way, the first page in that second document should flow seamlessly with the first one.
  10. Finally, you’ll need to review the proof copy of your book. You have to make sure that everything looks good, from the cover to the interior formatting. Maybe get a few friends to look through it for you so you know that there aren’t any silly mistakes you’re missing.
  11. For kindle, the formatting is a lot simpler. Put your story into a new document. Don’t add page numbers or anything like that. Upload it to Amazon. Preview it. Does it look alright? If not, fix it. (Sorry, I don’t have much more to add. I uploaded a short story to Amazon as a test and it looked just like it was in the document.) Don’t try to format paragraphs specially (other than first line indents) or set the text a certain size. Kindle changes all that. Just use Times New Roman size 12.

I hope this was clear enough to be helpful. Part four will be marketing.

Here are some crappy webcam pictures of my proof copy:

Snapshot_20140815 Snapshot_20140815_1 Snapshot_20140815_2 Snapshot_20140815_3

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How NOT to self-publish

I’ve been preparing to self-publish for a while now, and at this point I’m looking to see what others like me are doing to publish their books. Nothing good, from what I’ve seen so far. While I know that there are some good self-published books out there, the ones I’m going to talk about probably aren’t them. I admit that I’ll be harping on appearance more than anything, but that has a lot to do with if your book sells or not.

Without further ado, let us start with the first thing not to do:

1. Don’t make yourself invisible. If you want to be an author, you have to be an author. You need an author page. You need a way for fans to contact you if they have questions or praise. You can’t be a name that means NOTHING.

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None of the first page results show an Ava Langley that may be her. This is what should make you consider adopting a penname. Do you want to be confused with the girl on twitter who posts things like, “You’re a fucking dick go die in a hole.”?

But let’s put author in front of her name, shall we?

Well, here’s a blog, but is this the author? Oh, I guess it is.

seriously

No mention of being an author, and I missed the “my available books” at first. Clicking this doesn’t make it look like this is an author’s blog. You need it to be clear for people to connect to your as an author. I’ll admit that my pen name doesn’t show up on Google yet, but I have barely made any posts and my book isn’t available for sale yet. However, if someone found my blog, they wouldn’t be confused.

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Okay, well I realize that I spelled my name wrong, but whatever. I’ll fix that. MOVING ON.

2.  Don’t let your book covers look like shit. Please, please don’t. Even if you have to spend money on it or use Createspace’s cover maker or make the simplest cover ever, don’t do it. I can pick out the self-published authors by the shitty covers.

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If you click on them their publishers are all listed as “Createspace”.  Visually, the middle one isn’t too bad, but you still can’t see the words on the cover.

Then you have one that could be good, but has been way overdone. It’s not hard to pick out bad covers.

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There’s just too much going on and the fonts aren’t easily readable. It’s a hot mess. If you notice, I highlighted an additional part. It claims to be a top selling fantasy novel…

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6 reviews do not a top seller make. Sure, she may have gone to the top seller’s list once her book went down to free, but that doesn’t make it a “Top Seller” because nothing was SOLD.

3. Don’t try to market your book as something that it’s not. If you say it’s a bestseller but is clearly not, people will notice. People will not be amused.

4. Don’t let the inside of your book look as bad as the outside. The interior has to be professionally done like you would see in a real book. If you don’t know how to use Word to achieve these affects, Google it. Don’t be lazy.

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As you can see, that looks terrible. You open your book and have your copyright notice with the same page as the title and then the beginning of the story. Not only that, but the opening isn’t strong. When you know people are going to be basing the opening of your book on this bit that they see, why wouldn’t you read over it and catch something like this? (I’m talking about all the highlighted ands. Way too many in that short span.) Opening with wild action isn’t enough. It still has to be good writing that people want to read.

Normal books have these kinds of pages before the read novel starts:

.1 .2 .3 .4

Obviously a lot of us won’t have a page for reviews, but you should have a copyright page, and one with just the title, and one listing previous publications (if applicable). That’s just how books are set up.

5. Price your book reasonably. You’re not writing a masterpiece. Even if you are, no one knows it yet. You have to price your book at a price that people will be willing to buy it at.

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Looking at the cover I can already tell that it’s not been done professionally. There is a picture of an eye AND THE EYE HAS RED EYE. I don’t know how some people can overlook these details.  But seriously, $18 for a paperback? This better be an AMAZING novel.

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No. This is a teenager just learning how to write. When I was in 5th grade this is how I wrote. You just have to be realistic when deciding to self-publish. Is your work any good? I still don’t know if my work is good enough for publishing, I’m just going to release it and hope that people like it. However, I’m not writing for a profit. I’m writing because I love to write and I want to share my writing with the world.

In conclusion, make stuff look good. Once that’s over, things have to be good. Really, you should start with the content and end with the surface features. You want your book to look like a published book as much as it can. It should also read like one. You shouldn’t self-publish because you think you’re never going to be published by a real publisher, but because of literally any of the other reasons for self-publishing.