Formatting Your Book

Okay. You’ve written your book. You’ve had it edited and polished, now what? If you have decided to self-publish, you need to format your book. Ebooks come in many different formats. Kindles use .mobi files, Nook, Kobo, Apple and Sony use .epub files, and then some people prefer .pdf files or like to read online. How do you approach all those different formats?

Smashwords.com has a manual that helps you prepare your manuscript to go through their meatgrinder. When it is done, if everything is perfect, your book comes out in multiple formats that are then sent on to Barnes and Noble, the Apple ibook store, and can be read on the Kindle. Sometimes, no matter how perfectly you follow the manual, you’ll get a glitch. Then you need to go back, figure it out, and reload it into the meatgrinder.

Amazon lets you upload your own file for the Kindle if you prefer, and Barnes and Noble will let you upload a file for the Nook, but you must have it in the proper format. Ebooks must be set up so the words continue to flow properly, no matter how the ereader is set up.

Then, if you want to make a print copy, formatting begins all over again from scratch. CreateSpace at Amazon offers templates to use for your book. Lightning Source and Lulu.com have guidelines to follow. At each of these places, you must choose what size your book will be, and be prepared to have a cover ready that fits their requirements.

Formatting doesn’t have to be difficult, unless you have a lot of charts, graphs and such in your book. Then it can be a bit of a headache. But if you are overly familiar with your book, you may find yourself daydreaming and miss something. Formatting isn’t necessarily hard, but it is very detailed. You can’t use too may fonts, too many sizes, or use tabs and carriage returns. (Do they still call them carriage returns? If you don’t know what they are, that is when you hit the Return key.)

Word is the best program to use for formatting. If the file is set up correctly, most of formatting is just making sure every paragraph and italicized word has been included properly. Sometimes a paragraph may indent further than you want, or Word may just play with you for a bit. It can be frustrating.

However, there are plenty of people who will format for you. Costs are usually not too extreme for this service. We do formatting, and so do many other people online. The best way to find someone to do it for you is to get recommendations from other authors. Are the formatters willing to make corrections if needed? Will they make sure there are no background codes stuck in the file? Word puts them in sometimes. Do you want a linked table of contents for your ebook? Do you have your front and back matter ready? Keep all this in mind when you begin formatting or when you want to hire someone to do it for you.

Remember… you want your book to look as professional as possible and contain few to no errors. Formatting is all part of how you package your book.

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