Saturday, June 13, 2015

7 Things I Learned About Book Formatting


Why I Learned Book Formatting

The first ebook I published on I formatted myself with the help of a friend. I had no clue what we were doing! I muddled through using the Smashwords directions and published the book. A year later, I paid a service to reformat the same book in order to make it look professional.
            Since then, I’ve published three more books and paid to have to of them formatted for me. I finally formatted the fourth by myself.
            The first service that formatted for me did a nice job. But I quickly learned that if I had to go back into the document for any reason, especially to fix that “one more typo” a reader discovered, the process involved getting in touch with the formatter, filling out a form, possibly paying a fee (most services allow a few fixes before charging), and then checking it over after republishing to be sure it was properly fixed. I hated having to use a middleman to make corrections.
For book two, I used a different formatter. I paid a rather large amount this time, nearly $300. When the returned my document, he suggested I go over it before publishing. It didn’t take many pages to discover that there were a lot of things that needed correcting! He had totally ignored a note I’d sent with the request for a few things I wanted done, and missed many others. It took hours to find everything that needed fixing. Then I had to put each and every item on a request form for him to edit, along with a page number and what the correction should be. More time spent. After it came back I had to check over everything once more, and again found many he had missed. He had ignored a separate note I sent with something I needed done that didn’t fit on the form. This process continued until it was finally right. This back and forth resulted in two days work for me.
 I’ve always hated the thought of doing my own formatting, but determined to avoid any future agony (that I’d PAID for), I had a friend show me how he formatted. He uses the html method, which, while considered the “best” way to do it, for me, was way too detailed and painstaking. I gave up after a while and hired the job out once more.
            I went back to the original service, since they had not put the burden of checking the work totally on me. But, apparently, since the first time I used them, they had changed their procedures and I went through the very same pain-in-the-butt process as the one before! I spent hours again trying to fix someone else’s mistakes after paying a few hundred dollars for the service. After that I vowed to do my own formatting.
           Another friend volunteered to help me. It wasn’t easy, as she uses a Windows program and I have a Mac. But we did it, and my newest book, Iced Malice, was formatted by yours truly.

                        Things I learned the hard way:

1.      Find a friend to help you, one who formats regularly and thinks it is easy. One with patience!

2.     No matter who teaches you, or whose directions you use, formatting is a challenge. I'm not sure that any set of directions will be exact for your system.

3.     Be prepared to experiment to find what works for you. A lot of trial, error, and patience is required.

4.     Take notes for future use when you do find what works.

5.     Formatting the print version of a book is a lot more difficult than an eBook. All the above apply. Createspace has user forums that are very helpful.

6.     When asking a question online, be sure to add which  program you are using and detail your issue as much as possible.

7.     About books on the subject. They are helpful in acquainting you with how formatting works, but don’t expect any book to have exact directions for you. If anyone knows of one, tell us about it! I use an iMac with Word 2008 for Mac and found most of my answers online. And not all in the same place.

Dear Readers,
The most important thing I’ve learned is how good it feels to be able to do the nasty job of formatting by myself. I'm fortunate in that I have a friend who is on standby for me to answer questions. I’m still learning. Formatting is something that the more you use it, the easier it gets, so don’t give up. I haven’t tried using templates (available for a fee online) but do know even those require some formatting knowledge. There are just so many times you need to make changes, even to add your latest book to your list, that being able to do this yourself makes things a lot easier.
Good luck, hope you find something that makes your writing life easier,