It’s a bit strange. I’ve gone from being completely ignorant about self-publishing to being to go-to person amongst my friends in the span of two months. I’ve already explored the early stages of the process here and now I will share some of the other hits, suggestions, frustrations and random thoughts about the process now that I am a whole month wiser (I need a sarcasm font!) and I have a couple more iterations of my book under my belt.
Because endless formatting and the start of the school year have left me unable to assemble sentences coherently, I’m going to present this in a series of rambling bullet points.
– ebooks are da bomb! Both programs were easy to work with and the formatting took a minimum of hassle. After I got my head around how certain styles and formatting options looked in html (the file type used for e-readers), it was pretty simple. The main difference between the two programs is that Kindle wants page breaks and PubIt! want section breaks (the latter is also used in CreateSpace so starting from a PubIt! formatted file saves some time).
-For the initial digital cover, I first tried using Fiverr, but I wasn’t happy with what came back. I ended up using Clipart (the online library is pretty good these days) to create my own image in the specified dimensions, saved it as a PDF, and then converted it into a JPEG. It was pretty simple. The main criteria to keep in mind is that the cover needs to look good as a thumbnail.
-I’m not sure about PubIt!, but Kindle offers formatting for a fee (under $100) if you don’t want to tackle it yourself. Otherwise, it’s free. Honestly, it was simple enough, I wouldn’t pay for this service.
-Another benefit of the ebook format is that you can update your file at any time. The turnaround seems to be a few days for the old file to be replaced with the new.
-I was planning on delaying the release of the print book for several months, mainly to give myself a break and to allow time to collapse after the early days of the school year. Alas, it was not to be:) I was surprised how many people not only preferred tangible books, but did not have access to an e-reader, smart phone, or iPad. So, I quickly got to work reformatting.
-Print books are another animal entirely. With an e-reader, you don’t have to worry about where the text breaks because it is different on every device and changes with the user settings. A paperback is static. You have to get that spacing right. CreateSpace walks you through the process. After I selected my book size (6″x9″), I downloaded a free MS Word template in which to paste my text. This is where I made mistake #1. I assumed that the template was already sized for the format I selected since it came after I was prompted to choose a size. Wrong. The template was for a standard size page. So, I formatted (and numbered!) the whole thing incorrectly on the first pass. Grrr. Unlike me, you should change the paper size (under page formatting) first. The template is a bit strange to get used to – it looks like an open book but the odd pages are on the left, not the right as it will be in print. Have fun with that one.
-I decided to purchase an ISBN number ($99) through Bowker so that I have options regarding distribution. CreateSpace gives you information on all of your options. As a side note, if you purchase your own ISBN, you are technically opening your own publishing house. I’m having fun with that one.
“What did you do this summer?”
“Oh, I just wrote a book and opened my own publishing house.”
Giggle:) I don’t tell them it was as easy as providing my address and credit card number.
-Next, set your margins. For most books, set the outer margins to .50 and the inner to .75. If your book ends up greater than 400 pages, your gutter will need to be increased.
-At this point, I recommend uploading your file to CreateSpace so that it can scan for errors and you can view the document in their mock-up program. This way you can fix any margin or gutter issues before you spend time on fonts and spacing. And, yes, this would be mistake #2. You can upload Word or PDF files. I had better luck with PDF holding true to format.
-Now it’s time to start working with the text. Make sure all of the text is the font and size you desire. I’m not going into all of that here – Google it for more information on fonts than you ever wanted to know. Size everything the way you want it before you begin monkeying around with spacing. Yup, you guessed it. That was my mistake #3.
-Okay, you’re margined and sized? Now you have the delightful task of playing with spacing and section breaks. If you need to change entire paragraphs, select the entire document and play around with Word’s paragraph settings. You can specify where they break, if words are hyphened, and the amount of space between paragraphs. Once the basic settings are where you want, go page by page and make sure that paragraphs are where you want. Remember that new chapters should always begin on odd numbered pages (left side in the template). If you need to add a blank page to make that happen, use a section break. One quirk to be aware of – you are not allowed more than three blanks in a row, including at the beginning and end of the book.
-A brief interlude: Save multiple copies of your file as you move through the process. My file became corrupted as I was putting on the finishing touches. I had been saving versions of it at various points, which ended up saving me. I still had to redo all of the formatting, but I could dig through several versions to find the most recent, yet uncorrupted, file.
-The final step is to insert headers (usually title or title/author) and footers (page numbers). I used the directions on this site. Once you get the hang of it, the page numbers aren’t too bad. Until you get the hang of it, you want to throw your computer out the window.
-Speaking of computers…I have a cute little 11″ MacBook Air. I love the thing. It’s small enough to slip into my purse or a backpack and take to the park or a coffee shop. The battery lasts long enough that I rarely have to worry about bringing along a charger. During the formatting process, however, my computer was not my friend. Its screen was simply too small to be efficient. If you have access to a large monitor, use it for this process!
-I thought I was home free after I finished the interior of the book. I was planning on using the image from my thumbnail in the cover template from CreateSpace. Yeah, not so much. First, the cover creator in CreateSpace is pretty (read: very) limited. There are only a handful of templates to choose from and they offer little in terms of customization. After discovering that the pixel count wasn’t high enough in my original image (they suggest 300 dpi), I had to start over from scratch. I was frustrated with the lack of choice, but I didn’t want to spend the time or money to create a cover (much harder to do for a physical book) without the template. If you use their program, try to enter the process with only a general idea of what you want so that you are not frustrated with their (lack of) options. If you’re still counting, I would call that mistake #4.
-As with Kindle, you can pay CreateSpace (around $300) to do the formatting for you. This may be worth it, especially if you have images or other elements that make it difficult to format.
Overall, self-publishing is relatively easy and can be done for little to no money. It is a great option to get your book out to the world without relying on the whims of agents and publishers. So, what are you waiting for? Finish that book you’re always talking about writing!