Formatting for Print Revisited

Formatting. The bane of every author’s existence. Whether we’re talking about formatting for print or for e-books, we’re all looking for the one click version, something that will work each and every time. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Why? It goes far beyond the fact we use different operating systems and word processing programs. The answer really rests in what readers expect and how do we, as indie authors or small press authors, make sure our work looks as “professional” as that of the Big 5.

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of formatting for print, I want you to do something. Look at print books in your genre, preferably newer ones, and see how they are put together. Look at the order of front matter. What sort of flourishes are used to set off the chapter headings and section breaks. Does the first paragraph of each chapter begin with a special character or is it in some other way different from the other first lines in the section or chapter? Check more than one book and see if you can spot a trend. If you can, you need to seriously consider doing your best to imitate what is being done. NOTE: many times, those special characters used as flourishes at chapter titles and section breaks are specially licensed fonts. So make sure you have the rights to use anything similar.

Now, there’s one more thing you need to decide before we get to the actual formatting conversation. No, it’s not do you need to do a print book. The answer is yes. It isn’t because you are going to make money off of them. In fact, it is best if you look at the print version of your work as a loss leader. But what it does is make your author page and product pages look more “professional”. Readers will subconsciously take you more seriously as a writer if you have both print and digital versions of your work available. And, yes, I know I am not following my own advice right now. The reason is because I am updating my print versions and have taken a number of them off-sale until I do.

So, what is the question you need to ask yourself? It is what service to use for your POD (print-on-demand) needs. There are a number of different versions out there. Lulu, Lightning Source, Createspace, KDP are just some of the more familiar ones. They all have costs involved and some cost substantially more than others.

I’m not going to tell you which service to use. I will, however, tell you what I have used and why. Right now, all my print books are through Createspace. I chose them not only because they are easy to use but because they are cheap when it comes to buying author copies. They also allow you to order a physical copy of the proof and I’ve learned that’s important. What looks good as a PDF file can suddenly look very differently in print. So I want to hold a copy of the proof and be able to check every page before sending the book out into the wilds.

The downside to using either Createspace or KDP for your print needs is their association with Amazon. That means a number of bookstores won’t stock your book. Now, before you gasp and say how much you want your book on the shelves, it’s time for a heavy dose of reality. The chances of you getting into a bookstore are slim, very slim. First of all, most of our bookstores are still chain stores. That means they have their own purchasing agents and those agents are going to stock major publishers over the local indie author. Fewer and fewer chain stores have local buying power. As for the locally owned bookstores, if you have a really good relationship with the store owner or purchasing agent, you might be able to get your book in if you use Lightning Source but that is still a long shot. So you have to ask yourself if it is worth the price difference of setting up your book and getting it printed. Ask yourself if you sell more copies via online sales, sales from physical stores or from hand sales at cons. Then choose which printer, for lack of a better word, gives you the best product for the dollar.

CAVEAT: Do not use a printer that requires you to buy a certain amount of books in order to qualify for their program. That smacks of the old vanity presses that would “publish” you but you then had to buy scores of the book and sell them yourself. There are still authors with boxes and boxes of their books sitting in the garages because of that scam.

The next thing you have to consider is what program you are going to use to format your book for print. You can use Word, or alternatives like LibraOffice. You can use InDesign by Adobe. Then there’s Scrivener. If you are a Mac user, Vellum is also an alternative. There are others programs as well. Some let you write directly into the program. Others assume you will be working in a program like Office or Pages and will then import into the conversion program. Each have strengths and weaknesses.

So, here’s the thing. I could go on and write another 1000 words or so on formatting but this post is already over 900 words. In the comments below, tell me what programs you intend to use to format your work. Ask your questions about where you can go to have your book printed (Createspace, etc). In fact, ask any questions you have about formatting for print and next week I will answer them.

In the meantime, Nocturnal Rebellion is available for pre-order. Publication date is 8/15.

All she wanted was a simple murder case, one uncomplicated by shapeshifters or interfering IAB investigators. What she got instead was much, much more.

Now three cops are dead and Mac’s world will never be the same again. It is up to her to find the culprits and bring them to justice. But what justice? That of cops and attorneys and criminal courts or that of the shapeshifters where there would be no record and a quick execution of punishment, whatever that might be?

As she walks that fine line, Mac walks another tightrope as well. Shapeshifter politics are new to her and, as she has learned, more complicated than anything she ever encountered as a cop. One misstep can lead to not only her death but the deaths of those she cares for. Like it or not, she has no choice because she has learned there are other things just as inevitable as death and taxes. Sooner or later, the world will learn that shapeshifters aren’t just things of legend and bad Hollywood movies. If that happens before they are ready, Mac and those like her will learn the hard way what happens when humanity learns monsters are real and living next door.

36 Comments

Filed under AMANDA, WRITING: PUBLISHING

36 responses to “Formatting for Print Revisited

  1. paladin3001

    I am not even close to thinking about publishing anything. Currently my word processor is Libra Office and I will probably be stuck using that for awhile. As to formatting I will be applying any tips, tricks and pieces of knowledge that I can to current WIP’s to save time. Of course things could and will probably change as I learn more.

  2. Luke

    I would really like a rundown of the strengths and weaknesses of the computer programs.
    I’m familiar with Word. I’ve vaguely heard about LibraOffice and Scrivener, but know next to nothing about them. This if the first time I’ve even heard about InDesign (I think).

    • Really, it’s what you’re used to using. If you’re using Word, there’s no need to jump to LibreOffice and face a learning curve there, then another to format a book.

      • Luke

        Ah, see…
        My copy of Word is a few iterations behind, and explicitly for non-commercial use to boot.
        .
        I’m going to have to transfer files, face a learning curve, and reformat anyway.
        I might as well figure out the best option.

      • TRX

        Back in 1984 Stuart Brand edited “The Whole Earth Software Catalog.” It would look pretty alien to most modern computer users, as there was more than 1-1/2 platforms then…

        Anyway, in the section on word processing, he commented something similar to people latching onto editors or word processors like baby ducks imprinting on their mother; once someone had imprinted, you had to pry it from their cold, dead fingers.

        Since I’m still running a 1986 text editor in an emulator for an operating system that went away twenty years ago, I suspect he may have been on to something…

        I wrote and sold two books with it, and a dozen-odd magazine articles, and Baud only knows how many web pages and lines of code. After thirty years of using that editor, my thoughts simply skip all the intermediate steps and appear on the screen.

        • Josh Griffing

          Let me guess: it’s a C64 emulator, running SpeedScript? I remember SpeedScript! And not from an emulator, either! Rock on!

    • LibreOffice is similar enough to Word that you could probably give it a go without ditching Word. I’ll just put a quick post together with some screenshots of what it looks like. Gimme a few min.

  3. Uncle Lar

    The author I’ve been working closely with of late does her writing in MS Word. When done she turns the master over to a gentleman who uses InDesign to format for trade paperback print. She then inserts a different ISBN into an e-book master and sends that along with the front cover graphic to me. I add the graphic to the metadata then generate mobi and epub files for submission to Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
    We use Ingram Spark for print. They charge a $49 setup fee which is refunded if you order 50 or more books within the first month. They will also offer to upload your e-book format to all the online sales outlets, which we did for the first book in our new series only to discover after the fact that they take a whopping 30% off each sale as a fee. That little detail was buried somewhere in the weeds. The Ingram Spark system is like that, convoluted and rather a pain to navigate, but they do a very nice print product so we continue to use them for hard copy, but now upload our own e-books to Amazon and B&N as those are the only two that deliver sales for my author’s books.

  4. I am on a Mac and use Word. I have started the process a couple of times and been stymied.

    I have a friend who uses InDesign, but that’s a subscription service. I understand I should learn to use it because that’s what you can get taught how to use by people like Dean Wesley Smith and others. I would love to know of someone I could pay to do it for me, but I can’t afford to pay in the thousands. Alternatively, I would happily take a class if someone were to teach one using Word for Mac.

    • Look for various free guides on formatting a Word document for ebooks. If you’re using styles to format your document, that’s half the battle right there.

    • Uncle Lar

      The guy who does our print formatting and our covers as well works cheap because he’s sleeping with the author. Just don’t tell her husband.
      He is a professional graphics artist at the day job and uses InDesign by subscription regularly. What he uses on our stuff is an old stand alone version he bought for himself back when Adobe still offered that option.
      FYI, Steph and Darrell are happily married and he’s done some kick ass covers for the new series. Some folks just don’t get subtle jokes I’ve learned.

  5. Nods. When I was formatting my last book (finally finished for release, yay!), I looked through I don’t know how many books for that age range (3rd through 8th Grade, and may bump it up to 4th) and genre for formatting. It varied a surprising amount. There’s graphics at the start of each chapter of some; others have none. I ended up using a simple design that nearly drove me bonkers (short trip, anyway), and used that on the flyleaf, the Table of Contents, and the start of each chapter. Went with drop caps, and formatting that was another drive toward Bonkersville. Having Kindle Previewer on the computer showing it different that Kindle Preview on KDP and a Kindle Reader didn’t help. FWIW, Kindle Preview on KDP seems to render it most like a Kindle ereader.

    I came within a hair of doing image drop caps. I didn’t because I wanted the reader to be able to resize all text.

    The whole idea was to make it look as good as or better that TP ebooks. “Better than” doesn’t seem to be a terribly high bar to reach, which is a plus for indie.

    One thing I added, in addition to declaring copyright and restrictions, is a “This is a work of fiction” disclaimer. Don’t know if that’s a good idea or not.

    Something I wanted to was a certain “Look.” This is the first book of a series, and want all the other books in the series to use the same font and incidental graphics. Even the cover layout will remain the same, though with a different graphic and background color.

  6. Raises hand:

    I’m confused. Is Amazon phasing out Createspace? Noticed KDP now allows us to release our works in paperback. The notice that it’s royalties less printing cost gave me pause, as that evoked images of PB that were a net loss per sale, and ending up owing Amazon money.

    • I would avoid the KDP paperback option until Amazon improves the service. I tried it recently, thinking, “Why not give it a shot and save having to check sales reports in two places?”

      The “Why not” is simple–the only way for authors to order their own books is by paying full list price from their book’s Amazon page. There’s no discount at all. Once I discovered that, I immediately canceled the KDP print version and went back to CreateSpace. I took my most recent book to IngramSpark, which is a bit more expensive, but I like the book more than the CreateSpace books. (Of course, 39 days after release I’m still waiting for the print version of my book to show up on Amazon.)

      • Uncle Lar

        Having put four print books up through Ingram I would caution you that if it’s been more than a week or so double check the settings for that book on their dashboard. The process is so convoluted that you can miss one tiny yet critical step and cause the release to enter their version of book limbo.

  7. (2nd Attempt).

    Nods. When I was formatting my last book (finally finished for release, yay!), I looked through I don’t know how many books for that age range (3rd through 8th Grade, and may bump it up to 4th) and genre for formatting. It varied a surprising amount. There’s graphics at the start of each chapter of some; others have none. I ended up using a simple design that nearly drove me bonkers (short trip, anyway), and used that on the flyleaf, the Table of Contents, and the start of each chapter. Went with drop caps, and formatting that was another drive toward Bonkersville. Having Kindle Previewer on the computer showing it different that Kindle Preview on KDP and a Kindle Reader didn’t help. FWIW, Kindle Preview on KDP seems to be more accurate.

    I came within a hair of doing image drop caps. I didn’t because I wanted the reader to be able to resize all text.

    The whole idea was to make it look as good as or better that TP ebooks. “Better than” doesn’t seem to be a terribly high bar to reach, which is a plus for indie.

    One thing I added, in addition to declaring copyright and restrictions, is a “This is a work of fiction” disclaimer. Don’t know if that’s a good idea or not.

    Something I wanted to was a certain “Look.” This is the first book of a series, and want all the other books in the series to use the same font and incidental graphics. Even the cover layout will remain the same, though with a different graphic and background color.

  8. I’m going to bite the bullet and get Vellum. I’ll let you know how the experiment goes.

    • I’ve got Vellum and love it. It’s expensive–about what you’d pay someone to format a couple of books for you–but well worth the cost. As a bonus, you can download the software and try it for free. You can’t generate actual ebook or print files until you pay, but Vellum’s emulator has been spot-on for all my books. You really do get what you see in the emulator.

  9. Eowyn

    I’ve always been fond of using LaTeX and getting a pdf, but I don’t know how well that would work for Createspace et al.

    I just find the idea of being able to program the flourishes to be so darned attractive. 🙂

    • It should work just fine, particularly without interior illustrations; see “Latex in CreateSpace”, for example.

      He also links to a GitHub project, aginiewicz/createspace (link omitted to avoid WordPress’s two-link rule) which can be helpful—even if you can’t use the package directly, the code is straightforward enough that you can replicate the parts you need for getting the layout & metadata in the format CreateSpace (or whichever POD solution you’re using) likes.

      • I should note: The issue with illustrations is only for color pictures, not B&W art; and all the issue is, is the need to include a “ICC color profile”.

  10. garynealhou

    I just did one for my wife using Microsoft Word and the Kindle Create templates for Word. No graphics but it included a custom font for chapter headings. The next book will likely use the templates, but go to CreateSpace instead. The most painful thing about formatting for print was getting the pagination and headers/footers aligned. Next time I’m starting by removing all page and section breaks, then applying headers/footers and adjusting them until correct, then going back to apply odd-page section breaks.

    The question: do you have a short checklist of things to check for print versions?

  11. garynealhou

    Oh, and I use Gimp and occasionally InkScape to format my covers, using templates provided by Kindle Create or CreateSpace.

  12. Jamie

    Though I use Scrivener –> Sigil for ebook, and Scrivener –>.rtf or .doc –>InDesign CS6 for print, a lot of what follows can be adapted to whatever program you do use, which may take out some of the stress and mystery.

    Keep in mind, there’s a free program called Scribus for book layouts. I use ID because its user ecosystem has tons of free help that’s a Goog — er Bing search away. Lots of forums and websites with typesetters etc. who will know what you’re trying to do and will help you for free, or point you to free resources.

    Example, the typesetter credited in the “Deathly Hallows” colophon shared what settings he used for laying out that book in InDesign. You could adapt most of it to whatever program you do use, just go to indesignsecrets.com and search for “Harry Potter and the switch to InDesign.”

    Sign up for free at Lynda.com and take Nigel French’s InDesign course where he lays out Alice in Wonderland. It’s gold, even if you’re using Word, because he gives the underlying principles of book layouts and not just the ID-specific software steps.

    Key detail off the top of my head: whatever your text size, multiply it by 120% at minimum or 140% at most to determine your leading/line height. So, if you use a 12 point font, a 15 pt leading will be comfortable reading. Observe that when you’re doing ebooks, Amazon asks that you set the line height with percents or ems — NEVER points — and as a minimum use 120% or 1.2 ems. The results are easy on the eyes.

    When you’re reverse-engineering tradpub books, a cheap and useful tool is a printer’s line gauge that’s about $7 on Amazon. It’s the Westcott 12-Inch Graphic Arts Combo (GA-96), and it lets you measure text size and leading. It’s see-through, so if you examine tradpub books with it you’ll have verification of what I said above about print-size/leading.

    Example: “A Dance with Dragons” interior body font is 11pt Electra, with ~13.4 leading. Shorter books may be 12pt with generous line heights. The “Deathly Hallows” colophon said the book is 12pt Adobe Garamond. An InDesign experiment says the leading is 16.8pt, or 140% of the font size (the Westcott gauge only goes up to 15).

    If you want to determine what size chapter headings or running headers should be in relation to the main text, consider using the Fibonacci sequence (it’s a thing among typographers) to scale up or down.

    Because of that line gauge, I discovered a simple guide for cover design as far as the size of the fonts: it’s typical for a book’s title to be around 90 points, with the minimum around 48pts. It depends on the trim size of the book. What size to make the subtitle and the author’s byline? Here’s a useful link: https://www.coverdesignstudio.com/font-point-size-book-covers/

    Good luck!

  13. Jamie

    Oh one thing: I was distressed when I saw an indie whose books I love and re-read repeatedly, turned out to have paid someone to typeset the books (the company is named). Reason being, the typesetter clearly ripped off said indie. I’d love to volunteer to fix it.

    Here’s one dead giveaway to the ripoff: the prevalence of widow/orphans at the top of the page. I’ve seen arguments among typographers as to which one is the widow, and which is the orphan. I’m referring to whichever poor soul is at the top of the page.

    Specifically, if a full line in a text block is about 12 words, the very top line on a page should not be one word or two, etc. Unless it’s that one Mary Poppins sings about 🙂 You need a full line.

    To clarify, if the first line on a page is: “Oh no,” she said. obviously that will be a short line, but it’s a complete line so it’s acceptable. But if it’s no,” she said. and the line ends there, and it’s obvious that the rest of the dialogue/sentence is on the preceding page, then it’s unacceptable. I hope that’s clear.

    The latter mistake is a dead giveaway that an amateur set the page. I never see tradpublishers do that. If you do nothing else, make sure you have a complete top line (I think it’s called squaring off the page).

    One trick I noticed in the “Deathly Hallows” was that if a page spread is typically 29 lines per page, the typesetter would go down to 28 lines per page in a spread specifically to avoid (he said) the widow/orphan problem.

    A more simple option may be to simply break up paragraphs if it’s logical (for example, a line of dialogue broken off from a chunk of prose), or combine them (if dialogue is spoken by a character in direct relation to the chunk of prose).

    Another option is to tweak the hyphenation/justification settings, which can determine how many words fit on a line, especially if you’re trying to avoid having very short words, e.g., “if,” as the only word on a line. You have to pick your battles with that one. If you go that route, don’t adjust the tracking more than 15% in either direction, as that will lead to noticeably sparse or cramped spacing between the words/letters.

    In the poor indie’s case, the typesetter sometimes crammed a lot of words on a line, indicating a tracking of -20% or more. That leads to eyestrain. I’m guessing Word has feature to let you control that (I’m a WordPerfect user when I don’t otherwise use Scrivener).

    Once again, good luck.

  14. Grrr. Just spent most of today putting a new cover on a book I pubbed years ago on CreateSpace. CS wouldn’t let me change anything. Amazon was glad to publish it, but I couldn’t change the size, paper, gloss or not on the cover . . . And they’re incredibly picky about the cover size you down load. Really? Exact size to 1/100th of an inch? Grrr.

    • Interesting. I’m debating CreateSpace vs KDP paperback, and was leaning toward CreateSpace because it could put my non-fiction booklet into places where it would help sales.

  15. Pingback: Quick post about LibreOffice – Write | Shadowdancer Studios

  16. This is partly LaTeX-specific but mostly applicable to any book-preparation system: Peter Wilson’s A Few Notes on Book Design. Covers fonts, page-spread layout, book frontmatter (what goes in the title page(s) or in the copyright page) and much more.