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.