When formatting your book for print, there is no one right way to do it. The goal is to make your book look not only as good as possible but to make it look “professional” or, in other words, to make it look as close to a traditionally published book as possible. Why? Because that is what the readers expect.
It isn’t difficult to do. Some methods take longer, or cost more, than others. How you get to your end product is up to you. Before we get to some of the options available, let’s go over some basics.
As authors, many of us have been programmed to write in Times New Roman or Courier or a similar font. Usually using 12 pt for type size. Standard manuscript format for submissions has usually included 1 inch margins and double-spaced lines. First line indents can be up to half an inch. We often default back to this without even thinking.
Don’t. At least not when it comes to converting your work for either e-books or print. For print you have to think about thinks like page bleeds, page size, interior margins vs exterior margins, section breaks vs. page breaks, alternating headers and footers and so much more.
Depending on which service you use as your print-on-demand source, you can choose to release your book as a mass market paperback, a trade paperback or even a hard cover. Most of those sources have basic templates you can use — and adapt — which will help you decide your margins and how to place your headers and footers, etc. If you haven’t ever put together a print file before, or if you aren’t comfortable doing so, I recommend you download one of the templates and use it. After you have your manuscript in the basic format offered by the template, you can go back and add what flourishes and changes you want. But it is a good way to start getting used to setting up a print file.
This is especially helpful if you are setting your print file up using Word or a similar word processing program.
This first shot shows basic margin information. (Click on the images and they will open in a new window in a larger format) You can see from the tabs at the top of the screenshot that I found this information in the layout tab (using Word). For a manuscript using 6 x 9 pages and coming in at approximately 270 pages total, the margins are set as shown in the image. Note also that the document has been set to mirror the margins.
The one caveat I will put here when it comes to margins, especially the inside margins is to never trust templates or what anyone tells you. You need to see what it looks like for yourself. The more pages a book has, the wider that interior margin needs to be. This is why I always recommend using a POD supplier that lets you have a physical copy of the proof before you send it to “press”. What looks good as a PDF file on your screen or even off your printer might not look the same once it has been bound. So do yourself a favor, at least until you’ve done enough print books to trust your instincts, and order a physical proof before hitting the print button.
In the same dialog box open to set the margins, click the “paper” tab. This is where you choose the size of your page. You’ll note that in Word, the 6 x 9 size is a “custom” size. This might vary depending on what word processing program you’re using.
The rest of the information in this dialog box seems like it doesn’t have much to do with what you are setting up but go ahead and make sure you have paper selection set to your default tray. This will come in handy later if you decide to print out your mss to check it yourself.
Using the “layout” tab in the same dialog box, you should get something that looks like this. I’ll be honest, this is one of the most important things you can do in setting up your print file in a word processing program. This controls the way your headers and footers will look as well as where your section breaks begin.
This is important because, if you look at traditionally published books, you may see a couple of things. First, there usually are no headers or footers on the first page of a new chapter. Second, the author’s name usually appears at the top of the even numbered pages and the book title appears at the top of odd numbered pages. (To make sure you’re setting this up right, you need to do one other thing. At the end of a chapter in an e-book file, you would have a page break. That gives the digital file the appearance of a page ending and the new chapter beginning on a different “page”. In you print file, you will replace the page break with a section break. In Word, “breaks” are found under the Layout tab. If you click on “Breaks”, a dialog box will open up. At the bottom of the box, you’ll find the alternatives for the different types of section breaks you can insert. Choose “odd page” if you want your chapters to all start on the next odd numbered page. The value of doing it this way, you chapters will all begin on the right hand side of the book and feel more traditional to your reader. However, there is a downside to this in that it can add physical pages to your book and, as the author, the amount of money you get per sale of your POD book depends on how many pages it has. The higher the number of pages, the higher the print cost. I tend to go with the more traditional approach because it is what readers expect and the pricing differential of 20 or so pages isn’t enough to worry about.)
This screenshot shows what you get when you click in either the header or footer areas of your manuscript. I wanted to show this because you can see how I’ve made sure “different first page” as well as “different odd and even pages” have been clicked. Since I’d already set them in the dialog box above, there shouldn’t have been a problem but no computer program is perfect and sometimes Word does weird things — as does any other word processing program. So it is always good to check elsewhere when possible to make sure the coding is in place.
But there is another reason I wanted you to see this screenshot. If you look at the column of options immediately to the left of the “different first page” bit, you should see as the last option “link to previous”. You want to make sure this is NOT clicked prior to your first chapter, or where you want your first page numbers and headers to appear. Otherwise, you will wind up up page numbers on your cover page, etc. If you aren’t sure where to start your headers and footers, look at print books in your genre. See what they have done.
Now, once you’ve done all this and you’ve made sure you have all the flourishes, etc., you want in place, it’s time to save your file. You’re going to do this in two steps. One, as your DOC or DOCX file. Always do this. The second will be as your PDF file. Most, if not all, POD places want a print ready PDF file for both your interior and exterior files. If you want to print your book to read through it one last time before submitting it to your POD provider, print the PDF file because it will keep not only your page size, even if you are printing on standard paper, but it will print the blank pages added in between chapters if you have your new sections always beginning on either the even or odd page.
From there, it is simply a matter of deciding if you are ready to upload the file and move on to your cover file.
Now, a couple of quick notes. If you use Word or a word processing program to create your PDF file, you need to set your margins to justify. (Of course, you can choose not to. As I mentioned above, check to see what the traditional publishers do in your genre and copy it.) If you do this, you may wind up with some odd sentence breaks. You can adjust the character spacing by highlighting the line in question, opening your font dialog box, clicking the advanced tab and then adjusting the character spacing.
One other thing you need to do is make sure you have turned off widow and orphan control. Doing this will insure your pages all end at the same place unless, of course, we’re talking the last page of a chapter where you have only a few lines or paragraphs. It’s a little thing but it makes the book look more professional.
I’ll admit there are easier ways of doing this. There are programs out there that make this a snap. Some have a very small learning curve and others have a much larger learning curve. The industry standard for years has been InDesign by Adobe. I love InDesign. I also love Quarkxpress. Both are anything but cheap and have learning curves most of us don’t want or have time for. Neither are great, at least in my experience, for designing e-books. If I’m going to put in a lot of time — and money — into a publishing program, I want it to do both. For Mac users, I’ve found one that does just that. Unfortunately, it isn’t cheap but it seems to be well worth it. The program I’m talking about is Vellum. I’m going to be buying it later this week. I’ll have a review of it next week for you guys. We’ll also talk about some of the other programs available to help streamline the process. Some of those programs include InDesign, Jutoh and Scrivener.
And now, for a bit of promo.
Nocturnal Rebellion is live on Amazon.
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.