Self-Publishing and Formatting Quick Tips

One of the biggest challenges to Indies is getting a professionally published looking book when up against the costs of editing, proofreading, formatting and cover designs. If you can afford these services then foregoing them is not a good idea, but when you really can’t afford them they can mean the death of some really great literature. There are a couple of things that can help though.

Editing or Proofreading Swopsies

Rather than simply asking for Beta readers, offer to swop proofreading services. Writers have a different kind of eyeball when reading. I’ve just finished a Joanna Trollope book, professionally published by one of the big houses, professionally edited and put together, but so far I’ve found a couple of typos and instances of poorly strung together sentences. As far as the cover design is concerned, if it wasn’t for the fact that I was specifically looking for and wanting to buy a Trollope book I wouldn’t have been at all “grabbed” by the image on the cover. We automatically see things that “normal” readers don’t. We’re also all very busy, and generally prefer to choose what we read for pleasure, so we’re more likely to put the effort in to read a draft novel to look for problems if we know that the same service is on offer for one of our own babies in exchange. Offer something valuable in exchange for this valuable job.

Cover Design

I you’re going to have to do your own cover design
then do a bit of in-depth googling and watch how to videos about the way to go before you even try. Do not use Paint or the basic software on your computer. Download free programmes designed for the purpose and find out how they work. It’s a schlep for the not artistically inclined, but at the end of the day it’s better to have a slightly forgettable cover than one which is eye-wateringly terrible. One of the biggest ways to ruin a fabulous image is to use horrible fonts. When in doubt go as plain as possible with fonts. There are thousands of beautiful free images to be had online. Before you choose an image make sure to have a look at how many times it’s been downloaded, and that way you can be a little reassured that it won’t be something that you see on loads of other book covers. This isn’t a huge deal though. Even with traditionally published books, very popular images often seen on more than one bestseller. Again though, while not a dealbreaker for a bestselling author, this could be a problem for Indies.


Once again, this is something that’s going to require work and hours of research on your part, but it’s work that is going to be worth it at the end of the day. Have a look at our previous in-depth articles and view a couple of videos on Youtube by reputable Indies who have gone before. Unprofessional formatting will be noticed by readers and can lead to bad reading experiences and will possibly be followed by bad reviews. Take note that formatting is totally different for different types of book. The Smashwords meatgrinder has a slightly terrifying reputation, but to be honest there are only a couple things to note with it once you have your eBook
formatted for Kindle. First is to get rid of all extraneous line spaces. Never, ever, have more than two consecutive line spaces for Smashwords. Make sure to have “Smashwords Edition” in your front matter, and load your book up as a clean Word document. Unfortunately there are lots of disappointing books about how to format, but there are a couple of good ones too. A pet hate of mine are those who say “Hire a good formatter” when you get to the formatting sections. Seriously, why on earth publish a how to book without getting to the how to nitty gritty? Make sure that you have a look at the reviews before buying any how to book. They are the best indicator.
Basic formatting isn’t impossible to do, but it’s not a magical thing that will just happen without a bit of research and putting in of the time. Good rules to remember are to not format while you write. Forget about fancy fonts, bullets, page numbers and text boxes. These are anathema to Kindle books. Type your book straight out and then once you’ve formatted your paragraph indents and spacing, save different copies for each format—eBook and paperback.

Make sure that you have a NCX table of contents
for your eBook. Regardless of the chats on forums, this is a requirement by Amazon, and even if you’ve gotten away without them in your books so far, at some point their absence will be noticed and acted on.

Formatting for paper is often the most stressful thing for Indie authors. Using paid for software definitely makes the process a lot easier, but not everyone can afford it. When publishing your first book it can all seem overwhelming, but if you take the process one step at a time you’ll generally find it doable. Here are a couple of tips for newbie paperback publishers:

Book Size

Don’t automatically go for the default 6” x 9”. Consider how many pages your book has and then think about how thin or thick the end result will be. If you’re publishing a novella or something with few pages it might be a good idea to go with 5” x 8” to avoid having a really skinny result, or go bigger if it’s a massive tome.

Paper Colour

Generally cream looks better for fiction. White is best for non-fiction in most cases.

Full Colour or Black and White Text

Full colour is going to mean expensive to buy, so unless you’re publishing a book where images are the most important thing then black and white should be good enough. Remember that even one single full colour picture means that the entire book will be printed on a colour press. You could publish two versions—one colour and one black and white. You would use different ISBN numbers for each, and if you do choose to do this make sure to let potential buyers know that there are two options in the blurb section of each.

ISBN Numbers

Using your own ISBN numbers is obviously the best way to go if you can afford them, but there is no shame in using the free ones offered by CreateSpace. The only real drawback with the freebies is that you have to list CreateSpace as the publisher.


I’m not fond of templates in general, but they really can save a lot of hair pulling if you can’t face the thought of formatting yourself. They are free from CreateSpace and the most difficult task involved is a bit of copy and paste.


Once you’ve set your book size you will see your page count. Your margins can’t be set to less than 0.25 and 0.5 is recommended by CreateSpace for all four sides. Gutter margin settings depend on page count:
24 to 100 pages needs a gutter setting of 0.375
152 to 300 is 0.5
301 to 500 is 0.625
501 to 700 is 0.75
701 to 825 is 0.875
To set page size and margins go to Page Layout in Word and click on the arrow next to Page Setup. Change book size in the Paper settings and margins in the Margins settings.

Page Breaks

With a paper book it’s important to separate sections using section breaks rather than page breaks to ensure proper page numbering. Click on Page Layout > Breaks > Next Page to insert these and make sure to remove the regular page breaks where you do put these in.


Click into your headers and footers BEFORE inserting numbers and remove any active Link to Previous instructions in any of them where there are to be no page numbers.

Then go to the page that will have the first page number in your book and click Insert > Page Number and select your preference for positioning.

One very big tip here is that Word can play with you here and reinsert the Link to Previous instructions sometimes, so if numbers keep appearing where you don’t want them, keep calm and simply go back into relevant headers and footers and remove them again. Also double check that you have section breaks in place. Where you don’t want anything in headers and footers in certain places throughout your book, remember to click on Different First Page also in the header toolbar on the relevant pages.

With a bit of work and research you can publish fabulous and professional looking books. Happy formatting!

Embedding Your Fonts for Paperback Books

There are lots of fabulous fonts around these days for us to use in our paperback books, and I think that making them visually attractive as well as wonderful to read is a great idea. Using a plain font for most of the body text is best, but there is no reason not to create great looking chapter headings, or using old typewriter fonts to make letters or notes stand out in your stories. Some fonts are made by hobbyists and offered online free for use commercially so it’s always necessary to check that they are embedded in your manuscript when you load it up to CreateSpace or any other POD system.

CreateSpace says,

“In order to print your book, our printing presses need information about how to properly render the fonts used in your file. Information about fonts is not always included in documents by default, and you may need to take extra steps to explicitly embed fonts when you save your file. We recommend that you always embed fonts within your file in order to have your book print as intended.”

When you’re finished your book and ready to format for paper, click on the Microsoft icon and select Word Options.

Click on Save from the menu on the left hand side. Tick the box beside Embed fonts in file, and make sure that the two boxes beneath that are not ticked, and click OK.

Regardless of which word-processing software you use, to make sure that all fonts are embedded in your final PDF file, open it, and click on File and then Properties.

Select the Font tab. Each font used in the manuscript will be listed there and you can confirm that all are embedded and that your book will be printed exactly as you want it to be as far as text is concerned.


CreateSpace – Final Things to Check

So you’ve finally got your page numbers right. Check that you’ve Justified your text for your CreateSpace book. I know that some authors choose not to justify text in their eBooks (not me), but a paper book really must be justified or it’s going to look messy. Choose your font and font size. You have lots of fonts that you can use in your paperback, but it’s a good idea to stick with something plain, other than for dropcaps or chapter headings.

Decide what trim size your book is going to be and set your manuscript’s size accordingly. From the Page Layout tab, click on the little arrow to the right of Page Setup, then select Paper from the three tabs at the top of the page setup box. Change the Width and Height settings to 6” x 9” or 5” x 8” or whatever size your book will be. If your book has images in it that extend to the edges of the pages, then add .125 to the width and .25 to the height. So you would then apply 6.125 and 9.25. Apply to Whole Document.

In the same page setup box, select the Margins tab. CreateSpace requires a minimum of .25 for the outside margins but recommend .5. I generally go with what is recommended so apply .5 to the top, bottom, and right margin. Leave the left margin with nothing in it and include that in the gutter margin – makes for much less fiddling. What you set your gutter margin to depends on the page count of your book.

24 to 150 pages requires the gutter margin to be set at .375
151 to 300 is .5
301 to 500 is .625
501 to 700 is .75
701 to 825 is .875

Type in your gutter margin, and next to Multiple Pages select Mirror Margins. Apply to Whole Document and click OK.

Finally to apply your paragraph indents, if you’re having them. From the Page Layout tab, click on the arrow to the right of the Paragraph box. For my fiction I prefer indents between three and five spaces. Under Special select First Line, and under By enter your desired indent size, for example 0.5. Select the first paragraph of each chapter and select None if you prefer to start indents from second chapters only. Line spacing for printed books is generally single, so unless you really do want your book double spaced, select Single for Line Spacing. Finally in this box, decide on the space between paragraphs and type this by Spacing After. Anything from 10pt down looks good. Click OK. Save your document when you are happy with the way it looks.

Now you should be looking at your manuscript with two pages side by side rather than one at a time. When formatting your book for CreateSpace, the page you see in front of you on the right will actually be positioned on the left in the actual printed book. Chapter headings in paper books are always on the right, so go through your manuscript with that in mind. All chapter headings should be on the left side of the manuscript of your two page view. You might have to insert a few blank pages to get everything into position, but it is really worth the effort. Check your front and back matter with this fact in mind, and also insert blank pages where necessary to improve the look of the final result.

Save your finished manuscript, and then using the Save As option in the Microsoft emblem in the top left hand corner of your screen, save it again as a PDF file. This is what you will be loading on to CreateSpace.

Never Use Tabs in Manuscripts for Kindle

When submitting manuscripts to traditional publishers, you are generally required to number your pages—apart from the title page—and to indent first lines of paragraphs, as well as various other specific to guidelines formatting related things. With this knowledge instilled, a lot of writers will set these things in place when they start writing a new book to save time later. If they’ve never formatted books for Amazon and CreateSpace before, they’re not going to be aware of how tricky it can be to remove these things. Even if you’re planning on outsourcing your formatting, it’s a much better idea to avoid any possible mistakes.

Tabs anywhere on a manuscript for Kindle can cause all sorts of really terrible issues with your published book. It’s a much better idea to stick with only the basic formatting required when you type your book on your computer. For a newbie at formatting for CreateSpace, you could end up pulling out large clumps of your hair trying to get your already numbered pages to start in the right spot, so rather than fight with all these things later, when you’re already at explosion level in the excitement of imminently getting your finished masterpiece to the eyeballs of readers, don’t use any bells and whistles at all.


Rather than tabbing your paragraph indents, set up your Word document to do that automatically. Either do this before you begin typing, or Select the whole document first. Go to your Page Layout tab, and then click on the arrow to the right of the Paragraph box. Under Special, select First Line, and then choose how many spaces you want to leave on the first line of each paragraph. Under Line Spacing, select Single, and click OK.

As well as first line indenting, don’t use tabs anywhere else in your manuscript either. Tabs are totally out for Kindle. Only your paper book gets page numbers, so don’t bother about that at all until just before you’re ready to publish. If you’ve already got a manuscript with these things in place, make very sure to remove every single one of them before trying to load your book up to Amazon, either by using the Show/Hide (pilcrow) feature in Word, or going for the blitz method by clicking on the arrow in the Change Styles box and selecting Clear All. This will take out every little bit of hidden formatting, and you’ll have to start from scratch, but at least it’s one way you can be sure to get rid of anything that could make a mess of your published book.

If you’re planning on submitting to publishers, rather make a copy of your manuscript when it’s complete, and add all of the agent/publisher required formatting to that, keeping your original totally clean, in case you decide to go Indie with it at any point.


Keeping Your CreateSpace Images at 300dpi

An author emailed me recently and said that he couldn’t understand why CreateSpace was telling him that the images in his book did not meet their requirements. He had made sure that they were all 300dpi and they were all large resolution files. He’d made sure to insert them into his Word manuscript rather than using copy and paste, so as far as he was concerned all should have been well when he loaded his PDF file. He hit the ignore button and went ahead with publishing his book as it was. When he received his proofs though, he realised that something had gone wrong with image quality after all.

One thing that a lot of new to paper publishing scribblers don’t know is that Microsoft Word will always try to automatically compress any images in your document to 220ppi. Often we’ll just assume that CreateSpace is mistaken as we are quite confident that our carefully edited and sized images are just hunky dory, and then we click on ignore and publish away. Unfortunately CreateSpace is highly unlikely to be mistaken with this, so we are actually publishing low definition images after all. The thing to do is to get rid of the automated compression in your manuscript before saving as a PDF file, and double check again before doing that too. Here’s what to do.

(Click on images to enlarge)

Insert your image into your document.

Insert Picture 1

When your Picture Tools menu appears, click on Compress Pictures.

Compress Picture 2

Select Options.

Options 3

Uncheck the Automatically perform basic compression on save box and click OK.

Automatically Uncheck 4

Once you’ve made sure that this box is unchecked for all the images in your manuscript, it’s time to save the whole thing, whereupon Word could once again try and compress your pictures. To be sure that it won’t we’ll do a bit more unchecking of boxes.

Rather than just simply saving the document, use the Save As feature from the Microsoft icon in the top left hand corner.

Save As 5

Click on Tools below, and select Compress Pictures.

Save As Tools 6

Save As Tools Compress Pictures 6

Here once again, uncheck the Automatically perform basic compression box on save and click OK before saving.

Save As Options Uncheck 8

Once you’ve saved your manuscript this way, you can then save it as a PDF file and it should load up to CreateSpace with no image resolution  problems.

Why Use Kindle Matchbook?

There are a couple of reasons why you might want to offer your eBook with its paperback version at a steeply discounted price, or even free using Kindle Matchbook. People love a bargain, so it stands to reason that they’re really going to like the freebie best of all, but for instance – when buying a paper book as a gift they then can get the eBook for themselves at a steep discount – bonus. If someone is spending ten bucks for a paper book, an extra ninety nine cents shouldn’t be hard to spend. You get the full seventy percent royalty on the small sale which isn’t a huge pile to be true, but most importantly it also gives your rankings a boost. Also noteworthy, giving a free full colour eBook with a black and white paper self help book can do wonders to boost your CreateSpace sales.

Putting high quality colour images in your Kindle book is easy and only costs you a small amount of your royalty whenever someone buys and downloads it. Putting colour images in your paper book for CreateSpace is a whole different deal though, and you should always use the calculator there to find out what the minimum cost to produce it will be first before hitting any save button. Consider if colour images justify the high end cost to your readers.

It makes no difference how many images in your paper book are colour – the cost to print will be the same whether there is one or a hundred colour pictures in it. My non-fiction book is only a hundred and six pages long and if it were to be printed with colour images it would cost over twenty dollars. For a simple how to book such as mine is, I doubt that many people would be willing to fork out that kind of money. Unless you want to publish a special full colour children’s book, a fabulous coffee table tome or recipe book, or anything that really is all about the pictures, you might want to stick to black and white, but sweeten the pot by offering a full colour Kindle version using Amazon’s Matchbook feature.

There are still people out there who adamantly refuse to buy anything other than paper books, but the majority of us enjoy the convenience of eBooks. With Matchbook you can offer the digital version of your book either discounted at two ninety nine or less (textbooks nine ninety nine or less), or give it away free to anyone who purchases the paperback. Not only does your reader get to have the convenience of being able to look at a physical book on their desk while they’re using it to learn to do something – possibly on their computer in which case it can be a pain flipping between the how to book on Kindle for PC and whatever it is that you’re trying to learn – but they can also access any links that you’ve put in the eBook as well as getting to eyeball the colour images.

You will see whether or not a book is enrolled beneath the blurb on its landing page.


To enroll your own book, go to your bookshelf and select it in the Book Actions tab.

Matchbook Enroll

Understand the Tools of your Trade

You’re unlikely to find gainful employment as a secretary if you can’t type. Any job of work that you want to do obviously requires some study and knowledge of what you’re going to be doing. Likewise if you’re self-employed, while you can call yourself anything at all, if you really want to do what you do as well as you can, you’d be wise to arm yourself with knowledge of your field, and also knowledge of the tools that you use to do your work. For scribblers one of your most important tools is your word processing software. If you’re an Indie publisher just knowing the very basics is not really good enough, unless you can afford to outsource formatting and all the rest. It’s a good idea to study up on what your word processor can and can’t do because either way knowledge can never be a bad thing, and it’s much more satisfying to know that you’re the captain of your own ship and unlikely to land up on the rocks.

In today’s world you can learn anything you like online. Just like being successful at school it depends how much work you’re prepared to put into it. There’s a lot of incorrect information online as well, so going in, the first thing to do is to check out the source of information. If you want to know more about Microsoft Word 2007, which is what I use and is the preferred software to use for publishing on Amazon, then head straight to the source. There is all you need to know about this software available from Microsoft themselves, as well as from respected and established gurus with visible and impressive credentials online for you to find, study, take piles of notes about, and become the ninja master of your main writing and publishing tool. Likewise for Scrivener, Mac, or any other system you use.

Two of the main problems that Indie authors have are typos and the final formatting of their books either to publish as eBooks on Amazon or paper books with CreateSpace. Typos will always weasel their way in – the little sods, but some of them can be avoided by knowing your way around your software, and using the tools available to you. Word is a powerful system with loads of functions that many scribblers don’t know about. The fact that the biggest piece of advice for formatting eBooks is not to use manual paragraph indents or tabs tells us that many Indies are using their word processing software as good old fashioned typewriters. We need to step up and stop flailing around doing that. I’m learning something new all the time, so I can indeed confirm to all of you that it really is never too late to teach an old dog new tricks. It’s up to you whether or not you’re prepared to put the time in. Setting aside a few hours to watch or read tutorials isn’t going to hurt. It could feel tedious, or it could feel exciting – depends on your mindset going in, but you’re absolutely going to come out on the other side with more knowledge and confidence in doing the job you’ve chosen to do.

It’s worth taking some time to explore the power of whichever writing software that you have. For instance, in Word 2007, pop up to the Microsoft Icon in the top left corner and click on Word Options. There should be something similar in any software you use, so if it’s not immediately obvious, Google will be your friend here.

Word Options

Next click on Proofing.

Word Options 1

Now just have a squiz at the various automatic proofing options to choose from. For instance, Ignore Words That Contain Numbers comes automatically checked. As writers, why on Earth would we want to do that? Uncheck that puppy straight away.
Word Options 2
You’re not going to break anything by slowly going through your options here, and it will empower you as you scribble away. It’s comforting to know what you’re doing – even just a bit. Also take the time to explore all the tabs above. Watch tutorials if you don’t know what they all mean. It really is worth taking the time to get to know as much as you can about this particular tool of your trade. Use what’s available to you rather than floundering. Do you use the Find and Replace features up in the top right hand corner there? Another incredibly helpful tool in our quest to rid our works of typos and grammar gremlins particular to ourselves. Did you know that you can view two documents at the same time? Open up two documents, and then click on View Side By Side, and Bob’s your uncle – no need for endless click overs when reference material is needed.
Word Options SBS

Finally, the most common cause of pain in the writerly posterior when publishing on CreateSpace is getting the page numbering right. The very simple answer is getting rid of unseen formatting, particularly the Link To Previous commands within the header and footers before the start of the first chapter.
Word Options LTP
Simple as that. A tiny bit of formatting knowledge that will make your Indie road a lot less painful. Take the time fellow scribblers, to learn about the tools of your trade. Just as doctors, plumbers, and even telemarketers take the time to learn about theirs. If this is your career of choice, arm yourself with the knowledge you need to do it as well as you can.

Can You Change Paper Trim Size and Colour on CreateSpace?

Before publishing your first paper book with CreateSpace there are a couple of things to consider. Even though you can update it and change the content, once the book has its ISBN and is live for sale you can’t change its size and the colour of the paper. Also, once it’s linked to its Kindle book on Amazon they keep a certain amount of printed books in stock for their quick delivery system, so if you find any major errors in it and rush to fix them, those in stock books will still have to sell first before the corrected ones become available. You could order them yourself I suppose, but I’m not sure how many are printed for this and I don’t see how you could get them from Amazon’s other country sites.

Most of the CreateSpace books that I have bought are 6” x 9”, mostly printed on white paper, as are two of my own books, but there are actually quite a few size choices. I wanted to change the first book in my series to 5” x 8” with cream paper and only then discovered that it couldn’t be done, so now I have no choice but to use the same for all the books in the series. It’s not the end of the world, but it’s nice to know these things before rather than after publishing.

When you’re ready to publish in paper, take your time making sure you’re totally happy with all of your choices. First grab a handful of books from your bookshelf and see what finished product you prefer. Measure those puppies. Unless you have lots of pages, the 5” x 8” with cream paper looks really good. I will only be using cream paper for my fiction books from now on because I love the way it looks and feels, and you don’t see many fiction books with white paper. CreateSpace actually does a great job quality wise when you compare their finished products to some traditionally printed books. White seems the obvious choice for non-fiction, although that would depend on the look you’re going for.

Once your paper book is live and for sale on Amazon you can’t unpublish it and take it down and then republish it again if you hate the way it looks, because they won’t allow that in case someone who bought it wants to sell their copy. It’s so easy to chop and change or even unpublish eBooks that we’re not happy with, but once the paper books are published and selling, it seems they’re forever.


Self-Publishing is the Future-Guest Post by Author-Kimberly Castillo @K_A_Castillo

Self-Publishing is the Future

by Kimberly Castillo






Author of The Convenience of Lies


Two separate small publishers offered me contracts to publish The Convenience of Lies. I turned both of them down because I didn’t like the terms they were offering. For both contracts I would receive minimal royalties (less than $0.25/copy sold), would be required to do all of my own publicity, and I would have to sign away the rights to my book. One publisher even required me to pay my own editor! At that point, it seemed like all the publishers were really providing for me was cover art and prestige, and for a very high price.

To be honest, I didn’t want to sell myself out like this. The Convenience of Lies is a project I started 10 years ago and I have truly invested my heart, time, money, and soul. While I was shopping my book around the traditional publishing world, it fell into the hands of an editorial reviewer, who gave me a glowing review of my work. Not only that, but my mom is a high school English teacher and she’s had boys in her class who don’t like to read complete it in one night, by choice. I was not about to let a traditional publisher take advantage of my creation.

At the same time as I was querying publishers, I was also researching self-publishing. I discovered that I could self-publish through Amazon’s CreateSpace and receive royalties of over $5.00/copy, which is more than a 20x increase from traditional publishing. Also, CreateSpace has a cover creator tool that I could use to generate the cover, and has a print on demand option. Meaning, when someone orders my book from Amazon, CreateSpace prints it, takes their cut of the profit, and sends me the royalties. There is no up-front cost for either party.

Not only is self-publishing arguably a better business decision, due to the internet it is now the choice of the future. We are in an era where we don’t need a publisher to reach our audience. The internet has cut out the middle man and made it so that artists can reach their audience directly. This applies not only to publishing your book, but also to promoting your book. Between tumblr, twitter, facebook, reddit, and the blogosphere, you can reach out directly to readers as I am doing now. Keep in mind that many traditional publishers require authors to do this promotional work. So, let me ask you, what is that traditional publisher really doing for its authors?

As ironic as it is for me to say as an author, the world of traditional publishing is ending. Artists can now affordably create professional works and also reach their audience as never before. Not only that (and a real cincher) the author can also keep possession of the rights to their works through self-publishing. The world of traditional publishing is simply taking too much from authors and not giving them enough in return. The internet has cut out the middle man with the connections and has given you direct access to those connections. As they say, it is simply up to you to seize this opportunity.


Kimberly Castillo

Buy Convenience of Lies at Amazon













The views, opinions and positions expressed within these guest posts are those of the author alone and do not represent those of either or The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. We accept no liability for any errors, omissions or representations. The copyright of this content belongs to the author and any liability with regards to infringement of intellectual property rights remains with them.

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