Tag Archives: Formatting

Working With Formatters

Quite a few of my clients have come to me to have their books formatted, and then found themselves unable to update their already published works with their latest releases because they don’t have the formatted Word manuscripts on file. That’s fine if the formatter who worked on your previous books is available to do the updates. Hopefully the formatter is still in business and findable, or even alive. Things happen. If you have the formatted manuscripts, either your current formatter, or yourself, can do the updates in minutes and have the incarnations required by the various publishing platforms quickly. If you don’t then you either leave them as they are minus any future updates or have whatever manuscripts that you do have on file reformatted, which is a waste of money.

When hiring people to work on your book, here are a few things to take note of before sending your manuscript over and making payment:

Decide what you like and want in the beginning for all versions of your book. Have a look at published eBooks and paperbacks and make notes of what you like and don’t like. If you aren’t sure, discuss first to see what the formatter can offer you.

Make sure that the book is ready to be published as far as editing and proofreading are concerned before sending it for formatting. If you’ve used Word’s Track Changes for editing or proofreading, make sure that these aren’t still visible. Your formatter will know how to do this and should do it for you, but if you’d rather do it yourself it’s simple in Word. Click on the Microsoft icon in the top left hand corner.


Click on Inspect

Click on REMOVE ALL. Obviously you must be sure that you have totally finished with any changes before doing this, because it really will remove all. You might want to keep one manuscript with revisions still viewable for a while, and save a new document to send to your formatter.

Have all your images ready in high resolution JPG/JPEG files, and send as attachments for the formatter to insert. Nothing less than 300DPI for CreateSpace.

Have your front matter and back matter ready, together with author photo and high resolution already published cover images if you are using them.

Have a list of your links to social networks, as well as instructions on how and where you’d like to see them in your books.

Find out what the formatter supplies. INSIST on the final formatted manuscripts for both print and eBook, as well as the MOBI and PDF files that you will use to upload.

Even if you have no desire to ever have anything at all to do with formatting, make sure that you at least are aware somewhat of the process. Don’t feel that you are being rude or unreasonable by insisting on ALL the relevant files—you’re paying for them, and the final manuscript that gets converted to ePub and so on is much more important to you than the actual ePub. Anything could happen. Something might happen to the formatter, or you might decide that you don’t want to work with that particular person again, but find yourself obligated to return to them again and again because otherwise you have to format backlist books again which is an unnecessary expense.

Finally, take note that you want a formatted Word Manuscript to load up to Smashwords, and not an ePub unless you have a really image heavy or otherwise fancy book. In that case make sure that the ePub is a top quality custom design. Also take note of what Smashwords has to say about formats produced from ePub uploads:

Unless you also upload a .doc file after you upload your .epub file, we are unable to create ebook files in other formats (PDF, MOBI, online HTML, reader, etc). If you only upload an .epub file, your book will not be available in the multiple formats produced by Meatgrinder, and not available for online sampling through HTML or Javascript readers at the Smashwords Store, or available through partial sample file downloads. Our retailers, however, will generate samples. We may add partial sampling or other auto-generated formats at a future date.

Unless you have InDesign and are able to use it, you won’t be able to update those files without it, but having them will save you money in future if you need to hire someone again to tweak or change your book in any way. So, your list of file receipts from your formatter should be (even if you don’t think you will need all of them, get them and keep them):

Formatted eBook as a Word document

MOBI file for upload to Amazon

MOBI file for use as email attachment to reviewers or for gifts and prizes

ePub for use as you choose

Formatted paperback as a Word document

PDF for upload for CreateSpace (print on demand)

Formatted for Smashwords as a Word document

Smashwords ePub if required

Fun with Filing

It’s a good idea to keep your virtual filing cabinets in good condition. Rather than having to search through a mile and a half of documents for a document whose title you forgot a year ago, create specific files and folders for specific things, and then make an effort to use them.

When you’re writing your first book you are blissfully innocent of the pitfalls that could await you when the time comes for editing, formatting, and loading onto the various sales sites. Many writers still hit the tab key for indents, and whack the carriage return button to create as much white space as they’d like to see on their title page. While this is fine for the paperback version of your book, it’s going to get promptly spat out of the Smashwords meatgrinder, and the tabs could cause some really terrible things to happen to your MOBI file. So it’s a great idea to be a little pedantic when you’ve written THE END at the close of your tale. It’s a good idea to hit a happy medium, and have a different file for each publishing format, but also not to keep every single old manuscript file “just in case”. Here are a couple of tips to retain a little bit of sanity when the time comes to launch your baby into the world.

Create a master folder for each book, and then create sub-folders within that folder. Keep your original manuscript as simple as possible. Just type it. Don’t fiddle with formatting at all. Don’t use tabs. Be gentle with the carriage returns. Just type it. Just type it. Just… You get the idea. Don’t use one manuscript to format across all publishing platforms. Trying to format a MOBI file from an already formatted CreateSpace file is a bad idea, although the other way around is not as much of a headache. The problem with Word is that it likes to assume what you’d like, based on what you’ve been doing, and Auto formatting can cause lots of glitches in an eBook, especially when you start getting into using a whole lot of different styles. Save yourself lots of future headaches and keep your master manuscript nice and pristine in its own folder. From there Save As new manuscripts for your eBook, Smashwords, and paperback formats, and work on each individually and from scratch. By trying to “save time” and simply trying to convert and then re-convert the same manuscript, you’re guaranteed at least one large headache, and sometimes the only way around such glitches is to completely wipe all formatting and start from scratch – not a fabulous way to go.

It can seem a bit tedious in future to have to visit each folder and manually update a typo found, but it’s worth it. Also remember to delete old files, and to add the latest date to the name of your most recent manuscript file. For instance “XYZ for Kindle 9 15 2016” as a file name will ensure that you don’t accidentally load your pre-proofed copy on to Amazon, a thing that happens very easily when you’ve saved every incarnation of your book file using different names, and believing that you would most definitely remember the most recent.

Even your virtual filing cabinet can become overwhelming. If that’s the case with you, then try and grab a couple of hours to clean it up. Delete all outdated files and manuscripts, and organise the rest, so that whenever you need to update or check on any of your already published works, everything is in place, and you won’t have any sort of disaster lurking and waiting to happen to you. Happy filing fellow scribblers!


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.