Is this In-Format-ive?

Today’s blog Formatting and Layout, if you’re self-publishing these are things you’ll have to learn to do. It’s not the most fascinating part of producing a book but it is important, in my life I’ve read hundreds and hundreds of books but, as a reader, I never paid close scrutiny to formatting (something that was brought to my attention by an indie publisher when I showed them a first run copy of Black Knight) so, to help spare you from my mistakes here’s what I learned.

Once your manuscript is written and edited to your satisfaction (not ‘finished’, they’re never ‘finished’) you’ll need to make some decisions. First, what size is your book going to be? If you’re self-publishing you probably won’t be able to just send a word .Doc to your chosen service (Create Space, IngramSpark etc) and have them lay it out for you, you have to do that yourself. I prefer the more ‘traditional’ size for my paperbacks; that is 4.25×7 inch or 178×108 mm. That’s the page size you’ll have to set for your layout file (there are guides on the sites for trim allowances etc). You’ll also want to pay attention to the margin guides when you’re setting up your template. The left and right margins won’t be equal, you have to leave some page for binding, they should also be mirrored. The first facing page will bind down the left edge, all the odd number pages will and the even ones on the right.

Once you have a page to transfer your work to there are a number of other factors to consider. You may have written your draft in double spacing, that’s a common practice, but you only want single space for the finished piece. You don’t need a space after every paragraph either (just between scene changes) but, every time you hit ‘Return’ the following line should be indented (that can get pretty mind-numbing in a 100k manuscript). If in doubt pull a book from your own shelves and copy that. Chapters always start on a facing page so, once you’ve figured out how to set page numbers (took me a while to get it right, I’ll admit) Chapters all start on odd page numbers, use page breaks and insert blank pages, don’t just hit return until the text shifts, that’ll preserve your layout despite whatever changes you need to make later.

Font is a serious consideration, as mush as a swirly fantasy script might suit your content it will also prove difficult to read for some people (especially those on the dyslexia spectrum), a Sans Serif font is much easier to read, Times New Roman is the standard but I use Calibri, it’s easy to read and I think it lends itself to Sci-Fi quite well. Consider size too, you don’t want the page to seem too crowded but a bigger font will increase page count and overall print cost. Again, TNR 12 is a standard gauge for print.

Once you’ve laid out your actual manuscript there are a few pages to add at the beginning of the file, your Author Bio should be the front of the first page and on the back of the same page you can add an ‘also by the author’ list. Next a Title page plus Author name and Publisher. The next fronting page is what I call the ‘legalese’, that is your declaration of ownership, legal support of such (the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act of 1988 works for Europe, I’m not sure about the US) your printer, ISBN and maybe a statement about it being a work of fiction.

You might, then, want to include a Foreword. If you’re a part of a writing group or community maybe find someone to write that for you or write it yourself. It’s not true that ‘No one reads the Foreword’, some do and it’s an opportunity to engage the reader with the story behind the story. Once that’s in the next fronting page can be used for a Dedication, then another Title page (Just the Title) and then you get into the story itself. It might needs be said that none of these pages should be numbered, that starts at page one of the story itself, you’ll want a Section Break after the last title page and a little manipulation of the page number menu to achieve this.

Once the document is laid out in a Word Processor it will need to be converted to a PDF format for printing. I was recommended Foxit Phantom and I pass on that recommendation to you. It’s free (it’ll encourage you from time to time to upgrade, just select ‘Continue Free Trial’ and you’ll have the basic functions you need) and easy to use. The most important thing about the file conversion is to ensure that all fonts are ‘Embedded’. Whatever font you finally decide on Word especially likes to include TNR as a ‘floater’ in the background (even if you haven’t used it) and it might not embed. Save yourself a file rejection and make sure that it’s either embedded or gone.

As with some of the other themes around printing I’ve discussed in the past there are guides online that can help you with all of this. The first ones to read are the ones supplied by the publisher themselves (they’re quite comprehensive) and, should you have any further questions there are numerous ‘How To’ guides for all the Word Processing programs available online.

Some might say they want to find and Agent or Publisher to achieve success, fame and wealth. Nay! Say I, it’s to get away from formatting! More seriously, while formatting can be a daunting process (especially for the less computer savvy among us) all it takes is some time, attention to detail and perseverance. In that way it’s not dissimilar to writing a book, and you already did that. Didn’t you?

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