Printed book and Kindle formatting
In this second feature about self-publishing costs, I will look at the formatting of your book for print and Kindle. This step is a key aspect to creating a “Masterpiece” not an “Disasterpiece.” 🙂
TIP: You can create your own PDF versions in minutes for free, without any fuss. These are handy to sell directly from your website (via sites like paddle.com), or send to reviewers.
If you need to create a PDF
- open your file in MS Word
- select File from your ribbon tabs
- choose the Save As option
- choose “Save as PDF” from the dropdown list
- save your file
This works with Excel and PowerPoint too.
Note: I’ve not looked at the other e-book production needs. Thankfully, the other formats (like ePub) are often bundled with the Kindle preparation services. If you want to do it yourself, check out some free software called Calibre.
Print formatting prices
- Average: £188.43
- Prices: £419.00, £325.00, £150.00, £137.00, £129.00, £99.00, £60.00
- Suppliers: 3 online teams, 4 small businesses
Tip: Some print bundles included a free Kindle version – check that out when you place your order.
Kindle formatting prices
- Average £88.52
- Prices: £190.00, £100.00, £60.00, £58.74, £33.86
- Suppliers: 3 online teams, 2 small businesses
Note: In my experience, these Kindle prices are geared towards fiction writers. Nonfiction authors often need to lay out complicated features like
- data tables
- complicated diagrams
- complex nested lists of bullet points
- steps to complete a process
These need a lot more checking than the standard prose you would expect to see in a fiction novel. When you send off your document, keep a close eye on your inbox, in case the formatter needs to charge more to handle things that are intricate to lay out consistently. You’ll hear back pretty quickly if there are thorny layout issues to resolve. Quite often I have had Kindle formatters just refund me leaving me high and dry! Argh!
Professional, preformatted book templates
- Average: £64.50
- Prices: £80.00, £49.00
- Suppliers: 2 small businesses (One of which is me 🙂 )
What do you get when you pay for print formatting
Formatting for print looks at 2 main aspects
- making your information look fantastic, for example
- copyright page on the left
- sufficient margins
- chapters starting on new right-hand pages
- the information is consistently presented, for example
- everything is evenly spaced
- text sizes are consistent
- bullet symbols are consistent
- captions appear under images and not bumped onto the next page
Again, you can pay someone to do this for you, or you can do it yourself. (More on the pros and cons and how to save time money and hassle later).
Why does professional quality book formatting matter
When it comes to print formatting, things like margins and page numbering are set once for the whole document. This makes it quick to change all the pages in seconds if required.
Consistency is much more involved. Each page needs thorough checking.
I’ve chosen to focus on the detailed, consistency-based checking for the tips.
You need to do a thorough consistency check throughout the whole book to make sure its presentation is clear, crisp and professional.
If your finished book looks like the textual equivalent of Frankenstein’s monster-– a horrific collection of random bits and pieces stitched together-– it will look amateurish. And nasty.
(Have a look at rock-star bassist Nikki Sixx’s biography the Heroin Diaries – A Year in the Life of a Shattered Rock Star for an example of quirky bits stuck together! Even then, it has a broadly common theme – grunge!).
What to check for when your book has been formatted
You need to know what to look for whether you plan to do your own formatting, or outsource it. Why? Well, once your formatted book is back, you must check nothing got missed. Mistakes happen, and most publishers expect the author to double-check the manuscript is signed off as error-free – not them!
Make sure that all the font faces, styles and sizes are consistently applied. The best way is to look at the headings, main text and any emphasis text (e.g. handwritten-font feature boxes, bold and centred quotes) one-by-one and make sure the following is consistent
- font face – e.g. Arial, Times New Roman
- font style – e.g. bold, italic, underline, subscript, superscript
- font colour – most books are black and white, although you might use a dark grey
- line-spacing – the empty whitespace above and below the text – e.g. there should be bigger spaces around headings than normal paragraphs, or before and after bulleted lists
- the same symbol is used for the same level throughout
- the same indent is used for the same level throughout
- the spacing before and after the list matches
- the padding round the text in each cell is consistent
- the row height is consistent for the lines of text
- the header rows have the same emphasis style, like larger bold text and a background colour
- the text alignment is consistent – right-aligned for numbers, left-aligned for text
(There are lots more things to consider but this blog post would become very long! I’ll stop there).
Pros and cons of doing your own formatting
The basic formatting, setting the margins, making sure your copyright page appears on the left (verso) page and so on can be done by anyone. There are relatively few things to check.
The tricky part is the consistency formatting. You need a real eagle eye for detail to do this. You don’t necessarily need to be a creative wizard, but you do need the ability to spot inconsistencies and fix them.
If you’re not a person who notices an extra millimetre of indent in a bulleted list, or that one heading is 18pt not 17pt sized font used throughout the rest of the book, you’re not the person to be doing your own formatting (origination).
If you’re on a tight budget, you need to find someone who loves detailed work and has advanced Word skills to go through your work. It will take them a fair few hours, depending on the quality of what you give them. Be nice. Do the right thing and offer the best barter / free / affordable reward you can to thank them for helping.
Formatting your interior images
We also need to make sure your images are “print-ready”.
Typically, when you’re working with computer-based images, the resolution is 72 or 96 dots per inch. Unfortunately, these images don’t work well when printed, they look fuzzy and are poor in quality.
For print, your images need to be 300 dots per inch – much bigger and more detailed! (If you’ve ever opened a digital camera photo image you’ll know just how big images destined for print can be.)
Your book needs to have very crisp, very clear interior artwork – whether that’s a data chart, a diagram, a photo, or a highlight, like an exclamation mark or question mark icon in the margin.
You don’t want amateurish, unclear images in your book. Imagine the annoyance when readers see a brilliant flowchart, then discover the text is small, fuzzy and illegible.
You can check your images’ resolution by checking the file properties.
Make sure you’ve added 300dpi resolution images to your book.
TIP: after fixing the formatting, get 2 or 3 friends to lightly proofread your book. Tell them to look out for any layout issues, and strange (or missing) words and sentences.
Why do this? Imagine you needed to bold some text. First, you need to select it with your mouse, then click bold icon. If you press anything on your keyboard while the text is selected and didn’t notice, your word to be bolded would disappear and be replaced by whatever you pressed! Equally, if you use keyboard shortcuts, it’s easy to press CTRL+V rather than CTRL+B next door and paste whatever’s in your clipboard, rather than bold the text. Look for new errors that have crept in. It can easily happen.
What do you get when you pay for Kindle formatting
When you are creating your Kindle version, it’s more complicated. I would say you need more of a programming-orientated skill set than design or editing. (That said, the person creating the Kindle version needs to keep their eye on design and proofreading for simple mistakes that happen during the conversion! It’s doable, but probably the hardest DIY task).
If you’re lucky, and you have a good book template that is Kindle friendly, it will upload and look ok.
The problem is, devices that can read Kindle books vary wildly in size. Worse, text flows vary on devices, depending on what size the reader set their font to be. It’s not all reliably fixed in position as it is in print.
Your large annotated diagrams and 10-column data tables that worked wonderfully in your massive A4-sized printed workbook might struggle to work correctly on a 5cm wide smartphone screen! It gets… interesting to say the least!
As well as keeping yourself busy dealing with the highly unpredictable… I mean… flexible layout… Kindle books are also interactive. For example, the table of contents items when clicked take the reader to that section. Footnotes and endnotes when clicked go somewhere too. This is another thing you must master and test thoroughly!
You can see why investing a small amount in outsourcing Kindle formatting makes sense!
To create your ebooks, use a free tool like Calibre. This will let you edit the HTML and CSS that make up your ebook. HTML and CSS are used to layout website text, so if you have experience of editing your own website, you’ve got a head start – if not you need to learn about it.
If programming makes your head spin, then outsourcing makes sense. (I hope this information gives you an idea of how much work is involved when you ask a friend to help you with your project– would you build the equivalent of a 150 page website for free for a mate – maybe not!)
How to save time, money and hassle with getting your book formatted
I recommend from the start, you use a preformatted template with placeholder text. If you download a template from CreateSpace or Lulu, they only set the page size and the margins! Absolutely none of the interior text design will pre-prepared to guide you. Zip! Nada!! Zilch!!!
That’s why using a preformatted template makes sense. It saves having to do detailed formatting for each page later. It’s a quick and consistent way to write and layout your book. Your book looks good right from the start. This boosts your confidence and enthusiasm. It also cuts down on distractions as you fight to format your text.
Want to start a new idea, just copy and paste a heading and a bit of body text and type your words over the top. #Boom. Need a table? Just copy and paste it in then add your data. There’s no need to fiddle around with your ribbon icons trying to hammer it into shape.
Another thing about using a well-styled template is you’re not distracted wondering how to lay out your text as you write. You miss out on all the “fun” of fighting with your bullet points when they indent erratically. It’s already decided, leaving you to focus on keeping your text clear and concise (which in turn saves you money on editing because you’re not taking your eye off the ball 🙂 )
Good printed book templates have a lot of the interactivity, like the clickable table of contents linked to your headings built in as standard. This makes them ideal for Kindle too. (Just remember what I told you about complex, wide content – it probably will get mangled so prepare your Plan B layout for that. I know it hurts when your digital version doesn’t exactly match the print version, but it needs to be done.)
In the next post we’ll be looking at how much it costs to self-publish a book from design perspective.