document formatting

She Who Comes Forth book spine

Printed Book DIY

Okay, authors are advised not to do this — design your own cover images, especially for the printed versions of your books. But I did it. Maybe it was the allure of the forbidden. Or maybe it was inevitable, because this whole writing and publishing adventure started with me telling myself, “Think of it as an exercise, not a commitment. Try it and see what happens.”

When I published my first ebooks, almost a decade ago, my home made cover images were indeed lame. After a couple of years I commissioned excellent professionally designed images, which still grace the four books of my Herbert West Series. They were not inexpensive. (“Good, fast, cheap — pick two!”)

A couple of years ago, I started using Canva, just to see whether it was as easy as some said. After some experimentation, I designed cover images for the four short spinoff stories from my main series, published in 2016. Since I intended to make them perma-free, it didn’t make any sense to pay for cover images, and I was happy with the results, although compared to the professional designs, their amateur origin is evident.

She Who Comes Forth print book front coverBy the time my latest novel, She Who Comes Forth, was ready to come forth, I had designed more than half a dozen images for it. Fooling around with Canva is fun, and was a great way to do something related to my (then) work in progress when I didn’t feel like actually writing. After I finalized my final design, part of me could hardly wait to start on the challenge of incorporating it into a cover for the print version of the novel. This was while I was still waffling about publishing in print at all, and a bit apprehensive at the prospect of formatting the Word doc for POD.

So here we are, a couple of months later, and the print version of SWCF exists. I have ten copies right here, nine of which are still in the box with the Amazon smile. And all in all, I’m pleased with it. (I still have all my hair, too.)

The print book may be purchased at your preferred Amazon outlet. This one, for example. The ebook version of She Who Comes Forth will be available on November 7th, and may be pre-ordered now at a special price.

For those who might be foolhardy bold enough to attempt a similar project, here are a few things I learned that others may find helpful. One thing I’ve noticed about documentation, instructions and “help” pages — sometimes they omit tiny but crucial details. I don’t pretend to be an expert, and many of you may know all that stuff already, or have no desire to get into this type of project, so this is for the rest of you. FYI on DYI.

Word Document Formatting:

Amazon KDP provides a pretty good basic formatting guide. And you can usually find good help pages on the internet for most Word issues. This one, for example, tells you how to set up different headers and footers on odd and even pages.

Here are a few of my own personal tips:

First, find a trad-pubbed (or for that matter, indie-pubbed) book you like the looks of and use it as a model for interior design, preliminary pages, presence/absence of headers and page numbers,  etc. Then all you have to do is figure out how to get those effects in your Word document.

Second, make sure your text is perfect (or as close as you can get) before you start formatting. Adding or deleting more than a character or two can mess things up once you’ve inserted Section Breaks, Headers, and Footers.

She Who Comes Forth book chapter heading with moon glyphThird, add your preliminary pages (half-title, title page, epigraph and or dedication pages) and any “extras,” such as the moon glyphs I added to every one of the chapter titles. (They actually represent the moon phases in Luxor, Egypt in 1962 as the story progresses.) Decide on the trim size for your book (6×9 inches, for example), specify the paper size and set the margins. KDP’s “Build Your Book” guide has instructions for these steps, and even little videos you can view as many times as you need to.

Now for the ultimate challenge — Section Breaks, Headers, and Footers. Use the magic of “Save As” before you start, so you have a pristine copy of your document up to that point. If things go wrong, you can scrap the mess and start again without having to go through the process of adding the preliminary pages, setting margins, etc.

Really, once you’ve set up the headers and footers for Chapter 1 (or Prologue, if you have one), it’s a matter of selecting the right type of Section Break between chapters and breaking the link with the Header in the previous section when you want to do something different, like omitting the odd page header from the first page of the new chapter. (See why this can involve hair-tearing and profuse cursing?)

Actually, it seemed to me that the latest version of Word makes the process easier than previous versions. Or maybe it was just because I’d struggled through all this stuff before. Whatever the reason, I found I could rely on a specific sequence of checks and choices as I paged through the document, like a little mental flow chart. It was encouraging to be able to reproduce the desired pattern reliably as I went along.

She Who Comes Forth book title page

The title page. I used Canva to create the picture in the middle (a separate little project). Then I inserted it into my Word doc.

Again, do NOT fiddle with anything that affects the space taken up by your text after you insert your Section Breaks, Headers, and Footers. That would be trim size, margins, font size, line spacing, adding or deleting more than a tiny amount of text. Get all that stuff finalized before you start on Section Breaks. If you really need to make any of those changes, return to your “before Section Breaks” document and make the changes there. Once you’re done, Save As, and start over. (Trust me, “Save As” is your friend.)

 

Finally, before you upload your document to KDP, save a copy in PDF form. That will show you exactly what your printed pages will look like. If there are problems (usually with headers and/or footers), you’ll spot them immediately and can return to your Word doc to fix them. Once everything looks good, you can actually upload your final, perfect PDF to KDP.

For a really thorough how-to guide on the entire print publishing process, I recommend How to Print Your Novel with Kindle Direct Publishing: a step-by-step guide for absolute beginners, by ACFlory. It takes you through the formatting process in detail, with screenshots. This ebook is available on Amazon.

Cover Design:

Anyone who’s comfortable with Canva (and designing images) can create a credible print book cover. You probably wouldn’t want to make this your first experience of Canva (unless you’re a really quick study). Experiment first, getting used to layering images, using transparency, adding text, and moving stuff around. Create some ebook cover images. If you don’t actually have an ebook that needs a cover image, make some for books you mean to write. (The exercise might inspire you.) Once you know you can construct attractive images with the degree of complexity you need, you’re ready to tackle a print book cover.

Before starting, you need an interior book file that’s complete, perfectly formatted, and ready to upload, so you know how many pages your book will have. That determines the width of the spine. Once you know that and have selected a trim size, download a print cover template from Amazon KDP. Go to Canva and start a new project, with customized dimensions exactly right for your cover.  I found these instructions by Katherine Roberts very helpful, especially the calculations to set the custom size for your Canva project.

One of the cool things about Canva is that you can upload your own images to use in your designs. This is also where you upload your print cover template from KDP. By incorporating it into your design (temporarily), you can make sure to adhere to KDP’s specs for bleed and barcode placement.

If you use free images from a site like Pixabay for your cover design, remember to download the highest resolution versions. Images that don’t meet Amazon KDP’s fabled 300 dpi standard may cause your cover to be rejected. (This didn’t happen to me, I’m happy to say).

Select a background, and then layer the cover template over it.  (My background is that textured ochre colour on the spine.) Then proceed as usual, adding whatever elements you need for your front and back covers. Set the transparency so you can see the cover template and its all-important red border lines. For my cover, the spine was the only place where the cover template was the topmost layer (well, just below the spine text). This was important, because after I was finished adding all the elements, including text, and was certain nothing important was on or outside the red lines, I easily deleted the template. Don’t forget to do that, and do NOT move any text or important image elements once the template is gone. You can change filters, transparency, or colours, but don’t change fonts at this point, because that might change the size of text areas. When you’re done, download the image as a printable PDF, and upload both it and your text PDF to Amazon KDP. And rejoice.

 

 

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Prepping the Phoenix

I’m preparing to publish Hunting the Phoenix, the fourth and final book of the Herbert West Series, in print. Having gone through this three times already, I know it can be a bit of a slog:

  1. Reading the ebook on my ereader and making notes. I’m 2/3 of the way through. About 80% of the changes consist of deleting the word “that.” As in: “I made my way over to him, telling myself that I wasn’t all that tipsy.” See what I mean? So far I have 22 ereader pages of notes.
  2. Making the noted changes in the ebook’s base Word document.
  3. Copying that document and formatting it for print. I’ve blogged about that process already.
  4. Writing a brief plot description for the back cover.
  5. Ordering the print cover image from my cover designer once I know the final page number.
  6. Uploading the interior file and cover image to CreateSpace.
  7. Proofing, both online and by reading a printed proof copy.
  8. Making post-proofing corrections. (It would be great if this step wasn’t needed, but let’s be realistic).
  9. Re-proofing. By this stage the online options should be enough.
  10. Making final corrections, if necessary (better not be!) and re-uploading.
  11. Publishing.
  12. Copying all the changes into the Kindle ebook base document.
  13. Uploading the corrected ebook docs to Smashwords and KDP.

There is a bit of fun stuff this time around:

  1. I’ve used good old Microsoft Paint to draw a number of alchemical symbols, which I’m hoping to use as glyphs on the interior title pages of Hunting the Phoenix. Glyphs are cool.
  2. There will be a small (but significant) adjustment to the cover image. Look for a cover reveal in a few weeks!

By the way, I recently ran across something interesting by another WordPress blogger — a history of Herbert West, from his creation by H.P. Lovecraft to recent adaptations. Can you believe a musical version of the Re-Animator movie? Truth! The post also includes a mention of my novel The Friendship of Mortals, complete with (for me) thrill-inducing comments.

Herbert West lives!

Credit for the image (Herbert and the unnamed narrator) goes to Tealin.

Morphing into Print

Fourteen years after I started writing it, my first novel. The Friendship of Mortals, is about to appear in print! It has existed as an ebook since 2010, but suddenly the time seemed right to turn it from electronic blips to a physical object. It should manifest on Amazon within the next week.

It’s been a bit of an adventure making the transition. Other authors reassured me that the document formatting would be a snap. If I had successfully negotiated Smashwords’s “meatgrinder,” I would have no trouble at all turning my Word document into something acceptable to the equivalent program at CreateSpace.

Not. It was a struggle of epic proportions.

When you want your Word document to become an ebook, you strip out all kinds of details — page numbers, headers, footers, section breaks, etc. You want the thing to become liquid, so it flows along like a scroll. A Word document destined to become a printed book needs all that stuff, in the right places and combinations. Page numbers go in the footer. There should be two headers, one with the book’s title, the other with the author’s name. They should appear on all pages except those that start a new chapter or other section with its own title; on those pages, you want a page number only. And of course headers, footers and page numbers must be absent from blank pages and front matter (title page, dedication page, contents page, etc.)

About blank pages — in a scroll-like electronic document, they don’t exist. A printed book, however, is printed on paper, and a sheet of paper has two sides. Brainlessly obvious, you say, but this physical reality is hard to envision when you’re looking at your Word document, even after you’ve selected Mirror Margins in Page Setup. In a book, each page has a front and a back (or, as cataloguing librarians and bibliophiles call them, a recto and a verso). Odd-numbered pages are the ones on the right hand side (recto, get it?) and even-numbered pages are on the left. But an even-numbered page is the verso of an odd-numbered one. Getting confused yet? Just wait.

When you’re looking at your document, now with two pages on the screen, odd and even are reversed. The odd-numbered recto page is the one on the left, the even-numbered verso is on the right. You have to think of those two pages as the front and back of a physical piece of paper. That’s why the page numbers appear to be on the wrong side of the page. You want them on the outside corner, but there they are on the inside. Ah, but once that odd-numbered page is on the right side, the page number will be on the outside. So will the even-numbered verso page’s number.

Once this particular light bulb comes on, you can confidently go ahead and divide your 500+ page novel into (in my case) 18 sections, each with its own combination of headers (two of them, remember!) and footers. Oh, and there’s the matter of the difference between odd- and even-numbered section breaks. I’m amazed I have any hair left.

Once I figured out the above, formatting went fairly smoothly, except for Word’s inexplicable tendency to forget some details until reminded of them, firmly, three or four times. I uploaded my document to CreateSpace and was pleasantly surprised when it passed through with only one “issue” noted.

Now I’m just waiting for the final version of my cover. I had professionally designed cover images created for all four of my ebooks earlier this year. The talented Alisha at Damonza.com has now created a print cover for The Friendship of Mortals. It will look like this:

The Friendship of Mortals - Paperback

I can hardly wait for all the components to come together!

Anyone who has missed out on reading The Friendship of Mortals because ebooks aren’t your preference, here’s your chance to remedy that. Look for it on Amazon later this week.