Monday, October 10, 2016

Lessons Learned from My Indie Publishing Journey Part 2: 6 Tips for Novel and eBook Formatting

I'm not a fan of writing rules, but I do have a few I hold to. One of them is that, if I get 3 individual requests for a post, I will write said post.

After writing Skies of Dripping Gold, I conveniently ignored the first 4 requests for a post on how to indie publish because, honestly, that's a tall, intimidating order. But then the 5th request rolled around and I realized I couldn't put it off any longer. So I accepted it graciously:
Because indie publishing is a rather involved process, I decided to turn it into a blog series. Part 1 can be found here, which is an overview of how to jump into indie publishing. Part 2 is about...*gulps* *looks over shoulder* *whispers* formatting.

I'll have bad dreams for weeks after writing this. I hope you're satisfied.

Okay, I'm kidding. Formatting is something of a bad word among indie publishers, but it actually isn't terribly difficult. It's just a time suck. Let me give you some pointers:
Lessons Learned from My Indie Publishing Journey Part 2: 6 Tips for Novel and eBook Formatting

Yes, I'm aware that I already told you that a few times in Part 1. It seemed worth repeating. 

Tip 2: Don't forget about the front matter
What is front matter? Simple. It's the title page, copyright page, dedication page, and preface (if you have one). Read about that here

A note on the copyright page: You do not have to buy a copyright. You wrote it? You own it. Those are the laws. That being said, it is a good idea to reiterate this in the body of your work. For example, I put this in my physical copy
Note: my ebook does not include ISBN numbers. Neither should yours.

Yes, these laws go without saying, but I put them in anyway just to state: "This is my precious. If you mess with it, there is no measure to how fast and how hard I will bring this fight to your doorstep." So while you should put something like the above in your story, you don't actually have to dole out money for a copyright.

Tip 3: Use Amazon's formatting guidelines
Read them and follow them like Bucky Barnes' life depends on it. 

Kindle: KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) has some simple guidelines here. You can find a lot of the necessary information on that page. The rules are fairly simple: 
  1. Use page breaks. 
  2. Do not hit "enter" at the end of a line. 
  3. Use page indentations rather than using the "tab" key.
  4. Don't copy and paste images. 
  5. Use Doc or Docx. KDP hates PDF, so if you'd like to keep your cursing to a minimum, don't use PDF. 
Making these corrections alone will take quite a bit of time, but it's pretty easy to understand. If you run up against something you don't understand, type your question directly into the KDP site. The answers will be there 99% of the time. You just have to be patient. And the other 1% of the time? *slaps upside the head* What part of Tip 1 did you not understand? 

Physical: CreateSpace is a bit trickier. For formatting the interior, I recommend using this article first and this one for supplement. Have questions? Refer to these articles. Still have questions? Look at this page. It has dozens of articles written for frustrated, confused writers just like you and me. 

Unlike KDP, CreateSpace prefers that you format in Word, but then convert to PDF before uploading. 

Now, getting it formatted is going to take a long time. Don't rush it. And don't worry about missing something. Amazon has a failsafe (See Tip 4).

Tip 3: Use the formatted template for physical copies
Please. There's no reason not to. CreateSpace will give you a formatted template with all of the correct settings: 

Take advantage of this. Will formatting still take a lot of time? Yes. But it will take less time if you do it this way. 

Tip 4: Use the Reviewer/Previewer resources
That file you're sure is correct? It's not. Trust me. Thankfully, Amazon has not overestimated your competence and has a program to keep you from utterly failing. 

Physical:  Createspace will give you the option to use their "Interior Reviewer." Do NOT skip this step. Amazon will load your PDF into their review system. It takes a long time to load, so you'll probably be staring at this screen for a while: 

Once it has loaded, it will tell you all about the things you did wrong. Now you can go back to the file, make corrections, then re-upload into the Reviewer. More things will be wrong. Repeat the process until you see only green checkmarks. This will take several tries. That's okay. After all, why do we fall? So that we can learn to pick ourselves up. 

Kindle: For Kindle publishing, you will be given the option to use an "Online Previewer," which is similar to the Createspace "Interior Reviewer." Use it. It will show you how your story will appear on all different Kindle devices: 

Go over this with a fine tooth comb. Any glaring formatting issues will be apparent.

Tip 5: You can design your own cover...given you have some patience and skills
Yes, you totally can design your own cover. No, you don't need super fancy digital tools. You just need to know how to get your image at the correct DPI and how to follow the Amazon guidelines. But I'm not going to lie: It's a huge pain. Getting the dimensions right is very difficult and will take a lot of time.

Kindle: Kindle cover guidelines are here. Pay close attention to pixel dimension and DPI. If you get this wrong, your cover will be distorted. You can either upload your very own cover, or you can use Kindle Cover Creator. I made my own image, then uploaded it into Kindle Cover Creator to add text:

Physical: You can make your own PDF file (instruction here), but you can also use their Cover Creator. I thought PDF sounded too involved for my first time, so I went with Cover Creator. They allow you to choose from a plethora of cover designs. The design I used was "The Palm," which allowed me to create the cover image, then upload it to Cover Creator. I recommend this, as it allows more control. Take a look:
If the cover is completely incorrect, there will be a red dot rather than a green dot next to the "Front Cover Image" tab. If there are small problems, you will see a warning (like the one above). Also, note that the image I have put in Cover Creator for this example is less than ideal because parts of it will be cut out when printed. Also, if you choose to use "The Palm" design, you will have to upload a picture with the title and your name on it, as it will not put this information on it for you.

Note for both ebook and book covers: You want your cover to look nice as a small thumbnail, as this is how it will appear in Amazon search results. Take this into account when designing your cover. 

Tip 6: Purchase a proof copy of your physical copy
You don't want to order your book along with all the other peasants. Several weeks before publication, order a "proof copy" of your story so that you can look it over before anyone else sees it. Make sure it looks the way you want it to. If it doesn't, you can make changes before the book is made public.

See? Not so scary. The important fact to remember when Amazon indie publishing is this: It's not hard. It just takes a lot of work, time, and patience. Clearly all qualities that you possess if you have managed to write and edit a book. 

Do you still have questions about formatting? Please let me know! And, if you have already indie published, leave your expert opinion below to help others out!

Enjoy this post? I'll be finishing up the series with Part 3: Tips on Pricing and Distributing. This will be released this Friday (the 14th). Subscribe by email to have it delivered straight to your inbox! 

Related articles:
Lessons Learned from My Indie Publishing Journey Part 1: 7 Tips for Getting Started
5 Tips for Creating an Eye-Catching Book Title
How to Format a Magazine Submission in 15 Steps


  1. Great tips as always Hannah! I found them really useful (Especially tip 5) and I will definitely be rereading this post several times if I ever complete my book. But anyway, thanks for posting all these useful tips! I'm really looking forward to part 3 tomorrow.

    1. Yay! I'm glad to hear this. Tip 5 was helpful for me, too, because when I started out I remember thinking, "I suck at drawing and have none of the right tools." But, as it turns out, none of that particularly mattered, which is awesome. =D Anyway, if/when you complete your book and are looking into publishing, just let me know! I'd be happy to help with any questions you may have. =)


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