Book Formatting is Like Building a House…Really

A couple of blogs ago I talked about letting my manuscript go, like a Momma Bird lets her Baby Bird out of the nest. Well, this week I have a new analogy. The actual process of formatting is like building a house. The funny thing is I have always said that I will never build a house. Why? Because anyone who builds a house knows that every decision (large and ridiculously small) all are funneled through you.  I have never had a burning desire to pick out doorknobs and heating ducts and ceiling fans. So instead I found a house that was already built and I bought that. And even though I tweaked a few things, I was happy because it was built and I was saved from the minutia.

Hah! I should have know that fate would catch up with me…

Formatting is about details and more details. Don’t get me wrong, I am all about the details in my writing because that is what good writing is all about. But with formatting, it becomes even more important because it is a visual representation of YOUR manuscript. So what do I mean by formatting? Well, your book has to be prepared in a file that can be used for print (if you decide to print your book) and digital. So when it comes time to format, even if you don’t do it yourself, you still have many questions to answer. Hang onto your seats followers. I’m going to educate you 😉

Things to think about for your digital formats:

  1. Formats: epub, mobi or both? (epub and mobi are file types that work with different ereaders)
  2. Font choice
  3. Spacing between paragraphs and between lines
  4. Justified right edge vs. jagged edge
  5. Indentations – for paragraphs and at the beginning of each chapter
  6. Chapter headings (Do you want ‘Chapter 1’ or ‘Chapt 1’ or ‘1’ or…)
  7. Order of front and back matter (copyright, acknowledgements, dedication, author’s note, author bio, excerpts of next book…)

And guess what? You have to think about this all over again for your print version, with some added questions:

  1. Size of book
  2. Paper color
  3. Page numbering
  4. Author Name/Title at the top of each page?
  5. Start of chapters (right or left)

Did I make your head hurt? So sorry about that… Now the good thing is that there are people out in the world who do this for a living. So for me, it was a no-brainer to hire someone to format my manuscript. At least for now. Maybe later when I become an ‘old hat’ at this process I can look at formatting for myself (and maybe not). But a formatter is like a builder and they need the author’s input to create the book in the best possible way.

As a reader, I have never thought about all of the minutia that goes into the creation of a book. As a self-pub author, my eyes have been opened to the world of publishing. Today, I got a copy of my manuscript in a digital test file for me to review. It was amazing to hold my ereader in my hand and look at my name on the title page. And then I got a lump in my throat when I saw ‘Chapter 1’ on the screen.  

2014-06-30 21.06.33Ultimately every little decision will be worth it in the end. And you as the reader can sit back and simply enjoy the finished product and not have to worry about picking out doorknobs. You can leave that to me.








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