Thursday, April 10, 2014

Riks final installment - Publishing for Self Publishers.

Before you get into Riks third blog that concludes 'Riks Week' here on Wilsons Way, I would like to take the opportunity to thank him again for the time, effort and knowledge freely given to help all aspiring Authors. 

Some simple thoughts on formatting your own work for publishing.

Point one – Formatting matters a great deal and seems to be the number two complaint about both self-published works and traditionally published eWorks. And, unlike editing (the lack thereof being the number one complaint), you can format your own work if you have the skills, the time and the patience. Whether you wish to format your own work or have it done for you, I make these suggestions:

First – a bit of background. Word processors all add hidden things (called markups) that make what you are writing look good on paper or on the screen. Files produced for the World Wide Web also have tags, or markups. In the olden days of formatting documents, the person formatting would add the marks by hand. For example, if a word was to be made bold a tag would be entered in front of the word to start the printer bolding it and then after the word to stop the printer from bolding everything that followed.  “The quick brown <B> fox </B> jumped …” and the word “fox” would be printed in bold type. So what you say?
Well – word processors now do it automatically for you and each word processors has its own codes or mark ups and they are not compatible between them and they are really not compatible with the “engines” that run eReaders. And so, you need to get rid of those hidden, invisible little codes before you are ready to send your file to your favourite eReader vendor. We call this process “nuking” the file. And, it is important. Also, tabs don’t work on eReaders, and those special characters that looked so good in MS Word can  look like “swear words” (%$$#^$#) in an eReader. Here is my procedure:

1.    I take your MS Word document
2.    I copy it and paste it into a plain text (.txt )
3.    I save the text file and then open a new template that I make for Kindle or Nook or Kobo.
4.    I copy the nuked version into the template
5.    I reformat all the bolds and italics that you had as well as set the look and feel to match what you want using eBook friendly Styles.

Here are some suggestions:

·         Use Styles and use the fewest possible number of Styles. Set up Style normal so that you either have a 0.3 inch indent, or, you have a 6 point gap after the end of the section.  NOT BOTH. Some eBook vendors will reject your work if you use both the indent and the gap.
·         Never use the Tab key – tabs just don’t work in eBooks
·         Never use the Space Bar to move your text in, that is what the 0.3 inch indent does for you.
·         Never use the return (Enter) key to add extra space between things. Many eReaders will ignore extra Returns anyway. I set up a Style called “Any Break” (that is just the name I call it). And my Style “Any Break” has a 6 point gap in front of it and a 6 point gap after it. If I add an extra Return and make it Style Any Break – it will be a gap 12 points high – and that way you can set off sections. (Many authors like to show time passage by adding five asterisks, centered on a line – here is a great place to use Style Any Break.)
·         I also use two or three more Styles. I use a 14 point bold centered for the title of the book, a 12 point bold centered for the authors name and an 11 point bold centered for the things like “Kindle Edition”, “Contents”. And “Dedication”.
·         Do not worry about the font. Kindle displays everything as a courier type of font no matter what you do. They seem to use their very own sort of specialized proportional serif font.

Point three – Even if you are going to have someone else format for you, do the same thing. Use as few styles as possible, but use Styles. Remember – many formatters, myself included, charge by the hours. I can format a novel much quicker if the author has used Style normal all the way through than I can if the author has used 74 different styles. And much quicker means less charges to you.

Point four – This is the same as Point two in the last blog - If you can’t do it all, remember this adage:

“Do what you do best and what you love, hire out the rest.”

If you have specific questions, ask them here in comments or contact me directly.

Just Rik's morning coffee thoughts ...


Bio – Rik is married to Linda, an author. Rik and Linda met 44 years ago in the student newspaper offices at a college in Chicago. Linda was writing then, Linda still writes (
Other than checking out potential lady friends, Rik mostly just hung around the office, wrote a few headlines and tried to look busy. The next Christmas they were married. Forty-four years later Linda has more than 25 works published, both traditionally and by self-publication. Rik is a sort-of-retired educator. Today Rik provides educational technology support to a local university, formats books for authors (, is a professional Magician ( and spends as much time with Linda on their boat, Mystery, with their cat Captain Hook, as they can. They have two children and seven grandchildren.

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