Formatting 101

So, you want to write a book, but you don't want to go back in the end and have a daunting task of formatting it for the various different file types you will need for both the ebook and paperback publication. Since I get asked how I do it all the time, I am doing step-by-step on how I started. Once I show you how to formulate the template to meet YOUR needs, make sure you SAVE THAT TEMPLATE so that you always have it. Save it a second time with the title of the book you want to work on. That will be the one you use for your next release! When you're ready to start another book, you'll open up your template, save as your new book title, and rinse & repeat the process. Never rename your original template once you have it set to your liking. Okay, now that I have given that little warning, let's get started. I do all my formatting using Microsoft 365 (Word) and Jutoh. You do not have to use these programs. They are simply the ones that I will be using for this demonstration (and the ones I prefer after a decade of testing multiple programs). Step ONE: Go to Amazon (click on the highlighted, underlined word Amazon to go direct to the download page) and download their paperback manuscript template. Grab the one that says "templates with sample material" as it will be easier for our "starter template" purposes.

Now, once it's downloaded, go to the place on your computer where your downloads go (usually your downloads folder, unless you changed your preference). You will see a zip file there. Click to open it up and you will be greeted with a language preference selection. Choose the language you need. Obviously, I chose English.

Now that you have chosen your language, you will be prompted to choose your paperback book size. I believe the most popular size option is 6x9, which is a really tall book. I prefer to use the 5.25x8 size. If you're not sure what is right for you, and you have paperbacks by your favorite authors, you can always ask them what size they use for reference. I know it's hard to figure out without visuals. I started out, with my first book, by ordering several proofs in different sizes in order to test this out. That also meant formatting several different sizes, etc. It was a daunting process. I do not recommend. That was a long ago writing trauma though. So, let's just choose a size and stick with it for the sake of this tutorial. 5.25x8.

Okay, so now we have our language, our paperback trim size, and we're ready to open this bad boy up and take a look at our starting point. Once you open the word doc, you may see a little bar at the top of the document that asks you if you'd like to enable editing. YES! You absolutely have to enable editing. Now that you have, first thing is first, go ahead and scroll through all the pages. Get familiar with them. Now, here's what I do, because this is just not going to work as is (for me). You'll see why I make some of the changes I do later on when we drop our file into Jutoh for conversion. My first change is to delete the contents page. Why? It's unnecessary for fiction. That is a personal opinion. Some people like to have it in paperbacks, some don't use it anymore. I did for years, but I've decided it just adds to the page count unnecessarily. Besides, I'm going to delete it for the ebook version anyway (you'll see why later). So, just highlight the whole contents area and hit that delete button, or leave it for now, if you want to explore table of contents options later.

Our next step is going to be formatting chapter heads so that they will ease the transition and setup in Jutoh (and other programs) when you go to format ebook file types. I typed the directions for this step onto the page image and used a color coding system just to point out where to look for each step.

"Highlight the Chapter Name. Then makes sure you click on the HOME tab in the upper left hand corner. Go over to STYLES and look for “HEADING 1” Click on that. Now click to center the text. Adjust the chapter title to the font you want to use, and add an image if you need to, in order to make pretty chapter heads. WARNING - pretty chapter heads in ebooks create a larger file size and lessen your royalties (Amazon)" ***I forgot this in the image, but you will also want to change the font color back to black.

WHY are we changing the way the heading looked? You don't have to, but this will make for a very easy transition when you upload the manuscript into Jutoh (or other conversion software). Using the headings will make all of your sections for your book that will need to appear in your ebook contents as well. I know, I said we don't need a table of contents for paperback books, but you do for ebooks (for easy movement through the book electronically). BUT, the clickable links in an ebook are formatted in a different way than a mundane paperback table of contents. It's the difference between a muggle newspaper and one belonging to the wizarding world. 😉

Here are four examples of how you can address Chapter Heads. These are not the be-all, end-all of chapter heads. Just some examples of what I have done, or decided against, in the past. Now, remember, while you can add images to your chapter heads to make it look a bit more appealing to the eye there are a few things to keep in mind.

1) Images don't come for free. Images in chapter heads might be something you want to reserve for paperback versions only because in ebooks file size matters. The more images in your ebook, the higher the file size. The higher the file size, the more your royalties are penalized, and also the higher your initial price point is for your ebook. I have an ebook that can not sell on Amazon for any less than $1.99 because of its file size. I also lose about $.65 per book sold to file size. Sixty-five cents is a lot to lose per book, just so that it looks prettier! I have polled readers on this subject and they don't care if those chapter head images are there, especially if it costs the author to put them there. I offer that tidbit as a sidenote - so you can decide how you want to approach that for yourself later.

2) You can do a lot with fonts. While you might sacrifice a little style and pizzazz by not using images, you can certainly make up for that (a little bit) with using a special font in your chapter heads.

3) This is a place where you can do a lot of experimentation later to come up with your own chapter head vibe.

Don't forget to redo the chapter heads for book sections like "dedication", "acknowledgements", and "about the author". Once you figure out what you want to do with those pesky chapter heads, and you have it settled and they're all changed, it's time to move on to the author and book title that you will see at the top of the pages in your paperback (Header of the manuscript). Change this to match your book title and/or author name. In my books, I usually have them alternating pages. Odd number pages have Book Title, even numbers have author name. Change this to the font and size you want to use for your book (obviously something that will need to changed for every book you do). For the purposes of the template you can leave them as is for now, if you like, just be aware of it so you don't forget when working on a new manuscript. You get into the header area by double clicking on it and then you will see the page look as it does in the image below (I have mine zoomed way out to show more than one page). When you are done changing things, you simply double click back on the body of your manuscript.

As you can see in the image above, I haven't fixed "chapter 6" as I indicated should be done for all the chapter heads. When you look to the left in the navigation pane, you can see the chapters where I did fix the "chapter head" formatting using the Heading 1 style. You notice that only the first 5 chapters (the ones I fixed using the heading style) are showing in the navigation pane? This is why we fix them.

First, it makes it easier for you, as the author, to navigate between chapters when necessary as you work on your manuscript. Second, it will make the ebook contents auto-populate when we upload the manuscript to Jutoh for ebook formatting. OR if you choose to use Amazon, Smashwords, or some other conversion program directly while uploading your books to them, this will also help them to convert those chapters/book sections properly and be able to make the usable table of contents for the ebook as well. Now, you can decide if you want a specific font for the body of your manuscript. I choose Garamond font size 11. I think that might be the default for the template already. If that's not what you want, you will go to the Design Tab, then fonts drop down menu and customize your fonts. You will also want to decide what type of paragraph spacing you use for your manuscript. I use single spacing for my manuscripts because it lowers page counts in the paperbacks. 😉 Why on earth would you want a lower page count for paperbacks? For Indie authors especially, we have a hard time keeping paperback pricing low. We are charged more for more pages and that means not only does our author copy cost go up, but so does the consumer's cost. My books may look like they have 1/3 to 1/4 of the pages as a book with the same word count using 1.5 or 2 line spacing, but it will also be able to sell at a cheaper price point while still offering comparable or better royalty return too. 😉 It also makes readers who like physical copies happier, because they don't have to pay as much.

Okay, so now, we have one more quick step and you're ready to fill in the blanks on this manuscript template with your story! The final prep-step is how to add more chapters because the template from Amazon only starts you out with 10.

You can see from the first image below that I deleted all but the chapter head, paragraph 1 and paragraph 2 from the template gibberish that was used. Do that. Now, highlight from the top of the page (including any empty space that you want from the top of the page to the chapter head and those two paragraphs below). I actually shorten each of those paragraphs down even further so there are only one line in each for my own personal template, just enough to hold the formatting for me. You can leave it as is or do the same. Once you have that portion of the page highlighted, copy it (CTRL C on your keyboard or right click and copy).

Now, you're going to move down to the last sentence in your second paragraph, click there, and then hit enter a couple of times. Once you have a little safe-space, you will click on the INSERT tab at the top (see second picture below). Now click on Page break. Your cursor will automatically be in the correct place on the next page, now all you have to do is click CTRL V on your keyboard or right click with your mouse/trackpad and paste. Now, change your chapter head to reflect the new chapter title and/or number. Rinse and Repeat for every chapter you need to add. If you want to add extra back matter to your book, like a playlist for music to read/write to, you will do it the same way.

NOW - SAVE YOUR TEMPLATE! I usually save mine as "5.25x8formattedtemplate" THEN I click "save as" and save another version for the book I'm going to work on. I title that "BOOKTITLEMS", or for example "AngelGirlMS" (MS=manuscript). As I work on various progressions of my manuscript I will save as AngelGirlEdits or AngelGirlFINAL. I warn you to do something similar, because you DO NOT want to grab the wrong file to upload when you're ready. 😉 So, this is the part where I tell you happy writing. One more thing I do (as a plotter) is I wind up adding notes to each chapter before I even start writing. I don't always stick to them, but they're a helpful guideline for me and keep me from getting stuck with the dreaded "what's next" as I'm working through a manuscript. As I finish a chapter I usually delete the notes out. In the example below, I "saved as" to keep a copy of a recent manuscript with notes still in it to use for this tutorial. I'm the type of plotter who does so in a notebook first, so I always have those notes for reference later even if I delete them out of my working manuscript. You can also see (from the image below) what I meant about my template only using one line of gibberish text for each of the first two chapters to hold formatting for me. It's really all you need, rather than Amazon's pages of "Insert chapter one text here".

Once you have a template like this set up, you will never have to format for paperback books again (unless you change your book trim size). You just open your template file, save as your current manuscript name and now you still have your template, plus your new project. Then it simply needs you to add your story to the pages.

BUT WAIT... what about Jutoh and formatting for ebooks?

I'll do the Jutoh half of the tutorial in another post tomorrow, because they take forever to put together, and I have to actually go write a book too! See you tomorrow!

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