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Thursday, May 31, 2012

How to Get Professional Book Edits For (almost) Free - Formatting

There was some discussion earlier this week on whether or not formatting counts as a form of editing. As a former newspaper editor whose job included doing layout (formatting) for the newspaper I'm going to say it is a form of editing.

Formatting your manuscript for submission (I always giggle when I type that) or publication is a level of editing. It's the absolute last thing you do once your i's are dotted and your t's crossed. You take your perfect, edited, revised, and rewritten manuscript and format it readability.

This is not the time for funny fonts, creative indentations, or impatience. Unless you're publishing a book of poetry, don't get creative. Times New Roman or Courier 12 point font. Double-spaced. No tab indents, use the little arrows at the top of the page.

Step 1: Do Your Research
I can't think of any reason why you should pay someone to format for you. Yes, it can be time consuming and tedious to check everything and make sure you don't have some wonky error on page 297, but impatience is not a good reason to hand over cold hard cash for this. Grow up and do your own work, Slapdick.

The Masquerade Crew has an excellent break-down of why it's better to just do this yourself. It isn't as scary as it sounds.

Step 2: Get Your Ducks in a Row
Before you can format there are a few teeny-tiny details that need to be taken care of. Namely, cover art and a title page with copyright information. If you're not publishing with Smashwords you also need to go buy an ISBN. If you're an author from outside the United States who is publishing in the states you need to figure out the tax laws.

Step 3: Format All The Things
Set aside a couple of hours to do this the first time. With REAL LIES I went back and republished something because I had one line that was still out of place after I uploaded. It's easy to notice on a short story with ten pages, it's going to take more time to clean a full manuscript. But it's worth it.

I recommend using this series to get you started. Don't buy a book, just turn on YouTube and follow along. I found the whole series HERE.

For Smashwords...
For Nook...
And a General Work Shop for Formatting Manuscripts...

Once you've learned how to do this, it becomes easy. It's just a matter of taking the time to do it correctly. Your readers will thank you when they can read without strange symbols or crazy breaks in their sentences.

1 comment:

  1. As an anal retentive perfectionist for appearance issues, if I self pub anything you can be damn sure I'll do my own formatting.
    I've built several websites for my own buisiness and I know from the JOY of assuming the automatic page builder will do exactly what you want... No, it won't.
    Few things are as embarassing as spending hours to make something look right on your screen, posting a link to god and everyone, then not being told for days that the formatting is wrong, or worse, the link doesn't even work.
    If you spend months or years writing a book, you owe it to yourself to make sure that it actually looks like a finished professional product. Otherwise it's like dragging professional clients to a broken website. Only worse, because you've already had them pay you.