This week has been a very difficult one for me personally, but it has left me with plenty of time to get on with some of the less interesting parts of indie publishing: formatting the paperback. I’ll be using CreateSpace and referring to Microsoft Word, because at this point, that’s how I do my paperbacks.
Holy moly, if you can get someone to do this for you, DO IT! It is very difficult—not impossible, but difficult.
This post will walk you through the processes I’ve gone through to get from formatting the word document all the way through to the final print proof. Hopefully, it’ll be of some use to someone! I’ll only be looking at interior files, not covers. Covers are an entirely different story!
Choosing the Size
One of the first things you have to do is decide on the actual physical size of your paperback. One thing you will learn about me in this blog post is that I have a tendency to follow the BFI principle: brute force and ignorance. I do not always do research beforehand, and often find myself in a bit of a sticky mess. This time was no exception.
CreateSpace suggested to me that 6x9in was the most popular size, which may indeed be the truth! However, had I actually bothered to measure that, I would have realised it wasn’t right for my novel.
6x9in is the standard size for many non-fiction books and also hardback fiction books. Unless you’re writing one of these, I don’t suggest you use this size. It looks awkward and from the moment I saw it, I knew it didn’t “feel” right. Certainly not for the type of book I’m producing—a young adult fantasy novel.
So, back to the drawing board I went to order my second proof. This time, I went for 5x8in, and this is a much more appropriate size!
It’s closer to the general paperback size than any of the others, and at nearly $5 a pop, PLUS shipping, I don’t want to experiment with any of the others. Thus, 5x8in it is.
Formatting the Margins
This is an extremely tedious task that takes a lot of patience. The issue that you’ll run up against is the guttering in the book (the fancy way of saying the insidey bit where the pages are bound and you can’t see the text). You really don’t want any of your words in the gutter, so it’s important to get it right.
To format your margins, you need to go to Layout > Margins > Custom Margins. There, you’ll be able to adjust each margin individually, which is really important! You can’t format all of your margins to exactly the same size, otherwise it won’t look right in print.
For my 5x8in, CreateSpace suggested a gutter of 0.625in as standard. When I formatted this, it didn’t look right. It was as if the gutter was too big, so I adjusted it a little to 0.55in and it looked a lot better on the online proof. Far less spare space, but still enough room for the gutter. Also, make sure your gutter is set to LEFT, not top.
There are other margins to consider as well, of course. Your choices here will depend on how much space you want to have and how many words you’re trying to get on the page. The cost of a printed books is dependent on the amount of pages (duh), so if you want to reduce your page count without reducing your word count, change the size of your font and make your margins are small as possible.
Personally, I wanted to keep my words-per-page to about 250-300, because that’s pretty standard, and I don’t want the text to be too small. A lot of teenagers I teach are very put-off by small text in books. Thus, I didn’t want to bring the page count down too much by making the text too small.
My paperback comes in at 362 pages. It could be shorter if I made the margins bigger and the text smaller, but I don’t want to.
On the subject of pages, make sure you proof for unreasonably short pages. You may have to do a little bit of editing to reduce a paragraph to eliminate pages that only have one line, or perhaps one sentence on them!
It’s really important that you proof your chapter divisions very carefully. Every new chapter should be on a new page. I use Insert > Page Break to make sure this happens.
Mostly, chapters don’t start right at the top of the page. You need to decide how far down you want your chapter heading to be on the page. I usually set my font to Calibri 16, and then hit enter 6 times. That’s the line I write my ‘Chapter X’ heading on. I’ll then change my font size to 12, line spacing to 1.5, hit return, and type the name of my chapter (if I’m using chapter names).
One extremely important thing you MUST proof when you’re uploading to CreateSpace (or just looking through your Word document) is the chapter headings. You must consider:
1: Are they all consistently the same distance from the top of your page?
2: Are the fonts consistent?
3: Have there been any errors with your use of Insert > Page Break.
I often find that chapters shift and end up on the same page as the chapter previous. Alternatively, I end up with random blank pages in the middle of the book. You need to ensure you check every single chapter division.
The signature font I use for my chapter headings and the title on my cover is a free for commercial use font called UnclassicQuill. This is not supported by CreateSpace, however, there’s a work around.
File > Options > Save, then tick the box that says ‘Embed fonts in file.’ That way, CreateSpace will be able to use them! A word of caution, though. If you’re using a special font, please read the terms and conditions and ensure it’s free for commercial use. If it’s not, you probably can’t use it if you’re making money from printed copies of your book.
If you can get someone to do this for you, DO! It is a lot of work, and takes a fair bit of tweaking. I’m pretty handy with computers and Word, but if you’re not, this might be a little difficult. However, if you want any additional help with your formatting, please feel free to get in contact with me! My email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks, and good luck!