Getting Ready to Publish

Between vacations, childbirth classes, exercise, and gardens, I also have to prepare Bridgebuilders for publishing. Publishing a book is far more complicated that just uploading a file somewhere. At least it is if you want a professional-looking product. To accomplish this, I’ve spent a great deal of time on edits for Bridgebuilders. I’ve rewritten a few scenes, but mostly it’s been nitpicking stuff. Things like removing extra spaces and fixing ellipses (which I had to learn how to do. The word processor makes them far more complicated than they need to be). And of course, I had about a thousand too many commas that I had to take out.

Then there’s formatting. I do the print version first, for the simple reason that I can order a proof copy. This gives me a real, honest-to-goodness book to read through. I can see errors so much easier in print than I can on the computer. And I can see them better in book form than with a printout. There’s no rhyme or reason to it, that’s just the way it is for me.

I have a tried-and-true method for preparing a manuscript for Createspace. It may be more complicated than it needs to be, but I think it prevents further problems down the line.

First, I copy the entire MS into a plain text file. This strips all the formatting out of it. Sure, it takes out the good stuff, but it also gets rid of all the hidden disasters that lurk in a file. Things like font changes, weird page breaks, and who knows what.

Then I open a new Word file and set the page size to my chosen trim size for the book. Bridgebuilders will be the same size as Shipbuilder, since they are a series. I set the margins, too. Then I copy the MS into my new file, where I create new styles, based on Word’s “normal” style. This includes separate styles for the body, chapter headings, and section headings. I create section breaks between chapters and front and end matter. Also sections – Bridgebuilders has a lot of sections because I want to make it clear to the reader which universe we’re in. That changes a lot, so each time we move to another universe, I have a section heading with the universe name.

Headings have to be made, with different first page, different odd/even page, and indications of whether any particular header or footer carries over from the previous section. For instance, page numbers don’t appear until the story starts with chapter one. But that’s page 5, by my reckoning. So the numbers have to be formatted to “start with 5” It’s complicated, but once you figure it out, it doesn’t take too long.

I have to write front and end matter: copyright page, acknowledgements, other books I’ve written, etc. Then I have to go through and do another check for any formatting issues that  might have slipped by.

Once I’ve reached the point where I know I’m not going to see anything else to fix on the computer screen, it’s time to upload the files and order a proof copy. Then it’s wait… wait…. until the book appears on my doorstep.

What follows is a close read-through with a red pen in my hand. I may even decide at this point to rewrite a scene or add or delete pieces because the act of reading the physical book makes the story more alive to me. I can immediately see when something is not working. It’s how my brain works.

These changes have to be incorporated into the file, then another proof is ordered and the waiting starts over again. That’s where I’m at right now. I expect to go through at least one more proof, but I hope that will be the end. Once the print copy is ready, I use that file to create the files for Kindle and Smashwords. Each requires different formatting. I’m always careful to follow their requirements. So far, I’ve never had my first file rejected because it didn’t meet their guidelines. That would be an unnecessary time-waster.

This is a bit of a technical post, but I hope it’s not boring. To reward your kindness for sticking it out, I’ve saved the best for last: a picture of the proof copy on my kitchen table:



6 thoughts on “Getting Ready to Publish”

  1. It may be technical but quite helpful for others of us choosing the self-published route and learning the whole formatting thing. Thanks for this.

  2. I’m not writing anything myself, but it is interesting to see what goes into self-publishing. My main concern has been the same for some time…..WHEN! Have been anxious to read since I read Shipbuilder 🙂

  3. Great post! Should answer the critics who say all self-publishers are lazy and just want to upload a file. That sounds good old-fashioned hard work to me. And the pic is lovely! I’m still reading the first one. I started a new job over a month ago and that’s cut into my reading time, but I’m settling down again soon and plunging on. I can’t wait!

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