Formatting Blues


So you’ve finished your novel. You’ve had it beta read and edited and you’ve decided it’s time to publish (that is if you’re self publishing).  It looks lovely in your Word document or whatever processing program you’re using so you think it’s good to go.


So, so wrong.  Now it’s time to format. Format for a digital version; you need something that will work for several different e-readers. Format for the print version; making sure words don’t bleed over the edge and that chapter titles start in the same place and that the gutter margins are deep enough. Sounds easy enough, right? It is fairly easy, but it’s time consuming. Especially if you have a longer manuscript.

You have to take out spaces and indentations. Make sure things line up and that page breaks are in the right place.  Once you upload it to say a place like Createspace, they will review and tell you what’s wrong with it. Wrong page size, wrong margins, images under the required DPI (which I believe is dots per inch). They will offer templates (which are handy!) but know that when you use them, you’ll most likely have to go back through and make sure it didn’t move things, that page breaks are still there etc.  It’s very frustrating.

Do yourself a favor and check out formatting requirements in the beginning. Copy and paste your manuscript into the template of the right size before you go through making those adjustments so you  won’t end up doing it twice. Save copies as you go in case formatting goes crazy and you need an earlier version.

When it comes to digital versions, Smashword has a free e-book/PDF that will walk you through the steps of how to format for e-books. It’s very handy and I recommend it because Smashword offers e-book versions for many different kinds of readers, including Kindle, so you should only have to do the digital formatting once. Yay for time saving!

Plan on formatting taking some time. Plan on it being frustrating, but have patience and stick with it. I can’t tell you the amount of e-books I’ve read (both self and traditionally published) that have had bad formatting issues. Please don’t be one of them. Your readers will appreciate it and it’s one less thing for someone to complain about when they talk about self publishing!


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