Tag Archives: formatting

Save $150 and a week – quick how-to format a CreateSpace book interior yourself

When I published Shizzle, Inc last year, I paid somebody to format the PDF interior layout. It cost me about $150 and a week of back-and-forth with a reputable company, that did a good job. Eventually. The problem is, now I have to pay them again because I have had the book re-edited by an American editor. And again if I want to change a single comma – they did it on a Mac, and even though they were nice enough to provide the Word file, it looks like garbage when I open it on my PC.

In case you’ve never had to deal with an interior file and don’t know what it is – it’s a PDF of your book, laid out exactly the way your book will look, from the first page to the last. It includes the title page, page numbers, book name and your name at the top of each page, drop-caps (the first letter of the chapter being ten times bigger than other letters), the exact font, and all that. It sounds easy, but it takes time to make your book look beautiful, and that’s why the pros charge you for it.

So anyway, this time around, I was determined to tackle the formatting of Indiot myself. I mean, there are templates for this kind of thing, so how difficult could it be?

Try two days of pulling hair, yelling at your computer, and yelling “I’m busy!” at the phone when it dings just as you’ve discovered an odd blank page in your document. When you (I mean, I) do anything the first time around, it takes five times longer and hurts ten times worse than it should. I spent two days working on the file but, after an emergency nap, I can assure you that it could have been done in two hours if one (I mean, I) knew what they were doing.

The following is not intended to be a complete guide, it’s more of the step-by-step blueprint of what I will do next time to complete the file formatting process. Just so that I don’t forget how I did it or what lessons I’ve learned. It assumes that you’re using Word, and none of them fancy-shmancy designer thingamajigs.

  1. Download an interior template from CreateSpace. I chose a 6×9 preformatted template. I did try to use a blank template at first, but that would require more Word skills that I currently possess. The preformatted template already looks like a book, so you can understand what it is you’re supposed to do.
  2. On the title page, type in the title and author name, changing the fonts to match the book cover.
  3. Copy and paste the copyright page and the dedication. Make sure the ISBN numbers match that of the paperback edition, not the ebook format!
  4. Type in your name and book name in the header. Title font in header should match the font used for the body of text, for a clean look. I’ve tried doing the same title font as the cover, but it’s distracting.
  5. If you have few chapters, copy and paste each chapter in place of the “placeholder chapters” text using “merge formatting” option. DO NOT use “text only” – I realised only later that it meant ALL my italicised text became un-italicised and had to re-do it ALL.
  6. If you have lots of short chapters (Lord, Indiot has 44 of those), delete all chapters except for one, the copy and paste your entire book into one chapter. You now have to manually find each chapter heading, highlight it and apply appropriate style. If that’s a pain, just do each chapter manually.
  7. When adding more chapters, make sure to include section breaks at the end of each chapter – they keep the header from appearing above your chapter title. Go to Page Layout-Page Set Up-Breaks-Next Page. DO NOT USE “Odd Page” option. It’s supposed to ensure all your chapters start on the right-hand-side of the book, but it was giving my layout seizures – the pages kept changing places as I scrolled up and down, and even made the first page disappear, giving me repetitive heart attacks. I had to painstakingly go back and re-insert all those breaks to stop the nightmare. And in any case, I have now decided not to start all chapters on the right, as I’ve previously done – a quick scan of a few professionally published titles showed that only the first chapter has to start on the right.
  8. SAVE VERSIONS AS YOU GO. You’ll thank me later.
  9. Change font to a desired one, using Styles. DO NOT highlight the text and change any attributes of it from the menu, use Styles for ALL changes.
  10. I chose Minion Pro at 11pt for the body, as it’s a bit heavier and easier to read, plus I think italics look better in it. This font, along with the template’s original Garamond is one of the most common fonts used in print books. By all means, Google more about what fonts to use, but don’t use anything too quirky – you don’t want the reader to be distracted by the actual text, you want them to be lost in the story.
  11. Change paragraph settings. With Minion Pro, I chose to make spacing 1.1 instead of single at 1.0. Again, I think it’s just a touch easier to read. I made all first lines indent at 0.2.
  12. Make sure you’ve hit “Enter” enough times after the last sentence of the previous chapter, otherwise it will center on the page. Make sure that on all pages the first sentence starts at the very top of the page.
  13. Chapter titles – if you pasted each one separately, you should be okay, but if you did the whole book as one dump, highlight the chapter name text and apply the Chapter Heading style. Hit “Enter” 6 times to move the title down (or whatever number is appropriate for your font size). The idea is that each chapter starts a bit down the page – have a look at a professionally published book to see what I mean, or here is what mine looks like: Fist page of paperback
  14. Insert drop cap at the beginning of each chapter (you can opt for other ways to highlight the beginning, but I love the classic “big fat letter” look, as in the snapshot above.) Do it ONLY after you’ve done all paragraph editing, such as spacing, otherwise you’ll end up doing it all over again.
  15. Insert table of contents: the template used “chapters” instead of headings, so I could not do it automatically. I had to highlight each chapter title and click on “Add text” in the table of contents menu, then update the table. This also meant careful checking afterwards, to make sure all chapters made it into the table.
  16. DO NOT use automatic orphan/window control, instead adjust pages manually. Orphans and widows are the lonely, single lines of text either at the bottom or the top of pages. Well-formatted books don’t have those, but I allowed a few, when I thought separating a line made more of an impact with a punchline of a joke.
  17. Turn on the pilcrows and check through the whole document, making sure the section breaks are where they are supposed to be, and there are the same number of pilcrows before each new chapter, and that they are the same size and font (to make them start at the same spot on each page).
  18. Finally, READ THROUGH the entire PDF before uploading it – for some reason, italicising was dropped here and there anyway, and I managed to find even more tiny fixes. It took about eight hours, including all the fussin’ and fixin’, but was so worth it.

This is all. I will update this page if something else comes to mind, but I’ve been able to upload the final product and it looks fine in CreateSpace preview.

Now I have to order a proof copy. Wish me luck!

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