I discovered that formatting a book for Amazon’s Kindle was easier than setting up the book for paperback publication. The good news is, the manuscript and cover are “in the system” and should soon be available for purchase. Today’s post covers some of the challenges a first-time author might encounter getting their manuscript in shape for publication by Amazon’s printing service. The challenges are likely to be same with any self-publishing service, so be prepared to invest a lot of time and patience in the process.
So Many Details
Some writers go to the trouble of hiring a designer to format their book pages because of all the details involved. Since formatting is part of what I do in my job, I saved myself a little money there. However, formatting a book manuscript is a bit different from an engineering report or proposal.
Margins and gutters and bleeding, oh my!
Amazon provides you a template for how your text is supposed to fit and look on the page. While you’re using about a quarter of an inch on your top, bottom, and outside margins, you have to provide extra space on the inside margin for where the binding will be. This is called a gutter, and it alternates side every other page. That’s one challenging thing you don’t have to worry about with an e-book because people just scroll down the pages. In the print world you have to account for both sides of the page and remember that there’s a left and right side (front and back) to each physical page. This can mean doing things like adding a blank page to make certain your cover page appears on the right side of the book when you open it.
“Bleeding” is what happens when you have an image that spreads across the entire width of the page, even to the edge of the physical paper. I have a few images in my book, and they were bleeding over onto the edge. Amazon’s system generally does not like that, so I had to shift the images to be in line with the text margins.
Working with paper also means having to add page numbers and headers to the pages. In my case, I wanted the book title on the “left” side pages and the chapter number and name on the right. Microsoft Word is tricky when it comes to setting up these alternating headings, but it can be done. You just have to make certain that each chapter is a new section (not just new page) when using the Layout tab; set your left and right pages to have the words you want–ideally aligned with the outside margin, on the side away from the binding; and have a different (blank) heading on the first page of the chapter because the chapter name and number are already there.
And, of course, you need to make certain that your heading styles are consistent so that you get Word’s table of contents generator to show what you want. It helps to slow down and give yourself extra time to get all those things right the first time.
Again, e-books are simpler because you just upload a single page–the front. A paperback requires a design for the binding and back. The binding, of course, should include the title and your name. The back cover usually includes things like a blurb describing the contents, an accolade from one or two of your reviewers, and space for a UPC bar code.
The tricky part with the paperback covers is that they have to be a precise width to ensure that they fit the page count, which was vexing to me and my graphic designer. Another designer fixed the issue, but you can get a little cross-eyed seeing your book rejected because the cover is off by less than a centimeter. <Deep breaths>
I’m hoping the paperback will be available for sale in the near future. The next thing to do will be marketing. This is not a favorite activity for an introvert because it means going out of your way to call attention to yourself. However, if you want your book read, you’ll need to do more than just post it on Amazon and hope for the best.
One thing I might do once the paperback version becomes available is to offer autographed copies through the website for a little extra (because I have to account for shipping, within or outside the U.S. My apologies to my foreign readers, but it is more expensive to send books out of the country. I’ll try to get more precise prices as soon as possible. Please also keep in mind, though, that the books will be ordered by and shipped to me first (so I can sign them)
Other wacky marketing ideas might come to mind as I work with my buddy Ciara Knight to get Heroic Technical Writing in front of as many eyes as possible. Publishing: it’s not just an adventure, it’s a job!