Formatting your own book interiors

The advantages of being able to format your own book interiors are obvious: it costs you nothing, you are in total control, and you can make changes whenever you need to with the minimum of time and effort. I was prompted to set out on this journey when I decided I wanted to revise the six books in my series so far (I thought my ‘style’ had developed and ‘settled’ in the six years it took me to get this far). That meant I would need new EPUB, MOBI and PDF versions of each book = 18 new versions. Even with a 60% reduction on her usual, eminently reasonable prices, my typographer was going to have to charge me more than a thousand dollars for all that work. I decided to grasp the nettle and learn how to do it for myself.

After a couple of months of searching online, trying different software programs, following advice from other authors that didn’t work for me and hundreds of hours that produced results that were deeply disappointing, I managed to piece together a process that did and does work for me, and which in my opinion produces interiors of a professional standard. If you use Microsoft WORD for your original typescripts and you then need EPUB and MOBI electronic versions that maintain the formatting of your original, plus a paginated PDF for your paperback version that looks exactly how you want it to look, then it will work for you.

If I can save anyone the hassle I went through getting to this point, that will be great.

A. The Electronic Versions

  1. If you haven’t set up a Smashwords account  already, do so at https://www.smashwords.com/
  2. Download the Smashwords Style Guide by Mark Coker https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/52. It’s free and offers simple step-by-step instructions to create, format and publish an ebook. It’s “required reading for any author who wants to distribute their book via Smashwords to major ebook retailers such as Apple iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Scribd, Oyster & Kobo.” Follow it to the letter! Don’t be tempted to go for any fancy fonts or special effects! Just do what he says. If you don’t use stylesheets in WORD already, you’ll be amazed how easy they are to set up and use, and also how easy it is to bookmark your chapters and hyperlink them to create a Table of Contents. Set your page size and margins to the size you want in your paperback version. I personally use 5.5” wide and 8.5” long with 0.75” left and right margins.
  3. Upload your properly formatted WORD file (a 97-2003 version, NOT a docx file). There should be no issues. The Smashwords software will create a lot of electronic versions, but I only use the EPUB version.
  4. Download and save the EPUB version, and check it’s OK using whatever software you have for that purpose (Adobe Digital Editions is free, and/or you may have invested in Compuclever’s Ultra Ebook Reader).
  5. Download ‘EPUB to MOBI’ free software from http://www.epubtomobi.com/ I have found it delivers a cleaner MOBI file than the SMASHWORDS software. It’s very simple to use. Simply click ‘File’ > ‘Add Files’ and add your EPUB file, then ‘File’ > ‘Convert’ and it does it in seconds. Click ‘Save’ and it will save it in the same folder, next to your EPUB file but with a MOBI label.
  6. Go to your KDP bookshelf and upload your MOBI file. If you don’t yet have a KDP bookshelf, go to https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/help/topic/A37Z49E2DDQPP3 and set up your account. Follow the online instructions to upload all the details required for your book. Check how it looks in the online previewer. It should be fine.

 

B. The PDF Version

  1. Invest in Foxit Power PDF Standard 2 for individual users (£79.99) http://bit.ly/2qzY5VU Not only will it enable you to paginate your PDF in the way you want, it will save you hours in the future because you’ll be able to edit your PDF file directly, rather than having to create another one every time you want to make changes (the chances are you will want to make slight but important changes from time to time (e.g. when a reviewer points out an inadvertent typo, or a redundant word betrays the fact that at some point you exchanged one sentence for a better one in your WORD version and didn’t read the revision as carefully as you thought you had).
  2. Your WORD file can now be a docx file, and you can make it look as pretty as you wish, with different fonts for your title page, a dropped cap in a different font for the first letter of each chapter and so on to make the pages in WORD look exactly how you want them to look in the PDF.
  3. To paginate your WORD file, click on ‘Insert’, go along the toolbar to ‘Header’ and ‘Footer’ and remove them both.
  4. Use textboxes to contain the page numbering information you want, making sure the textbox you use is a standard size and width to accommodate the information you want to include. It is standard not to number the first page of each chapter. Thereafter, I use textboxes and include my name as author on odd pages and the title of the book on even pages. I have Office Home and Student 2016 and that has a built-in indicator line that enables me to place each textbox in the exact centre of the page. Otherwise you’ll have to have recourse to a ruler! Make sure you set the textboxes far enough up from the bottom of each page to ensure your pagination in the PDF is within Createspace’s print margins. To keep that a standard distance, you will need to use a ruler. I usually set my docfile pages at 140% magnification and then set the textboxes so the bottom edge of each textbox is exactly 1 cm from the bottom of the page. Your eye will quickly get used to that as a suitable distance. I use Roman numerals to number the pages before chapter 1 (i.e. the copyrighting and small print page, the ‘Also Available by this author’ page if you have one, the Contents page, the dedication page, The Foreword, Preface (or whatever you have). 
  5. Once you have paginated the whole book, remove all your bookmarks and hyperlinks from your Table of Contents and insert appropriate page numbers instead. Remember to save this file under a different filename from your electronic version file (you keep that one for any subsequent editing you may want to do in future revisions of the electronic versions). I normally use a filename like ‘Book 6 paginated for PDF’ so that it points at the next stage in the operation.
  6. Save it as a docfile and then save as a PDF (I’m assuming you know how to do that in WORD). The file will then open in Foxit Phantom PDF and should look exactly like it does in the WORD document.
  7. To remove the textboxes, click on ‘Edit Object’ in the toolbar > ‘All’, then Rclick on a corner of each textbox to highlight it and click ‘delete’. Remove all the textboxes and the contents will remain in their own right as individual objects that can then be moved separately if required for any reason.  And voilà!
  8. Once you’re happy with the appearance of the PDF, it is time to make sure any fonts you have used are embedded in the PDF file. To do that, click on ‘File’ > Print > and set the printer to ‘Foxit PhantomPDF printer’. Then click ‘Properties’ > ‘Fonts’ and tick the fonts you want embedded. There is a long list to choose from. If you have used an exotic font that isn’t listed there, you will need to add it. Foxit comes with online help videos and user manuals and you can contact Foxit directly for one-to-one advice on how to do whatever it is you want to do.
  9. Go back to the ‘Print’ page and check in the ‘Preview’ box that your document size and paper size show the correct sizes for the width and length of the pages of your printed book. If they aren’t, click on ‘Properties’ (top right of the ‘Print’ page) > ‘Layout’ > ‘Custom Page Size’ and set the appropriate values. Save those sizes with a filename like ‘my book size’. Thereafter, you will be able to click on that whenever necessary to set the file to your book size. If you’ve made alterations here, make certain that your file still looks the way you want it to look (and that nothing has shifted on any page). Once satisfied with it, save it as your editable PDF (i.e. the file you’ll go back to if you discover anything needs a subsequent edit).
  10. On the ‘Print’ page (with Foxit PhantomPDF Printer as your chosen printer) tick the box under ‘Properties’ that is labelled ‘Print as Image’ and save the file under a different filename, such as ‘Book 6 printed as image’. Foxit will then save all your pages as images and produce a file that is approaching or surpassing 300 KB (your editable PDF file will only be around 2-3 KB). It will take two or three minutes to make and save this much bigger file, depending on how many pages there are in your book.
  11. Go to Createspace https://www.createspace.com and follow the online instructions to upload that large PDF file as the interior of your book. There should be no issues, and it should look exactly how you want it to look. In my experience, the printed version is then perfect, though of course you will want to make sure of that by getting Createspace to send you a ‘Proof’ copy to check.

NOTE: I haven’t dealt with the coverwrap here.  I personally produce my own cover images using Corel PHOTOPAINT and pay my typographer to do all the lettering for not very much money. There are plenty of people out there clamouring to do your coverwrap for you. If you want to do your own, Createspace has step-by-step instructions on how to do that.

I do hope this basic run-through of the processes I use to produce my interiors has been useful. If you have any specific questions about any of it, you can ask them via a ‘comment’ box below or contact me directly at myrddinsheir@hotmail.com.