Friday, December 2, 2011

Lessons Learned in Self-Publishing, Part 9...Why I Format for Paperback First.

This week’s guest blogger is Tony McFadden author of Matt’s War, Book 'Em - An Eamonn Shute Mystery and G'Day L.A. I recently had the pleasure of reading the pre-released copy of Family Matters. Please welcome Tony!

Ron has been leaving little nuggets all over the interwebs helping writers who want to self-publish get their heads around the ins and outs of it all. I’m happy to add my two cents worth.

I’m in the middle (almost literally) of writing the first draft of book number five. When the copy edits and structural fixes and all of the other clean ups are finished, my first formatting exercise will be for paperback.

Use whichever service suits you. I’m using Createspace and highly recommend them, but use whatever you’re happy with. 

Aside from the fact that taking a paperback format and converting it to a Smashwords/Kindle format is easier than the reverse, there are some things that magically happen when you have paperback production as your first step.

You are forced to create a high quality cover. As minor as this may seem, a good cover on your eBook draws eyes, piques interest and will get the casual browser to take the next step (reading the blurb – more later). You’ve all read the guidance about making sure your cover works as a thumbnail, since that’s the image most readers will see first. Working on a trade paperback (6” x 9”) cover lets you focus on those elements as a priority, and not as an after thought.

The back cover design is just as important, and that’s where the blurb comes in. Again, you’re forced to make this count. It’s going to be printed and you want it to be the second step to the interior. The front cover is the smile, the back cover is the caress. I found (and this may not be true with for all writers) that the blurb on my first book tended to be a five minute exercise to fill in a box when I was creating ebooks only. Hit a book store (if you can find a bricks and mortar establishment still standing) and read a couple of dozen back covers in the genre you are writing. There’s a pattern. Copy the pattern. (Don’t copy the blurb. That makes no sense.)

If we extend the metaphor, after the smile (front cover) and the caress (back cover) is the relationship. The story. The interior design. This is a “why I do it this way” post, and not a “how I do it” post, but a little bit of overlap is inevitable. When the interior is formatted (Createspace have dozens of templates to choose from), that’s where the magic happens. I’ll find I spill a few lines on to the last page of the chapter. These hangers are ugly and the only way to remove them is to go back in the chapter and tighten it. And this is after you thought it couldn’t get any tighter. Get it cleaned up, make sure the typography doesn’t overpower the story, and order your proof.

I know. Createspace allows you to proceed without a proof, but that is one of the craziest things you can do. Order it, just one, and when it arrives sit down with your feet up, red pen in hand, and read your book as if it were the newest release from your favorite author. (You are your favorite author, aren’t you?)

I guarantee you that you will find errors you would have never believed existed. There’s something about the words on a printed page that highlights all the silly stuff. Mark your book with a red pen until it’s perfect. That includes the cover and the back blurb. 

Added bonus: When the newly revised book is going through the building process at Createspace (or your POD house of choice) you can take that newly corrected doc file and strip the formatting and build the Smashwords and Kindle versions in about an hour. When your eBooks are available, so will your paperbacks. The full meal deal.


  1. Thanks for the plugs, Ron. Great posts yo've got here.

  2. I agree 100%. Plus I have been known to edit text to make it fit on the pages correctly (such as eliminating that random hanging sentence.) I did not do this with my last book and have regretted it many times over!