Grace's Mosaic Moments

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Formatting for Indie Pub

Photo by Firefighter Hillary Williams, Carson City, Nevada
(posted to Facebook)

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The oddest thing happened when I was going through the Index to Making Magic With Words for the umpteenth time:  I realized I had gone into details about how to translate and format docs from Word Perfect to Indie Pub, I had cited the fact that both Kindle and Smashwords have excellent free Guidelines for uploading e-books, and I had, of course, beaten the subject of Editing half to death, but I had never in all these years since January 2011, done a blog concentrating on just what is necessary before you can upload a book to an Internet vendor. I guess I thought those free Guidelines were self-explanatory, but truth is, it's probably comforting to get the "Cliff Notes" version before tackling all the verbiage in those instructions. So off the top of my head, from the experience of preparing and uploading forty-plus books . . .

You've written "The End," so what's next?

1.  EDIT THE BLASTED BOOK!  (No surprise there.)

2. EDIT IT AGAIN! Polish your baby to the very best you (or an editor) can manage.

Now what?

COVER.  Your book must have a cover. Amazon has a service to help you with this problem, but that cover would apply only to books published through Amazon Kindle. Fortunately, I have someone who has been designing my covers since 2011, which makes that cover usable for any e-vendor. (Best advice:  ask fellow authors for cover artists recommendations before doing a general search online.) If you are graphically inclined, you can create your own cover (although it must meet the vendors' standards). Since covers do not appear overnight any more than your manuscript did, you should plan ahead, ordering a cover well before you've finished your final edits.

Preparing your manuscript for uploading to the vendor(s) of your choice.

Grace note:  Unless you want to upload to every online book vendor yourself—a challenging task, at least to my mind—I recommend sticking to Amazon Kindle and Smashwords, who allow you to upload in MS Word and do all the translations for you. Perhaps I'm lazy, but I am immensely grateful for Kindle accepting an MS Word doc, MS Word docx, or RTF. And to Smashwords for taking an MS Word doc and translating it into the formats required by a wide variety of online vendors, including Amazon and Barnes & Noble. (I could let Smashwords do it all, but I uploaded separately to Amazon in 2011 before I really knew what I was doing and, enjoying their constant sales updates, country by country, have continued to do so.)

Select All and . . . (presuming you've used standard manuscript format ...)

1.  Make sure your margins are 1" all around.

2.  Change your double spaced manuscript to single space.

3.  Remove Header & Page numbers.*
     *If you have assembled your manuscript from several documents, it may be necessary to remove them in more than one location.

4.  Change Auto Indent from .5 to .3.

5.  Justify the right margin. 

Select & highlight as necessary:

1.  Format the chapter title. For example: Font 14, centered.*
     *For perfect centering, you need to highlight the title & reset the auto indent to 0.

    Note:  Do not use an overly large font for the chapter title, as it will run off the page on most e-reading devices, frequently creating a lop-sided mess.

2.  Format Date & Location lines. (They should be Flush Left & Italic.)

Work your way through the entire manuscript with ¶ ON (in the toolbar), which will reveal oddities like a stray manual tab, two spaces between words, etc.

Grace note:   Do not challenge your chosen online vendors with esoteric fonts. Be grateful for the service they provide, which is taking your document and translating it into the font they prefer. So you might as well stick to Times New Roman and not demand more than their translation programs can handle, leaving your book a mangled mess. Or being returned with an "Error" message.

At the end of your book, add a short blurb about yourself. If you have a list of people to thank or notes about real events in your book, etc., this is the place to do it. (E-book readers like to open their devices to Chapter 1 and start reading.) I also add an Inventory of all my books.

Okay, your manuscript is looking more like a book. What now?

 You need to write a blurb of not more than 4000 characters. This can include review excerpts if you have them. But no more than 4000 characters. Not words, characters (which includes spaces)! Best way to prepare for this:  look at some of the many examples on Amazon Kindle Books.

If you are uploading to Smashwords, you also need a 400-character blurb. Which is not much more than a Log Line.

Also for Smashwords, some of their vendors require an ISBN number. These are available free from Smashwords or you can purchase one (or groups of 10 - a much better price) from IngramSpark [] - something I strongly recommend as the ISBN should be yours, not your publisher's (just as your cover should be yours, not your publisher's). FYI:  Amazon Kindle does not require an ISBN.

Smashwords also requires a front page with a Licensing Agreement—wording can be found in their free Guidelines. (After I set up this page the first time, I simply copied it for each succeeding book, changing the title and date as necessary.) 

Also needed:

Categories. Both Amazon & Smashwords will ask you to choose from a list Categories & Sub-categories. Example:  Fiction - Romance - Regency.

Keywords. You will also be asked to choose Keywords. For these the choice can be yours or there's a long list to choose from. You just need to spend time thinking about this ahead of time so you won't be caught flat-footed while entering data.  Example:  Regency Gothic, Regency Romance, Historical Romance; or perhaps Romantic Suspense, Suspense, Contemporary Suspense, etc.

Pricing.  You need to consider pricing in advance. Check the online books closest to your genre, ignoring the books put out by New York e-publishers, which price their books WAY too high. Find a range that best seems to reflect your book—a happy medium between what best-selling indie authors can charge and what is realistic for you, a newcomer. Keep in mind that Amazon has two royalty prices:  35% for books priced below $2.99; 70% for $2.99 and up. Also, Amazon will not tolerate your book being priced less than at another vendor's site. Do not even think of underpricing Amazon! 

Kindle Select.  Details about this program can be found online. Basically, it offers certain privileges to those willing to give Amazon an exclusive on their books. In most cases I prefer to "go wide," offering my books (via Smashwords) to a variety of online vendors.

Grace note:  Access to the Dashboards (upload panels) of Amazon and Smashwords requires setting up an account, a simple step in the process of becoming your own Publisher.

In a nutshell, that's it. Get a cover, format your manuscript; upload both to the vendor(s) of your choice using a form that will include requests for Blurb(s), Categories, Keywords, and Pricing. Follow the form carefully. And don't forget to click "Publish" at the end! It's stomach-churning the first time around, still requires meticulous care when you reach forty. But it's well worth the time and effort. YOU are the publisher. This is YOUR accomplishment. You are now employing Amazon Kindle, Smashwords, B&N's Nook, and whoever else you choose, to sell your book for you. And, best of all, you will receive royalties monthly—a far better schedule than offered by New York print publishers. 

Print Books.  Amazon also offers Indie Print service, including detailed instructions. I can comment no further as I have not used it.

Repeat:  Free Publishing Guidelines are offered by the major vendors. Just ask Google.

For access to the Smashwords Guidelines, click here.
(Scroll down to the bottom of this Front Page.)

For access to the Kindle Direct Publishing Guidelines for the US, click here.
(You will need an Amazon account to access this information.) [But is there anyone left in this world who doesn't already have one?]

~ * ~

Blair's Mystery/Suspense Books

Hidden Danger, Hidden Heart
The Art of Evil
Death by Marriage
Orange Blossoms & Mayhem
Shadowed Paradise
Paradise Burning
Limbo Man

And then, there's . . .

Florida Knight
a tale of knights & fair maidens
in  contemporary Florida
(NOT a fantasy!)

~ * ~

Thanks for stopping by,



  1. Now I know why so many inexpensive Kindle books are priced at $2.99.

  2. I tgook an online course to learn this stuff, but got lost somewhere. As usual you give clear, lucid directions.