Self-Publishing: How to Choose What’s Right, pt. 3

Sel-Publishing Post 5
This is the last post in my self-publishing series. I hope you enjoy it. My apologies for the accidental posting yesterday. I somehow accidentally scheduled it for yesterday instead of today. Enjoy the guest post about Interior Formatting!

The Art of the Interior

Greetings, fellow writers and readers! I’m Aubrey Hansen, a newlywed living in south Chicagoland. My list of credits includes owning three cats and a snake, being a self-published speculative YA author, being Faith’s friend, and co-owning Penoaks Publishing. Through Penoaks my husband and I make our living helping other indie authors get their books ready for publication. Our specialty is interior formatting.

Wait, what’s interior formatting?

Sadly, many authors don’t understand what is involved in interior formatting, which causes disasters for indie publishers because interior formatting is such an essential step of the book production process. Interior formatting, often referred to as “layout” or “interior design,” is the art of arranging the body of the book for printing. Pick up any paperback book and look at the chapter titles, page numbers, etc.; all of that had to be styled by hand from the author’s original manuscript. Even ebooks need interior formatting to ensure the text shows up properly on your Kindle screen. Some layouts are more elaborate (like a cookbook with pictures) and some are simple (like a mass-market paperback), but every book needs to be formatted before it can be printed.

Why is interior formatting important?

Having your book professionally formatted is an essential step of the publishing process. A paperback book cannot be published until the interior is formatted to meet the printing house’s requirements, and an ebook will not convert properly if it is not formatted correctly. But it’s not enough just to meet publishing requirements; a properly formatted interior needs to be not only functional but also pleasing to the reader’s eye. Whereas the cover is your reader’s first impression, the interior makes a lasting impression on them as they read. A poorly-formatted interior is not only an eyesore, but it can make the book illegible and a chore to read. Many readers will refuse to read a book with an improperly formatted interior, and even if they manage to slog through it, it will send them a very unprofessional message.

How do I format the interior of my book?

Although indie authors can absolutely format their own interiors using Word or OpenOffice, properly formatting an interior requires a good knowledge of your software, an understanding of the publishing process and printing requirements, and a sense of design and layout. Contrary to popular opinion, interior formatting is not “what you see is what you get”; almost anyone can change fonts and text sizes in a document, but interior formatting requires being able to understand the technical structure of a book file. You can’t simply select your title text and make it bigger; you have to know how to code the style into the document so that the book will print or convert to Kindle properly.

All of these skills are easily learned, but many authors would rather focus on writing over learning to master Microsoft Word. If you are not familiar with book layouts and formatting marks, I strongly encourage you to hire a professional interior formatter for your book. I have seen many authors make an irreparable mess of their book by attempting to format it without knowing what they’re doing.

What should I look for when hiring an interior formatter?

When hiring an interior formatter, you want to look for someone with fair prices, a good portfolio, and a solid knowledge of the industry. I have seen even worse messes come from “formatters” who made the surface of the book look pretty by adding some fonts and graphics, but knew nothing about structuring the file for printing.

What is a good price for formatting? You want to look for someone who charges a fair rate for their time; anyone who is undercutting themselves does not value their time, which means they are inexperienced. However, there are also a lot of businesses who want to charge unreasonably high rates, so shop around. I personally prefer to work with other indies whenever possible; not only do I ensure my money goes to another independent artist, but I am more likely to get personal service from another indie as opposed to a big corporation.

When comparing prices, be sure to study the details of the service they are offering. Interior formatting packages can vary a great deal. Will they be designing a custom interior for your book, or are you only paying for a standard template? Do they charge extra for any additional services? Is ebook formatting included, or will you have to purchase that separately? What is their policy on changes and revisions?

Be prepared to pay extra if your book is unusually long or contains a lot of images. Specialty books–such as picture books, cookbooks, and nonfiction books with a lot of references and graphics–will cost more than traditional fiction.

As a final piece of advice, be sure to allow yourself plenty of time to have your book formatted. It could take your designer 1-2 weeks to complete your book, and you won’t be able to finalize your cover until your interior is finished. Your cover designer will need your final page count to make sure your book’s spine is the proper width, and you won’t know the final page count until the interior formatting is finished and locked in. Be advised that any changes to the formatting can cause the page count to change, so don’t plan on having a finished page count until the formatting is completely done.

Of course, my husband and I would be happy to format your book for you! But I would also be glad to answer any additional questions you have about the process. If you’re formatting your book yourself and ran into a roadblock, don’t hesitate to ask me for help. I hope this article helped you understand the importance of interior formatting. May all your paperbacks look beautiful and your ebooks convert smoothly!


Previous Topics:

June 2Self-Publishing: My Journey

  • Indie vs. Traditional
  • Why I Chose the Indie Route

June 9Self-Publishing: How to get started.

  • What are the first steps?
  • FAQs

June 16Self-Publishing: How to Choose What’s Right pt. 1

  • What to do for yourself and what to pay for?
    • ISBN numbers- free or paid?
    • Cover Design (with resources) – (And also, what do you suggest for book covers? Did you design yours yourself, or have someone else?)

June 23Self-Publishing: How to Choose what’s right pt. 2

  • Editing and Proofreading
    • What is the difference between the two? (with resources for each)
    • Should you do it all yourself or pay for help?
  • Marketing Tips
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One thought on “Self-Publishing: How to Choose What’s Right, pt. 3

  1. […] June 30–Self-Publishing: How to Choose What’s Right? pt. 3 […]

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