By Pamela Fagan Hutchins
How you format depends on where and how you plan to publish.
Print formatting: Are you going to print your books? I chose to do so, and I found the best deal with Create Space (http://createspace.com), at least the best deal that met my goals. I wanted the lowest cost for small volume runs, and print-on-demand sales through Amazon. If you know you’re going to print a very high volume of books, you might be better off going with America’s Press (http://americas-press.com). Create Space has Word Templates for whatever size book you want to create (i.e., 5.25×8 inches, or 9×6 inches). The templates are handy, if you are very proficient in Word. If not, they are easy to mess up. I’m pretty Word savvy, and I got turned sideways on a template and couldn’t recover. I had better luck with Book Design Wizard 2.0 (http://www.self-pub.net/wizard.html), a $39.50 piece of software that is nothing more than a really snazzy Word Template, but far more Pamela-proof than the Create Space version. Since I was formatting five nonfiction books, and plan to do a minimum of four more in the next year, this investment was miniscule. Their customer service is good, too. (And speaking of good customer service, I’ve had a wonderful experience with Create Space). SkipJack can help you out with print formatting if you’d prefer.
– Smashwords — http://Smashwords.com : It’s their way or the highway. They publish a comprehensive how-to on their website. Follow it to the letter. I had no trouble, but, if you do, they can recommend people who format your manuscript for around $50.00. If you’d like other resources, SkipJack can help.
– Barnes & Noble/PubIt — http://pubit.barnesandnoble.com : Barnes & Noble’s Nook reads e-pub files. You can, if you publish with Smashwords and choose/qualify for their expanded distribution network, allow Smashwords to distribute to B&N for you. However, as you’ll see in a moment, you should have no trouble creating an epub for yourself and directly uploading it to B&N’s PubIt, which nets you a better royalty.
– Amazon, oh Amazon, how I love thee, Amazon/Kindle Digital Publishing — https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/ – Amazon’s Kindle reads mobi files. Amazon allows you to upload a variety of file formats, such as pdfs and Word docs, but I warn you, you have less control over how it ultimately looks if you don’t set it up as an ebook yourself before you upload. You’ll have the most flexibility formatting your book in HTML (and here’s a great how-to: David Gaughran’s blog and ebook, Let’s Get Digital (http://davidgaughran.wordpress.com/lets-get-digital).
However, if you want a Pamela-proof method to create an Amazon-and-Barnes & Noble-ready ebook, here you go: PRESS BOOKS (http://pressbooks.com ). Press Books uses the Word Press interface to create epub ebooks FOR FREE. So if you know how to use Word Press, this will be candy. I use Word Press for my blog and for my website. You have a little less control than with HTML, but you absolutely know what you are getting will work. So you can take your epub from Press Books straight to B&N’s PubIt and upload. You have one more step to go to get your ebook ready for Amazon, and it’s also free. Download Calibre (http://calibre-ebook.com). Open your epub in Calibre. Convert to mobi. Upload to Amazon/KDP. If you want help, give SkipJack a shout.
Going through formatting for print, Smashwords, PubIt and KDP simultaneously for five books all by myself taught me a lot. My biggest takeaways: 1) nonfiction will take two to three times as long as fiction. Each bulleted or numbered list, each subheading, and every image requires extra effort. Don’t even get me thinking about (gasp) text boxes and footnotes. 2) I will never use the tab key again (those that have self-published are smiling right now). I will zealously format every manuscript from its inception in such a way as to help me format for publishing faster. Use Word (.doc not .docx) and use “Styles,” people, use Styles.
My total expenditure on formatting? $39.50. But my investment of time to format five nonfiction books for all of these venues, as a first-timer? Two weeks. My estimate for how long it will take me to do one nonfiction book for these venues, next time? Three hours.