Formatting for the Self Published Author

It took me a long time to write my first novel. I can be a perfectionist and I never wanted to leave a scene until I was absolutely happy with every word. That takes a while. I can’t tell you how many times I cut, edited, and reworked those few hundred pages. I’d decide it was perfect, only to change my mind and hack it up again. It’s called OCD, and I’m okay with that.

Anywho, when I finally submitted my files to Createspace, I was floating on the moon. My book was going to be in print! Or so I thought. Insufficient gutter margins were the first in a long line of errors. I didn’t even know what the hell a gutter margin was. So I researched, edited, and resubmitted. I did this over and over again until that happy day arrived in which I received that satisfying email:  your interior file was accepted. WOOHOO! (I won’t go into my cover fiasco. That deserves its own rambling post.)

I ordered my proof copy, waited impatiently for it to arrive, all the while wondering why I hadn’t just paid the extra fifteen bucks to have it expedited. When I could finally hold it in my hands…I can’t possibly express the satisfaction I felt. Then I opened it.

It became immediately obvious to me that something wasn’t right. I’d left my manuscript double spaced because, well, I’m an idiot. No wonder I had a bloated page count! Okay. Annoying, but fixable. What else? Was my text size too big? It looked huge. My title page wasn’t centered. I had no copyright page because no one told me to put one in (kinda thought Createspace would do that for me) and, well…I’m an idiot.

I made several notes, went back to my laptop, fixed everything I needed to and resubmitted. My approval this time was less thrilling. I needed to see it in print again.

Better, but line spacing now seemed inadequate and seriously–what the hell is wrong with my text? I grabbed a couple books off my shelf and compared them to mine. Then I did more research. Apparently, you aren’t supposed to use Times New Roman for your font. Whatever. I changed things up and ordered a fresh copy.

Definitely on the right track, but… again I compared my book with others on my shelf. There was something wrong and I couldn’t quite put my finger on–JUSTIFICATION. I had not justified the margins. Terrific. Wondering now if I alone was supporting Createspace, I ordered another copy. Justification had done wonders. Very nice. I patted myself on the back until I skimmed to page 30 and found a one inch blank space in the middle of a paragraph. Justification is an asshole.

By this time, I’ve decided I should have just sucked it up and let Createspace format for me. What was a few hundred dollars compared with ongoing aggravation and a new ulcer? Still, I’d come this far. Might as well see it through.

It took over a month before I was satisfied. Then I handed copies to willing readers who found more formatting issues, typos, etc. When I finally went live I never wanted to look at another book again. Not mine, not anyone else’s. When you do everything yourself, and you’ve never done it before, there’s so much you don’t even realize is wrong…and just as much you aren’t sure how to fix. I’d like to volunteer to help anyone struggling, but since I’m in the middle of another nightmare with book three, I can only say this:  I feel your pain.

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