Creating Silver Part 3 – Formatting

This is part 3 of my series called, “Creating Silver.” This blog and its posts will talk about the troubles I went through brainstorming, writing, and publishing The Silver Ninja. I will talk about user reviews, sales, editing, marketing and any other miscellaneous obstacles I encountered along the way. I’m also going to talk about what went wrong.


What went horribly wrong…

Formatting… formatting is a bitch (pardon the language). I don’t anticipate this blog post becoming too in-depth, but you never know, my rage could drive me for many digital miles. Anyway, formatting your book for print, epub, kindle, and smashwords is not fun! In fact, out of everything I disliked about publishing the book, formatting followed a close second to editing. Actually you know what? I hate formatting more than I hate editing the book! In fact, I hate formatting more than marketing the book.

So I hate formatting, plain and simple. (I’m terrible at proofreading, but I don’t mind doing it.)

You see, formatting isn’t a simple “copy and paste” into a pre-built document that happens to be the right size. Did you ever hear about a thing called rivers in print? Me neither! This is a text river, for those who are curious: Text rivers If rivers weren’t tricky enough to solve, how about bleeds? Do you know what bleeds are? Kerning? I didn’t know either! Well, I knew kerning, but I only used it in video.

Formatting is a different creature altogether, and one that I was not prepared for. If my girlfriend hadn’t taken that class in Adobe InDesign, I don’t even know if there would be a print version. Are you noticing a recurring theme? Yes, I owe the salvation of my book to my girlfriend Chrysti. She’s a lot smarter than she gives herself credit for. Thankfully, the print version of the book came out beautifully and is probably the best looking version out of the bunch.

The epub, kindle, and pdf versions of the book don’t look nearly as nice as the print version. This is because it was a frustrating experience getting the book formatted for digital. So at the time of this writing, there is a kindle plugin you can use in Adobe InDesign to export your book into a .mobi format. Unfortunately, this works unreliably and doesn’t export the table of contents properly. In the instances that I’ve attempted it, it wouldn’t show up properly in the kindle previewer or just wouldn’t work at all.

It was advised through numerous message boards and blogs that you need to have a working table of contents and no page numbers. The process of formatting these books for digital is so complex, that some authors have started selling instructional DVD’s! The great irony here is that I am a motion graphics artist and I use complicated programs on a daily basis. But formatting the book for digital? I’d rather hand draw 600 frames of animation than try figure out if my document is readable on dozens of devices.

I was trying to build everything in Adobe InDesign, but it just wasn’t feasible for my skillset. Worked great for print, but digital was very iffy. Whenever I would boot up the book in the kindle preview app, the table of contents would aesthetically look horrible. The spacing would be wrong, the links would look ugly, and the book just, looked… weird. Another big irony was that a few online forum posts mentioned how Word was terrible for formatting your book. Great, well I already wrote 300+ pages of text in Word, I wasn’t about to switch to a different program this far into the process.

I must have spent 3 days tearing my hair out trying to make the digital version of the book look perfect. Eventually, I stumbled upon a youtube tutorial made by an indie author using some free 3rd party programs to create their book. Calibre ended up being the most recommended program (and with good reason). The interface was simple to use; it allowed you to fill in the metadata; you could convert your book to almost any format, and it was free.

I followed a youtube tutorial on generating a table of contents within Word. Viewed my document in “For Web” mode which let me see any extra spaces, glitches, mistakes and formatting errors. Saved the document as an HTML and brought it into Calibre, voila! I finally had a digital version of the book. Although the matter was resolved, I couldn’t help but feel that I wanted to hire a freelancer for any future digital conversions.

I thought I was in the clear once I had my digital copy, I was wrong. When I tried to upload my book to Smashwords.com they basically said, “Don’t use the generated TOC from Word!”

…Are you freaking kidding me?

I was so pissed that my document couldn’t be used at Smashwords; that I immediately requested they send me a referral to have someone do the formatting for me. They suggested a website called Ebook Launch and I quickly sent in my manuscript. For a mere 40 bucks I got my book properly formatted for the smashwords premium catalogue, some legalese text, and an acceptable table of contents. I lost some of my cool fonts, but I didn’t care, I just wanted the damn process to be done and over with.

Bottom line – do your homework before formatting your book. Don’t press enter twice to double space; use the rulers to create indents; don’t use tab; don’t use fancy fonts unless you can embed them into your book.

In fact, here are my tips for formatting your book:

  1. 1. Visit each website you’re planning to submit your book to and read their submission instructions. What works for one distributor will not work for another.

  2. 2. If you’re doing a print version of your book, hire someone, seriously. Unless you know your way around InDesign, you are going to have a hard time getting your book to look right. If you do 3. get InDesign and decide to follow some tutorials but don’t own the software, you can rent it via Adobe’s Creative Cloud service.

  3. 4. If you are just starting your book, make sure to set up your document before writing a single letter on the page, don’t even put your name down. Set up your formatting, spacing, indents, rulers, etc. That way, when it’s time to convert it into an e-book or print version, you won’t have to do as much backtracking. Trust me, it’s a huge headache if you do it later.

  4. 5. Hire someone, seriously, did I just repeat myself? I sure did. I said this already, but I’ll say it again… formatting is -in theory- an easy process when you know how to use the tools. However, getting it to look right is a completely different story. It’s tedious, aggravating, time consuming, and not fun.

Once you get that book through the approval process though… well. It’s one of the most rewarding experiences you can have as an author. Seeing samples of your printed book show up on the digital mock up page and then receiving a physical copy? What’s mastercard say? Priceless. But don’t get too comfortable, because now, you my friend…

are a published author.

Oh wait did you think you were done here? No, no, my friend. Now you need to market that (bleep)!


Next week on Creating Silver – marketing. (The crowd mutters an unenthusiastic, “Yay…”)

Wilmar Luna