Saturday, 16 January 2016

Format your ebook for Paperback Printing

The e-book for Waging War was uploaded yesterday (!!!) and my pre-order will officially publish on January 26th. I learned a very cool trick from another author about .mobi files. When I uploaded my word doc to KDP, it gave me the option to use the online viewer for quality control (which I always do), or download a .mobi file (for the first time, I did that too). I now have a .mobi file to send out to reviewers as ARCs, without having to use Calibre, or take the extra step of converting it myself.

We've already established my relative laziness, the .mobi-to-ARC trick is just further evidence of it.

So, after celebratory wine (and fascinating conversations about the differences between men and women) with my editor last night, today was all about formatting the ebook doc to be uploaded to Createspace and Ingramspark for paperback printing.

As with my last blog post about formatting an ebook, these are very personal preferences, and should be taken more as guidelines than rules. One thing I've learned after four books is that you want to wait until the very last minute to format the paperback - and by that I mean after the last, last, last edits are done. If someone would like to write me some computer code so that any edits I make to an ebook automatically change the same word in the paperback file, I'd be eternally grateful. Barring that, however, I will always have two distinct documents to edit any time there's something to fix.

So, just to keep things simple, after I've uploaded my ebook for publication, I make a copy of that file, and call it the print version. Then...

  1. Change the page size to whatever paperback trim size you prefer. Industry standards are 5x8, 5.5x8.5, and 6x9. I chose 5.5x8.5 because more of my favorite books were that size than any other. 
  2. Change the margin size to something that works for your word count and font size. Now, I realize that sounds very random, and it is. There are standards on Createspace (here's the link) that you can follow, but my word counts are really high (Marking Time is 140k words), and if I went with the recommended settings, the book would have been over 500 pages. That's expensive to print, and would have jacked the consumer cost to more than I would personally pay for a book. So, the margins I set for my books are custom, The pages are mirrored (not "normal"), the gutters are .8, top margins .5, bottom margins .4, inside margins 0, and outside margins .5. My font size is 11.5pt. Garamond, which I chose because it looked appropriate for a book set in Victorian England, but 12pt. Times New Roman is pretty standard.
  3. Insert any images you use (don't copy and past), and embed your fonts. Ingram Spark is VERY particular about this, and they'll kick your interior back until it's done right. Here's a link I found that explains how.
That will give you a fair idea of your paperback page count. If it's too many or too few, you can play with the elements a bit (larger font size, though I wouldn't go bigger than 12.5pt, narrower margins, etc). When I wrote Marking Time I didn't realize that the industry standard for publishing is one space after a period, so I had done two spaces like my high school typing teacher taught. To change that, I selected all, then did a find/replace: in the find category I typed .(period)  (space, space), and in the replace category I typed .(period) (space). I saved almost 20 pages in length when I made that change.

Once you have your page count, you (or your cover designer) can finish your paperback cover. The page count is necessary to get the spine width, and far better photoshoppers than I have done very good tutorials about cover design.

Now to build the pdf that will be uploaded to the printers:
  1. Cut all the front material (inside cover page, publisher info, table of contents, dedication, etc) so that your document begins on chapter one. 
  2. Create a new doc with the same page size and margins and paste the front material you just cut into it. Name this file "Front pages" or something like that. These two documents will be merged into one file again, but unless something has changed in Word, I can't figure out how to start numbering pages in a different page than the first one of the doc.
  3. Go back to your main doc and number the pages. You can adjust the size of the footer as needed. Page 1 should be the page that your story begins on, whether it's Chapter One or a prologue. 
  4. Change your view of the main body of the book to 2-pages and scroll down page by page to check the pagination. This is called checking for "widows and orphans," which are the one or two words or lines at the top of a new page. They look very lonely, and should be fixed. If I have just one or two, I might try to pull up a paragraph higher in the chapter, or see if there's something that can be cut. If I have many, I'll drop every chapter heading about a third of the way down the page. That will usually ripple through the chapters to take care of the problem.
  5. When I'm satisfied that the main text body looks good on the page, I save that as a PDF called "print body" or something like that.
  6. Open the front pages doc. Use the numbered body pages doc to find the page numbers for the table of contents. Format everything so it looks good, and make sure it's an EVEN number of pages long. If it's an odd number, Chapter One will fall on a left-side page and look weird. Add a blank page at the end if you need to. Then save it as a PDF.
You need Adobe Acrobat Pro for this next step. If you don't have it, get it, find a friend who has it, or download the free trial. Open Acrobat and select "combine files." Then add the two PDFs, put them in the right order, make sure it's the largest size (bottom right of your screen) file, then combine. Check the document and make sure it looks right, then save it as the proper name of your book. In my case the file name is Waging War (The Immortal Descendants Book 4). I am consistent with both ebook and print book files because it's a way to help make sure they find each other in the Amazon world. I then save this file to my desktop so it doesn't get lost in the myriad of drafts in the Waging War file.

Go to Createspace, create your book, upload the doc, upload the cover, and ta da - a print book is born.

Obviously, I'm assuming a fair degree of fluency with Word. There are a lot of really good tutorials about formatting online, which was how I taught myself to format (along with a lot of trial and error), and Createspace has a good manual. I'm also more than happy to answer any specific questions you have about how I do my books.

Happy writing!


  1. Thank you for the post. I am struggling to understand all this publishing minefield that gets in the way of the job but is so necessary. I am a fledgling writer but authors like you make it so much better.
    I could also say I love your books but I have already said that in my reviews.

    1. Barb, anytime you have questions, or anything I can help you with, please don't hesitate to ask. There was a lot of trial and error in my own publishing education - I'm very happy to streamline as much of that for other authors as I can.

  2. Thank you SO much for this! A friend tried to help me with these specs last night, but it can be rather confusing. I have bookmarked this particular blog post and will return to it again in order to finally get my books out there in paperback! :)

    1. Beverly, if there are any specific questions you have, or if I can help you in any way, please don't hesitate to write to me directly at Good luck!

    2. Thank you, April! A couple of questions--do you recommend a table of contents for ALL books? Also, what is the process for having your name and the title of the book displayed at the very top of the page? Thanks again!

    3. Hi Beverly, yes - tables of contents are now nearly mandatory, at least for Amazon. I've never done my name at the top of the page, but I'm guessing a header would do that. The title, at least for Amazon, is based on the title of the file you upload, so title that exactly the same way you title your book, so the ebook header shows up the same.
      You can find almost anything through google research - and I recommend poking around until you've figured out all the formatting quirks. Good luck!

    4. Hi again! It's your favorite formatting student! I tried to remove the double spaces after a period in my manuscript using the method you described, but I can't seem to get it to work. Could you please give me some detailed info on how to do that? Thanks! :)

    5. Hi Beverly,
      In the find/replace function of Word, type two spaces in the "find" field - no words, just press the space bar twice. Then press it once in the "replace" category. That should result in several thousand characters being removed. If it doesn't work, do a google search for formatting and see if someone else has other advice.
      Best of luck, Beverly!

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