Self-publishing: the MS Setup
Since self-publishing has become popular, one might wonder why people still pay big bucks for books by known authors from big publishers. The answer, I believe, is quality. With a self-pubbed book, it's hard to know if you're getting junk or a gem. For example, I once bought an e-book that sounded interesting and found the whole thing center spaced. Using a segment from my latest book, I'll show you what that looked like.
Setting up a manuscript for print involves some choices on the doer's part, but awareness of publishing convention is helpful. Not center aligning your text is an easy one, but there are others. Will all your chapters start on a right-hand page? What fonts will you use? Will you allow hyphenation? Widow/orphan control? Indent paragraphs or put space between non-indented ones?
The easiest thing to do is hire someone to format for you. It's not terribly expensive, and I did it that way for a while, but as with other elements of publishing, I watched and learned what they did and how they did it. Finally I felt ready to try my own formatting.
It's kind of fun, but it's also kind of a nightmare.
I need separate files for e-books and print. E-books don't have page numbers and headings, but Amazon requires a table of contents. Draft2Digital makes that for me if I've set the MS up correctly, which is nice. Print books have headings and page numbers, so in order for them to turn out right, the chapters have to end with a Section Break as opposed to the Page Break used for e-books. Print books should have justified margins, which can create odd spacing within a line. E-books are fine with left-hand alignment.
If you're already lost, you should hire someone to format your book for you.
Here's how I do it. Once my book has been edited to a final, polished version, I start two files, one for print and one for e-books. That will become more than two, since I publish on both Amazon and D2D, but I want to wait as long as possible to subdivide, because the more files I have, the more places I have to go to correct mistakes found along the way. Amazon and D2D differ just enough that it's easier to make two e-book files and two print files. Then I fine-tune the MS to fit the requirements of each.
Print requires PDF files, and little glitches like random blank pages tend to appear in that process. It's usually something I've overlooked or done wrong that makes that happen, but it can be frustrating to find where the error is. I've learned to eliminate extra pilcrows (¶) and check those chapter endings to make sure there's only one kind of break and it's the right one. (MOffice sometimes "helps" by putting in breaks where it thinks they're required, as does my PDF file maker.) My husband has learned to just nod wisely when I come downstairs and rant about that, or missing page numbers, or unsightly spaces within a line of text.
I do a LOT of proofing back and forth for each file, but luckily, both Amazon and D2D provide ways to see online how the book is going to look IRL. The last step for print is to order proof copies. I usually get 5 and pass 4 out to my eagle-eyed proofers.
They each find different things to question, but that's good. Even when they're wrong, it makes me look at the line or passage to see what they didn't get about the line or paragraph. As they read, I make one more pass through myself, trying hard not to change things unless it's absolutely necessary at that late date. Once I make the corrections found in that round, I do the final proof using the online proof sections for both Amazon and D2D. Once that's done, I okay the book for publication.
It's almost a given that there will be one last correction or two that every one of us missed, but I have learned to live with that...sort of. Well, not really. Actually, not at all, but I'm trying.