Self Publishing, part 1

I’m not going to get into the should I – shouldn’t I argument about self-publishing. I’m going to assume you’re seriously considering it, and looking for tips. Here are the things I’ve learned; I’ll try and keep them in a vaguely comprehensible order.

Cover design

You know this is vital, right? And you know that unless you’ve got some great skillz, then using MSWord and clipart is out, yes?


I would suggest you really think about what your cover is going to say, and I don’t mean the title and your name. Really look at how covers are designed, how images are layered, colours are chosen, what the fonts add to the whole thing.

Make sure you can output a file in the correct dimensions and dpi for whichever publisher you’re using.

Invest in some decent software; gimp and serif are free, but pretty good. I use fireworks; even older versions of this will probably have most of what you need.

Aim to spend several days fiddling with your cover design. Don’t forget the blurb on the back, and the spine text (which is what will be on display most of the time). Leave room for a barcode, and don’t forget to put the address of your website on the back.

And if you can’t do any one part of this, employ a professional to do it for you. Your book is unlikely to sell without a good cover. Don’t skimp.

Formatting ebooks

Learn how to put together a table of contents (TOC). No, really. Get on the forums and most readers will tell you they find a TOC vital. If you’re writing a non-fiction book, you really can’t publish without it. If you’re writing a non-fiction book for an ereader and you can’t create links so the reader can flick back and forward through the book, then you shouldn’t really be publishing until you know how to do it.

Paragraphing. A confession here. Amazon’s kindle software indents the first paragraph of every chapter and new scene, and I haven’t corrected it in my ebooks. There is a way of doing it (insert p=0 in the html at each and every para you don’t want indented) but it’s enormously time-consuming and freezes the software I use about every 8 minutes. I’ve decided that in this one case, life is too short.

Make sure each chapter begins on a new page. Check and recheck, especially if you’ve had to convert it to a different format. make sure the Text starts no lower than halfway down an ereader screen. I find that’s about 6 to 8 blank lines in 12-point font, then ‘Chapter XX’, then 2 blank lines, then the start of the text. Make sure this is exactly the same for every new chapter.

Put your cover image on the first page. (centered)

Title and your name on the second page.

Copyright info on the third page.

Dedications etc on the fourth page

TOC starts on the fifth page (Centered, may be several pages long)

Maps next. (centered)

Prologue after that.

Then the first chapter.

Easy, eh?

Formatting text – and don’t forget that your tab, or indent, in a Word document is often quite large. In a book it should be about the width of 2 or 3 characters.

Next time – how does formatting differ in a physical book?


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