Throwback Thursday: Fear of Formatting

It’s Throwback Thursday again, and today’s recycled post goes back to May 2013. As I endeavor to format and publish a new book (wish me luck), I’ve been thinking about those self-publishing fears that prevent some of us authors from going it alone. Don’t let your fear of formatting keep you from achieving your dreams. If you choose to sign on with a traditional publisher or small press, more power to you. But don’t make any publishing decisions out of fear. Every aspect of self-publishing is do-able. If you’re a technophobe, it might not be easy, but I promise you can do it. Take your time. Do your research. And find people who will help you.

Read on…

Fear of Formatting

babe ruth“Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game” ~ Babe Ruth

If you’re a baseball fan, you’ve read this quote. If you’ve ever seen A Cinderella Story staring Hillary Duff you will remember this quote from the movie. It’s a great quote–and we’re going to use a variation of this for today’s post.

Never let the fear of formatting keep you from publishing your book.

Any author who has considered self-publishing has suffered from the fear of having to do a whole bunch of stuff they’re not accustomed to doing–marketing, editing, commissioning a cover, formatting. I understand this fear. Some authors let these fears prevent them from ever publishing at all. When fear is in the driver’s seat, you’re going to make bad decisions.

Let’s expel some of our self-publishing fears:

Marketing: This is a normal fear, but unless your name is Stephenie Meyer, James Patterson, J.K. Rowling, or Nora Roberts, prepare to do lots of your own marketing regardless of which publishing method you choose. If you can write a book, you can tell other people about it. That’s all marketing really is–telling other people about your book. (I know – easier said than done.)

Editing: You’ll need to outsource. You can hire someone, but if you can’t afford to do so, enlist some trusted beta readers to help you out.

Cover Art: You’ll have to have a  cover. Your book will look silly without one. Commissioning a cover isn’t as scary as it sounds. It doesn’t have to be super expensive. A good cover artist will help you come up with a concept, and once you’re caught up in the excitement of your cover art, the scary feelings will go away.

Formatting: This is by far the easiest part of your publishing journey. Seriously, if you can write a whole book, you can do this. There are free guides available to help you through this. Formatting and uploading to Kindle and Createspace is free. If you can afford to do so, you can hire someone to format for you, but it really is something you can do for yourself–for free. When I self-published The Fifth Circle, I had a deep-seated fear of formatting, but after giving it a try, I found out it’s not only doable, but one of the easier aspects of publishing.

Here are some formatting tips and tricks I hope will help you:

  • Give yourself a day. Find a kid-free, cat-free zone and prepare to spend lots of time formatting. If you try to format thirty-minutes before you have to rush out to pick up kids from school, you’ll end up frustrated and angry. Plan a day. Brew a pot of coffee (or send the hubby out for Starbucks). Prepare for several hours in front of the computer. Formatting is way less frustrating if you aren’t dashing out to pick up kids from school or extracting attention-seeking cats from your keyboard.
  • Format directly from Microsoft Word if possible. For a standard novel without lots of pictures, there’s no reason to invest in a complicated program for Kindle formatting. KDP is very user friendly. So is Createspace. These programs are designed for self-publishing authors just like you and me.
  • Don’t get frustrated if your first try doesn’t work. On Kindle, you have an option to view your file before publishing. On KDP, you have the option to view your book on the screen using different Kindle versions. You also have the option to download a mobi file which you can upload to your Kindle. I highly recommend doing this because it’s very helpful to look over your book on your own Kindle. And, you’ll have a mobi file you can send to reviewers later on. My first Kindle attempt wasn’t entirely successful. I didn’t like the way the Chapter headings looked. So, I made a few adjustments to my Word doc, re-uploaded to KDP, and all was right with the world.
  • Createspace templates are your friends. Createspace has templates for the interior and exterior for your book. Use them. My Microsoft Word skills aren’t the best. I get upset and frustrated over margins and tabs and such. I used the pre-formatted template and I’m glad I did.
  • Order the proof. Createspace lets you order a proof. A real live book to hold in your hands! It’s very inexpensive. With shipping, I paid about seven dollars for my proof. You can even order more than one! Though you can preview your book online, I recommend ordering the hard-copy proof to have and to hold. After all, don’t you want to be the first to hold your printed book in your hands?
  • If you publish with Createspace, you have the option to let them format your Kindle file and upload to KDP. I didn’t use this option, and from what I’ve read, it’s not recommended. Format your own Kindle file for a regret-free experience and let Createspace do what they do best – your paperback.
  • Ask for help. KDP and Createspace both have forums where you can ask questions. It’s likely those who came before you have already asked the same questions, so you can read those threads and find the answer you’re looking for. Self-published authors are notoriously helpful people. Ask your author friends. They’ll be happy to help you.
  • Kindle and Createspace aren’t the only games in town. I’ve signed up for KDP Select, which means I can’t publish in any other ebook format for ninety days. For some people, KDP Select is the way to go. With the option to have five free promotional days per ninety-day period, KDP Select can be a great marketing tool. I’ve decided to publish on Nook, Kobo, and Smashwords after my ninety-days have expired. Whether or not you decide to sign up for KDP Select is a decision only you can make. If you don’t want to use Createspace, you can consider other companies such as Lulu. I have friends who have been very happy with Lulu. Consider all your options before publishing. Many of the same options available to publishers are also available to self-publishers.
  • Note: Since the original publication of this article, I’ve branched out a bit. Formatting for Nook was super easy. Smashwords, not so much. Smashwords has a free formatting guide and I highly recommend you make use of it. Basically, on Smashwords, you’ll want to save your document as a new Word 1997-2003 document, erase ALL formatting, and rebuild from scratch. It’s the only way. Trust me.

We all must choose our own paths on our publishing journeys. Self-publishing isn’t the right path for everyone. If you’re seriously considering self-publishing, don’t let the fear of formatting hold you back. If fear is the only thing standing between you and your dream, read on…

“What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?” ~ Vincent van Gogh

“It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed.” ~ Theodore Roosevelt

“I honestly think it is better to be a failure at something you love than to be a success at something you hate.” ~ George Burns

“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” ~ Confucius

“I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.” ~ Michael Jordan

25 thoughts on “Throwback Thursday: Fear of Formatting

  1. I’m going to be diving into publishing my first book on Kindle in the next 12 months or so and formatting is something that is concerning me, but this post has put my fears at ease a little 🙂


    • Good luck with your book, Peter, and congratulations! I let my fear of formatting and the other aspects of publishing rule my life. It led me to make some bad publishing decisions. Once I overcame my fear, I learned formatting really isn’t bad. I’m not the most technologically advanced person (I still miss my flip phone), but I survived formatting. You will too. You can ALWAYS contact me if you need advice or help. If I don’t know the answer, I’ll find someone who does.


      • Thank you Tricia 🙂 I know what you mean about the aspects of publishing weighing on the mind. Formatting is up there, but do is worrying about paying tax on sales etc. but I am realising that those things really aren’t as important as getting the stories out there.


  2. As an infamous technophobe, I was terrified of formatting until I tried it. With the notable exception of Smashwords, the process was actually straightforward if a little time consuming.

    If I can do it, anyone can. Trust me on that!


    • That’s what I always tell people. If I can do it, anyone can. Smashwords is weird. I made multiple attempts before I finally got it figured out, but I eventually did it. It just takes patience and time.


  3. My book is epic-length, but my first formatting effort at Smashwords was accepted the first time around. You just have to go slow, working your way through the style guide. CreateSpace formatting was aggravating, but the quality of their print output has been good, as has been their customer service.


    • I’m impressed you were able to tackle Smashwords the first time around. You are absolutely right about going slow. The first time I used Createspace, it was time consuming, but I had no problems at all. The second time, I struggled. I’m not sure why. Maybe I tried to rush it. I’ve learned to give myself lots of time with few distractions.


      • The CreateSpace online proofreader irritated me, because it flagged as problems things that were not issues, and I didn’t like how it timed out too quickly, and then took forever to re-load, always from the beginning. It may have been designed with much shorter manuscripts in mind. I complained about its user-unfriendliness, but it’s been more than a year, so I don’t know if they’ve improved it, yet. It also screwed up my cover once. They did fix that. After fighting with the CS proofreader, following the Smashwords style guide to convert my manuscript was a piece of cake.

        I’m currently recording an audiobook edition, which presents a whole new set of problems. My last project will be to re-format for a hardcover at Lulu.


        • CS wasn’t bad the first time I used it, though my books aren’t particularly long, so maybe that’s why. The second time I used it, I really struggled. I had a cover that didn’t have enough bleed through according to CS. I went back and forth with them for days until it was finally resolved.

          I haven’t tackled audiobook or Lulu. Good luck!


  4. Hello amazing advice. You are a wealth of info, Tricia. Taking a day to just dedicate to formatting sounds like a realistic, quality tip (along with the other bazillion in the blog post). Keep rockin’ the writing world!


  5. Tricia…as an author with a Manhattan literary agent who never thought i would have to self-publish, I was terrified when the time came and I decided to go solo…i knew nothing…but with a couple of friends (who saw me in my nuttiest state) we made it through…the thing is a novel takes so long to write that it’s likely i’ve forgotten all i learned first time around –so thanks so much for your article since i am on the long home stretch of number two….it really helps and I will save it. Following you now…Om!


    • That’s true! Some of what you learn is forgotten when you format the next novel. I’m not a particularly fast writer, so it’s quite a while in between books for me. Thanks for the comment and the follow, Mira.


  6. Have you guys tried buying a copy of the print or ebook format of your titles? It may pass in CreateSpace or Smashwords guidelines but what is really important is how it actually looks in print or how it is displayed in the different ebook reading device.


  7. You just may be hearing from me when the time comes, Tricia. this is a perfect beginner’s guide. I’m bookmarking it and hope to come back to reblog when I finish this 30-day blog challenge. Thanks, from all us newbies.


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