Saturday, August 30, 2008

DIY Formatting for POD

Bottom Line It For Me, Baby Version (200 Words Or Less):
The series based on content from my how-to reference book on self-publishing,
The IndieAuthor Guide, marches on. I can't just copy and paste everything from the manuscript, because the thing is 300pp long and heavily illustrated besides. But I will present topics from the book to the extent of detail possible in a blog post. Note that I'm not covering editing, designing your own book cover, creating your brand or publishing to the Kindle here, since those topics are already presented on my website in the form of free pdf guides. I’ll include links to previous posts in the series here in the Bottom Line It section. So far, I've posted topics on Publishing Options, Rights, Royalties and Advances, What's the Deal With ISBNs And Bookstores, Choosing A Publisher and Getting Organized. Today's post is part one of DIY Formatting For POD. The text is taken directly from The IndieAuthor Guide, but illustrations had to be left out because I can't get them properly aligned with my text on this blog.

Go On An' Run Yo Mouth, I Ain't Got Nuthin' But Time Version (Can't Promise It Won't Go On Forever):
If you’re using a vanity or subsidy publisher, you don’t need these formatting instructions because your publisher will either do the formatting for you or provide its own, very specific formatting requirements. This chapter explains how to format your book by yourself for print through a POD or eBook publisher. You may be familiar with standard formatting conventions for manuscripts to be submitted to an agent or editor, but formatting for POD is entirely different. The manuscript you submit for print must be formatted as print “galleys”: pages that look exactly how they should look in the published book. Therefore, it’s up to you to ensure everything from page dimensions to headers and footers are properly formatted before sending your manuscript off for print.

The keys to success with formatting a proof manuscript are minimalism and consistency. Use as few different formatting options as possible, and apply them consistently. Ideally, you should start with a pre-formatted document “shell” so that your pages will be properly formatted as you write, but you can also set up a shell, copy text from your existing manuscript and paste it into the shell as ‘unformatted text’ so that it will acquire the correct formatting from the shell.

In this post, I’ll be going through the steps needed to build and use a manuscript shell in Microsoft Word™ 2003. All the program features and options shown should be available in any word processing program from that year or later, and since MS Word™ has been the leading word processing program for decades most other word processors are designed to mimic Word’s interface and layout. If your word processor is substantially different, you’ll have to consult your program’s menus and help files to locate the features shown and learn how to use them.

Every modern word processing program has ‘Style’ functions built into it. Styles are a way of storing formatting options, such as font size, line spacing and so on, so you can easily apply all those same options to other sections of text with a single click. In Microsoft Word™, Styles are accessed under the Format menu.
When you open a new, blank document in your word processor, certain default Styles are already assigned to the document. If you just start typing into your document, the default Styles specify what font face and font size will be used, among other things. Clicking on the Styles and Formatting menu item in MS Word™ 2003 will display a list of all Styles currently available for use in the document.

Mousing over a Style in the list pops up a little box displaying all the formatting options being used in that Style. For example, the "Normal" Style is defined as Times New Roman, 12 point text, using English language conventions (i.e., no umlauts or Chinese characters will be needed), with text left-aligned, lines single-spaced, and widow/orphan control (explained in The IndieAuthor Guide to Editing) turned on. Style names are displayed with their respective formatting options applied, to give you a preview of how your text will look when each Style is used. For example, the Heading Style names are all displayed in boldface because each of those Styles applies boldface to text.

Three Heading Styles are available in the default list; Headings are formatted differently from ordinary text, and are intended for use as chapter and section headings in a document’s Table of Contents. In Word™, when you insert a Table of Contents (instructions to be provided later in this series) the program locates every piece of text with a Heading Style applied to it and includes that text in the Table of Contents. The Clear Formatting command appears above the listed Styles. Using Styles in Word™ is simple: just highlight the text you want formatted, then click the Style containing the formatting options you want. However, it’s obvious that this only works if there’s an applicable Style containing all your desired formatting options in the list.

People who don’t know how to use Styles apply formatting changes to the text in their documents “on the fly,” meaning as they go, by selecting the text they want to change and applying their desired formatting manually through use of the toolbar (i.e., 'bold' and 'italics' buttons) or formatting menu. Each time the user does this, Word™ stores the chosen formatting options as a new Style and adds that Style to the list. The newly-created Style is named in the list like this:
[name of Style before changes] + [list of changes applied, in order applied]

For example, if you select text formatted as the default, Normal Style and apply boldface and italics to it using toolbar buttons, the new Style will be named:
Normal + bold + italics

If you applied the italics first, then the boldface, the new Style would be named:
Normal + italics + bold

As you can imagine, it’s easy to quickly build up a huge number of differently-named Styles, many of which are duplicates in terms of the formatting changes they apply. The on-the-fly approach is fine for personal documents, letters, notes to yourself and the like, but not for a word processing file to be submitted to a POD publisher. This is because the publisher must convert word processing files into a format that’s readable by their printing programs and equipment.

You probably know that some computer programs place a limit on how many characters you can use for a filename; similarly, POD publishers’ conversion tools have internal limits on how many characters of a Style name they can read. If a given document has four different Styles that all begin with “Normal + bold + italics,” each of which goes on to set different options for line spacing, indenting, font face or anything else, the publisher’s file converter may not ‘read’ beyond “italics” in the Style names. It will assume that all four Styles are the same, ignore the latter three ‘duplicates’ and apply only the first instance of “Normal + bold + italics” to all the text that was originally formatted using four different Styles. It will still apply all the formatting options specified by that first Style, it won’t stop at “italics,” but any formatting changes applied by the latter three Styles will be lost and you’ll get an unpleasant surprise in the proof copy.

It’s far better to determine all the different formatting required in your manuscript ahead of time and create differently-named Styles for each. Note that if you only intend to publish in eBook formats other than pdf (i.e., prc, pdb, lrf, html, Kindle), you should keep the number of Styles you use to a minimum and keep them very simple, because when you’re done formatting you will have to convert your finished document into the desired format(s) and all but the most basic formatting options will be lost.

What About PDF Files?
Some POD publishers accept pdf file submissions in addition to, or instead of, word processing files (i.e., .doc, .txt. .rtf, etc.). In that case, no file conversion is needed at the publisher’s end. Their processing programs and equipment print the pdf file exactly as-is, so you can feel confident your published book will look exactly like the pdf file you submitted. However, turning a word processing file into a pdf is also a file conversion process. A pdf file is essentially a series of images; it’s as if the pdf maker program takes a photograph of each page in the source document and assembles all those pictures into a single file. The pdf file looks just like the word processing source file, but you can’t edit it with a word processor. The pdf file is also a lot smaller than the source file in terms of bytes, because it doesn’t contain all the behind-the-scenes formatting details and instructions that were present in the source file.

There are many pdf maker programs, and some of them are available online as a free download. Do an internet search on “pdf maker” + free to find them. Open Office™, a free, open-source alternative to Microsoft Office™, includes pdf maker functionality right inside all its programs. The granddaddy of them all is Adobe Acrobat™, the first pdf maker invented. Adobe™ distributes its Acrobat Reader™ software free of charge, but that program can only read pdf files. The full Acrobat™ program is needed to create pdf files. Every pdf maker program creates pdf files, but they don’t all use the same file conversion process. Some don’t take source file Styles into account, but those that include a feature enabling the user to convert pdf files back into word processing files might. Adobe Acrobat’s™ conversion engine generally disregards Styles, but it sometimes falters with heavily-formatted documents due to the large amount of data in the file. This isn’t necessarily a problem with the Acrobat™ program itself, but with the demands it makes on your computer’s processing power. Formatting your word processing document through the use of a small number of consistently-applied Styles keeps file size to a minimum.

Up Next: DIY Formatting For POD Pt. 2, Creating Custom Styles


Alice said...

I actually find your web page font very hard to read as its too small.
Which is a pity as its good info.

jay said...

Alice, hit Command+ on your keyboard and the font will magically grow.