I have spent the last two days attempting to format my novel for paperback. Let me tell you, this is not a process for the faint of heart! And if you are not good with computer software, or possess an unlimited amount of patience—if you are not good with detailed, boring, repetitive tasks, or obsessed with persisting until you get it right—I recommend that you either pay or trade for someone to do your formatting for you.
That being said, it wasn’t that bad—but there is a learning curve. I spent hours yesterday trying to format Persnickety’s Book of Bedtime Stories for printing through CreateSpace. I was using LibreOffice, a free word processing program, which probably increased the time and level of frustration. I tried using a template, I tried using Page Styles and Text Styles and Paragraph Styles. I even tried using Scribus, a free desktop-publishing program. But having made a little progress, taking the time to actually learn Scribus was not something I had the patience for, and I went back to LibreOffice. Someone somewhere probably knows a better way to do this, but I didn’t have the benefit of their expertise.
It seemed that every time I changed a page style, several other pages would change as well. I tried creating three custom page styles, and that seemed to work. But then when I reopened my document yesterday afternoon, all my custom styles had been renamed Convert (Number). And there were over seventy Convert styles! I had no chance of figuring out which ones to use, so I ended up deleting all of them and starting over.
What it finally came down to was knowing how to use the formatting tools properly. I had to use one Style for the Front Matter, Left Page and Right Page for the actual story, and then a Default Style for the back matter. In many cases, I kept having to reassign each page with the correct style. Because I wanted each story to begin on a Right Page, I had to insert a few blank pages. And blank pages shouldn’t have headers or footers, which meant they also had to be the Default Style, which would mess up my Left and Right pages for a bit. Sometimes I ended up having to delete the blank page, then create a new page break with Default Style to fix this. Then I discovered that despite following the instructions to imbed my fonts, CreateSpace’s Interior Reviewer kept telling me that I had a problem with fonts that weren’t imbedded. However, exporting to PDF solved that problem.
Thinking I was nearly done, I stayed up to keep working for “just a few more minutes.” I kept finding problems—that one blank page that had somehow picked up a header and footer—the headers that I had inadvertently put on the wrong pages because of the way LibreOffice shows the layout—the huge spaces I had created between words when I justified the text—the page numbers I had forgotten to update in my Table of Contents. And of course, part way through, I just had to decide to change my page size and add in the running headers along the top of the pages.
But I learned—A LOT! I learned that some decisions need to be made in the beginning and then I need to stick with them. Page size, headers, and footers fall into this category. Font decisions are also helpful, but using Formatting Styles, it’s not so difficult to change them. Just make sure that both sets of page numbers use the same font and font size. And be prepared to spend a lot of time on this while you’re learning the process. I’m glad I formatted for e-book first, so I already had most of my front and back matter ready, and had already learned how to use Formatting Styles. And most importantly, don’t get obsessed with this project, if you can help it. I ended up staying up two hours past my usual bedtime before I finally uploaded a good-looking PDF to CreateSpace. And then I woke up again around 5:30 a.m., thinking about what I had accomplished, and how I was going to create my cover, which has to be a separate file. So yes, I’m more than a little tired this morning.
I’m actually kind of looking forward to the next formatting project. I want to see if I’ve actually conquered the process, if I can do it faster next time. I also want to spend a couple of days learning Scribus, so I can try using that for the next novel. I wish I had InDesign, because Hugh Howey has a wonderful Youtube tutorial on formatting with InDesign. But Adobe programs are expensive, and my budget currently only allows for a little more than free. But yes, I am just crazy enough to want to do this again. I’m not happy with this part of my personality. I think it’s the same part of me that loved Accounting classes in college, that delights in crossword puzzles and jigsaw puzzles. I wish I still got this excited and obsessed while doing the actual writing. I think the logical side of my brain likes the nitpicky production stuff, and the creative side likes generating the ideas. But they don’t want to work together enough to do the actual writing. Perhaps that too will come.