Road to Self-Published Author – Part V

Ah, the holidays are here, and the editing is done. Strange how such a daunting task can be summed up in four words, but we’ve moved on to formatting. We’ve certainly come a long way, leaving arduous typesetting behind us in favor of word processing. But in many ways, tuning all the little details to transform a manuscript to a book is much like tweaking the moveable type of old.

Lulu does provide numerous templates for the sizing of your for-print books which makes for an easier starting point. In our case, we’re going to have two primary print sizes: 5.5” x 8.5” (digest) and 5.833” x 8.264” (A5) – both in paperback. Why two different sizes, when they are obviously so close to one another? The answer: distribution. Out of the box, Lulu lets you sell your books directly, using your own storefront. If your book meets the necessary requirements, you can opt for several levels of distribution, which allow your printed work to reach the likes of Amazon, Barnes and Noble and your local library. There is a big difference in printing/ pricing between the Lulu storefronts and Amazon. In our case, the digest size is not available for distribution.

That’s fine, though, because on the Lulu side of things, the A5 cut is not eligible for publisher grade paper, which is significantly cheaper than the bright white stock used by default (and, perhaps, a little easier on the eyes due to its yellow/cream color).

Formatting the book includes setting font sizes, line spacing, headers/footers and proper breaks so that new chapters begin on the correct side of the book. It also includes things like the table of contents, title page, copyright page, etc. I made a couple mistakes so far during this process, and I’d like to share them.

1) Make double-certain you set your page sizes, margins, and gutter correctly. And then check one more time. In my case, I was formatting everything for the digest size, and was nearing completion, when I realized the original document was set for pocket size (another template we considered at one time). When I adjusted the page size, naturally, this through off all the page layouts so I had to fix it.

2) Make sure to check an author proof for readability. Actually, I haven’t so much as made this mistake as nearly made this mistake; it was something that had not occurred to me. Even if it reads well on the screen, it may not read that well on paper. So look at things like font size/family, the line spacing (under Format: Paragraph in Microsoft Word), and the distance between the first and last lines of your page with their respective headers (along the top margin, usually chapter/book/author name) and footers (along the bottom margin, used for page numbers). These may need to be adjusted if everything is too small and cramped. When in doubt, do a search for formatting tips. And scrutinize a copy of your book to see if it will be comfortable for that old woman in bifocals to read.

~ Meredith Purk

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