Ready, Set, Self-Publish: Choosing a Format

Ready, Set, Self-Publish: Choosing a Format




Self-publishing offers many options. Your book can be available in print, eBook, or another document version like PDFs. Which format do you choose?

The final destination of your published book will become the driving force behind how you prepare it for publication.

Where will you market the book? If you are a speaker, a printed version might work best. These books are fairly easy to transport and a beneficial addition to any product table. The one big advantage is that you are bringing your book directly to the consumer. No shipping. No waiting.

If your market is online, some kind of digital or downloadable version might work well. A point to consider if you are entertaining a digital format…not all eReaders are the same! And not all self-publishing formats can be read on every eReader.

So what dictates your formatting choice?

With several options available, there are a few questions to ask. Where will I market my book? Where will my eBook be available for downloading? Which device accepts that format? Which formats are the most popular?

To answer these questions, we will look at how formats work and then the most popular ones in self-publishing today.

Print Books

If your book will be printed, the formatting choices are simpler. The author submits the text file according to each printer’s guidelines.

Every publisher has their own requirements as to font, layout, and margins. They may offer downloadable templates where you simply cut and paste your document into the format. Some will accept a .doc file while others prefer a PDF version. Check with your printer/publisher for their requirements and style options.

eBook Files

The format files for eBooks contain more than just text files. Instead of a fixed layout where the same words always appear on a kindlespecific page, most digital books have reflowable text. This means that for any given device, the text may be adjusted or will “flow” to fill the prescribed parameters of the eReader.

eBook files are a combination of many different types of files. The amount depends upon the complexity of the eBook. Within each .zip file that is uploaded to the publisher, you will find…

  • A file that contains only the unformatted text. This is the basic text of the eBook.
  • A file that tells the eReader how to display elements of the text. This file is the CSS or coding file which regulates how the type will be displayed. For example, in Adobe InDesign, the style comes from two sources. Paragraph Style defines how the elements of different paragraphs (margins, indent, spacing) will be displayed. Character Style influences the individual structure of each word. Will they appear normal, italic, drop cap, etc.? When the document is prepared for publication, there are files that reflect these selections.
  • Other files that contain information, such as images, ISBN, and other elements of the eBook.

Popular eBook Formats

Every eReader has its own format preference. The following are the most popular in today’s digital landscape:

  • Epub. The standard format for digital publishing is Epub. Most eReaders will accommodate these files. The devices which support Epub are Apple iPad and iPhone, Kobo eReader, Barnes & Noble Nook, Sony Reader, and Android phones.
  • Mobi. Kindle readers will not work with ePub files. Instead, Amazon has developed its own version and called it Mobi. In order to read a book on Kindle, you must access it directly from Amazon and use the Mobi format.
  • AZW. This is Amazon’s adaptation of the Mobi format for devices other than Kindle. An eReader may download the Kindle eBook Reader and access AZW files from the Amazon bookstore.ereader
  • PDF. The Portable Document Format has been around for years. It was developed by Adobe and is easily used on most any device. PDF files maintain the original format of the document.

If you write in MSWord, Pages, or OpenOffice, you will have to convert your book if you decide on a digital format. Again, even if the book will be in a printed version, some adaptation in formatting may be necessary. In order to reach the greatest amount of readers, publish in several formats.

In order to reach the greatest amount of readers, publish in several formats. Epub and Mobi are the most popular digital versions. But don’t forget that many still prefer the traditional paper and ink of a book.

Ready, Set, Publish: Understanding Self-Publishing Terms

Ready, Set, Publish: Understanding Self-Publishing Terms

As a newbie to self-publishing, I had to learn the jargon of the industry. It was like studying a foreign language…bleed, front matter, genre! I came face to face with a whole new set of self-publishing terms and definitions.

I noticed a comment on a publishing website that echoed one writer’s frustration. “This is too complicated,” wrote the aspiring writer. “ I have to find another way.”


Don’t let the terminology frighten you!

Publishing has its own language. But with a few explanations and a picture or two, you can master the jargon and be well on your way to publishing your first book!

Book Cover

Once you decide on your publisher of choice, the first thing to look at is their templates or their guidelines for printing. I am going to use the 5.5” x 8.5” cover below to illustrate some of the terms. This picture includes the front cover, back cover, and the book’s spine all as one document.

Trim Size… The size of the book after it’s printed. In the schematic below, the trim size is 5.5” x 8.5,” one of the most popular sizes. The text document must be formatted in your software of choice to match this sizing. In Microsoft Word, you can set the parameters in the Page Setup. Then apply it to the entire document. I use InDesign when I format my book and can fix all of the parameters during the Document Setup phase.Book Cover Margins

Cover Copy…The words, bar code, ISBN #, or pictures on the front and back cover. Notice that the copy is contained within a 5” x8” area or “safe” zone on both the front and back cover. This ensures the text does not get cut off.

Bleed…The term refers to the extension outside the normal trim area. In this example, the bleed extends .125” on all four sides beyond the trim size.

If you are designing a cover, you will need to include the bleed area in your dimensions. Any graphic must include an extra margin to fit within the bleed. A slightly larger design gives the machinery a little flexibility when it trims a book to its final size.

Spine Width…This is narrow end of the book that is visible when the book sits on a shelf. The spine width depends upon the number of pages in your book. These dimensions are given by your publisher and are added to the overall design dimensions. A book with a hundred pages needs an extra 0.218 inches of width.

Many publishers offer an online template where you can build your cover by uploading your text and graphics. Createspace has Cover Creator to assist an author in completing their project. Cover Creator formats and sizes the cover automatically, so you can focus on the layout, design, and copy for your title. Check with your publisher of choice and possibly save yourself a considerable amount of time.

Book Interior

Front Matter…The material that comes at the beginning of a book. This includes the title page, colophon (technical information with publisher, copyright, date of publication), table of contents, preface, forward, dedication, prologue, or introduction. These pages have Roman numerals instead of page numbers.

Back matter…This is the material found at the end of the book. It includes the epilogue, appendix, glossary, bibliography, author’s page, and index.

Copy…The text written by the author that appears throughout the book.

Header…The area at the top of the page which has the book title or chapter title. These are often the same from page to page or change with each new chapter.

Footer…The text separated from the main body of copy which appears at the bottom of a printed page. This usually includes the page number.

Margin… The space between your text and the edge of your printed page. Book margins include the top, bottom, left, and right side of the page. A header or footer has added margin sizes. Your puMarginsblisher may offer a pre-designed template you can download. In MS Word you can set these in Page Setup and with InDesign in Document Setup.

Font…The design of the letters. Usually the font size for the text is a 10-12 pt. The two main classifications are the serif font (small line attached to the end of a stroke) and the sans serif font (one that does not have the extra stroke). For more information on fonts, check out my post All Fonts Are Not Created Equal!

Page Break…An electronic marker that distinguishes a new page for the publisher.

Line Spacing (Leading)…The vertical space between lines of text.

Kerning…The horizontal space between characters in a text.Kerning

Format… The process of designing a layout for the manuscript which creates book pages. MS Word, Open Office, and Pages are some of the common software used to format a book. InDesign by Adobe is professional formatting software.

Style Sheet… A document that describes spelling, grammar, punctuation standards for your book. Every publisher has their own preferences.

Print-ready…The final form of your book after editing, proofreading, and formatting. It is ready to print.


Genre… A class or book category that describes the subject matter. For example, science fiction, romance, self-help.

These a few of the terms which you will meet as you deal with publishers. If you encounter other foreign words in the process of publishing your book, try these sites for definitions:

Author House 

Book Logix

Self-publishing requires an education in the trade. Once you arrive at the publishing phase, check your readiness by reading my post Ready, Set, Publish: The 7 Steps of Preparation.

Ready, Set, Self-Publish! The 7 Steps of Preparation

Ready, Set, Self-Publish! The 7 Steps of Preparation


A self-published author must wear a variety of hats. Writing is just the first step in the process. In his classic book APE: How to Publish a Book, Guy Kawasaki describes the multi-faceted role of a self-published author. She is Author, Publisher, and Entrepreneur.

When you are ready to see your book in print, it’s time to move into the publisher mode. With a little practice and patience, you can manage this process yourself. Here is my list of seven basic steps that prepares your book for publication.

7 Steps to Prepare for Self-Publishing

#1 Write the Manuscript in Its Final Form

The final copy-edit should be complete. This can be done by you or with a professional editor. (see my post The 5 C’s for Choosing the Right Freelance Editor ) Identify any pictures, graphics, or tables that will be included in the body text. If you are using pictures, make sure you have obtained copyright permission to use them. Also, shrink pictures down to a low resolution suitable for the printing format you will use.

#2 Determine Your Budget

Publishing can be expensive and the costs can easily get out of hand. You may need a graphic designer for the cover, someone to format your book, and marketing help once it is published. Make a list of those items that you are able to provide, what is needed to ensure your book’s success, and which items will need to be contracted. Set some budget guidelines for each of these items and determine to stay within them.

#3 Choose Your Publishing Format

Your first question…will my book be electronic and/or in physical print? If you decide to go digital, the most popular formatting choices are mobi, ePub, or PDF. Click here for a more detailed comparison of these and other eBook formats.

Print formats are dictated by the individual publisher. They will supply a list of pre-determined formatting parameters that are acceptable. These guidelines include margin, typeface, font and much more. The publisher may also suggest compatible software with their individual publishing company.

#4 Select the Publisher

This may be the most difficult step and will take some investigative work on your part. Some questions to consider will be…

  • Do you want hard copies of your book?
  • How much are you able to financially contribute to the actual publishing?
  • What services do you need and how are they provided by the publisher?
  • Which marketing and distribution channels does the publisher use?

#5 Create Front and Back Mattertable-of-contents

These are additional pages which are added to the front and back of your book. You will want to include a title page, copyright page, and table of contents as well as an author page at the end. Other options are a dedication, forward, preface, appendix, or bibliography. If you are going with an ebook, keep it simple!

#6 Format Your Book

Once you have chosen your publisher, find their specific guidelines. Publishers will insist that your submission comply with their standards. For a print book, this means book size (i.e. 6×9, 8 ½ x 11), margins, trim size, even font. Digital publishers will have a set of parameters that you must meet in order to fit their templates. Once you know the requirements, you can format the book yourself or hire a professional to prepare the manuscript.

#7 Design a Cover

Your cover is the first impression of your book. It will influence a potential reader to take a closer look or skim past it in their search. The 3 Second Rule means a potential buyer will decide in 3 seconds whether your book is worth consideration.

As a self-published author, you may want to be frugal. But, if you do not have the skills to create a compelling cover, hire a graphic artist to design one for you. Also remember to include back copy, a picture of yourself and short bio (this is optional and you should check the current trend) ISBN number (if you choose ), and bar code.

As a self-published author, you may be tempted to cut corners and do the entire work yourself. Be frugal when it is possible, but also realize you may need to invest some upfront money. Publishing is a process just like writing…don’t scrimp on time or money. Ensure that the quality of your published book reflects the quality of your written work.

High Impact Headlines


What grabs the attention of an editor or potential client? How do newspapers sell millions of copies? What makes you open an email or read a blog post?


The main purpose of a headline is to grab the attention of the reader.

Headlines need to be accurate and consistent with the rest of the work. If you are writing a serious article, a humorous play-on-words is not in harmony with the rest of the writing.

Headlines should also be concise. If you are a blogger, you may have discovered a limitation to the size of blog titles. Learn to wordsmith a creative title with only a few words.

Use key phrases that sum up the rest of the piece. They are the hook that catches the reader and pulls him or her in.Headlines in News

In his book Advertising Headlines that Make You Rich, copyright expert David Garfinkel states that 75% of the buying decisions are made at the headline alone. According to Garfinkel, there are the three main underlying causes of headline problems:

1. The headline doesn’t pass the “So what? Who cares?” test. It needs to have relevant emotional power.

2. The headline is cute, clever, or obscure. While it may titillate the reader, it does a poor job of capturing them for the rest of the content.

3. The headline means everything to the business but nothing to the prospect or reader. Words are meant to target an audience wherever they may be.

How do you write a good, powerful headline? Garfinkel offers his 10 Golden Rules:


  • Make it conversational. Use everyday language and make it engaging for the reader.
  • Enter the conversation already going on in the reader’s mind. In other words, start where they are at not where you are.
  • Remember V.E.R.V.E

Visceral…physical and immediate
Emotional…appeals to feelings
Resounding…the reader hears you
Visual…reader can picture what you are saying in their mind
Empathetic…reader feels you understand how he or she feels

  • Walk the fine line between fact and hype. Don’t be timid but don’t over-exaggerate either.
  • Understand the ultimate purpose of your headline is to get the reader to the next line of copy. Create curiosity and desire.


  • Don’t be clever. Be straightforward.
  • Don’t be boring. You don’t want a yawn.
  • Don’t assume your reader knows what you know. Meet them at their level.
  • Don’t focus on your process. Focus on the benefit to the reader.
  • Don’t merely try to arouse curiosity. Make sure you stimulate desire and intrigue.

Headlines are the first words that your audience reads. Make them concise, meaningful, and consistent with the rest of the composition. Headlines can be the difference between connecting with a new reader or losing them forever.



How to Proofread Like a Pro

How to Proofread Like a Pro


What is the difference between proofreading and editing?

Editing is an overall term for polishing and perfecting a text and getting it ready to print. There are different types of editing (see my post, Master the Editing Process), each with a specific purpose. Editing includes correcting the focus, organization, and development of the whole paper, sections, or paragraphs.

Proofreading is one part of the editing process. It is the last pass of a critical eye before the text goes to print. At this point in the text’s evolution, it should be free of content and copy errors.

Proofreaders examine the printer’s proofs or other written or printed material and mark any errors.  The proofreader is looking at grammar, spelling, and sentence structure or other glaring errors that need correction.

In their work “How to Avoid Costly Proofreading Errors,” Carolyn Boccella Bagin and Jo Van Doren give several rules for improving your proofreading skills. I’ve also included a few of my own. Follow these suggestions to proofread like a pro:Proofread

  1. Print out a hard copy.
  2. Never proofread your own copy.
  3. Read everything in the copy straight through from the beginning to end.
  4. Read copy backward to catch spelling errors.
  5. Read pages out of order.
  6. Have proofreaders initial the copy they check.
  7. Use a blank sheet of paper to block out the lines before and after the targeted text.
  8. Take short breaks so you can concentrate more clearly.
  9. Alter your routine.
  10. Make your marks legible and understandable.

Still need some help? Check out ClearTips for instruction on a variety of grammatical subjects. Their website provides answers to your editing questions.

And don’t forget to use any electronic spelling and grammar checks that come with your writing software. Or you might install Grammarly onto your computer and web browser. It is my software of choice.

If you really would like to have a seasoned professional review your text, here are some listings of groups that offer proofreading services: Prices start at around $7/ page and go up according to turnaround time. Prices start at around $6/ page. with prices at $.027/ word with a seven-day turnaround.

Give your manuscript the streamlined, professional edge it deserves. Happy proofreading!

Invest in Your Writing: The 2016 Self-Publishing Success Summit!

Writer at Computer
If you have always wanted to attend a writer’s conference but lacked the finances, opportunity, or time, get ready for the perfect fit. The 2016 Self-Publishing Success Summit is right around the corner. Beginning this Sunday, the summit runs from June 12-22, 2016. The price of admission? Your email address!

What Is the Self-Publishing Success Summit? 

The Self-Publishing Success Summit is an online event created to give writers a complete skill set. Hosted by Chandler Bolt, the summit teaches aspiring and seasoned authors successful habits, techniques, and practices for today’s self-publishing landscape. During this virtual summit, some of the top self-published and traditionally published authors impart their knowledge and business secrets to writers at all levels.

logo self publishingAdvantages of Attending the Summit

1. Reduces the learning curve. Shorten the time it will take to get the results you want. Experience is a great teacher, but learn from others mistakes and successes! Let their experiences be your teacher.

2. Watch from the comfort of your home. No plane tickets to buy, hotel rooms to rent, or conferences fees and meals. The Self-Publishing Success Summit is accessible on a variety of electronic devices and streamed directly to you.

3. Watch at your convenience. Listen and watch live or access the talks for 72 hours after each speaker…all free! Plus you may purchase the All-Access Pass and get unlimited access to all interviews and bonus material forever. Only $97. That’s a bargain!

4. Top-notch speakers. Over 40 of the best and most successful authors and entrepreneurs will be speaking at the summit.

5. For all levels of writers. Whether you are a beginner, intermediate, or advanced writer, the summit promises to have quality training for everyone.

Who Are the Speakers?microphone-639192_640

The summit features more than 40 bestselling authors and entrepreneurs sharing the secrets of success. The speakers fall into one of three categories: Writing, Marketing/Publishing, and Monetizing. The lineup includes:

  • Gretchen Rubin, author of blockbuster New York Times bestsellers Better Than Before, Happier at Home, and The Happiness Project.
  • Gary Vaynerchuk who signed a 10-book deal with HarperStudio for over $1,000,000. His first book, Crush It! Why Now is the Time to Cash in on your Passion, reached #1 on the Amazon Best Seller list for Web Marketing books, opened at #2 on the New York Times Hardcover Advice bestseller list and #7 on the Wall Street Journal Bestseller List.
  • James Altucher is the author of 17 books, including best-sellers The Power of No and Choose Yourself. His book I Was Blind But Now I See reached #1 in’s motivational books.
  • Barbara Corcoran’s ABC’s Shark Tank star and New York Times best-selling author. Her latest book, Shark Tales, is a national bestseller.

Other names you may recognize are successful bloggers and authors Michael Hyatt, Jeff Goins, Pat Flynn, Joanna Penn, and several up-and-coming authors.

On a personal note, I have watched several of these speakers in other webinars. Their inspiration and information is excellent. Last year I purchased the All Access Pass to the 2015 Summit. I was not able to watch each speaker live or even within the 72 hours, so I opted to get the permanent pass. It was well worth the price.

I encourage you to  register for the Self-Publishing Success Summit now! All it takes is your email and the investment of a little spare time. Give yourself a gift and build a sound foundation for your future as a writer.


(Information about the summit taken from marketing material by Chandler Bolt)


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