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Common Book Formatting Issues

Book Formatting

Having formatted a number of books (and published a number more), we’ve seen a lot of book formatting issues along the way. Sometimes, it’s a simple derp error on our part, other times it’s a bit more complex. Many times, we forgot to check a button. But our derp is your gain. Here, we’ve listed some of the most common errors we get while formatting:

Kindle Look Inside Feature

This one is a sneaky one, and one that trips up a lot of authors if they aren’t paying attention. If you visit Amazon’s Look Inside feature, you might find your book formatting is completely different than expected. This is due to the Look Inside feature using a different software than the Kindle. In layman’s terms, Look Inside strips out a lot of the coding that makes a Kindle look pretty. This is most often the case when a user is using Scrivener 2.0 to format their books.

The best and most easy fix to this is to upload an ePub file to KDP. Or, if you have updated to Scrivener 3.0, they have fixed this issue with .Mobi files. If you’re using Vellum, they’ve also resolved this issue as well. The best course of action is always to check your file after it goes live to make sure you’re putting your best foot forward.

Smashwords Autovetter Errors

Smashwords is notorious for throwing all kinds of errors at people. From images to text to Tables of Contents, you can find reams of complaints about people fighting with it. Happily, there’s a real easy solution to this problem: If you direct upload an ePub file (vice a Word document), you won’t have to submit to the Meatgrinder.

Keep in mind that per Smashword’s own data, Kindle is the most-often downloaded format, and if you only upload an ePub file, you won’t get that .Mobi file for users of the Smashwords store. We wrote a whole blog on Smashwords, if you think you want to upload a Word doc instead.

CreateSpace and Ingram Errors

If you’re using CreateSpace and IngramSpark to publish your book, generally if one accepts your book format, the other will as well. The normal errors we get from IngramSpark relate to the color schema (as Scrivener exports PDFs in a different schema) and, on occasion, if we save the cover under the wrong Photoshop setting. Both of these issues are “non-blocking,” that is, Ingram will fix them for you. With CreateSpace, our most common error is the autovetter stalling when we upload the interior. CreateSpace will review the document and allow you to view the online version to check for any issues.

Any Other Errors

Do you have any errors popping up when you format? Something just not working? Sound off in the comments!

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Formatting with Scrivener 3.0

Murphy’s Law says that when we went live with our Scrivener blog series, the folks over at Literature and Latte would release 3.0. And they did! But we’re ga-ga over the changes, so we’re not complaining too much. Today we’d like to share a few changes that we’ve noticed (and we’re sure we’ll find more) formatting with Scrivener 3.0. As with most things, change is change, but we think it’s for the better (mostly).

Back Matter joins Front Matter

We loved that we could change front matter in Scrivener 2.0 with a dropdown menu, but didn’t like that we had to select and unselect back matter. Happily, Scrivener has fixed that problem for us.

As you’ll see at the bottom of the right-most pane, you can add front matter from a drop-down menu, and also add back matter. Since we usually have multiple books in a single Scrivener file, we name the folders with the book name and format, just to make sure we’re using the right one. (Note: Our Kindle files and Smashwords files use two different front matters, but the same back matter).

Section Types Make Life Easier

One of the biggest complaints about Scrivener 2.0 was the lack of customization on scenes at the same level. So if you had two scenes with two different fonts, you had to manually adjust them. This was particularly bothersome in front and back matter. But now, Scrivener allows users to create project formats and specify different scene types per project. One thing to note is you have to create Section Types before you can assign them layouts (see our tutorial below).

To add a new section type, navigate to Project -> Project Settings, then add new section types. Please note, these are simply labels; you’ll have to set the layouts via the tutorial below.


Assigning Section Layouts to Section Types

As we said above, Section Types are merely labels. You’ve got to assign the layouts to the types, and it’s a little confusing the first few times you do it. So we’ve put together a tutorial to walk you through the process:

1On the Compile screen, find the gear on the lower left, and select “Edit format” (or add a new format by clicking the + button)
2Here is where you’ll find most of the formatting options that previously were under the main compile screen.

Within the Section Layouts pane, you’ll have Folders and Text, but you can add your own layouts here. We suggest having a chapter (folder) setting, a setting for back matter (eBook and print), one for as-is, one for front matter, and one for your actual book text. Depending on the type of book you have, you may add additional layouts.

3Formatting in Scrivener 3.0In the Formatting pane of the Section Layout, you can see how your text will look in the book. Here you can set the font for the title and/or text.
4To add an image above or below the folder title (or to add Chapter and autonumber), click on the Title Options pane.
5To set the number of lines above the title page, click on the New Pages pane (still in Section Layout). You can also set your chapter to begin on a recto (right) or a verso (left) page.
6You can also select different formats within the project pre-set, such as .Mobi, .ePub, .doc, and .PDF. Changing a style on a different format will not change on others. (Which is a good thing). Find this menu on the left side of the screen, at the top above Section Layouts.
7Once you’ve created your styles, you then need to assign them to the specific Section Types. Click on the button called “Assign Section Types” in the central pane.
8Here’s where it gets a little confusing. You have to create section types (the categorization of the scenes themselves) AND section layouts (how a scene is formatted). Then you have to assign the layout to the type. In other words, you have to assign your Folders formatting to your Folders type. Select the Section Type on the left pane, then locate the correct formatting on the right pane.
9Make sure your scenes have the right section type assigned, then press compile! Also, if you aren’t ready to compile, but want to save your settings, hold down the Option key to save settings.

One other neat new feature: Scrivener now opens your compiled file after it’s created.

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Formatting Books with Vellum

Many authors find themselves ready to format books, and then cross-eyed. If our blog series on Scrivener and Word doesn’t help, you might try a more all-in-one solution, one that will help with version control and pretty-pretties. That solution might be Vellum. Many of our fellow authors swear by the solution. For our money, we’re not impressed with the program’s lack of customization. See below to decide for yourself!

Vellum: The Good

What most authors love about Vellum is the user-friendly interface. You import your book and Vellum will automatically break up chapters and scenes. You then format with a series of pre-selected templates, generate a print book and an eBook, and poof! Formatted book.

Vellum exports to ePub, mobi, and PDF. They also have pre-set sizing for the most common book sizes and provide a preview of how the book will look formatted.

What’s not to love? Well, a lot.

Where’s the Customization?

When we first heard about Vellum, it was “shut up and take our money.” But as formatters for others, we quickly ran into major issues. For one, there’s no way to re-size the font on the interior of the book in one section. For example, if you’ve got a lot of text for the copyright page (as we sometimes do with our clients), you can’t set the size small enough to fit on one page.

For another, although there are many different formatting options, you can’t add your own images as scene breaks–or your own fonts. So if you’ve got a particular font in mind to match your cover, you’re out of luck. Same goes for creating a custom title page.

While some of the “auto-formatted” sections are great, sometimes they can be a little to clunky.

Should You Invest?

Vellum starts at $200 for the eBook version, and $250 for the eBook and print version. That’s pretty pricy for a lot of authors, especially considering that the going rate for formatters is less than that. (Might we suggest using our services instead and save yourself a hundred dollars?)

If you’re publishing several books, then you’ll have to weigh the pros and cons. The pros are that, if you’re happy with Vellum’s formatting, you can easily recreate it for subsequent books in the series. We also hear that authors are able to add multiple books into a single file (much as you can with Scrivener), to help with keeping your information together.

The biggest con that we see is that with the lack of customization for images and fonts, it’s pretty easy to tell when a book has been formatted with Vellum. They all look the same. For some folks, that’s not a big deal. But at SGR-Pub, we like our books to be as unique as the stories they tell.

We still have high hopes for Vellum, and will be watching for some of our concerns to be mitigated in future iterations.

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How to Format a Book in Word (Simply)

Book formatting is probably the easiest part of the self-publishing process. Even still, for those who haven’t used Microsoft Word’s formatting features, it can be daunting to figure out how it all works. We’ve listed the top few tricks for how to format a book in Word. Note: This merely scratches the surface of book formatting. There’s much more to consider, from interior scene breaks to font choice, to

Looking for Scrivener formatting? Check out our Scrivener formatting series.

1. Paragraph Settings

How to format a book in word: Use paragraph settings instead of manually adjusting the textFirst and foremost, on behalf of anyone who’s ever formatted a book, let us tell you: when you’re writing, you do not need to manually add spaces in front of every paragraph. You also don’t need to add a tab or anything other than a carriage return (also known as pressing the enter button).

Instead, you can set your first line indention, spacing, justification, and everything else using the Paragraph Settings in Word. This serves two purposes: First, if you decide to use a formatter, they’ll be able to import your book without having to fix every paragraph. And second, if you decide to format yourself, you won’t have to fix every paragraph, either.

Very important: When you’re ready to export, you must make sure the text is justified. It’s a real bummer when we pick up a good-looking book to read and find the manuscript is left-aligned.

2. Chapter Headings

How to format a book in word: don't forget to justify your interior textOne of the cooler, bookish features of Microsoft Word is the Headings feature. A heading is simply a reusable formatting set, like font size, type, and spacing, that you can re-use across your manuscript. So, for example, if you’ve got letters in your manuscript, and you’d like them to be formatted in Comic Sans 14pt (don’t do this), you can set up a heading for letters.

When it comes to Chapter Headings, the benefit is twofold. First, as we said, it will format your chapter headings the same across the board. But more importantly, when you set all your chapters as “Heading 1,” you’ll then be able to put an automatic table of contents at the front of the book. No more scrolling through your book to find page numbers.

3. Page Size and Margins

Most self-publishers use either 6×9, 5.5×8.5, or 5×8 for their paperbacks. Luckily CreateSpace offers templates for you to use to help make those sizings correct. But if you’ve already got a formatted manuscript, you can simply copy those parameters. Here’s a handy step-by-step guide to help you.

Now, depending on certain factors like book length, print pricing, etc., you may want to make your margins a little bigger or smaller. As long as they meet the minimum requirement, there shouldn’t be an issue uploading to Ingram or CreateSpace.

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Top 5 Things to Know When Working with a Formatter

We here at SGR-Pub have formatted a slew of manuscripts (both for our releases and for other publishers). And we also tend to see the same misunderstanding of what a formatter does, and how authors should work with them. If you’re working with a formatter, we’ve compiled some tips to help you both get the most out of your partnership.

1. Don’t Worry About Page Numbers

Working with a formatter: Don't worry about page numbers or table of contents. Just send the manuscript One of the biggest points of consternation with newer authors is knowing what to send when hiring a formatter. Should you worry about the table of contents? Should you add page numbers and make sure everything’s aligned right?

Short answer: Nope.

Longer answer is that when your book is formatted, the formatter will change the size and shape of the paper, thus creating a new page numbering system. In addition, we automatically create table of contents from chapter headings. So that means if you want us to add additional pages, the program we use will automatically shift the rest of the book down.

2. Tell Us What’s Weird

Most books that come across our desk are very simple: front matter, interior with chapters, back matter. But on occasion, folks will want some custom formatting. Whether it be an interior section that’s handwritten or something more complex, let us know up front if there’s anything to be concerned about.

3. Give Us Your Front and Back Matter

Per the Independent Book Publisher’s Association checklist for self-published books, there’s a few things that need to be in your book. While self-publishing gives authors the freedom to work “outside the box,” generally, it’s a good idea to adhere to the industry standards.

For Front Matter, you’ll need a Half Title Page, Title Page, Copyright page (to include ISBN and name of author), and Table of Contents. The TOC shouldn’t exceed two pages.

For Back Matter, you should include acknowledgements (if not in the front), about the author, and where to find your other works.

While you don’t have to give these to us formatted, we will need the text (especially the ISBN) before we send you the final documents.

4. Managing Edits

Working with a formatter: your interior headings should match closely with your cover fontWith most formatting jobs, we’ll offer one pass of typo incorporations (note: typos are errors you made in writing, formatting errors are errors we made in spacing or chapter headings). For our clients, since, as we said above, we won’t know final page numbers until the book is fully formatted, the best way to submit edits is to provide a few words around the edit so we can quickly search the manuscript for the error. For example:

…baloney.” she said…. Should be “baloney,” she said.

Other formatters may have other requirements, so check with them to find what method words best for them. As well, make sure you’re sending them a mostly typo-free draft, unless you’re also paying for additional help.

5. Show Us Your Fonts

Finally, we’ll need to know what kind of font you want to use for your chapter headings, and what kind of scene separator you’d like. For most books, the chapter heading font (and front page title font) will resemble or be the same as what you used on your cover. Be aware: Some cover designers use custom fonts that may require additional fees from your formatter to replicate. If we can’t get exactly the same font, we’ll do our best to find something similar.

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Using Compile Presets in Scrivener

Scrivener: Managing compile presets

Scrivener is a wonderful program many writers use to set up and manage their books, screenplays, and research projects. Nearly every aspect of the program can be customizable, from the drafting settings to the export format. But with so many options, many authors find themselves overwhelmed. To that end, we’re posting a blog series on our favorite features of Scrivener. Today, we’re going to cover how to use compile presets in Scrivener, including some tips and tricks to set you up for success.

Note: The screenshots are for Scrivener 2.0. for Mac. We hear from our friends at Literature and Latte that version 3.0 is coming soon, and when we get access to it, we’ll update this post.

What is a Compile Preset?

Two kinds of compile presets: Global presets and project presetsA Compile Preset is exactly what it sounds like – a pre-selected group of compile settings that you can use and reuse. In other words, you can have a setting for paperback to keep your margins and font size the same, one for hardcovers, one for Kindle, etc. There are two kinds: Project Presets and Global Presets.

Project Presets are saved settings only available in a single file. We like to keep our series books in a single file, then create project presets for each format. The settings for Razia aren’t available in the Madion Trilogy, for example.

Global presets, on the other hand, are available across all Scrivener projects. This is a good way to keep your general settings for paperbacks and hardcovers consistent. You can create a new project preset starting from the global preset, or keep your oft-used presets, like exporting a clean .docx to your editor.

Project Preset Tips

Compile presets: Create a separate preset for every project to avoid issuesOnce upon a time, we did a print run of one of our books. All was well until we opened up the first page and saw our headers showed the wrong book title.

Truly. There were thirty books in that print run.

Ever since then, we’ve made it a habit to create separate print settings for every book. That way, we’re absolutely sure we’re printing the right book. Also, our hardcover formatting differs (usually) from the paperback formatting, so having those separate presets is convenient. For example: when you have updates to back matter, you don’t have to spend time trying to guess what the margins were. Your books will be consistent every time.

Just make sure you double check those headers.

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