Formatting for Indie Writers

FormattingNote: this piece is geared toward writers interested in self-publishing. Find other pieces on self-publishing here.

The time has come! Your manuscript is done and edited, your launch date is set, and you’ve weighed your options of producing your book in print and/or electronic. It is finally time to upload your manuscript!

But wait. You can’t just upload that word document to Amazon or that PDF to Kobo. No, you need to make sure you adhere to the proper formatting styles laid forth by each platform. So how do you go about this daunting task? Never fear – I’ve compiled a quick and general guide on the ever-terrifying matter of formatting.


Where Are You Selling?

Where are you selling your book (whether in print or electronic)?

Are you selling exclusively on Amazon via KDP Select?

Are you going wide and putting your book for purchase on all the big sites (Amazon, Kobo, Nook, Apple, Google Play)?

Create a list of all the platforms you’ll be selling on/through.


Do Your Research

For each platform on your list, make note of what file types they accept. This information can usually be found through each platform on their FAQ page for authors.

Note on your list which files types you’ll need to convert your manuscript to.


Evaluate Your Abilities

Do you have the appropriate software to create the necessary file types? Does your computer have a program that can churn out .mobi or .epub or whatever other file types you need?

Take a look at some online guides (search for guides or how-to’s on compiling certain files types with your programs, i.e. “how to format .mobi files with Scrivener”) and see if you have the time/patience needed to format everything correctly.

Do you feel comfortable with taking on formatting on your own? Great! Purchase any necessary programs you may need, then get to work!

Does the thought of trying to figure out how to format your manuscript make your stomach churn? If so, read on to the next point!


Formatting Services

If, for some reason, you cannot (or do not want to) take on the challenge of formatting, there is another option! You can use a formatting service. These services take your manuscript and do all the sticky formatting work for you.

These services charge a fee (some reasonable, some more expensive) for formatting your work. So make sure to do your research and find a company that offers the right service for you.

Weigh your time vs. cost. Do you want to do your own formatting and have the time to do so? Then format your own work and avoid paying someone else to do it. Are you short on time but can afford to pay someone else? Hire a reputable company/freelancer to format your work.


Uploading Time!

Once your manuscript has been formatted correctly, upload it to the appropriate platforms.

Voila! You’re nearly a self-published author!

Note: it may take a few days for your manuscript to be fully uploaded/appear for sale (as an ebook) online or to receive next-steps (for print books) from your printer. So make sure to upload early (before your launch date)!


What About Using a Distributor?

I’d like to address the option of using a distributor to upload your books. Should you wish to use a distributor (companies such as Draft2Digital), the distributor will send your book out to all the platforms you want it to be sold on. This saves you the time/hassle of uploading to each site individually.

However, I’d like to point out that most of the time, when you use a distributor, any changes you want to make later on to your book (like price or updating the manuscript file), has to be done through the distributor. This means that changes might take a while to go into effect since you’re going through a middleman rather than updating your books directly on each platform where they appear.


The Power of Scrivener

If you have yet to hear about Scrivener, I’d like to point you toward this magical writing tool. In my opinion, it’s a must-have for any serious writer.

Not only does Scrivener make writing and organizing your manuscript so easy, it also can transform your manuscript into nearly any format.

I could go on forever about why I love Scrivener, but you can go try it out for yourself for 30 days for free here.


So there you have it, the low-down on formatting for indie authors.

Have any comments? Questions? Let me know in the comments below!


One thought on “Formatting for Indie Writers

  1. Pingback: Pricing Your Self-Published Book | The Sprint Shack

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