Self-Publishing - Deciding on Format, Printing, and Distribution.

Are you planning to publish in print, ebook, or both? You’ll want to have this figured out before you move on to further steps. Many self-publishers start with ebooks and move into print but you can also do them all at once.

If you’re just concerned with ebook publishing skip this section as it will deal specifically with the print options. I’ll tackle the ebook publishing information in the next post.

Printing & Distribution.

Unless you plan on going door to door with a stack of books, you want a printer who can distribute to the big guys like
(Oh, I should mention I am working with the assumption you are using a POD model. That is where your printer is printing a copy for each order processed. This means no worries about warehousing.)

I chose Lightening Source.

Now, lightening source is a major POD printer, but they don’t like to work directly with authors. They prefer companies. Here is a spot you might want to think about. Do you set yourself up as a company and deal directly with them? Or do you find other POD services out there?

That is something only you can answer.

If you do choose the company route, I would suggest creating a LLC (better liability protection) or you can do a Sole-Proprietorship or DBA.

Another popular option is Amazon’s CreateSpace to have your books put together and distributed. Check with them on what services they offer too.

No matter what you choose, you want to have your printer selected before you move on to further steps in the book process. Each printer will require things to be formatted specifically for them. They will also tell you what trim sizes and paper selections you can use. This information will be extremely helpful when moving on to Cover design and Book Layout.

The Print Book Layout.

This can be done in word, but it is quite a frustrating process. The layout is how you book will look when printed; all of those fun little details like: headers and footers, font, page breaks, page size, margins, etc…
Now, remember that each different format you decide to put your work into will have different layout requirements (see your printers FAQ’s for specifics). Before you finish this step and move on to the next, you’ll want to know how to do the layout for each respective format.


As a cost saving tip, I’d suggest dropping the Hardbound version for your first attempt. Ebook and Paperback are plenty.

So, what is a book layout?
The layout is the internal formatting of your book; everything from the Title to the About the Author page.

Go grab a book off of your nearest bookshelf and take a look at it. Notice how the headers alternate between pages? Notice how the page numbers are spaced?  Notice the different fonts used? Notice how chapter pages lack both page numbers and headers?  Notice that nifty extra-large capital letter at the beginning of the first chapter paragraph (Drop Cap)?  Notice how chapters start on the right page only? These are just a few of the things that need to be set up during the layout stage of book design.

As a self-publisher you are already fighting an uphill battle. Though your book might be the next Twilight or Mockingjay, it will already start off with a stigma because you self-published it. Things are changing in the publishing world self-publishing or Indie publishing are becoming  much more mainstream, however they still have not garnered the prestige of their traditionally published counterparts. What that means for you, the self-published author, is that you must do that much more to make sure your book is indistinguishable, in quality, from others on the bookshelf.
To really nail down what your book should look like inside, you need to look at its piers.  Take 10 or so traditionally published books from your genre and go through them with a fine tooth comb. Note the standards in their layout so you can try to mimic them.

So, now that you know what a book should look like, how do you recreate it?

On paper it sounds pretty easy.  Change a few fonts here, create some page breaks there, and add in a few page numbers the poof, a bright shiny new book!

Once you actually try to duplicate what you see in printed books, you find out how difficult it can be. 

While MSWord is great for general word processing, it can be very difficult to use when formatting books. Trying to get page numbers to show up on some pages but not others will provide a bit of a challenge. Same goes for alternating headers that only appear within chapters but not on title pages, acknowledgement pages, about the author pages, or copyright pages. Drop Cap doesn’t ever work as it was intended and usually adds extra spacing to your lines. In short, it creates a lot of headaches.

Even though it’s a headache, book layout can be done in word. It is, however, going to be a frustrating and time consuming process. Be prepared for long hours. For the do-it-yourself publisher, this is going to be your cheapest option.

There are some other alternatives if you just don’t want to deal with the added stress. For those choosing to use a service, I believe Lulu, CreateSpace, and many others offer layout and design as part of their packages. You can also hire out for this too. There are many companies out there who specialize in layout (This will cost you some money. Around $200-$400 maybe even more).

There are also many programs the pro’s use (Quark and InDesign come to mind). They are available for anyone to purchase and use but they will cost you a pretty penny.  I was lucky enough to stumble across a program that works within Word. I found it on and it was quite helpful and only cost around $40.
Book Design Wizard 2.0

What this program does is standardize things for you via VBA coded templates. You answer some questions about your book and plug in your layout desires, (e.g. what fonts to use for chapter headings, title pages, etc…) and it creates a template for you to work within.

I found it to be extremely helpful. It still took me about three days to get the book layout exactly as I wanted it. For the do-it-yourselfer, this is probably the best happy medium you’ll find.

I’m sure this is not the only program of its kind out there, do a Google search for book layout templates and programs. If you don’t like this one, you can probably find plenty to suit your needs.


Alan Ryker said…
Createspace has templates. Choose your book size, then just copy and paste the chapters in from a format neutral source (I used notepad++). The template has a commonly used font in a common size. All I changed was the line spacing from single to 1.15, because I thought it looked more pro.

The only difficulty I had was the table of contents, because I had more chapters than would fit on the page. I should get the proof in a few days, so we'll see.
Katie Salidas said…
Sounds like Createspace makes it very easy!! Thanks for the info.
Alan Ryker said…
Yeah, it really is pretty easy. I imagine it was once kind of scary, as from the forums it seems the templates are newish.

I have no experience with lightning source, but the createspace templates are actually formatted .doc files, so you might be able to use them to create a good file to upload to lightning source, too.
Katie Salidas said…
For lightning you need to upload a PDF. Even though Createspace offers templates, I like the creative control and ability to really perfect my layout. That's why I use Book Design Wizard. I can do quite a lot of fine tuning with it.
Roxanne Rhoads said…
I just went through all this- I did everything in word then saved as pdf for the print copy.

Now I'm trying to format for all the book stuff- every site is different- smashwords, Kindle, Nook.

I just uploaded to Kindle and Smashwords, waiting to see if my files pass approval and format correctly. Wow what a headache. But I wanted to go DIY all the way. The only thing I paid for was cover design. I wanted to figure this all out.

Let me tell's defintiely a learning experience. But at least now that I've done it, I know what to do and what not to do.

(BTW I think you need a degree in advanced computer science just to add page numbers in word, if you don't want them to start on page 1 say you want page 1 to actually start on page 9- OMG Nightmare)