How to survive formatting a print book

One of the things that scared me as an independent author was the prospect of formatting a print book. I am not a designer and have very minimal knowledge of InDesign. I am capable of making text edits in InDesign and creating a document, but that’s about it. Luckily I found some Word templates through The Book which made the process easier, but it still wasn’t what I’d call a smooth process. I survived, though, and you can too if you remember these tips:

(1) Understand that you will have to redo some formatting five or six times. This is part of the journey. I have no less than seven versions of my “final” PDF manuscript. Every time I thought I was finished I noticed something else that had to be fixed. I now have even greater respect for designers than I did before.

(2) Accept that at some point your manuscript will become FUBAR. There will be four extra blank pages you didn’t remember adding between chapters eight and nine. There will be the sudden absence of italics or bolding. There will be two chapter fives instead of one. Once you accept that at some point your manuscript will be unrecognizable the easier it will be to handle when it happens.

(3) Formatting a manuscript takes time, even with a template. After the first few chapters you will get into the zone, however, the zone can make you cocky and start to hurry when you shouldn’t. Take your time to avoid having to fix mistakes later (see my note above about seven “final” versions). It might still take you six hours but at least you won’t spend two of those hours correcting mistakes.

(4) Even though you’re not a designer by trade, you can format a print book. If you want to save money when you publish your book I highly recommend taking on the formatting yourself, especially if you don’t have any images in your book. It will be frustrating, yes, and make you utter curse words you didn’t know existed, but in the end you will want to weep tears of joy when you’re staring at your beautiful print-ready manuscript file.

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