5 Easy Steps to Formatting your Manuscript
By Samantha Stroh Bailey
Anyone reading this post who knows me is probably rolling on the floor right now, holding their sides because they’re laughing so hard. I am a recovering technophobe and still freeze when I have to download something. Right click? Left click? Double click? So, when I had to format my manuscript for my debut novel, Finding Lucas, to upload it to Kobo, I was petrified. Enter my ex Starbucks barista and my husband. I didn’t even know what formatting meant when I started this journey. But, now I realize that it’s not nearly as hard as it sounds and it’s something even a former Luddite like me can learn in 5 easy steps.
So, you have your manuscript open and your hands are shaking because you’re preparing it for publication. And isn’t it incredible that soon, with the click of the “Publish” button, your dream of becoming an author will actually come true? Well, here we go. An ePub or Mobi file are very different from the manuscript you have been working on for months, years or maybe even decades. I strongly suggest that you grab yourself a Kobo (you’ll want one anyway to check your own book, and I swear this is not a product placement) and download a few books in your genre to see how they’re formatted, what you like and don’t like.
Before I published Finding Lucas, I thought I’d really like double spacing between paragraphs, but after reading a few books from some of my fellow indie chick lit authors, I realized that I loved their tighter spacing because the story flowed better.
Set your chapter titles to the same HEADINGS. You can choose whichever one appeals to you from the top bar of your computer; this way, all of your chapter titles will have a uniform look. Luckily, Kobo automatically generates a table of contents so you don’t have to add this yourself. Yes, breathe a huge sigh of relief.
Next, you want to make sure that you have PAGE BREAKS after every chapter. Simply go to “Insert—Page Breaks” and voila, you now have a nice clean divide between every chapter. Otherwise, your chapters will run together or you might have blank pages. In sum, it’s a total nightmare.
Okay, are you ready for step 3, 4 and 5? Too fast? Well, now’s the time to choose your TABS, LINE SPACING and MARGINS. The standard 5 space indent doesn’t translate well to an ebook so you’ll want to find an indent that looks good for your book. For Finding Lucas, I set the tabs to 0.1. Again, this is all personal preference and by reading a few books, you’ll find how much of an indent you want on yours.
Because the space is small on a Kobo, you won’t want a lot of extra space on the page. I set Finding Lucas to 1.2 spaces between paragraphs.
For the lines to go to the end of the page and not appear slightly vertical down the centre, be sure to justify the margins.
Now, you might want to pay someone to do the formatting for you, and you can find reasonably priced services. But, hopefully, these quick tips will show you that though scary, it’s totally possible to get your manuscript ready for uploading and you really can do it yourself. Well, maybe with someone holding your hand.
Samantha Stroh Bailey is a published author and former English teacher with over 15 years of writing and editing experience. Her website, Perfect Pen Communications, offers full service writing, proofreading and editing.
Check out Samantha’s book, Finding Lucas, on Kobo!