Know Thyself, Writers (And Would-Be Publishers)

Thursday, January 26, 2023

There are a thousand little details to take care of when one becomes a publisher, and frankly, I’m more of a Big Picture gal. But I had a fairly good idea of what I was getting myself into before I signed up for this adventure. Still, there have been moments… 

For the better part of January, there have been LOTS of moments as I’ve tackled formatting my manuscript for ebook and print. So I thought I’d share a bit about the process in general. 

There are several avenues one can pursue with formatting: there are free programs that are basic but serviceable and there are programs that come with a cost, providing a few more bells and whistles and continuity if one is planning on writing/publishing lots of books. Or one can hire a professional to format the book, either separately or included in a package deal (for example, the company that creates the book cover might also offer formatting for an added fee). 

As I read all about formatting and costs and such, I was reminded of my newly painted bedroom vs. my newly painted kitchen. 

When I realized my bedroom was long overdue for a new coat of paint, I looked around and eyed the king-sized bed, the dresser, and the chest of drawers. My back hurt just thinking about what it would take to move those heavy pieces of furniture to get to the walls. And to tape all the trim, including crown molding—egads! So I called the painter guy and it cost me more than I budgeted but it was worth it. The room looked fresh and gorgeous and I knew the professional paint job would last for years. Plus, my back thanked me profusely. 

Then there was my kitchen, where I’d had renovation work done. I looked around and eyed the wallpaper; it was time for it to go. Not only that, I wanted to remove the chair rails and paint the walls. 

This time, I decided I’d do the project myself. Because for one thing, there was very little wall space; it was easily accessible, requiring little ladder work. It would be tedious, but it really only required time and attention to detail, both of which I could manage what with a Shutdown going on. And in the end, the kitchen looked pretty gorgeous, too. 

Now back to formatting. I weighed my timeline as well as the time involved to do the project myself. I looked at quite a few different programs and read reviews about finished products and support staff. And of course, I looked at my budget. 

Ultimately, I purchased a formatting program. It was moderately priced and provided extras I wanted. And I knew I had plenty of time since I’ve pushed my deadline way out. Most of all, I was sure that, given all the tutorials, the program would be doable for a do-it-yourselfer publisher. 

I was mostly right. It hasn’t been the easiest part of the process (See “there have been LOTS of moments as I tackled formatting”) but now I have a swell program and know what to do (and what not to do) for the next book. 

So the bottom line? Know thyself! Honestly consider what you can manage, no matter what your writing project may be. Get excited about the Big Picture, but take a good look at the little details, too. And when you’re done, celebrate! In my case, with a nice, long nap…zzzzz.


Sue Bradford Edwards said...

Which formatting program did you buy? A friend's critique group self-publishes together and she does all of the layout. She did one book, got it right, and uses that as a template for the others.

I tried Reedsy's and it was . . . ugh. For me, it just wasn't intuitive. It decided that a note to myself was a chapter and wouldn't let me delete it. Maybe there was a mystic key I simply missed . . .

Cathy C. Hall said...

I went with Atticus, Sue. The manuscript was a Word doc so there were some things I had to do before uploading BUT once I figured out those things, it was kinda easy.

And for the next book, I'll write it in Atticus so it will automatically format. That is, if I can adjust. But if not, I know what I'm doing now--mostly. :-)

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

They all seem to have their tricks. Thank you for the information!

Angela Mackintosh said...

I just checked out the Atticus site and the program looks great. Thanks for this post, Cath! :)

Your painting analogy is reminding me that I still need to finish painting our house. We decided to DIY everything, but we were limited on time when we moved in, so we painted the place, but a lot of the trim and cabinets still need to be done. It's a nightmare thinking about moving things around with all our furniture in there, but oh well! After a cash sale, we had to be really picky about what we spent money on, and it was mostly things that we couldn't do ourselves, like put in new flooring. So your analogy is perfect for self-publishing and marketing. There's no single solution that works for every author or book. I'm glad you found a nice balance!

Cathy C. Hall said...

SO true, Ang, it really is all about the balance! And good luck with your painting...I actually enjoy painting when I can take my time. I get a lot of thinking done, painting all that window trim. :-)

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