Formatting a Book’s Interior File

Would you believe I actually did this?  Not without a fair amount of difficulty, I might add … well, actually, quite a bit of difficulty … plus trial and error, frustration, anxiety, and even anger.  But I stuck with it.  I now have a perfectly formatted 6 x 9 file of my 300+ page novel.  It’s ready to save as a PDF and upload to Createspace or wherever I decide to have the paperback printed.  All it awaits is a final editorial go-thru which, hopefully, will be accomplished next week.  Kindle and epub format are still in the future but definitely part of the plan.

If you’re an indie writer you may be interested in trying to format your interior file yourself.  Permit me to make a few suggestions.  This will be of special interest to anyone who writes in Mac’s Pages program.  To backtrack, my two previous novels were formatted and printed by Createspace.  The first requirement was that I had to convert my Pages file to a Word Doc before uploading (in my case it’s Word for Mac 2008). This was a concern at first, as I worried about losing paragraph or page breaks, italics, etc.  It went fairly smoothly in both those cases, however.  But this time, with No-Bridge Road, I wanted to save money by formatting the file myself.  Plus I like this kind of challenge—left brain, right brain I guess. Surely, I thought, after all I’d learned I should be able to do this by using a template, and CS now provided templates in various sizes.  When I worked for a private school a few years back I was able to turn out an entire 34-page magazine, including photos, using a desktop publishing program.  So what could be the hangup with such a simple thing as dumping my file into a pre-formatted template?  Read on.

I soon discovered there was more than one hangup.  Something between the CS template and my Pages document didn’t mesh no matter what I tried.  After two days I gave up, discouraged and utterly defeated.  At this point I decided a few hours in the garden was called for while I considered my dilemma and how to solve it.

Back lawn in springtime, before it dried up and was covered in a blanket of acorns.

While raking up thousands of acorns from a dried up lawn in preparation for reseeding, I remembered having gotten help on the CS Community  page on another issue and decided to try that again.  Those folks are amazing.  The responses start coming in almost before you’ve asked the question.  Several suggestions included instructions on designing your own template, but I already knew that was way more complicated than anything I had in mind.  Then, one of the responders mentioned he had been toying with a design for a Pages template.  It didn’t take me but a minute to suggest I’d be delighted to be his guinea pig and try it out.  Well, don’t you know he immediately sent me a link to what he’d done up to that point.  I was excited.  But, opening it, I discovered it lacked some of what I wanted—such as lower case roman numerals on 10 pages of front matter (he had provided only 6 pages), and regular numbers to start on page 1, chapter 1 of the novel.  When I sent a reply about this, he didn’t say “picky-picky” as he might well have done; he updated the template to my specifications, complete with a few instructions, and had it back to me within the hour.  Well, I was off and running. There were a few ups and downs to do with section breaks, but nothing I couldn’t resolve.   I don’t think he would mind my recommending the website where he has just made available these free Pages templates for various sized books:  www.bulldogpress.ca.  This small press also offers a number of paid services, a couple of which I intend to check out.  I highly recommend this software developer, graphic artist, freelance writer, and poet from Alberta, Canada—R.C. Butler.  I’m more than happy to give him a plug.

My next challenge, after the editing and any final changes are made, will be to finalize the cover for Turn on No-Bridge Road.  It’s in the works.  Stay tuned.

Remember, writers can’t create in a vacuum.  Comments and replies welcome