What Every Author Needs to Know

As a book formatter, I work with many authors that are new to self-publishing which I can relate to because I was new to it at one time too. But what I can’t relate to is not wanting to learn what every self publishing author should know to be in control of their books.

There are some things that pertain to people’s books that are done and can’t be undone by the time the project gets to me which could have been avoided if the author knew what the guidelines were. The formatting is one of the last steps to be done before a book is published. But there are many steps before that all authors should know before they even start their book and don’t take the time to learn. A good example of this is image illustrations that are full page for children’s print books or any images that are full page for a print book.

If you have image illustrations that you want to span the entire pages of your print book then they need to be created at the exact size of your print book. If you want your book to be 8.5 x 8.5 and you had your illustrator made your images 6 x 9 they are not going to work. I or any other formatter can’t crop them without losing part of the image and it could be something that is vital to the story. They also can’t be resized without being badly distorted and that will ruin them.

They also can’t just be a random size either. There is a print book size list, (also called the trim size), that all authors need to choose from. On Amazon it is found here: https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/help/topic/G201834180#trim.

I shouldn’t say can’t be a random size because Amazon KDP will allow you to add a custom size. Your book just won’t get as wide a distribution. The reason for that is that other companies have more rigid rules about print book size. With other companies, your book has to be formatted in a size that is on their list. So the best way to get the widest distribution is to follow the guidelines in the first place.

Images for a print book are another story. If they are large enough they can be cropped and resized to fit in a photo print book. But in a case like the image illustrations, once they are created they can’t be fixed. They have to be completely redone which is going to wind up costing the author a lot more money.

The point of this is that self publishing is not like the old days of traditional publishing where you write a book and then hand it off to a publisher to do the rest. YOU are the person who has to do it. That is what self publishing is all about. If you are having an illustrator create images for you then it is your responsibility to tell them what your specifications are. There are general print guidelines that the illustrator need to follow. They need to be created in 300dpi resolution, be the exact size of the print book, and if they are done for print they should also be created in CMYK color format. You can’t rely on the illustrator to know all of this because they may not. Every illustrator should know the standards to do their job, but I work with a lot of children’s book authors that send me illustrations that were not created according to print standards and can’t be used. So clearly there are a lot of illustrators out there who don’t know what they are doing.

Yes, the illustrator is to blame, but as the author, so are you. It is your responsibility to make it crystal clear what YOUR specifications are. So there no costly mistakes like that. To be able to do that you need to know what the guidelines are for self publishing. Maybe not all of them but at least the general ones that are important to the type of books that you write. A good place to start is with Amazon KDP help center which you can find here: https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/help.

The other sites like IngramSpark and Lulu’s rules are similar to Amazon. In fact, some of their rules are more rigid than Amazon’s. But they all have their own guidelines posted on their websites as well. Every self publishing site does and they are free for everyone to read. All you have to do as an author is read them and you should.

If your book is done wrong, then your files will be rejected and you won’t be able to publish until you fix it. I do my part to make sure that people’s files are formatted according to the guidelines but there are some things that just can’t be done. And some things that can’t be fixed by the time it gets to me. Formatters are not miracle workers, there are guidelines that have to be followed.

There is also the possibility that you could get people working on your book who don’t know what they are doing or won’t take the time to make sure that everything is done according to the guidelines. If that is the case and you don’t know the rules either then you are going to have a real mess on your hands.

I probably sound like a broken record about this, but I can’t stress enough how it important it is for all authors to take the time to go to the websites where they want to publish and read the guidelines. It is your book and your responsibility to know so you can oversee it and make sure that everything is done properly so there won’t be problems at the end. I know that it takes time to do and you are probably busy. We are all busy. But if you want to become a bestselling self publishing author then you have to put the time in and learn what you need to learn to become that. No one is going to do it for you. It is all on you to do it.


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