Writers Write Countless Hours–Create Amazing Stories––That Readers Devour––We Promote Endlessly––So Where’s Our Income?
Everyone wants a piece of the cake. The problem is by the time the decadent dish gets back to us, there’s little left. In this series, Awesome Bewitching Authors discuss how to submit a perfectly formatted manuscript. If you’re a new author or published, this is what I know about you, because this is what I know about me … every author needs to know … about formatting.
Technical issues can morph your shiny new manuscript into a scrambled mess. What’s worse is you can’t even see. What? That’s right. The culprate is formatting and the issues sneak into your pages through the back door. Formatting can totally destroy the appearance of your book during publishing. If you transfer a manuscript into a galley and proof, you’ll have weeks of laborious editing you could have avoided if you only knew a little Microsoft magic. Here is some valuable information that just might save you a ton of time and unnecessary editing.
Before you trust your work to anyone, make sure your formatting is clean and ready to go.
Check out this quick video then scroll down and read on to learn …
What every author needs to know about formatting!
Submitting a Manuscript
First, if you’ve never submitted a manuscript to a publisher or agent, you need to know the basics. And even if you signed a contract and your publisher is ready to submit your edited manuscript to designers, there are a lot of hidden pitfalls that can derail your progress. Before you offer your baby to anyone, format first.
Writing a book takes time. Along the way, we edit, cut, paste and pull ideas from a vast array of our scribbles and notes. The manuscript evolves, and along the way each page retains hidden coding from the very first draft. I had no idea the font I finally choose wasn’t the only font I used. Note: If you try to read this and remember it, you’re doomed to be overwhelmed!. You can come back to our site or try clicking File then save as a PDF. Go through each step with your manuscript next to you. It’s not overwhelming when you take baby steps, and they are all here.
Make your Microsoft Word behave
My word program has a hidden default font that is coded in the background, hiding beneath the surface of my pages. Not only that, there is hidden formatting and automatic programing that can wreck havoc on your manuscript. If you plan on releasing an ebook, your even more at risk for formatting foes. Here are some tips my publisher sent me that will help you make your Microsoft Word behave. This is just part one of my 2-part, step-by-step series on formatting foes.
1) *Super Important*
Activate Word’s Show/Hide Do this BEFORE you start formatting, otherwise you might as well have a blindfold over your eyes. This is one of my favorite editing features in Word. The show/hide feature is designated by the “¶” mark in the toolbar.
When clicked, it exposes your paragraph returns, extra spaces, tabs or strange formatting. It’s a great tool to help polish your document for the cleanest possible conversions. If it’s not in your toolbar, you can usually find it in Tools: Options: View and then under Formatting Marks click All.
2) *Super Important too*
Turn off Word’s AutoCorrect: AutoFormat As You Type and AutoFormat features. If you have them engaged, Word will try to guess what type of formatting you want based on how you write the paragraph, how you manually format the paragraph, or by how you formatted something before it. If you upload a Word file with paragraphs formatted inconsistently, like some paragraphs formatted as “body text” and others formatted as “normal text,” the book may look horrible as an ebook.
To turn off the features, go to “Tools”: “Autocorrect,” then click on the “Auto Format As You Type” tab, then uncheck most of the boxes. After that, click on the “AutoFormat” tab and uncheck the four boxes under “Apply.” The reason you need to turn off these auto-formatting options is because in the next steps, you’re going to try to simplify and normalize your text to prepare it for conversion. If you don’t turn off auto-formatting, Word will cheerfully and automatically mess things up again as you make the corrections below.
3) Eliminate “text boxes.”
To find out if you have text boxes, from your Word menu choose View: Print Layout, then simply click on your pages and if the shaded dashy lines appear around your text, that’s a text box. Text boxes will corrupt your ebook conversions by inserting a paragraph return at the end of every line. The easiest shortcut to eliminate the text box is to save your document as plain text (.txt), then close the document, then re-open it in Microsoft Word and reformat the book per our recommendations and then save your document as a .doc file.
4) Managing/modifying paragraph styles
Check your document’s style. Just because your book on screen looks like it has a font of Times New Roman, the book may appear to others in Courier, Helvetica, or some other font. How does this happen? The answer is in Word’s default styles. If Word thinks your default style for “normal text” is 11pt Courier, even if your document is saved as 12pt Times New Roman, the book it passes on to eReader will be 11pt Courier.
To prevent this from happening, and to ensure you send to your publisher what you intend to send, follow these instructions: Within Word, click Format: Style:, then on the left click “Normal” if it isn’t already highlighted. In the center pane of the window, under “character preview,”
Word will show you sample text and tell you the default font style for “Normal” text. If it’s what you want, then close the window. However, if it’s different (as it was in my case when I uploaded my novel), then click Format: Font: and then select the font and font size you want. We recommend Times New Roman unless your publisher asks for a different font. Don’t use exotic fonts because they will not translate well, and they could even cause your conversions to fail.
5) Coding for first lines
How to code for first line paragraph indents (and other paragraph coding). While you’re here, also click Modify: Format: Paragraph, and then view the contents. Make sure the numbers under “indentation” are set to zero. To define a first line paragraph indent for the body of your book, select Special: First line: By: [enter .33 inch. Don’t do indents greater than .5 inch], then click OK then Apply).
Under “Spacing,” set the “before” and “after” spacing to zero (BUT, if you’re using the “block style” of paragraphs, as opposed to first line paragraph indents, then the “After” can have a spacing of up to 6pt). Make sure the “Line Spacing” is set to “Single” and under the “At:” heading it remains blank. WARNING: NEVER NEVER allow any entry into the “At:” field, otherwise your book will be unreadable in the HTML reader. If you set “Line spacing:” to Single, the “At” should be blank. Then click OK and then APPLY.
6) Normalize the text in your raw
Microsoft Word document
You probably have body text, normal text, and heading text in your book and don’t even know it (often caused by Word’s annoying habit mentioned above of changing your formatting to what Word thinks you want, rather than what you really want). If you make all the text “normal”, it’ll convert much better. To do this within Microsoft Word, press CTRL+A (or choose Edit: Select All from the menu) to highlight all your text, and then select “Normal” from your option bar up above. This will allow you to standardize on a single font, single font size, the same line spacing, and the same text justification (left justified is best).
Note that depending on your formatting, when you change the text to normal you will lose some formatting (what was centered may become left justified or your italics may disappear, for example, as well as other changes, so be sure to carefully re-apply necessary elements)
7) Eliminate fancy formatting
To eliminate all fancy formatting, this is a great trick: From the main Word menu, click Format: Styles and Formatting: and then select “Clear Formatting” from the menu at right. This will help put everything into Normal text. Also note that if you previously used auto-numbered chapters, the numbers will disappear and you’ll need to manually re-enter them. It will also cause bolds and italics to disappear.
SHORT CUT HINT (only for straight form narrative such as novels): Here’s one quick option to clear out your junk formatting and corruption. My publisher named this method: