When it comes to self-publishing, it’s like any other do-it-yourself process. You will usually make mistakes as you learn. If anyone is prone to make mistakes when working on something new, it’s me. I’m a champ at it. So you can imagine that after 11-plus years of self-publishing there are a lot of things I’ve learned. Some are easy and quite obvious; others are more elusive and difficult to achieve. Maybe I can save you from falling into some common potholes in your travels down the same roadways I’ve driven. First the easy stuff:
- It is not difficult setting up the basic formatics (I know, not a real word) of a book. Once you know the dimensions of the end product, meaning the size of the page and the margins you want, you simply set up a Word document to match and off you go. There are things like orphans and widows you will have to deal with, plus getting your top and bottom lines on each page to match up with its neighbor. It is best to take care of these in the final phases of putting your book together. You can always pay to have someone do this for you, but if you patiently peck away at it you will learn how to do it yourself, save the money and have instant access to making changes. Oh, BTW, orphans and widows are those single words or maybe a group of three or four words that end up on their own line, usually at the end of a paragraph, or even worse, on the top line of a new page. It is best to eliminate them. One remedy is to rewrite the paragraph, dropping or adding a word here or there to cause the lines to shift or change length. Or, maybe you just rewrite the sentence they’re a part of, adjusting it so the problem disappears. Getting rid of orphans and widows can be very easy…or a royal pain.
- I’m a natural when it comes to writing long sentences or long paragraphs. I haven’t yet learned why I do this, but it drives my one editor-friend nuts. He prefers thoughts in brief bites and lots of white space on the page. Another one of my editors actually keeps count of the words I might use in one sentence. He’s always on the prowl for a record-setter. If one should write “tight”—and you should—it is best to keep sentences and paragraphs short. It is amazing how verbose we can get on a first draft, later having to eliminate a hefty pile of unnecessary verbiage. If we had been more prudent from the git-go, hours of work would be eliminated later.
- It is impossible, at least for me, to publish a book without later discovering a mistake somewhere. This is horrible and it is the first giveaway that the book is self-published, a status that still carries an inferior stigma. It may be a typo or misspelling but, for me, I never discover all of them when I proof my own work. This is why it is best to have as many proofreaders as possible. If you have to pay, bribe, bake fresh bread—whatever—you must get lots of proofreaders…or a few really good ones.
- Never trust Microsoft Word. Spell and grammar check are okay and I use them, but a word of caution: they are not perfect and can actually make the wrong “correction” or “auto-complete” a word you never intended to use. I just discovered today that Word incorrectly changed “prey” to “pray” in my book, so now I had to go back and download the entire file all over again. The problem is, some editions have already gone out with this error so I’ll look like an idiot to those who catch it.
- Another thing about Microsoft Word…Whoever set up the page numbering function in the software has never used it. Otherwise they would have changed it long ago. Now, I know that’s true because there are too many inconsistencies in the page numbering process and in order to eventually master it, you will need a degree from MIT or someplace similar, in addition to having experienced landing a spacecraft on a faraway planet. I assume if you have achieved that level of skill, you may be able to correctly figure out Microsoft’s page numbering process for your book. Then, when you change versions of Word, you will probably have to go through the learning process all over again. There is proper protocol to follow when numbering pages in a book. I suggest you review some books published by the big-name guys and then attempt to get Word to do likewise for your book.
Okay, that’s enough to digest for now, especially if you are new to self-publishing. I may add to the list at another time. If you have a question, click on the “comment” link below and I will try to answer it. I hasten to add that I am not a professional. I am mostly self-taught and there are many things I have yet to learn—like how to properly use Metadata to improve search engines finding my stuff. Some day, that may actually happen. I am not sure I will know how to handle it.