Making it Look Good (Literally)

One of the things that surprises me most about self-publishing is how much I enjoy all the fiddly bits. I figured I’d enjoy the writing and watching the book take off – I mean, that’s the whole point, isn’t it? – but actually formatting the completed book, adding in all of the front matter and back matter and making sure every page looks perfect?

I actually like that part. I like it a lot.

This week, that’s what I’m doing: taking the final, finished draft of The Omega Nanny and making sure it looks picture-perfect for when it’s time to upload on Saturday. (Amazon requires the final copy 10 days before release when you’re setting up a pre-order.) It’s all little, fiddly stuff, but that’s what will make the final product look awesome.

“Good design, when it’s done well, becomes invisible. It’s only when it’s done poorly that we notice it.”

-Jared Spool, American writer/researcher/designer

And it’s true. Everyone’s read a book or ebook that was might have been a great read – but was so riddled with errors that it was impossible to enjoy. (Everyone’s also borrowed that library book where a previous reader felt the need to correct every error.)

Trying to make a terrible book look good, of course, isn’t going to save the book. But a fantastic book, terribly put together, isn’t going to do much better, especially in today’s market, where there are just so many books, and therefore so many reasons to stop reading something that isn’t thoroughly enjoyable, on every level.

(And yes – I will totally stop reading a book if it’s impossible to read. I have too many books on my Kindle to put up with that.)

There are, of course, multiple ways of formatting ebooks. You can get down and dirty with the html.  You can purchase a program, or download a free one, that will do the dirty work for you. There’s websites that can even tell an author how to make a few tweaks that will generate a larger page count (which is important if you’re being paid by the page).

There’s even services where you email your manuscript off, and get it back later, all prettied up and perfect. (For a small, or maybe not so small, fee. Of course.)

I have to admit, I’m enough of a nerd to enjoy the first one. I’m pretty comfortable with Word, I know my html. I’m not going to be coding any massive programs anytime soon, but I can hold my own with the basic stuff. Coding a book? Piece of cake. Or at least a piece of cake I’m willing to tackle.

Actually… I find it kind of soothing. There’s a certain satisfaction in coding, or setting up hyperlinks, or arranging a Table of Contents so that it looks nice. It’s busywork, sure – but once it’s done, it’s good to look back and say, “Yup, that looks good, that’s one more thing accomplished.” It’s not fancy… but it does look nice and neat. Plus it’s something I can build on – it took a while to make The Country Omega look good on a Kindle, but I’ve found that the process is moving much faster for The Omega Nanny, and I think it’ll look more professional from the start, too. (I’ve redone the design for The Country Omega and reloaded updated versions twice now.)

The only disadvantage is that it does take time where I could be… oh, writing, for one thing. I’m sure there’s better ways of doing it. But for now, this works for me.

Posted in self-publishing.

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