The Compleat Guide to Formatting

Step by Step Formatting Your Manuscript

I use MS Office 2003 to create a user friendly Word Doc. A friend of mine, Captain Nicholas Gravino, retired Command Pilot of Delta Airlines, just published his first book, A Pilots Memoirs – From the Ground Up, and used the advice I provided. The only problem he had was his MS Word was the 2000 version and he found it impossible to copy and paste illustrations he wanted included in his manuscript. I think he purchased Office 2007 to cure it but I’m not really certain.

An ideal word count for a manuscript is really up to the individual but I like to keep mine between 70 and 80 thousand words. My writing style is humor so I often leave non words and misspelled wurds to add a bit of spice. Those who know me know I never pursue anything in a serious manner, always with a tongue in cheek approach. Even when dealing with bad guys as a police officer, if ya gotta do it, it may as well be fun. When you are sick and tired of editing, as happens with me, you can hire a professional editor or in my case just leave well enough alone as it displays I ain’t perfect. My wife and Mom know that up front.

If you decide to go it alone and become your own Publisher you need to know there are a few printing companies that can produce your book. I chose Lightning Source, Inc. because of its size and reputation. They print about 1.5 million books each month and send you monthly Sales Repots on each of your titles. LSI is a subsidiary of Ingram Book Groups, the largest book distributor in North America. Places like Walden, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc. feed on the Ingram listings and with LSI you are listed with Ingram.

Once I have my manuscript ready, I open an account at LSI and download the File Submission Requirements. With those in hand you note LSI will only accept PDF/X1-a:2001 or higher quality PDF files for printing. A PDF ain’t necessarily a PDF. I have a PDF conversion wizard (free net download) and converted my “Confessions” manuscript and sent it to LSI for printing. They rejected it because it was not acceptable and not in the correct format. So…., just because it is a PDF file doesn’t make it Print Ready.

Puzzling over this I contacted another retired Game Warden/Trooper I worked with here in Alaska. Mike Kincaid. I knew he wrote a book, Alaska Justice and also knew he was the Publisher/Author, in other words he did it all on his own and did not use a publishing concern like iUniverse or Outskirts Press or any of the hundreds of others available.

Mike told me the “formatting” is simply getting the correct type PDF and to do that he searched and found an outfit down south called and had them convert his Word Doc to a PDF/X-1a:2001 file. The cost is $15. He had another outfit create his cover but I’m getting ahead of myself. Time for another cup of mud.

OK, where were we? Oh, Manuscripts. Now you need an accurate page count. In your open manuscript document go to file and select “Page Setup.” In Page Setup you must set the margins and that information is found in the LSI File Submission Guidelines you have already printed out. Once you have the Left, right Top and Gutter size set click on the “Paper” tab. In the LSI website you can research what book dimensions they produce. I chose 5.5 by 8.5. Mike and Nick both chose 6 by 9. See what is available to suit you and change the paper size accordingly. Once both margin and Paper size are changed you need to number the pages. With the manuscript still open, select “View.” In View select Header and Footer. With one of the buttons on the tool bar that pops up you can number the pages. You can also center the numbers as well as sign your name or anything you care to. Here is where you also enter any Header information. Just put the curser in the Header and type to your Heart’s content. I inserted Valley of the Shadow for my coming novel. Now, with the number of pages in your about to be book, back to the LSI web site. It has been a while but there is something like “Spine Calculator” in the site. Select it and select paper type then enter the number of pages you have created. Take careful note of that dimension as you will need it in a later step.

Time for lunch and see why my Table Saw is running out in the garage.

Grandkids! Well at least no one needed stitches.

Now go to When you have the site open click on “Catalog” in the upper left. Select “Formatting Services” and scroll down and near the bottom you find something about converting your Word Doc or formatting your Word Doc and the price tag will be $15. Once you buy that you will be guided on submitting your manuscript to the company. They do a very quick turn around and save what they send you. I save all my stuff to an inexpensive External Hard Drive in case this computer ever breaks a leg and I have to shoot it.

Book cover, spine and back cover design

In the Self-Pub site you will see they produce Print Ready book covers and the price tag is $199. They will need your high resolution (400 dpi or better) pictures, artwork or whatever you wish to use. The basic text you want AND your ISBN and Bar Code. ISBN and Bar Code can be purchased on the net for $55. Lloyd can tell you both front and back cover of Confessions from the Last Frontier have both surprises and are relatively amusing to read. Now, back to the LSI site.

You will need to purchase a $37.50 Manuscript Set Up, a $37.50 Book Cover Set Up, the yearly $12 Ingram Listing Fee and you may wish to purchase a $30 Proof Copy for paperback and/or a $40 Proof Copy if you are producing a Hardcover. Once you have done that LSI guides you through submission of the two files, your manuscript and cover design. Once accepted, you will be notified and placed in their printing file to await your turn.

-Steve Knutson


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