Paperback formatting is hideous and wonderful

Formatting a paperback has given me all kinds of new respect for Gutenberg and his printing press. For anyone that regularly has to massage text into a shape that fits a page. Digital formatting, in comparison, is like making chips and salsa while print is, well, like a four-course meal.

Now, I use InDesign, which, if we’re continuing with the food metaphor (and since I’m writing this thing, we are), is a restaurant-grade kitchen. It’s more than what you absolutely need, but is absolutely worth using if you want to do more. InDesign has a learning curve, like all Adobe products. There’s no way you’re going to jump into it and get out with a formatted book in less than a few hours for your first one.

However, once you get the hang of its master pages and template design programming, the actual grit and grind of putting paragraphs in their place and raining drop-cap fire on your chapters is a simple process. InDesign is a program that rewards a bit of prep with a lot of efficiency on the back end.

So why the “hideous” part of this one?

Because, and I’ll talk about this a bit more in the cover post coming up soon, there are finicky realities with print that you don’t have to worry about with digital. Things like making sure your little elements line up appropriately on the page. Things like making sure there’s a margin that’s kept, and that it appropriately accounts for whether the page is on the left and right. Making sure your page numbers display appropriately for the start and end of the book.

Also, coming off of the extreme ease of Vellum for ebook formatting, running through the icon forest of Adobe products takes getting used to. There’s so many things, approximately 80% or more of which you’ll never have to use, that InDesign can do. All that being said, though, learning how to do it saves you cash from hiring others to do it for you. More importantly, it means you’ll be able to make updates as needed on your own. If you’re planning on publishing frequently, that alone is huge.

So it took me a few hours, but I’ve got my print-formatted paperback. Next up, the cover. Which, let me tell you, is even messier.

Last note – if you’re looking to get started with this, Hugh Howey offers up some great resources on his blog that should get you started.