Self-Publishing - The Five Phases (Part 2)

Phase 3: Layout

Continuing from Part 1, by now you have content finalized in manuscript format and ready for layout (print and/or ebook).

Yes, creating an ebook is about layout, regardless that the target format is dynamic instead of static print.

If you intend to release both then have print created first. All quality layout applications can export an ePUB, the primary ebook format of today. Yes, you can upload an ePUB to KDP at Amazon; you do not need a MOBI or AZW ebook file. Back to layout…

3.1: Format

Do not be taken in by chatter in the self-publishing community at large. Adobe InDesign is too often touted (by the uninformed) as the mark of a professional layout technician [LT]. In truth, amateur LTs will try to sell you InDesign services that will not serve you into the future.

You do not need an Adobe InDesign layout. To access your delivered layout file, you must purchase and learn this exspensive and complicated application. Most give up in frustation. This trick is used by some LTs to lock you in for re-service in any later [minor] adjustments or updates needed.

95+% of layouts can be created in ODT (Open Document Text) format. FOSS (Free Open Source Software) is used. You can acquire the same for free to later open your layout file. And yes, these applications can export a valid ePUB file as well as a press ready-to-print PDF, if you take time to learn how to do so correctly.

An ODT layout can [later] be flowed directly into InDesign, if need be. All true professional LTs knows this.

NOTE: for extensive and/or complicated updates, always seek a qualified professional, regardless of your layout file's application of origin.

That said, creating an ODT layout is not the same as a manuscript. It takes skill to do it right, globally style it correctly and export a press-ready PDF and/or ePUB file.

Find a professional LT and ask about an ODT layout, if you'd rather not take the time to learn this yourself. In this way, you will at least receive a layout file in which you can make minor edits with free software.

HINT: If the LT does not know about ODT layouts, or tries to push you into InDesign unnecessarily, odds are you are not in contact with a professional.

See “Resources >> Office” for the top FOSS office suites that support ODT (and DOC[X]) format, though certain extensions are necessary for layout and ePUB work. You can install these suites along side of Microsoft applications without complication. You may find you no longer need that corporate software for authorship.

Lastly, never submit a homemade DOC format layout to an LT. This is an immediate sign of an amateur author, who thinks s/he can cut cost of layout service. In truth, you will end up paying extra for the LT's time to clean-up & correct your mistakes.

Always deliver content in professional manuscript format; always deliver media for embedding as separate files. Moving on…

Phase 4: “Product” Proofread

As mentioned in Part 1 — 2.3. “Content” Proofreading — this is the second proofreading phase, which is applied post-layout.

HINT: for professional results, all publications need to be proofread twice — before and after layout.

HINT: proofreading is not included in layout service by professionals. The most your LT will do is review the layout itself to make certain it is formatted correctly.

HINT: proofreading should always be listed as a separate service or service addon. It is [much] more time intensive than layout work — when done correctly.

HINT: avoid anyone pricing proofreading “by the page.” Proofreading is priced by the word; pages vary in word counts by density and typeset size/point/pitch.

When working with a professional publisher, authors receive an 8.5x11, one-sided print-out of the final layout. While a professional proofreader reviews the same, the author reviews all content and makes notes for corrections and changes on the pages. Only pages with corrections are returned to the publisher.

Independent LTs do not do this; you will need to review a print PDF for your “Product” Proofread. This will require you to note corrections in a word-processor file for submission to the LT.

So how do you accomplish this?

Inexperienced authors get wordy in thinking they are thereby more precise; the result is the opposite. In addition, they use differing notation to indicate textual position in the layout for corrections needed.

Before you reach this phase, learn a standard that you and the LT should follow, though minor variations exist. If nothing else, it is another way to know if your LT is a true professional.

HINT: For ACN instructions, see the “I.A.” section in the Bookshop for Author Change Notes for Independent Authors.

HINT: With a fully corrected and clean print layout, you will not need to repeat proofing of an exported ePUB. Your ebook should never be exported until after all proofing phases are completed.

Phase 5: Publishing

You can prepare for store listings and ebooks after layout completion… or while the LT is finishing your publication. Either way, the following is recommended to have on-hand for all contingences.

5.1: Metadata

Some are optional by the individual publication. Where needed, these are used for online store pages and [always] embedded in the ebook edition. Always create a metadata file to store with your publication's other files. It may be useful into the future for the current or other publications.

  • Date of Publication [DoP] (Month/Year)
  • Series Title / Volume
  • Title
  • SupraTitle
  • SubTitle
  • Author Name (exactly as on/in the publication)
  • Author Bio[graphy]; 150 words
  • Other Contributors (text, photes, etc. | other content)
  • Cover Artist and/or Designer
  • Publisher, if other than yourself
  • Also by (previous published works upto DoP)
  • Synopsis, Standard
  • Synopsis, Short; 150 words
  • Synopsis, Micro; 256 characters, including punctuation and spaces
  • Keywords (and Key Phrases)

Most of these are self-explanatory. You may also want a clean, simple, up-to-date portrait photo. The last item's subset (Key Phrases) may confuse some of you. It has to do with how Amazon systems handle keywords.

Yes, there is a difference; leave it to Amazon to once again ignore [publishing] industry standards.

HINT: always prepare both Keyphrases and Keywords. Create your Keyphrases first and then use these to compile comma delimited keywords for other than Amazon systems.

5.2: Key Phrases (Amazon)

This is the correct term, though Amazon incorrectly labels the field “Keywords” in its systems. Individual keywords are [always] separated by a comma without spaces on either side. However, Key “Phrases” use both commas and spaces, the later of which count against Amazon's 25 character limit in a phrase.

The number of “phrases“ allowed varies by Amazon subsystem, usually 5 or 7; check the specific system for its limit.

Phrases must be separated by commas. Keywords within a phrase must be separated by a space. Do not use commas within a phrase, or the system will interpret this as the end of an additional phrase. Do not place spaces before or after a comma, as these will count as characters within the phrase.

The maximum characters per phrase is 25 including spaces separating [true] “keywords.” For example:

Keywords, Industry Standard
dog,cat,mouse,horse,donkey,mule,hog,boar,pig,chicken,rooster, etc.
Key “Phrases,” Amazon Systems
dog cat mouse horse mule,donkey hog boar pig,chicken rooster, etc.
5.2.1: Key Phrases Optimized

Do not waste keywords by simply counting characters [and spaces] to be certain phrases are 25 or less. Study the length of words for best combinations. Avoid more than 4 spaces in a phrase.

dog cat mouse horse mule,donkey hog boar pig kitten,chicken rooster fish pup = 23,26,24
  • 26 is too much!
dog cat mouse horse mule,donkey kitten chicken hog,boar pig rooster fish pup = 23,25,25
  • Better, but perhaps more can be done with additional keywords and phrases.

5.3: Synopsis

Start with “Standard” as in back cover copy for a print edition. Edit down to create the other two versions: Short (150 words) and Micro (256 characters).

Online store systems vary in length limits. You will be ready in having three prepared. Avoid adjectives and adverbs; seek descriptive nouns and verbs instead.

Go no further than the climax or culmination. NOTE: some authors synopsis an entire work before choosing were to cut it short, as this provides a condensed view of the content.

Avoid used keywords in your synopsis. Most online stores apply customer searches to both keywords and description (synopsis) in product records. Maximize the chance of your publiction appearing in search results by using differing synonyms — accurate ones — between synopsis and keywords.

5.3.1: Synopsis Formating (HTML)

Online (and ebook) metadata displayed to customers and readers requires older HTML formatting “tags” than currently used in websites. Be aware that across different systems, each may have minor differences in which HTML tags they allow in [only] product descriptions. The following should work for most:

  1. <p>[your text]</p> = paragraph
  2. <ul>[your text]</ul> = unordered / bullet list
  3. <ol>[your text]</ol> = ordered / numeric list
  4. <li>[your text]</li> = list item (for <ol> or <ul>)
  5. <b>[your text]</b> = bold (do not use <strong> tag)
  6. <i>[your text]</i> = italic (do not use <em> tag)
  7. <u>[your text]</u> = underline (do not use <underline> tag)
  8. <hr> = horizontal line / divider
  9. <br> = break / blank line

While there are other tags usable, they may vary from one web system to another. These are the basics accepted most everywhere. You do not need any others. They are also applicable inside the description field in an ebook's internal metadata structure.

Head to the Presses!

While there is much more we could cover in pre-publishing processes, herein you have the basics. Stick to these as strickly as you can. It will help you to improve both your publishing process and your end product… your book finally for sale!

At another time, we may dig into more details.

Comments, questions and general discussions are most welcome. Please use the Disqus app connected (below) to this article. We look forward to hearing from you.

J.C.Hendee, proprietor
N.D. Author Services [NDAS]