How much formatting should a writer do?

I prefer working with writers who use the simplest, plainest formatting possible. Even when writing my own publications, I tend to begin with a simple text document. The simpler, the better.

I would rather work with a Notepad file than a file that someone has heavily formatted without adhering to the requirements of the publisher they plan to use. All that formatting can really get in the way. Especially, if the text was formatted for different dimensions.

Every self-publishing entity provides formatted templates. They are far more than mere margins and tabs. The templates are pre-formatted to number pages directly. They are set up to create a table of contents and generate page numbers correctly. Moving content after the template is in use can really wreck your formatting, especially page numbers.

I find it much easier to keep writing separate from layout. Then copy the content in pieces and place it in the formatted template. If the original writing has heavily formatted content, it can conflict with the template.

And, templates are king.

If the template doesn’t work, the design process may have to start all over again. I have been known to strip a document back to an ascii file in order to get rid of unnecessary formatting. It’s especially troublesome with a writer who applied new formats instead of merely editing what was in place.

hackInDesign is not a writing program. InDesign is a layout program. It is an exquisite program. But, you don’t use it like a typewriter.


The proper way to use InDesign is to use a text program to type your words.

Then use the File/Place command to load text into InDesign.

The Text tool is for decorating text. It is not intended to be a writing tool.

Need help formatting? We can make it happen.


Make your self-published book attractive

Ask your self-publishing guru what is included in their fee. If your guru offers to “format and upload,” be sure to ask what that includes.

One of the most precious things about books is uniqueness. There is absolutely no reason not to create a beautifully unique design for self-published work. Your words deserve to look good.

A fiction book, that is straight text with just some chapter headings and page numbers, fits the bare minimum of “format and upload.”

But, would your book benefit from a little style? How about artwork and design? Textboxes. Callouts. Page borders.

Can your guru create custom page numbers, that still function and are searchable and understood by the Table of Contents and Index? They should. Otherwise, you just have words. Make your words sparkle!


Use a transparent gif to decorate page numbers. Decorative page numbers are a cinch to create and they add interest to your book.

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Every book needs a cover, including eBooks. If your guru is going to do the book design, are they going to charge extra? Can they create art for the cover? Are they going to buy artwork and pass the cost on to you? If you select artwork, do you have the necessary copyright license to use it for cover art? For interior art? For both print and eBook?

If not, talk to us. We can make it happen.


How to create a glossary in Word

Most of us are using Microsoft Word, or with OpenOffice, to format our books and eBooks. Unfortunately, neither one has an automatic feature that will create a glossary. A glossary has to be created manually.

I have seen a gazillion exotic ways to create macros and use VB to do this, ad nauseum.

That’s ridiculous. Anyone who understands the basic concept of Styles can automatically generate a Glossary without a bit of programming or recording macros.

You only have to type the word Glossary to make it happen. That’s all. Otherwise, it is just clicking all the way.

hackTo add a word or a term to a glossary, create it as a Style.

To do that, open the Styles palette.

Create a new Style and name it Glossary.

For “Style Based On:” choose Normal, or whatever Style you are using for the body text style.

For “Style for Following Paragraph:” choose Normal, or whatever Style you are using for the body text style.

Click “Okay” to save the Glossary Style.

Manually locate every word or phrase you want to include in the Glossary.

Change the style for that text to Glossary by highlighting the text and clicking on Glossary in your Styles palette.

Do that for every word or phrase you want included in the Glossary.


Once you are finished, go back to the Styles palette.

Now, carefully click on the dropdown next to the Glossary style you created.

Choose “Select All X Instances” (“X” will tell you the number of Glossary entries you have selected).

Click Control + C to copy all instances.

Now move your cursor to the location in your document where you want the Glossary to appear.

Click Control + P to paste all Glossary (style) entries at the current location.

Every bit of text you formatted as Glossary style will appear.

Go to your browser and delete all the bookmarks to the endless number of webpages explaining how to waste a whole lot of time programming and breathe a sigh of relief because you will never need to look at them. 

You’re welcome!


Bonus Hack: Once you create the Glossary and save your file, you can safely format all text as any other Style. You only need the Glossary style until you generate the Glossary.





T::F::W::F’s hack for using Styles

Let’s get back to Styles. I mentioned last time that self-publishing sites sometimes offer templates with preformatted Styles.

There is nothing magic about Styles. Each one is just a storage spot for a specific collection of text or paragraph formatting. Think of each one as a paint brush you have dipped in a different color, sometimes just a different tint.

hackIf you’re new to this, expand the Word toolbar so that you see the palettes. Do that by double-clicking on any menu item.

The first palette is the Clipboard. Then Font, Paragraph and Styles.

Click on the little icon at the lower right-hand corner of the Styles palette. The list of Styles in the current document appear in the Styles Window, on the right.

The CreateSpace default Style for Chapter Titles is Times New Roman font size 14, centered, with all caps. All caps means that no matter what you type, all the characters will appear as capital letters.

But you can change that. Click on the Styled called “CSP – Chapter Title.” A dropdown menu icon will appear. Choose Modify.

Or, you can do it the easy way.

hack ::Start::of::Think::Fast::Write::Fast::Hack::

Highlight the title of a chapter, any chapter, and change the font, the size, the color, whether it is bold, or italics–whatever.

Go crazy.

When you are happy with the size and font STOP.

Be sure you have clicked the radio button, at the bottom of the screen, next to “Only In This Document.” This is especially important if you are working with a template that you want to use again—but not necessarily with the revised Style you are creating.

Close the Style window.

Highlight the name of a chapter again. ANY CHAPTER.

Click on the Style for “CSP – Chapter Title.” A new item has been added to the dropdown menu. That first item says “Update CSP – Chapter Title.” Choose that.


Now, click on the dropdown for “CSP-Chapter Title” again and you’ll see the choices have changed once again.

Look for the choice “Select All X Instances” where “X” shows the number of instances where that Style has been used in this document. Click on that.

Click on the dropdown menu again, and click on “Click Formatting of X Instances.”

With the “X” number of instances still highlighted, double-click the style “CSP- Chapter Title.”

You’re done.

Since you are going to embed your fonts with this file, the font will be used when you upload your file to CreateSpace.

Here is what just happened. You revised what the Style used for all chapters in this document should like look. Then you instructed Word to go find all the chapters. It does that by looking for every bit of text you already formatted as “CSP- Chapter Title.” Then it updated every instance of text you formatted as a chapter title.

How easy is that?

Next time, I’ll talk about embedding fonts.


Doing it with Styles

I may the only person on the planet who actually loves Word’s Styles. Learn to love Styles, and eBook formatting becomes easier.

People hire me just to format their dissertations. An eBook would probably put them into a coma.

Styles are actually quite simply, and extremely powerful. When we look at a page in Word, it looks rather simple. We know there are little icons and buttons and menus that we will never use in a lifetime. But, someone will. Or someone wanted to when Word was designed. In spite of that, Word looks quite simple. Clean. Austere, even.

But, behind the scenes, there is a lot of power. That’s where the creative part comes in. That’s where I, as an author, get excited.

I absolutely believe that books should be attractive. I realize attractiveness is in the eye of the beholder. But ugly text hovering above a distant white background does not inspire me to read.

We seem to forget the original efforts at printing were beautiful and they also were not on paper. They were woodblock imprints of colored flowers printed on silk. Woodblock printing was standard for a long time. Granted, there was no other option. But, for centuries, printing was beautiful.

Words important enough to share were beautiful. They were works of art.

The Styles palette in Word is what makes that happen for an eBook. Any time you use Word, you are using a Style. There are 16 styles built into Word when you open it up.

You won’t use any of those styles when formatting an eBook. Eventually, that will change. But, for now, suffice it to say, you will not use them.

Instead, download the template from the vendor of your choice. The Styles you will use are embedded in that template. A book consists of 14 sections. Each section has its own Styles.

And, yes, Styles, plural, is correct. A Style consist of a font, a size, alignment instructions and things like whether it should be in all caps. A single Style can consist of a myriad of formatting instructions.

Mystified by what those magical Styles are in a CreateSpace template? By default, they are as follows.

Tune in next time when I tell you how to customize them.

Book Sections CreateSpace
1. Book Title Page Times New Roman 14, centered, all caps
2. Author on Title Page Garamond 18, centered, all capitals
3. Dedication Title (optional) Garamond 12, centered, all capitals
4. Dedication Content

(optional; usually one or two paragraphs)

Garamond 11, centered
5. Acknowledgement Title (optional) Garamond 12, centered, all capitals
6. Acknowledgement content (can be just a sentence) Garamond 11, centered
7. Table of Contents (optional) Garamond
8. Chapters Titles Garamond 14, centered, all caps
9. Body Text First Paragraph Garamond 11, no indention on first line
10. Body Text Garamond 11

Indent the first line of each paragraph

11. About the Author (can include Author’s Photo) Garamond 14, centered, all caps
12. About the Author content Garamond 11, centered
13. Index  (optional) Calibri 11, double-column
14. Glossary (option list of defined terms) Nirmala UI Semilight 10, with terms in bold followed by a colon