Self-publishing how to–PART 1

Introduction and Configuring MS Word for your manuscript

From Rick:

I’ve talked at length in previous blogs about self-publishing, traditional publishing, and vanity presses. Beginning with this post, and for a series of posts following it, I’ll talk about the nuts and bolts of self-publishing and what steps you will need to follow to put your work out there yourself. I’ll be talking about the three major places where you should distribute your work: Amazon (Kindle Direct Publishing, KDP), Smashwords (which covers most of the other markets and is a great way to get your e-books onto non-Kindle devices), and CreateSpace (a separate Amazon company) for your print books. If you publish through CreateSpace, they will put your book into KDP for you. I prefer to do it separately myself, but there’s no reason you have to do it that way.

Before I continue, I want to be sure you understand one thing about Amazon e-books for the Kindle. Do not confuse KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) with “Kindle Select” (or KDP Select). KDP is the general publishing channel for Amazon. “Select” refers to making your e-books available exclusively through Amazon, meaning not on Smashwords or anywhere else, although you can still publish your print book elsewhere. KDP Select is only for e-books.

I’m not going to get into the pros and cons of Kindle Select other than to say that I advise against it because it limits your distribution. Scott, my blogging partner here, used Select for a period of time. At one time, there were some advantages to using KDP Select, but most agree it’s not worth it. Before you consider it, do your research so you understand the limitations as well as the advantages.

If you are going to use Kindle Select, do it initially, but do NOT attempt to put your e-book into Kindle Select use it after you’ve already put it into other sales channels. The problem is that you must ensure that it’s removed from all other sales channels and if you don’t, Amazon has been known to block your account because the book is not exclusive. Sometimes these distributors fail to remove the book, or may put it back up for sale, unknown to you, and when it shows up, Amazon notices and will withhold your royalty payment until you straighten it out. The onus is on you even if the slip-up is not your fault. It can get messy. Plus, you have to keep your book in the Select program for two-months at a time.

Here is one link on a few KDP basics with regard to royalties:


In future posts I’ll talk about pricing and royalty percentages, once we get to the point where you’re ready to make those decisions. We’re a long way from that right now.

Let’s get into how to configuring things for your manuscript before you begin writing. If you’ve already written your novel, that’s fine. In the next couple of posts I’ll talk about how to format your manuscript and how to clean it up. But it’s easier if you do things right from the beginning. It will save you a lot of time.



As the editor and publisher for an online magazine, I receive a number of messy or poorly formatted manuscripts. While I don’t mention the problems to the submitters, I do clean up their messes before I publish the piece.

I’m going to tell you how to set up your manuscript initially. Some of these setting will likely change prior to publication, but if you follow this advice, making those changes later will be a piece of cake.

First point: The default settings in Microsoft Word are NOT the best settings for a manuscript. In most cases, they’re not even close to what you should be using for a novel manuscript.

Now, I’m not going to make you change your beloved settings for everything to type in Word. Instead, I’m going to show you how to create a separate template. Depending on which version of Word you are using, some of the steps will vary. I’m using Word 2010 and my instructions will follow that version for the most part, but you should be able to find things in your version without much difficulty.

STEP 1: Open a new blank template document in Word by clicking File/New. In the choices at the top of the window you’ll see “My Templates.” Click on that. In the next window, select “create new template” (in Word 2010 it’s in the lower right of the window). Then click OK.

Step 2: Set the font either to Courier New (11 or 12 point) or to Times New Roman 12 point. These are the standard and expected fonts for manuscripts. Do not use Calibri or any other font. You can set your fonts later in your final manuscript prior to publishing, but for now, stay with the standards. I prefer Courier New because it’s cleaner and easier to see the punctuation in, and it’s easier on the editing eye. As I said, once you’re done, you can change to anything you desire.

Step 3: Go to Page Layout. Set the margins at 1” all around or click the “normal” option. Set the size as Letter (8.5×11), or to A4 if you live in a country that uses metric-sized paper.

Step 4: In your Page layout, under “paragraph” (in Word 2010), click that little angled arrow to bring up the next dialogue box. On the Indents and Spacing tab set the following:

Alignment: left
Indentation left and right: both at 0
Indentation special: set to First Line and by 0.5”
Spacing, before and after: both to 0
Line Spacing: double

Some or all of these may be changed in the final manuscript, but use these for creating your initial drafts.

Step 5: On the Line and Page Breaks tab, UNCHECK “Widows and Orphans.” Yes, I know this will result in single lines orphaned at the tops or bottoms of pages, but for e-books in particular we do not want anything in Word to add any junk to our manuscripts. Things will get fixed later. Trust me.

Click OK to accept these changes.

Note: Word’s option is to set Space After to 6 is not what we want. Reset to zero. Again, we will be saving this in a separate template, so if you prefer Word’s defaults for other things, those will be preserved in your Normal template.

Step 6: Be sure no header or footer is showing in the template. If it is, go to the Insert tab (Word 2010), click on “header” and select “remove header.” Do the same for the footer if there is one.

We’ll be making other changes to this manuscript template later after we talk about Styles, but for now let’s save it.

Step 7: To save the template, select File/Save As.

Near the bottom of the window that opens will be two boxes: “Filename” and “Save as Type.”

For the filename, choose something that you’ll remember what it is for.

Under the “Save as Type” box, click the down arrow and look for .dot or .dotx. The choice is yours. If you prefer saving documents in the .docx format, then choose .dotx. Otherwise, use .dot (or .dotm if that’s your other option).

NOTE: You can create as many templates as you want for different purposes and with different settings and styles according to your specific needs.

At the top of the box, the correct location should be specified. This will vary with the version of Windows, but for Windows 7, it will be something like this:

(your user name)>AppData>Roaming>Microsoft>Templates

If it doesn’t look close to this, your template may be saved in a wrong location. Go back and start the process again and be sure that when you created a new document that you selected “template.”

If all is okay, then click SAVE.



Microsoft uses a bunch of default automatic replacements and corrections, such as small fractions and superscript “st” and “nd” and “rd” on 1st, 2nd, 3rd. While many of them make sense, some can cause undesirable side effects and problems in your e-book manuscripts because they represent special characters that may or may not translate properly into certain e-book formats.

Other default options in Word may change spellings of words that you don’t want changed. Therefore, we want to turn these off. Here’s one example of a problem that can arise. Let’s say you’re writing a sci-fi novel and your character’s name is Cotten. With AutoCorrect turned on, Word will change it to Cotton (because the AutoCorrect list includes this misspelling of “cotton”).

What if you want the deliberate misspelling of “teh” for “the” in certain spots in your story? One of AutoCorrect’s changes “teh” to “the.” Or maybe you want a deliberate misspelling to show dialect.

Try using certain character names—e.g., Efel, Ehr, Eyt, Smoe, Soem—and they may change to something you did not intend: Feel, Her, Yet, Some.

Yes, you can delete specific AutoCorrect changes from the list to prevent this from happening, but what if you miss one? It’s better to control things manually by using the spell checker to ensure that unwanted changes do not occur.

You’ll have enough to worry about correcting your own typos without having to deal with mistakes that Word might add.

NOTE: Turning off these options will affect ALL documents. There is no way to set these options to work with specific templates and not with others, but really you should not be letting a piece of software make decisions for you.


Go into your Word Options (in Word 2010, it’s under File/Options). Find your Autocorrect Options (in 2010 under Proofing). We’re interested in 3 tabs here: Math AutoCorrect, AutoFormat As You Type, and AutoCorrect.

Unless you’re typing a math document, in Math AutoCorrect, uncheck all the boxes under that one.

Under AutoCorrect, I uncheck everything there as well. You might think you should check “Capitalize the first letter of sentences,” but I’ve had cases where Word capitalized a sentence I did not want to. In any case, uncheck “Replace as you type” for sure.

Under the “AutoFormat As You Type” tab, the only thing I leave checked is “straight quotes with smart quotes.” I’ve talked about these before, but smart quotes generally look better than straight quotes. You can leave this unchecked for now if you wish and convert the quotes in your final manuscript, but I highly recommend you not do that because certain quote marks may not convert properly. We’ll discuss those next time.

I covered a lot of this material and more in three previous posts here a couple of years ago, but I wanted to pull it all together in a more concise format and specifically in a series to help you prepare to self-publish. Plus, I’ve learned a few things since I did those articles and changed my advice in some cases. Here they are for your reference, but I suggest that you follow my latest guidelines where they differ from the previous ones.




Next time we’ll talk about some dos and don’ts of manuscript formatting.


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