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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

What comes first, the Paperback or the eBook?

I’m a member of a group on Facebook for Aussie and New Zealand authors and bloggers, and I love it. It’s a great place to go and chat about writer-ly stuff, ask questions and share our experiences. I think I would probably check in and see what everyone is up to at least twice a day, if not more.

A week or so ago one of the members asked a question along the lines of, do you publish your paperback or eBook first? Specifically through CreateSpace. This got me thinking, so I thought I’d share my experience and what works best for me.

I think we should start with a different question, which do you get ready first?

For my eBooks I use Word and then I either upload to Amazon KDP or crunch it through the Smashwords meat grinder. You need to know earlier (rather than later) what formatting is required to get your files through both these publishing outlets. Amazon is slightly different to Smashwords, but the basics of file formatting are the same. They both have free guides that tell you what is required to have your book looking its best. I suggest you read them before you get too far into your manuscript. Of course, if you plan to pay someone to format your books for you, you may stop reading here.

My first book was a mess, and it taught me a lot of things. Since then I always format for eBook as I draft. Because I self-publish, I don’t need to impress agents or publishers with double spacing and big margins. I make sure my file is set up with all the correct styles, check my paragraph indents, line spacing and font choice, and then I write. When I get to the end of my draft I know that the big job of formatting my eBook is mostly done, because the ground work has already been laid. There are only a few minor steps before it will be completely ready to upload. The book then goes through beta reads and edits, and when it’s done I only have to check that all the paragraphs are set to the correct style, my italics are where they should be, save it to the correct format, and that’s it—ready to publish.

But… before I get all carried away and hit that publish button, I format my paperback, and here is why.

I almost always pick up mistakes on the printed proof that I didn’t see on screen. If you don’t plan to publish a paperback I would highly recommend that you PRINT your book out onto paper, go and sit in a comfy chair, and read it.

Now, this is where it can get a bit grey. To answer the first question, do you publish your paperback or eBook first? I would say neither. I do mine at the same time. Just because the eBook is electronic and you can have it on-line and available faster, doesn’t mean you can skimp on one of the most important steps—proofing. I treat my paperback proof as the proof for both formats of my book.

For my paperback formatting I use Adobe InDesign. This is because I’m a graphic designer and I have the software available. I know many people use Word, so I guess at this stage all that needs doing is to change your page size and margins, sort out your headers and page numbers etc. Because I use design software, it’s a little more complicated so I won’t go into that now. If you format yourself, use whatever program you want to. Like I said before, if you pay someone to do the formatting for you you’ve probably stopped reading.

Whether you decide to publish your paperback or eBook first or at the same time isn’t really the issue. The main key is to make sure you proof your book thoroughly, and I believe the best way to do that is to actually read a printed version, more than once. I don’t want to have to go back through my eBook and fix all the mistakes I picked up on my printed proof. Personally, I’d rather wait to get both formats right the first time around.

To break it down, these are the steps I usually take:
  1. Set up Word file with correct paragraph formatting, font, indents etc.
  2. Write book.
  3. Send to beta readers.
  4. Edit book.
  5. Print a home proof and edit book more.
  6. Once I’m happy I format the paperback. I might even print one or two home proofs of this to double and triple check everything before I upload it (and the cover!) to CreateSpace.
  7. Order a printed proof from CreateSpace.
  8. Read the proof and make any last minute corrections. This is the stage where you can also fix problems with your cover if there is anything wrong concerning colour etc.
  9. Publish your book.

I haven't mentioned all the other promotional stuff you need to be doing while you're writing your book. Social networking, building your fan base, getting the cover designed and doing a cover reveal, adding your book's details to Goodreads, organising a blog tour … the list is endless and deserves its own blog post at a later date.

I hope you’ve found this useful. I’d love to hear about your process, and the steps you take to get your book published.

K x


  1. This is a great post!

    1. Thank you :-) I hope it helps. Thanks for stopping by.

    2. Cass, you need an avitar so I know it's you!

  2. You have no idea how helpful this is to me. I just got priceless information. Thank you Kim!

    1. You're very welcome, Shayna. I'm glad you've found it useful :-)

  3. I publish the ebook first, then the paperback. That first ever format is the worst, but subsequent ones are fairly easy.

    That Facebook page is of interest as I'm in Oz. I'll check it out if I can :)


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