Formatting means setting your book up so it is ready for e-publishing (such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords..). or getting it ready for a brick and mortar book printer (A company that will print out a real paper book).
Unfortunately, just giving an e-publisher a word document doesn’t mean your ebook will turn out like you want it to. It has to be set up in word in the correct manner so that when they change it to the format (ipub, mobi…) that they use to e-publish, it can change your document and sometimes not in a good way.
If you go the route of a brick and mortar printer, your book also needs to be set up to be just like it will look on the page. That takes a program called Indesign.
How do you know what type of publisher/printer you want for your book? you might ask.
That is a very good question and one we could discuss at some length, but in general it depends on your goals. If you want to be able to print thousands of books over time, than maybe a brick and mortar printer might be better (less cost the more you print, better able to handle large number of books per printing run – (a printing run in the number of books you have printed at one time). But if you want just a small number of books, a few to a few hundred, then an e-publisher will be just fine. But there are drawback to both.
Here are a few of the pros and cons of both options:
(I prefer to use both: brick and mortar printers for myself and e-printers – like Amazon – for sales on that website. And for books for myself to sell to bookstores or at book events, I like being able to interact with real people at the brick and mortar printers and I have a greater assurance in the quality. I also know my business is being done in the US not shipped off to a foreign printer)
1) Brick and Mortar printer
– high quality
– you have more choices of book size, book type, paper type (weight and color), your cover art (because you supply it)…
– most printers can now do POD (for small quantities) or offset printing (for larger quantities).
– most offer hard and soft cover options.
– you are responsible for everything the publisher will need (manuscript ready to print- usually in a pdf format, cover art and graphics completely set up and in pdf format), so that means hiring someone to do these things for you. (Not as expensive as you might think.)
2) E-Press (AKA Vanity press)
– can print a small number of copies.
– would have services to help you set up your book (cover art, formatting) but no assurance you can talk to an actual person.
– may have marketing services but look at these closely; they may not be of much help and may be costly.
– their services may be limited in the cover art style, printing style, binding style (paper vs hard cover vs spiral bound), paper type… you can choose from (usually is a set package).
– no price break for printing more books
– they could own your ISBN – International Standard Book Number (check their policy!) – see this blog post dated April 17, 2013 for the ins and outs of ISBN.
– fees for editing, correcting your final proof (final copy)… can be quite expensive and you don’t know the quality you are getting.
– might not have a real person you can talk to when issues come up.
– can be confusing to negotiate their websites.