Format Your Book for CreateSpace

How to Format Your Book for CreateSpace

(updated 12/10/16)


I get a lot of formatting questions, so I thought I’d put it all down in one place. If you find it useful, let me know.

Note: I use Word 2016. Your version of Word might look a bit different, but it should be similar enough for you to figure out.

And now, without further ado, here is how I format a book for CreateSpace.

Ready, Set, Go

  1. Open your Word .doc
  2. Set the margins. Go to PAGE LAYOUT –> MARGINS –> CUSTOM MARGINS.
    1. Under the Margin Tab, make the top 1″, the bottom 1″, the inside .9″, and the outside .6″.
    2. Orientation should be Portrait.
    3. Multiple Pages should be changed to Mirror Margins. That’s it for the Margin Tab. Don’t close the box yet.
  3. Then under the Paper Tab, change the Paper Size to the size of the book you are planning to publish. I like my books to be 8″ by 5″ so I change:
    1. Width to 5″
    2. Height to 8″. Then click OK to close the box.
  4. SELECT ALL (it’s over in the top right-hand corner.) Delete all tabs by using REPLACE (also in the top right-hand corner.)
    1. Go to the Replace Tab
    2. Click More
    3. Click Special
    4. Click Tab Character
    5. Leave REPLACE WITH blank
    6. Click REPLACE ALL (Don’t panic.)
    1. Click the corner box next to Paragraph.
    2. Under Indentation, go to SPECIAL
    3. Select FIRST LINE
    4. Under BY type .25 (Now you’re indented without tabs.)
    1. Change line spacing to 1.5
    2. Click both REMOVE SPACE BEFORE and REMOVE SPACE AFTER so both read ADD.
    1. Change your font and font size. I usually use Georgia 12pt.
    1. Justify your margins. (Yes! Don’t argue with me.)
    1. Under PAGE LAYOUT, click Hyphenation and Automatic.
  10. SELECT ALL. Make sure you don’t have any double spaces after punctuation. (This is for all us older authors because we were taught that in high school.)
    1. Go to the Replace Tab
    2. Under FIND WHAT, hit the spacebar twice
    3. Under REPLACE WITH, hit it once
    4. Click REPLACE ALL
  11. Make sure the end of every chapter/short story has a new page character.
    1. Go to PAGE LAYOUT –> BREAKS
    2. Under Section Breaks, click NEXT PAGE (One caveat to this is if you are publishing a book of short stories. You want each story to start on the right-hand side, right? Or some people want each chapter to start on the right. In that case, you would click ODD PAGE.)
    3. There should be no page numbers, headers, or footers on blank pages.

Front Matter Matters

In order:

    1. Use a larger font and make it bold.
    2. Type your book title about halfway down the page.
    3. Type your name at the bottom. (This should give you plenty of room to sign at book signings.)
    4. End the page. (PAGE LAYOUT –> BREAKS –> NEXT PAGE)
    1. Type in your Copyright Notice.
    2. Example: This is a work of fiction. The characters and events described herein are imaginary and are not intended to refer to specific places or to living persons alive or dead. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods without the prior written permission of the publisher except for brief quotations embodied in critical reviews.
    3. Copyright © (date) by (your name)
    4. ISBN (Type in your own or the number provided by CreateSpace.)
    5. You can also add your publisher’s name, state, website, and logo if you have started your own company.
    6. End the page. (PAGE LAYOUT –> BREAKS –> NEXT PAGE)
    1. This is optional. If you are dedicating your book to a loved one or to an organization, type it here.
    2. End the page. (PAGE LAYOUT –> BREAKS –> NEXT PAGE)
    1. You should have a table of contents to list each chapter or short story.
    2. Go to REFERENCE and click Table of Contents.
    3. End the page. (PAGE LAYOUT –> BREAKS –> NEXT PAGE)
  5. NOTE!
    1. If necessary, add a blank page at this point (PAGE LAYOUT –> BREAKS –> NEXT PAGE) so that the first page of your story starts on the right-hand side.
    2. There should be no page numbers, headers, or footers on the FRONT MATTER (or the back matter either for that matter.)

Back Matter Matters Too

  1. Add a page for Your Author’s Bio, headshot (I mean a photo, not an actual… although if you’re writing horror and you’re good with makeup…) website, and email address.
    1. End the page. (PAGE LAYOUT –> BREAKS –> NEXT PAGE)
  2. Add another page for a list of your previous works and where to buy them.
    1. End the page. (PAGE LAYOUT –> BREAKS –> NEXT PAGE)
  3. If you are writing a series, you can put an excerpt of an upcoming book here.
  4. Remember, there should be no page numbers, headers, or footers on the front or back matter (unless you want to use Roman Numerals.)

About Your Headers and Footers

  1. Go to the first page of your story. (Story, not Front Matter.)
    1. Click INSERT.
    2. Click HEADER.
    3. Choose your Header Style. (I usually use Blank.)
    4. Type the name of your book. (I recommend using a smaller font.)
    5. Highlight what you just typed and Right align it. (On the Home Tab.)
    7. Make sure LINK TO PREVIOUS is not selected.
  2. Now go to the second page of your story.
    1. Click the Header and type your name.
    2. Highlight what you typed and Left align it.
  3. You should now have your Title on the right and your Name on the left on alternating pages.
    1. Check to be sure the header hasn’t shown up on your Front Matter.
    2. If it has, delete it and de-select LINK TO PREVIOUS on each page.
  4. Go back to the first page of your story.
    1. On the left-hand side of the HEADER & FOOTER TOOLBAR, you will see Page Number. Click it.
    2. Choose Bottom Of The Page.
    3. Choose your style. I use Plain Number 2.
    4. Note: You will have to do this twice—once for the right-hand (odd) side and once for the left-hand (even) side.
    5. Note: You may have to format the page numbers to get them to run consecutively. To do that, click Page Number again and scroll down to Format Page Number.

Easy Peasy

Kill the Widows and Orphans


  • A paragraph-ending line that falls at the beginning of the following page/column, thus separated from the rest of the text.


  • A paragraph-opening line that appears by itself at the bottom of a page/column.
  • A word, part of a word, or very short line that appears by itself at the end of a paragraph. Orphans result in too much white space between paragraphs or at the bottom of a page.

Word kills your widows and orphans by default, but the result makes a ragged bottom margin. I’m one of those persnickety people who feel that when you open a book, the bottom margin on both pages should match up. So I kill them manually.

  1. Click the corner box on PARAGRAPH.
  2. Click the LINE AND PAGE BREAKS Tab.
  3. Uncheck Widow/Orphan Control.
  4. Go through each page of your 500-page book and look for Widows and Orphans, adding or deleting words until the page looks right.

And Another Thing…

The first paragraph of each chapter and after a drop should be flush left, meaning don’t indent. Also, the first letter of the first word of that paragraph should be fancied up. I’m sure you’ve all seen the first letter in a different font with scroll work, etc. The problem is that it messes with the line spacing of the paragraph. I’ve seen books that just bold the first letter and leave it in the same font as the rest of the paragraph. I’ve also seen books that bold the entire first line of the chapter (Lemony Snicket does this.) If you wish to have a drop cap, go to Insert then Drop Cap. You can change the font under Drop Cap Options.

Easy Peasy

When all looks good, you need to save the book as a PDF. Word can do this for you.


Now you are ready to upload the .pdf to CreateSpace.

See? It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3… 4, 5, 6… Oh, you get the picture.

An expanded version of How to Format Your Novel for CreateSpace is available on Amazon in both paperback and ebook formats.

Your Key to Better Book Descriptions


After your book cover, your best sales tool is your book description. But do you know that 80% of your potential buyers only read the first line? How do you hook them with just one line?

Enter the Logline

Logline? you ask. Isn’t that for screenplays? Well, yes, but every writer should be able to say what their story is about in one sentence.

To write a compelling logline, you need four things:

  1. The protagonist
  2. The situation
  3. The goal
  4. The antagonist

From this, the reader should be able to ascertain who the story is about, what situation they have gotten themselves into, and what stands in their way.

So, grab a sheet of paper and write down:

  • Setting: where and when your story takes place.
  • Protagonist: your main character. Always describe your protagonist as an adjective-noun pair (brilliant scientist, guilt-ridden soccer player) and, to save room, don’t name names.
  • Problem: the issue that caused your protagonist to take action.
  • Antagonist: who or what stops the protagonist.
  • Conflict: the major obstacle or dilemma.
  • Goal: what your protagonist hopes to accomplish.

Now, plug that information into this formula:

In a (Setting) a (Protagonist) has a (Problem) caused by (Antagonist) and faces (Conflict) as they try to achieve (Goal.)

Don’t like that formula? Try this one:

When this happens, this person must verb before consequence occurs.

Or try one of these:


  1. Adjective (A heartbroken)
  2. Protagonist (housewife)
  3. Action (turns to witchcraft)
  4. Goal (to curse her cheating husband)
  5. Outcome (and finds she has a knack for such things.)


  1. Situation (In a world without hope)
  2. Protagonist (a harried writer)
  3. Objective (must chronicle the events of mankind)
  4. Opponent (before the agents of darkness)
  5. Disaster (toss his work into a black hole.)


  1. Setting (Deep in the Amazon jungle)
  2. Conflict (a genetically modified predator escapes confinement)
  3. Objective (to stalk its creators)
  4. Possible Solution (and seek revenge)
  5. Emotional Promise to the reader (in a heart-pounding thrill ride.)

How does this help your book description?

Put your logline first. Grab their attention. Use a little HTML to make it stand out.

Here’s how to use HTML on Amazon KDP. (Doesn’t work for CreateSpace yet.)

  • Headline <H1>Insert Your Text Here</H1>
  • Bold <b>Insert Your Text Here</b>
  • Italics <i>Insert Your Text Here</i>
  • Underlined <u>Insert Your Text Here</u>

Under your logline, you put your book blurb. You can take it right off the back of your book.

If you don’t have a book blurb yet, try one of these formulas:

Title is a genre about hero, a role who empathy setup. When hero is opportunity, hero decides to preliminary goal. But when change of plans happens, hero must now primary goal by plan in spite of conflict.

Or similarly:

Title is a genre about hero, an identity who, after inner conflict, wants goal. But when turning point happens, she has to revised goal, which seems impossible because of conflict.

So, here’s the lineup:

  1. Logline. Hook that potential buyer so they will click READ MORE.
  2. Blurb. Reveal the main conflict and the stakes.
  3. Secondary headline with why they should buy.
    1. If you like (science fiction, Harry Potter, trashy novels) you will love (title.)
    2. Or if you’re not comfortable with that, just make a statement. (Title) will leave you (breathless, laughing, scratching your head.)
    3. Or (Title) will stay with you forever.
  4. Big headline again. Tell them what to do.
    2. Buy (title) and escape into the Everglades.

And that’s it. Easy Peasy.

6 Things to Include in Your Media Kit

What is a media kit and how can you use it?

Back in the olden days, we used to print out a media kit on heavy paper complete with 8×10 glossies of our book cover and photo, put it all in an eye-catching folder, and mail it to our intended, be it a reporter, literary agent, or publisher.

Now it’s more common to put everything into a zip file and email it to wherever it needs to go.

But consider this: a media kit could actually be your website. It has everything you need to make a great impression.

But what goes into a media kit? Here’s a detailed list.


  1. Author Bios

That’s bios plural. You want it to be written like a news story (third person) and in a variety of lengths.

  • A two-line bio of about 140 characters (to retweet on Twitter)
  • A short bio of about 50 words
  • A medium-length bio of 100 words
  • A longer, more detailed bio between 400-600 words
  • Contact information (include social media icons and links, and a link to your Amazon Author Central page, too.)
  • In addition, you want a speaker introduction of about 250-300 words so that you can control what’s said about you before you take a stage. Include:
  1. Your value to the audience
  2. Your book titles
  3. Testimonials or reviews
  1. Press Release for Your Latest Book

Here’s the format.

  • Headline (about 5-7 words)
  • Subhead (with keywords)
  • Dateline (city, state, date)
  • Author Quote (Such as why you wrote the book, the key character of the book, the emotional angle, or the target audience.)
  • Author Credentials (Such as how many books you’ve written, awards you’ve won. Skip if you don’t have any yet.)
  • About the Book (The back-of-the-book blurb works well if it’s not too long.)
  • How to get review copies.
  • How to get an interview with the author.
  • CALL TO ACTION (Buy now, Get it here, etc. with links)
  • Contact information. (Your email and phone number. Yes, your phone number.)
  • At the end, type #### or (END)
  1. Sample Interview Questions

This is for bloggers or podcasters who want to interview you so you’re not caught off guard. Just list the questions, not the answers. Here are some suggestions.

  • What do you like about…
  • What makes you so positive about…
  • What surprises you about…
  • Some people say… What’s your opinion?
  • What set you on this particular track?
  1. Your Books

Keep it short because you’ll want:

  • A synopsis in 3 different lengths
  • Book cover image
  • Price and buying information with links
  • Book review excerpts
  • Sample chapter (or partial chapter)
  1. Your Photo

But make it more than just a standard headshot. You want to stand out. Make it a meme.


You’ll want both high and low resolutions. Include a snappy tagline.

  1. Contact Information

Repeat all your contact information one more time. (Your email, your phone number, yes do it, all your social media sites with links, and your website URL in case they’re viewing the kit offline.)

I’m sure you can see how this would make a knock-out website. But if you’re happy with the site you have, you can save the kit as a .pdf, leave it somewhere like and link to it so that anyone interested can download it. Or, as I mentioned before, you can save it as a zip file and email it.

About That Press Release

There’s some controversy going around about press releases. Are they still relevant? After all, who reads a newspaper anymore?

Plenty of people, that’s who. Whether digital or paper, newspapers are still widely distributed. A story about you or your book will boost your author’s platform. Anything you can do to get exposure for your book will help.

But it’s important to realize a press release is not an advertisement. It is a news story (told in third person) that generates excitement about your book or book event.


The two most important elements in a press release are the headline and the opening paragraph.

  • The headline should be short and catchy, five to seven words. No punctuation. Don’t use words like is, the, an. Don’t start with something dull like Release of a New Book. No one cares that you’ve released a new book. They want to know what it will do for them. Try New Fantasy Book Teaches Kids Family Values. Or Local Author Speaks About Writing at Library.
  • The opening paragraph should be no more than three sentences and should answer the basic questions: Who? What? Where? When? Why? How? Start with a brief description of your book or book event and then add who is announcing it—not the other way around.

For instance: Fantasy author, Bob Poppins, gives free seminar at the regional library this Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to noon in the multimedia room, Lily the librarian announced today. The seminar focuses on novice writers who have their eye on becoming a novelist. Coffee and donuts will be served.

Avoid marketing hype.

A press release is not a sales pitch, and editors are not interested in giving you a free ad.

So what can you write about? Here are some ideas.

  • Speaking or presenting at an event or convention
  • Winning an award
  • Community involvement (setting up a Little Free Library, donating books to a school)
  • Free podcast, seminar, eBook, etc.
  • Celebrity endorsement of your book
  • Trade show exhibit/book signing
  • Contest or sweepstakes
  • Starting your own publishing company

Here’s a sample fill-in-the-blanks press release to get you started. This one’s for a non-fiction book, but it will give you an idea of the format.


CONTACT: [author name], [author phone no.], [author e-mail]

Local [Woman/Man] Featured in New Book About [Book Topic]

[city, state] – [date] – [City] [description of individual such as entrepreneur, executive, consultant, author, etc.] [First and Last name] is featured in a new book about [book topic].

[Last name] is one of several experts who shared expertise in the new book, [Book Title], about [short book description].

[Last name]’s contribution related to [brief general description].

[Book Title] is [more descriptive information pulled from your book’s back cover].

For more information about [Book Title], visit [your website URL].


After crafting your press release, email it to the appropriate media contacts by copying and pasting the entire text into the email message. Don’t attach it.

Send it to newspapers and radio stations.

  • Weekly newspaper: Editor
  • Daily newspaper: The appropriate section editor or beat reporter, depending on the book’s topic (lifestyle? religion? business? education?) and the local section editor
  • Radio stations: Producer of morning drive-time programming

Send your press release the day before the event. TIP: Don’t send it on the hour. Everyone else sends theirs on the hour (usually 8:00 a.m.) and yours might get lost in the shuffle. Instead, send it at 9:12 a.m. or 11:18 a.m. etc.

Don’t forget bloggers.

Book bloggers are great for exposure, from book reviews to interviews. But don’t just send them your press release out of the blue. It will look like spam.

Here is the best way to approach book bloggers.

  • The first thing you should do is to come up with a list of blogs read by your target audience. Just search the internet for romance book blogs, science fiction blogs, etc.
  • Become an active member of the community on the blogs you’re interested in. Comment on a few posts, and make sure your comments add something to the conversation. Never write self-promotional comments.
  • When you contact the blogger, be sure your press release is as concise as possible. Make it clear that you know the recipient’s blog. You can do this by tying your pitch into a recent topic they wrote about.

If a journalist or blogger picks up your story and writes about it, don’t forget to share the article on social media.

Press releases won’t cost you anything but time. However, if you feel more comfortable with a professional, I recommend:




They offer affordable assistance in writing and distributing your press release.


Fun and Frolic with Amazon

amazon works

I love Amazon. They have so many tools in place to help an independent author succeed. Here are a few ways to make Amazon work for you.

Don’t think of Amazon as a store.

Think of it as a search engine. As an author, you don’t need to rank higher on Google. You need to rank higher on Amazon.

Amazon works as a search engine very much like Google or Bing so you need to think SEO (search engine optimization) for your book. That means metadata. Most authors’ eyes glaze over at that word. But metadata simply refers to the keywords that are associated with your book and its category.

TIP: Your previous Amazon searches will influence your results, so be sure to log out to clear your past viewing history before conducting any keyword or category research.

Keywords will help you enormously on Amazon.

Nowadays, keywords are phrases. No one searches for single keywords. When was the last time you went to Google and typed in a single word? Think of keywords as search strings, such as werewolf romance suspense or mystery novel 99cents. Use theme words in your keywords, such as Moods (light, scary), Characters (female PI, wizard) and Settings (14th century, England.)

The cool thing about being Indie is that you have control. You can promote your book via KDP Countdown Deals or Free Days. When you plan such a promotion, you can go to your book and adjust your keyword search strings to include 99cents or free eBook, etc. After your promotion, you can take those words out again.

But how do you find keywords?

One way to find keyword strings is to go to and type in a phrase that pertains to your book. For example, I typed in werewolf book and got 836 suggestions. That sounds overwhelming, but you don’t have to use them all. Just type a few phrases into their search bar and write down the search strings you like.

Now, take those search strings to and type them into their search bar. Type slowly. Like any search engine, Amazon will offer suggestions as you type. These suggestions are the most popular keywords people use on Amazon.

So basically, Amazon is telling you what keywords to use.

See what suggestions pop up then plug the best ones into the keyword area of your dashboard. (If you are traditionally published, ask your publisher to do this for you. They will be impressed with your interest in marketing.) Get at least twelve keyword search strings so you can switch them out and see which work best for your book.

KDP allows seven keyword search strings. CreateSpace allows only five. In addition, CreateSpace limits you to twenty-five characters per string with a comma in between.

TIP: Don’t put a space after the comma. That will give you an extra character.

BONUS TIP: Don’t use commas at all.

BONUS BONUS TIP:  You don’t have to use the same keyword strings at KDP and CreateSpace. You can actually get twelve strings by spreading them out. Make sure that Amazon has linked both the print book and the eBook. Then when the reader searches for any of the keywords, both editions will pop up.

(If 48 hours have passed and your Kindle and print edition are still not linked, let Amazon know by clicking Help on your dashboard then Contact Us on bottom of the page. Make sure to include the 10-digit ISBN of the print edition and the ASIN of the Kindle book.)

Okay, you’ve plugged in your keywords. Now what?

Don’t stop there. Use your keywords in your title or your subtitle. Every book today should have a subtitle. You may have seen books with a novel as a subtitle. Those books are one up on you if someone searches for mystery novel or humorous novel. Putting a thriller on your book may seem redundant when the book is obviously a thriller. But it makes sense when you think of it in terms of keywords. If you don’t have a subtitle and want one, email Amazon. (Click the Contact Us link at the bottom of your dashboard.)

Use keywords in your book description. Don’t saturate it, however, or your book might be pulled. Put keywords in the first paragraph and the last paragraph but only if they make sense. And don’t skimp on your description. Amazon allows 4000 characters for your book description, and you should use all the space allotted. Put the concise blurb on top. Add the name of your genre and your target audience. Then have fun with the rest of it. You can add partial reviews or blurbs from other authors. Add an excerpt. Try to choose an excerpt that has some of your keywords in it. You can even add a Q&A with yourself or with your main character.

Now comes the tricky part: Amazon Categories.

The categories for CreateSpace and KDP don’t match. That’s because Amazon is actually two sites: one for print and one for Kindle.

Print categories are based on an industry standard called BISAC. These categories are static and limited.

Kindle categories come from years of data collected by Amazon’s search engine. They are unlimited and ever changing. This gives the Kindle Store many more niche categories to explore.

However, the categories you will find in your research are even more diverse. That’s because Amazon is replacing categories with themes. Themes are sub-sub-categories that you won’t see on your dashboard. The only way to get these themed categories is to research them then email Amazon support with the precise category string. (Contact Us. It’s on the bottom.)

So how do you research this sub-sub-category thing?

Go to, click ALL on the search bar, and highlight either Books or Kindle Store in the drop down menu. Leave the search bar blank. Hit Enter. That brings up the new themed categories. (They’re on the left side. Scroll down to find them.)

Let’s say you write Urban Fantasy. Click the category of Science Fiction & Fantasy. That brings up the sub-categories. Click Fantasy. That gives you the sub-sub-category of Paranormal & Urban. Your category string would be Books>Science Fiction & Fantasy>Fantasy>Paranormal & Urban.

But not so fast.

The numbers next to the categories indicate the number of books in that category. That particular category has thousands of books in it. You want to find a category that is pertinent to your book yet has fewer books.

Narrow categories are best. Don’t use General anything because the competition will be too stiff. You want to rank higher in your category because if you hit the top ten, Amazon’s internal algorithm will push your book to the top of customers’ search results. They will show your book in the customers also bought area. They will recommend your book to readers.

In other words, Amazon will promote your book for you.

REMEMBER: It’s a bad idea to choose any category that isn’t a good fit for your work. The readers who buy your book will probably be outside your target audience and will likely respond with poor reviews.

TIP: CreateSpace allows only one category while KDP allows two. However, you can get a second category for CreateSpace simply by emailing support (Contact Us) and requesting a second browse category. You need the exact string to do this, such as Books>History>Military>Naval>Social History.

BONUS TIP: Some categories won’t show up until you have certain keywords already in place. To find out what keywords are necessary, go to and click the category you are interested in.

BONUS BONUS TIP: As an Indie author, you can play with your category. Let’s say you wrote a series that has elements of Time Travel Romance, Historical Fiction, Historical Romance, Historical Fantasy, Mystery, or even Romantic Suspense. You can switch categories from one to the other prior your KDP promotions. You can even place different books in the series in different categories, widening your visibility.

The biggest challenge to authors today is visibility.

Authors often lament we want to be discovered. We need visibility. Yet, Author Central is probably Amazon’s most underutilized tool. With it, you can create your own Amazon Author Page, share the most up-to-date information about you and your books, and reach millions of readers.

Don’t feel like maintaining your own website? Use Author Central. You can add your photo, biography, upcoming events, and even link your blog. Your books and covers are added automatically. Or you can add them manually.

Don’t feel like maintaining an email list? Use Author Central. Readers can now favorite you so that every time you publish a book, Amazon will let them know about it. Ask your followers on social media to follow you on Author Central. (I hate using an email list because it feels so spammy, but I have no problem asking everyone to like my Author Central Page. See? Please click FOLLOW on my Author Central Page.)

Author Central pages will soon be integrated into Goodreads. This move will really heighten your book’s visibility and exposure. Goodreads is a popular book recommendation and review site owned by Amazon.

How do you get into this Author Central gig?

  1. Go to and click Join Now.
  2. Enter your e-mail address and password and click Sign in using our secure server.
  3. Read the Author Central’s Terms and Conditions, and then click Agree to accept them.
  4. Enter your pen name. A list of possible book matches appears.
  5. Select your books. If your book is not on the list, you can search for it by title or ISBN.

TIP: Because Amazon sells books internationally, your books are available around the globe. You should set up your Author Central pages in other countries as well.

But I don’t read Japanese.

The Author Central International sites are in different languages, but they are structurally the same. You can guess what’s in each field. Keep your Author Central page open so you can compare. You’ll know what’s being asked even if you can’t read all the words.

You can also use Google Translate or download Google Chrome (which comes with a built-in translator) to use as your browser while you create your pages. The translations won’t be perfect, but they’ll be good enough to allow you to fill in your author pages.

Amazon is always adding new countries. Here are a few sites to get you started: — United Kingdom — France — Germany — Japan

Now go celebrate being an international author.

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To Outline or Not To Outline

One question that often comes up in my writers’ workshop is should an author outline their novel before writing or just wing it.  The answer is, of course, there is no answer.  Writing is personal—you put so much of yourself into the words.  That’s why it hurts to have a project rejected.  The act of writing is equally personal.  There is no right or wrong way.  My advice is to try both methods, outlining and not outlining, and see which works for you.


I outlined my first novel in the standard outline form with clipped, structured sentences—first this happens, then that happens, etc.  But when it came time to write the book, I found it difficult to follow such a strict format.  My characters balked at what I was forcing them to do because I hadn’t considered their evolving personalities.  I felt stifled, unable to let my imagination run free.


So with my second book, I just started writing and let the pieces fall where they may.  It was exciting to face each new day of writing not knowing what was going to happen.  But a novel is a lot of words, and I found myself paging back through previous chapters, trying to remember how I described this or that, or whether it had been day or night.  I had plotting problems and pacing problems.  I was doing more rewriting than writing.  To make matters worse, I became ill and couldn’t write for weeks.  I had trouble getting back into the story after that, as if I’d lost my way.


I went back to outlining.  Not a standard outline—more a stream of consciousness.  I write in long paragraphs, putting down events and images as they come to me.  I put in snatches of conversation as I think of them, as much description as I can imagine.  I think in terms of scenes rather than chapters, and I don’t hesitate to juggle the scenes around if I think of something better later on.


The outline for the book I’m working on now is twenty-five pages, single-spaced, and growing.  It’s ever changing.  I’m constantly tweaking and adding details.  As a result, I’m rewriting less and enjoying it more.


Fine for me, but suppose you want to try outlining yet don’t want to go into so much detail.  One method is to write all your scenes on 3X5 cards.  Put down the important features such as time, place, which characters are in the scene, etc.  Arrange them in order on your kitchen table.  It’s a good way to spot plotting problems—you can shift the scenes around or add new ones to fill in any holes.


Does that still seem too much of a chore?  Then make outlining a game—and what is more fun than a computer game?  Storybook has a terrific program to help novelists organize their story.  It’s fun, easy, and they never use the word outline.  Best of all, it’s free.  Download it here:


A friend tells me he outlines his books in his head.  While I don’t think that’s quite the same thing, I firmly believe the only right way is the way that works for you.  Don’t discount anything until you’ve tried it yourself.


Roxanne Smolen