Self-Publishing Your Novel: Formatting Tips & Fun Stuff

on writing


Hey, guys!  In this post, we’re going to discuss the Cover, the Copyright Page, the Dedication, the Acknowledgements Page, and then the Extra Goodies that a lot of authors have started to stick in the very back of their books.


Before we launch on in, I’d like to add that a lot of this formatting info was taught to me by my husband, who looked up the legal way to do a Copyright Page as a self-pub author while making it very professional.  He’s fantastic.  ❤


My Editing Process (4)


On that note, let’s start with the Cover.  I’m going to apologize in advance if I go into a bit of a rant about this, but I simply cannot stress how important a good cover is for a self-pub author.  Let’s think about it this way…  Say you’ve finally completed your manuscript and it is ready for publishing.  You’ve decided to go the self-pub route.  You go through the steps on Amazon, Ingram Spark, Lulu, wherever you decide to get published, and when you come to the step where you upload your book’s cover, you upload 1) a sketch that you drew yourself even though you aren’t an artist, because who else could create a better cover for your book than you?, 2) a cover made from stock images you bought cheaply and compiled on your own, or 3) you steal images from Pinterest because your mood board for your story is aesthetic and one or a few of the pictures on there would make for a fabulous cover.


I completely understand you wanting to create your own cover.  I did say that you needed to become an expert in your craft if you choose the self-pub route, because there’s not a publishing house to help market or edit or proofread or create a cover or whatever else for you.  That being said, DO NOT create your own cover UNLESS you are a graphic designer with ample experience or an actual artist!


Fun Fact: you know one of the reasons self-pub authors and books get such a bad rep?  It’s because not only do most just publish for the sake of getting published and not care whether they have incorrect formatting or a million typos or gaping black voids of plot holes, but they create their own covers!  Creating your own covers when you are not a graphic designer or artist will end in disaster.  Whether you would ever admit it to yourself or not, your cover would look unprofessional.  You would look like 75% of self-pub authors out there – like you’re doing this for a hobby or just because you want to say you published a book.  Unfortunately, most people buying self-published books judge the books on their cover.  I do, and I’m a self-pub author!  A good 8/10 times, the professionalism of the cover will alert you to whether or not the book you’re looking at is going to be good.  8 out of 10 times, if the self-pub book’s cover looks like crap, it’s going to read like crap.  Not all the time, but a good majority of the time.  And what that means is you aren’t going to sell copies to the public – you’re going to sell copies to friends, immediate family, and great-aunt Sue.  That’s it.


In light of that, my point is this: get your cover professionally done.  There are numerous options out there for you to get a cover professionally made without breaking your bank.  For Smoke and Mirrors, I had an artist friend that I commissioned.  I told her what I wanted, sent her a sketch for reference, and gave her a deadline.  She showed me her progress along the way to make sure there weren’t any changes I wanted made, and once the project was finished, she sent it to me and I paid her.  It’s as simple as that.  And if you don’t have an artist friend or family member, don’t fret – there are other options out there for you.


An alternative option is reaching out to your family and friends.  Do any of them know of a good artist that might be willing to create a book cover for you?  Or are you part of any writing groups on social media that may be able to direct you to a couple different graphic designers or artists?  Explore those options.  And if that happens not to work, here are two different links to trusted websites where graphic designers and artists create covers for authors.  I was given these resources at a writing conference in a panel specifically for getting a professionally made cover done.  These artists/graphic designers work on a budget that won’t break your bank, while still churning out a cover that will make your book look professional and well done:


One last note on covers: never, ever, ever take images off of Pinterest.  Whatever images you use on Pinterest for your mood boards or collages or whatever are under copyright.  They are not free for you to use.  If you take one to use for your cover without contacting the artist for permission/paying the fee to get the copyright sold to you, you are stealing that image.  This is a grave mistake as a self-pub author.  If you steal an image and it circulates back to the artist that created it, you’re getting ready to find yourself in deep trouble under a heavy lawsuit.  Don’t do that to yourself.  Copyright laws are not to be trifled with.


Moving on to the Copyright Page.  This I can keep short because since my husband showed me how to create this, I can just copy and paste the formatting for you here:


“Copyright © Date by Author Name. All rights reserved

ISBN 000-0-0000-0000-0 (Paperback)

Cover Illustration by Illustrator Name.

This book or any portion thereof
may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever
without the express written permission of the publisher
except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental

Printed in the United States of America”


This is the most professional way to phrase it, although you will find some authors rephrase some of what’s stated above or add or take out specific things.  🙂


Now for the Dedication and Acknowledgements pages.  Whether you want to include one or both of these pages in your book is completely up to you; neither of these pages are required, although it does help to add to the professionalism of your book.  The Dedication page occurs right after the Copyright page in your book and before the story starts.  It’s where you dedicate your book to a family member, friend, grouping of people, or whomever you want it to be dedicated to.  It can be short: “For Mom,” or it can be longer: “For Mom, for loving me to the ends of the earth and back again.”  There are many ways you can phrase a Dedication page.  Just remember to keep it professional and refrain from inside jokes that only the person the book is dedicated to will know about.  The Acknowledgements page occurs right after the story’s end and before any Extra Goodies you may include at the end of your book.  The Acknowledgements normally range from one page and up (most often I’ve seen 2 or 3 as standard), and it’s where you thank whomever you want to thank for helping you publish your book or encouraging you in your writing process.  In my Acknowledgements page in Smoke and Mirrors, I thanked God, my family, my extended family, all of my beta readers, and my husband, because they were all instrumental to my writing and publishing process.  Again, keep it professional and sincere.  You don’t want your Acknowledgements page to sound like a robot – monotonous and cold.  If you’re truly thankful for the people that have helped you along, your Acknowledgements page needs to sound warm and, well, like you really mean it.


This brings us to the last portion we need to discuss: Extra Goodies.  A few years ago, it used to be that authors would only include pictures of their other books, links to their social media pages, or a sneak peek of their next story in the back of their books.  Nowadays, while most or all of these things are still common to include, a lot of authors have started added in little Extras at the end.  I loved this idea so much that I included Extras in Smoke and Mirrors and Je Te Veux, and I plan on including Extras in my future books as well.  But what do I mean by Extras?


Literally anything and everything.  Author Nicola Yoon is a great example.  At the end of her book Everything Everything, she not only includes her author bio and a sneak peek of another one of her books, but she also includes a deleted chapter from Everything Everything, a Q&A discussion, sketches that her husband drew specifically for her story, and a playlist of the music she listened to while writing her story.  All of these items were FANTASTIC and added another layer of depth and excitement to the book that I really enjoyed.


In Smoke and Mirrors, I included my music playlist, a scene titled “If Things Had Happened Differently” where I explored a wedding that would have occurred had I not killed off a particular character, and my author bio.  I also included a map of my story world, although it was in the beginning of the book.  I thought I’d mention it here though, because some authors do like to add their maps in at the end with their Extras instead of at the beginning.


This definitely isn’t a required part to your book.  There are a lot of authors that do choose not to do this.  But, I will highly encourage it since it does add another layer of depth.  Q&A sessions, a discussion section with questions for book club readers, extra or deleted scenes, maps, sketches, music playlists…  All allow your readers to immerse themselves into different layers of your story, and this can be incredibly beneficial if your readers love your story world enough that they don’t want to “leave” it.  That being said, don’t come up with random fluff to add to the end of your book for the sake of keeping your readers engaged in your story world.  If you have Extras to add, then you’ll have Extras to add.  Don’t force it or come up with random things just because I’ve said having Extras at the end of your book is a great idea.


That about wraps it up!  Do you have any questions for me, or anything to add?

One response to “Self-Publishing Your Novel: Formatting Tips & Fun Stuff”

  1. […] Self-Publishing Your Novel: Formatting Tips by Savanna Roberts […]


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