A Lesson on Saving Native Files

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Depending on my mood I introduce myself as a writer, ghostwriter, or editor. The thing is, a lot of what I do is project management. It doesn’t sound as glamorous, and I doubt anyone has ever bought a project manager a drink, still, when you own an editing company, it is part of the gig. Now that publishing is fully and wholly digital—and even though it’s increasingly Cloud-based—project management and keeping track of native files is an important part of the gig, especially for those who are self-publishing and depending on freelance book designers.

Before Amazon existed, before eBooks were a thing, and before there was so many printing and reading options (think non-digital lithography), a manuscript might not even have an electronic file. It’s hard to imagine.

To be certain, in today’s print-on-demand world, we’re all about the files. In fact, when it comes to printing: we are our files. We have to be. It’s not rocket science, but it’s important, especially when things go sideways, to have access to native files, including your book cover file and your interior file, and especially if you worked with a designer to get them instead of creating them yourself.

This may seem obvious, but every month or so, an author or publisher sends me some version of the following email missive:

Question: Do you have the final files? You should have received a PDF of both the book cover and the interior print design from my designer. Also, you should have received two eBook files: mobi and epub.

Response: I can recreate the book from the Word file, which I was able to download, but it would save you money to have those original files.

Suffice to say, there’s typically an air of panic. Clearly they’ve reached out to me in desperation, and since I’m much earlier in the publishing process, I don’t have anything but, possibly, a Word file, which typically means they’re back at square one, at least when it comes to flowing out a file from one platform to the others.

Typically, a file is saved in a proprietary format. For example, if you save a Microsoft Word document, it’s saved as a Word doc and is a native Word file. It’s always best to save a file in a program’s native file format so you can be sure it stores all of what was created. For example, if you save a Word document as a plain text file, any and all text formatting will be removed. So if you’re planning on editing a file after you’ve saved it, saving it as a native file is the best choice.

This goes for everything a designer creates. Each file is proprietary; each is distinct; each is necessary. So, in the event—and this seems to be what happens—a designer offers to upload your files for you to IngramSpark, as a courtesy, go ahead and do it yourself or have them walk you through it, or, at the very least, make sure you have access to every file—be it of the narrative or the cover, because if you'd like to make changes to that file later, you're going to want to modify those existing files versus starting from the beginning again.

So, as a best practice, be sure you hold on to all of your files. And for those of you who’ve lost track of your native files, pour yourself a drink; your sanity is about to be tested.


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Ellie Maas Davis

Ellie Maas Davis owns Pressque, a publishing consultation firm located in downtown Charleston that offers editing and ghostwriting services to authors and publishers.