Preparing Your Book
So assuming you want to do this, now the question is how do you get your book ready for publication? It’s tempting, once you’ve finished a book, to want immediately to get it into the hands of readers—whether that’s by submitting it to a publishing house or an agent, or to release it independently.
The best course of action, however, is to stick it in a drawer for a while. Seriously. Put it down and walk away. Do something else. Plant a garden. Read a book. Go on a vacation. Whatever. Get some distance between you and your work. Take a week or a month or however long you need in order to come back to your manuscript again with a fresh pair of eyes. You need to see your book not through your writer glasses, but through your reader glasses, and it can take some time before you can successfully take off one pair of glasses and put on the other.
Edit, Edit, Edit!
What you must do at this point is edit your work. No book deserves to be published that has not had the stuffing edited out of it.
On a recent broadcast celebrating the fortieth anniversary of the publication of William Peter Blatty’s bestselling novel, The Exorcist, the author gave an interview where he discussed the impact of the book since its publication, and he described a moment when he was sitting in a motel room recording the audio version of the book, several years later, and at one point he stopped the recording and said, to the amusement of all in the room, “Who wrote this crap?”
Edit, edit, edit. You want to ensure that your readers have the best possible experience of your book and of you as a writer. Your book may be the first impression someone forms of you as a writer, and you want them to come back and buy more of your books and recommend you to their friends.
True, editing delays the publication process, but learning patience is learning a significant skill that will aid your future success.Once you’ve edited your book to the point where you and your critique partners are fully satisfied, you’re ready to format your book for publication.
There are different standards for formatting a book. Print and electronic are not the same, and there are differences between one e-reader and another.
Formatting for Print
One of the concerns for print is pagination. This is the general look or “feel” for the page. If you examine printed books, you will notice several variations in how they are laid out. There is no hard and fast rules for pagination, but there are some guiding principles that can make your book look “professional,” (which is what you want).
Choose a readable font. There are three kinds of fonts: serif, sans serif, and script. Serif fonts have a little “wedge” called a “serif” at the ends of the letters. Times New Roman is the standard example, and this is the most common kind of font used for print. Other good examples include Garamond and Book Antiqua.
Sans serif fonts (like Arial or Calibri) have no “wedge,” in their letters. These are more commonly used for electronic media. Script fonts are designed to look like handwriting or calligraphy. You should use no more than two different fonts in your print matter, alternating serif and sans serif for text and titles.
Once you have your font choice, next choose a suitable font size. 12 point Times New Roman is considered a “normal size” font, so choose something similar. Your line spacing should be no less than 1 line and no more than 1.2 lines, with no space after the paragraph. Indent each paragraph at least 0.3 inches to 0.5 inches.
It is also typical to justify the margins, so that each line of a paragraph, with the exception of the last line and the indent on the first line extend to the full margin on the left and the right sides of the page. Sometimes, you’ll find that the paragraph justification will either radically condense or expand a line in a way that is unpleasant. You can adjust this by selecting the line of text and either expanding or condensing the character spacing for the font manually by as much as .3 (any more than this and you risk making the line illegible yourself.).
To properly set up your page, choose the size paper you expect to print to, and leave at least a .33 inch margin on the left and the right, with no more than .5 inches. The top and bottom margins should be a little larger, up to an inch for larger books. In the page set up window, set your page for multiple pages with mirror margins, and leave .25 inches in the gutter. This will give you room for the binding of the book, and it will assemble correctly on the left and the right pages.
Your first chapter should start on the right facing page. Some books start each new chapter also on the right facing page, though doing so may increase your page count, and thus your cost. You can use manual page breaks (CTRL + Enter) to start a new page.
Page numbers can be included at the top or the bottom, and are either centered or are at the outside edge of the print margin. It’s also common practice to include the author’s name and the name of the book or the name of the current chapter, in the header of the page, though the first page of each chapter usually has no header information. Section breaks allow you to create separate headers for each chapter.
Formatting For Electronic
When it comes to e-books, none of what I’ve just gone over matters. E-books have no pages, so pagination for an e-book is markedly different, unless the e-book is a pdf. Portable Document Format is designed to look like an electronic version of a printed document.
Most e-books do not have header or footer information, contain no page numbers, and do not have page or section breaks between them. A new chapter usually begins with the word “Chapter” and is followed by a numeral rather than a spelled out number. This makes it possible for some e-readers to easily navigate to a chapter from the main screen of the e-reader (Kindle doesn’t require this).
It is necessary, for your book to be available in the broadest cross-section of e-readers, that your book be formatted in multiple file types. These e-reader file types include:
· .mobi – Used for Amazon’s Kindle and Kindle apps.
· .Epub – Used for Apple iPad/iBooks, Nook, Sony Reader, Kobo, and most e-reading apps including Stanza, Aldiko, Adobe Digital Editions, and others.
· .pdf – Good for reading on PC, or for home printing.
· .rtf – Readable on most word processors.
· .lrf – Used by older model Sony Readers that don’t support .epub.
· .pdb – Palm Doc Pub for Palm reading devices
· .HTML – for viewing in a web-browser
· Plain text for straight downloading and viewing a book as a web page.
You can, of course, format in all of these versions yourself, but I highly recommend Smashwords for this function. The “Meatgrinder” software engine they employ will successfully convert a Microsoft Word document into the various formats for publication. Smashwords has a free “style guide” you can download to be sure your book is formatted correctly for these formats. Meatgrinder tends to work better with earlier versions of Word. Microsoft Word likes to add a lot of extraneous data to its files, so it may be necessary to save your work to an earlier format to eliminate some of these options (such as smart tags, which display an address or a stock quote or other data based on text in your document).
I also recommend uploading your book to Amazon’s Kindle separate from Smashwords (and at least three months prior to Smashwords, which we’ll get into later).
If you include images in your book, be sure their resolution is no less than 300 dpi (dots per inch). This will prevent them from looking “pixilated” in print. 300 dpi is also sufficient for most e-readers. You can go “hi-def” with 1080p if you want, but this may cause your book to become too large to effectively download. Smashwords allows for a maximum of 5 megabytes per book, so hi-resolution images can prevent you from publishing. If necessary, you can compress your images to save space. Word has a very effective image compression function you can use.
To correctly insert an image into an ebook, you’ll need to set the image to center and lay it out in line with the text. This will fix your image in place so your text doesn't wrap unpredictably around the image.
Front and End Matter
Lastly, you need to concern yourself with the front and end matter of the book. This includes the necessary copyright information and ISBN number that identifies the book as belonging to you. Most independent publishing outfits will give you a free ISBN number, though you can purchase your own. You cannot use the same ISBN for different versions of the book, so print and electronic have to have their own numbers. Kindle uses a different identifier called an ASIN, and this does not need to be included in the book itself.
It is not necessary to “register” your book with the copyright office, though there’s no harm in doing so. Simply supplying the title of the work, your name, and the year with the © copyright symbol is enough to make the book your own.
I also recommend including a “disclaimer” in the front of the book. It should say something like,
All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.
You can include an author’s note describing, briefly, your experience writing the book or your reasons for writing it. A page of acknowledgements and dedication is typically found the front as well. If the author’s note is more than a page, you might want to consider putting it in the back of at least the electronic version, so that you don’t keep the reader bogged down in text that isn’t the real story. Also, given that many e-book sellers allow for sampling (typically 20-25%), you want to be sure your potential readers get hooked on the book itself, instead of spending their time reading extraneous material.
If you have any noteworthy comments or praises from your critique partners or beta readers, you can include those in the front matter as well.I also recommend including a sample of other books in the back end, along with cover images (if you have them) and “where to buy” information. Every book should have a sales plug for every other book you write. Each time you write something new, you can update the previous books with the new sales information, so that future readers have the opportunity to be exposed to more of your material. Be sure to include contact information as well (such as a web address, blog, Twitter handle, Facebook page, etc.). Do not include your personal address or phone number.
NEXT UP: MAKING AN EYE-CATCHING COVER