Tag Archives: formatting

Formatting for Print (Pt. 2)

When formatting your book for print, there is no one right way to do it. The goal is to make your book look not only as good as possible but to make it look “professional” or, in other words, to make it look as close to a traditionally published book as possible. Why? Because that is what the readers expect.

It isn’t difficult to do. Some methods take longer, or cost more, than others. How you get to your end product is up to you. Before we get to some of the options available, let’s go over some basics.

As authors, many of us have been programmed to write in Times New Roman or Courier or a similar font. Usually using 12 pt for type size. Standard manuscript format for submissions has usually included 1 inch margins and double-spaced lines. First line indents can be up to half an inch. We often default back to this without even thinking.

Don’t. At least not when it comes to converting your work for either e-books or print. For print you have to think about thinks like page bleeds, page size, interior margins vs exterior margins, section breaks vs. page breaks, alternating headers and footers and so much more.

Depending on which service you use as your print-on-demand source, you can choose to release your book as a mass market paperback, a trade paperback or even a hard cover. Most of those sources have basic templates you can use — and adapt — which will help you decide your margins and how to place your headers and footers, etc. If you haven’t ever put together a print file before, or if you aren’t comfortable doing so, I recommend you download one of the templates and use it. After you have your manuscript in the basic format offered by the template, you can go back and add what flourishes and changes you want. But it is a good way to start getting used to setting up a print file.

This is especially helpful if you are setting your print file up using Word or a similar word processing program.

This first shot shows basic margin information. (Click on the images and they will open in a new window in a larger format) You can see from the tabs at the top of the screenshot that I found this information in the layout tab (using Word). For a manuscript using 6 x 9 pages and coming in at approximately 270 pages total, the margins are set as shown in the image. Note also that the document has been set to mirror the margins.

The one caveat I will put here when it comes to margins, especially the inside margins is to never trust templates or what anyone tells you. You need to see what it looks like for yourself. The more pages a book has, the wider that interior margin needs to be. This is why I always recommend using a POD supplier that lets you have a physical copy of the proof before you send it to “press”. What looks good as a PDF file on your screen or even off your printer might not look the same once it has been bound. So do yourself a favor, at least until you’ve done enough print books to trust your instincts, and order a physical proof before hitting the print button.

In the same dialog box open to set the margins, click the “paper” tab. This is where you choose the size of your page. You’ll note that in Word, the 6 x 9 size is a “custom” size. This might vary depending on what word processing program you’re using.

The rest of the information in this dialog box seems like it doesn’t have much to do with what you are setting up but go ahead and make sure you have paper selection set to your default tray. This will come in handy later if you decide to print out your mss to check it yourself.

Using the “layout” tab in the same dialog box, you should get something that looks like this. I’ll be honest, this is one of the most important things you can do in setting up your print file in a word processing program. This controls the way your headers and footers will look as well as where your section breaks begin.

This is important because, if you look at traditionally published books, you may see a couple of things. First, there usually are no headers or footers on the first page of a new chapter. Second, the author’s name usually appears at the top of the even numbered pages and the book title appears at the top of odd numbered pages. (To make sure you’re setting this up right, you need to do one other thing. At the end of a chapter in an e-book file, you would have a page break. That gives the digital file the appearance of a page ending and the new chapter beginning on a different “page”. In you print file, you will replace the page break with a section break. In Word, “breaks” are found under the Layout tab. If you click on “Breaks”, a dialog box will open up. At the bottom of the box, you’ll find the alternatives for the different types of section breaks you can insert. Choose “odd page” if you want your chapters to all start on the next odd numbered page. The value of doing it this way, you chapters will all begin on the right hand side of the book and feel more traditional to your reader. However, there is a downside to this in that it can add physical pages to your book and, as the author, the amount of money you get per sale of your POD book depends on how many pages it has. The higher the number of pages, the higher the print cost. I tend to go with the more traditional approach because it is what readers expect and the pricing differential of 20 or so pages isn’t enough to worry about.)

This screenshot shows what you get when you click in either the header or footer areas of your manuscript. I wanted to show this because you can see how I’ve made sure “different first page” as well as “different odd and even pages” have been clicked. Since I’d already set them in the dialog box above, there shouldn’t have been a problem but no computer program is perfect and sometimes Word does weird things — as does any other word processing program. So it is always good to check elsewhere when possible to make sure the coding is in place.

But there is another reason I wanted you to see this screenshot. If you look at the column of options immediately to the left of the “different first page” bit, you should see as the last option “link to previous”. You want to make sure this is NOT clicked prior to your first chapter, or where you want your first page numbers and headers to appear. Otherwise, you will wind up up page numbers on your cover page, etc. If you aren’t sure where to start your headers and footers, look at print books in your genre. See what they have done.

Now, once you’ve done all this and you’ve made sure you have all the flourishes, etc., you want in place, it’s time to save your file. You’re going to do this in two steps. One, as your DOC or DOCX file. Always do this. The second will be as your PDF file. Most, if not all, POD places want a print ready PDF file for both your interior and exterior files. If you want to print your book to read through it one last time before submitting it to your POD provider, print the PDF file because it will keep not only your page size, even if you are printing on standard paper, but it will print the blank pages added in between chapters if you have your new sections always beginning on either the even or odd page.

From there, it is simply a matter of deciding if you are ready to upload the file and move on to your cover file.

Now, a couple of quick notes. If you use Word or a word processing program to create your PDF file, you need to set your margins to justify. (Of course, you can choose not to. As I mentioned above, check to see what the traditional publishers do in your genre and copy it.) If you do this, you may wind up with some odd sentence breaks. You can adjust the character spacing by highlighting the line in question, opening your font dialog box, clicking the advanced tab and then adjusting the character spacing.

One other thing you need to do is make sure you have turned off widow and orphan control. Doing this will insure your pages all end at the same place unless, of course, we’re talking the last page of a chapter where you have only a few lines or paragraphs. It’s a little thing but it makes the book look more professional.

I’ll admit there are easier ways of doing this. There are programs out there that make this a snap. Some have a very small learning curve and others have a much larger learning curve. The industry standard for years has been InDesign by Adobe. I love InDesign. I also love Quarkxpress. Both are anything but cheap and have learning curves most of us don’t want or have time for. Neither are great, at least in my experience, for designing e-books. If I’m going to put in a lot of time — and money — into a publishing program, I want it to do both. For Mac users, I’ve found one that does just that. Unfortunately, it isn’t cheap but it seems to be well worth it. The program I’m talking about is Vellum. I’m going to be buying it later this week. I’ll have a review of it next week for you guys. We’ll also talk about some of the other programs available to help streamline the process. Some of those programs include InDesign, Jutoh and Scrivener.

And now, for a bit of promo.

It’s here!

Nocturnal Rebellion is live on Amazon.

All she wanted was a simple murder case, one uncomplicated by shapeshifters or interfering IAB investigators. What she got instead was much, much more.

Now three cops are dead and Mac’s world will never be the same again. It is up to her to find the culprits and bring them to justice. But what justice? That of cops and attorneys and criminal courts or that of the shapeshifters where there would be no record and a quick execution of punishment, whatever that might be?

As she walks that fine line, Mac walks another tightrope as well. Shapeshifter politics are new to her and, as she has learned, more complicated than anything she ever encountered as a cop. One misstep can lead to not only her death but the deaths of those she cares for. Like it or not, she has no choice because she has learned there are other things just as inevitable as death and taxes. Sooner or later, the world will learn that shapeshifters aren’t just things of legend and bad Hollywood movies. If that happens before they are ready, Mac and those like her will learn the hard way what happens when humanity learns monsters are real and living next door.

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Filed under AMANDA, WRITING: PUBLISHING

Formatting for Print Revisited

Formatting. The bane of every author’s existence. Whether we’re talking about formatting for print or for e-books, we’re all looking for the one click version, something that will work each and every time. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Why? It goes far beyond the fact we use different operating systems and word processing programs. The answer really rests in what readers expect and how do we, as indie authors or small press authors, make sure our work looks as “professional” as that of the Big 5.

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of formatting for print, I want you to do something. Look at print books in your genre, preferably newer ones, and see how they are put together. Look at the order of front matter. What sort of flourishes are used to set off the chapter headings and section breaks. Does the first paragraph of each chapter begin with a special character or is it in some other way different from the other first lines in the section or chapter? Check more than one book and see if you can spot a trend. If you can, you need to seriously consider doing your best to imitate what is being done. NOTE: many times, those special characters used as flourishes at chapter titles and section breaks are specially licensed fonts. So make sure you have the rights to use anything similar.

Now, there’s one more thing you need to decide before we get to the actual formatting conversation. No, it’s not do you need to do a print book. The answer is yes. It isn’t because you are going to make money off of them. In fact, it is best if you look at the print version of your work as a loss leader. But what it does is make your author page and product pages look more “professional”. Readers will subconsciously take you more seriously as a writer if you have both print and digital versions of your work available. And, yes, I know I am not following my own advice right now. The reason is because I am updating my print versions and have taken a number of them off-sale until I do.

So, what is the question you need to ask yourself? It is what service to use for your POD (print-on-demand) needs. There are a number of different versions out there. Lulu, Lightning Source, Createspace, KDP are just some of the more familiar ones. They all have costs involved and some cost substantially more than others.

I’m not going to tell you which service to use. I will, however, tell you what I have used and why. Right now, all my print books are through Createspace. I chose them not only because they are easy to use but because they are cheap when it comes to buying author copies. They also allow you to order a physical copy of the proof and I’ve learned that’s important. What looks good as a PDF file can suddenly look very differently in print. So I want to hold a copy of the proof and be able to check every page before sending the book out into the wilds.

The downside to using either Createspace or KDP for your print needs is their association with Amazon. That means a number of bookstores won’t stock your book. Now, before you gasp and say how much you want your book on the shelves, it’s time for a heavy dose of reality. The chances of you getting into a bookstore are slim, very slim. First of all, most of our bookstores are still chain stores. That means they have their own purchasing agents and those agents are going to stock major publishers over the local indie author. Fewer and fewer chain stores have local buying power. As for the locally owned bookstores, if you have a really good relationship with the store owner or purchasing agent, you might be able to get your book in if you use Lightning Source but that is still a long shot. So you have to ask yourself if it is worth the price difference of setting up your book and getting it printed. Ask yourself if you sell more copies via online sales, sales from physical stores or from hand sales at cons. Then choose which printer, for lack of a better word, gives you the best product for the dollar.

CAVEAT: Do not use a printer that requires you to buy a certain amount of books in order to qualify for their program. That smacks of the old vanity presses that would “publish” you but you then had to buy scores of the book and sell them yourself. There are still authors with boxes and boxes of their books sitting in the garages because of that scam.

The next thing you have to consider is what program you are going to use to format your book for print. You can use Word, or alternatives like LibraOffice. You can use InDesign by Adobe. Then there’s Scrivener. If you are a Mac user, Vellum is also an alternative. There are others programs as well. Some let you write directly into the program. Others assume you will be working in a program like Office or Pages and will then import into the conversion program. Each have strengths and weaknesses.

So, here’s the thing. I could go on and write another 1000 words or so on formatting but this post is already over 900 words. In the comments below, tell me what programs you intend to use to format your work. Ask your questions about where you can go to have your book printed (Createspace, etc). In fact, ask any questions you have about formatting for print and next week I will answer them.

In the meantime, Nocturnal Rebellion is available for pre-order. Publication date is 8/15.

All she wanted was a simple murder case, one uncomplicated by shapeshifters or interfering IAB investigators. What she got instead was much, much more.

Now three cops are dead and Mac’s world will never be the same again. It is up to her to find the culprits and bring them to justice. But what justice? That of cops and attorneys and criminal courts or that of the shapeshifters where there would be no record and a quick execution of punishment, whatever that might be?

As she walks that fine line, Mac walks another tightrope as well. Shapeshifter politics are new to her and, as she has learned, more complicated than anything she ever encountered as a cop. One misstep can lead to not only her death but the deaths of those she cares for. Like it or not, she has no choice because she has learned there are other things just as inevitable as death and taxes. Sooner or later, the world will learn that shapeshifters aren’t just things of legend and bad Hollywood movies. If that happens before they are ready, Mac and those like her will learn the hard way what happens when humanity learns monsters are real and living next door.

36 Comments

Filed under AMANDA, WRITING: PUBLISHING

Formatting revisited

Before I get started, I want to thank everyone for answering my questions last week. I’ll be pulling your responses together and posting the results in the next few weeks (assuming real life settles down. It has been “interesting” of late).

Recently, formatting has been a topic of discussion with some of my writer friends. I knew I’d written about it before but was surprised to realize it’s been more than 2 years. So I thought I’d revisit the topic. Much of what I wrote before still holds but, as with anything, there are a few tweaks to the articles I’d like to make.

I’ll start out by saying I’m lazy. When I start a new project, I set up the document so that I have to make minimal formatting changes when it comes to converting it for either print or digital formats. The only real change I have to make is in line spacing. When I write, I have line spacing set at 1.5 o 2 lines. When I convert to digital that gets changed to 1.15 line and print depends on several factors but it, too, is usually around 1.15. But more on that later.

I also write in Word. No, I’m not going to get into a debate about what word processor program is best. I use Word for several reasons. First, it is the one I’m most familiar with. Second, it’s review function is, in my opinion, the best one of the major word processing programs available. Third, old Word Perfect (which rocked) does not convert well into e-books. Yes, there are issues with Word but the advantages outweigh them. But that doesn’t mean you have to use it. My only caveat is that you need to do two things with regard to any program you use. First, you have to make sure you understand the licensing you are agreeing to. Some licenses do not allow you to use the program for commercial purposes. Others restrict where you can use that file for commercial purposes (Apple). You also have to know what sort of licensing you are getting when it comes to the fonts included with the program. So read the boilerplate, even if your eyes start to glaze over.

The second issue is you have to understand that each of these programs have junk code written into them. That code can cause problems when your files are being converted into e-books. There are ways around it, ways that don’t require going old school and hand-coding the html. More on that later.

I’m not going to completely recreate my original post on formatting your document at the writing level. You can find it here. When you are getting started, here are a couple of things to remember. Don’t ever, EVER use “tab” when you start a new paragraph. Set first line indent in your paragraph formatting box. Don’t use two spaces at the end of a sentence. (It is no longer taught in keyboarding classes, so it is an indication you are not “young”. Yes, it can matter.)

Now, another general comment. Most of the online outlets require a table of contents for e-books. Don’t panic. That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to manually create one. In fact, I haven’t included a ToC page in a work of fiction in the last five years. Instead, I use what’s called an “Active Table of Contents”. If you use the Headings options in your word processing program, the Active Table of Contents will be automatically generated. That will satisfy Amazon and the other major players. More importantly, it means you don’t have to worry about whether you have put the ToC in the proper place in your book. (Remember, Amazon has now forbidden placement of the ToC at the back of a book because less than ethical authors were doing so to work the system of page turns in Kindle Unlimited.)

Now, for the nitty gritty of formatting. This is all general information and can be tweaked to fit what you like the best. Remember, this is initially for writing the manuscript and for digital conversion.  (Note: I tend to increase the font size on Heading 1. I haven’t done so here because some sites like Smashwords have a font size limit and I can’t remember it off the top of my head.) One other thing to consider. You want your e-book or print book to look as “professional” or “traditional” as what readers are used to. That means you have to do your homework and discover what is standard for your genre. The information below is a starting point and can — and should — be tweaked to make it look the best for your genre and length.

Heading 1 (for section titles or chapter titles)

  • Font — Georgia
  • Size — 14 (you can go to 16 if you want but I wouldn’t recommend going any larger. Remember that a lot of folks read on their phones and a larger font will do odd things on their screen)
  • Special characteristics — Bold Italic
  • Alignment — Centered (Check to make sure first line indent has not be applied.)
  • Spacing — will correspond with what I use for the rest of the book.

Heading 2 (used only if I am using Heading 1 for anything other than chapter headings)

  • Font — Georgia
  • Size — 14
  • Special characteristics — Bold
  • Alignment — Centered (Check to make sure first line indent has not been applied.)
  • Spacing — will correspond with what I use for the rest of the book.

Normal (used for the body of the text)

  • Font — Georgia (This is my personal preference, but you can use Times New Roman, Garamond or others. My recommendation is to check to see what other books in your genre use.)
  • Size — 12
  • Special characteristics — None
  • Alignment — left
    • First line indent of 0.3 to 0.33
  • Spacing — 1.15

Here are a couple of things to remember:

  • No tabs.
  • No spacing before or after paragraphs.
  • When you have section breaks within a paragraph, use something to denote the break. I use *   *   * to do so. It is centered and, using the paragraph options dialog box, I remove the first line indent. You can use other indicators but, if you use special characters, make sure you have the license to do so.
  • Also in the paragraph dialog box, be sure you turn off the widows and orphan option.
  • Have a “page break” at the end of each chapter. This will make your reader have to “turn the page” to begin the next chapter, thereby making your e-book more like a “real” book. To insert a page break, you can either go to “Insert” at the top of your page and then click on page break or your can simply hit CTRL and Enter at the same time.
  • When showing internal thoughts, most authors use italics. That is what the reader is used to, at least here in the States.
  • I keep my margins and paper size — at this point — at 1 inch all the way around and at 8 1/2 by 11.

Something else I have been doing for some time now is not indenting the first paragraph of each new chapter. That first line is left justified. I then capitalize and italicize the first word to three words. I don’t tend to do more than that because of the varied font sized readers can select on their own. The last thing I want is to cap a long phrase or the entire line and then have it looking weird to my reader because they have increased the font size and the flow of what looked find on my screen now takes up several lines.

They key is that our e-books needs to look as professional and “traditional” as anything our readers might buy. The second key we have to keep in mind is that not everyone reads our e-books on their phones or tablets. Some read on dedicated e-book readers. Despite what some of the so-called studies say, dedicated e-book readers are still popular and will continue to be as the population ages. Why? Because an e-ink screen is better for the eye. There is less reflection off the screen than there is from a tablet screen or even the printed page.

But that means we have to keep in mind that some of the fancy font work we can do for print or for files read on a tablet can’t be done for an e-ink reader. So, if you want that fancy first letter in a chapter, you need to consider doing it as an image instead of font. Why? Because it won’t translate properly to e-ink and your reader can be left with something that looks not only odd but might not even appear. Of course, the downside to using an image is that Amazon charges a transmission fee and the more images you have in a file, the larger the file size and the more that transmission fee will be. So, you find other ways to make the first line to “special”. That’s why I cap and italicize the first few words. I can get fancier with the print version.

If you do all this while writing, you have set yourself up for a very easy road to conversion for your e-book. Better yet, you have very little you will have to change for your print version. Most of those changes will be global search and replace, a few minutes at best.

I know I haven’t gotten into the nitty gritty of the conversion process yet. I’ll save that for next week. In the meantime, if you want to jump ahead, here’s a link to the earlier post about it. Yes, things have changed. But it is a good place to start. Otherwise, I’ll be back next week with an updated version.

Until then, ask any questions you might have, either about today’s post or about what you’d like me to cover next week.

Later!

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Filed under AMANDA, WRITING: CRAFT, WRITING: PUBLISHING

Formatting for Print

A couple of weeks ago, I started a series on formatting. You can find the posts here and here. I promised to come back and do a post on how to format your interior file for print versions as well. That’s what today’s post is going to be about. As we start out, I’m going to make a couple of assumptions. The first is that you are working in Word or one of the equivalent programs. Yes, InDesign is a much better program and gives you much better control on kernaling and the like, but it is 1) expensive and 2) had a learning curve many find daunting. So, let’s get started.

The first question, even before you start your formatting, that you have to ask is where you are going to turn for printing and distributing your book. There are all sorts of options out there. To me, the two best — and for different reasons — are Createspace and Ingram Spark. The latter can get you into bookstores but the downside is you have to pay to use them and you aren’t guaranteed shelf space in those stores. The second can be completely free or it can cost you a whopping $10 if you buy an ISBN from them. The downside is that Amazon owns Createspace and that means getting into bookstores is going to be much more difficult.

All that considered, you have one more question to answer. Do you really want to spend the time, effort and money (yes, money. Even if you don’t pay someone to go out and try to sell your books to those bookstores, you will have to do it and every hour away from your keyboard is money out of your pocket.) trying to get into those stores? In other words, will the return on investment be worth the money spent to use Ingram Spark?

For me, since the vast majority of my sales come from e-books, I am more than happy using Createspace. It keeps my initial financial outlay down to a minimum, puts the print books in Books in Print, in the Amazon stores and lets me order copies at a discounted price when I need them for events, cons, etc.

So that is my second assumption for this post. Everything I am about to tell you is based on Createspace. If you decide to use Ingram Spark or one of the other services, you will need to check their formatting requirements.

So, how do you format your book for print?

The first thing you do is decide what size you want your book to be. Remember that the more pages you have, the more it will cost to produce and the higher your price will have to be in order to make money. I choose standard trade paperback size of 9 x 6. Now the fun begins.

Take the final version of your book and save it as a new file. Because I have been known to get confused on an occasion or two, I tend to save the files as NameofNovelPrintVersion. Once I’ve done that, I selection all (if you are using a PC, that ctrl A) and then go into layout and change the page size. Save it again. In fact, you should save often — and back up to other media.

Once you have changed your page size, check your front matter. Compare it to other print books in your genre. You want your books to have the same basic layout as those of traditional publishers. Here is how I set up my last several books:

  • Title Page (title only)
  • Also by (list other works)
  • Second title page (title, series, author, publisher, logo, etc.)
  • Copyright page

You can play with fonts and font size on your title pages. The key is to make it look as much like a traditionally published book as possible. In other words, imitate what you see. Also, remember that the font size limitations you had in your e-book go out the window when you move to the print side of things. For example, I have nothing with a font size of more than 16 in an e-book. For a three line title page (title of the book only), I used Minion Pro SmBld with font size of 36. Line spacing before was set to 100 and line spacing was set at multiple (1.15).

Now, before we go any further, each of the above pages had a page break after the last line of text. That means the “Also by” by was on the back of the initial title page and the copyright page on the back of the second title page. The exception is the copyright page. That page has a section break (odd page) instead of a page break after the last line of text. What this does is insert a blank page where needed so your next bit, your dedication, appears on the right hand page of your novel. To insert the section break (odd page), click your layout tab. Then click on “breaks” and scroll down until you see “section breaks” and “odd page”. Click on odd page. You won’t see the additional page in your word document but it will show up when you save your file to pdf.

 

So now you have a new “section” and this is for your Dedication. Replace the “page break” from your e-book with “new section, odd page” after the last line of your dedication.

In my books, I make a change here from my e-books. Because e-books use your style headings to build the active table of contents, I don’t use Heading 1 (or any other) on “Dedication” in the digital version. However, with the print version, I want “Dedication” to match my chapter headings, so I highlight the word and then apply Heading 1.

And this is where we start changing the formatting from the digital version of the book.

My Heading 1 is set up as follows (for science fiction):

  • Font:
    • Minion Pro SmBld
    • size 20
    • all caps
  • Paragraph:
    • centered
    • spacing before: 100
    • spacing after 50
    • line spacing: multiple 1.15

This drops the heading down the page and gives spacing between the chapter heading and the first paragraph. Once you make this change to your heading settings, it should apply to all your headings in the document. In Word, you can make this change pretty easily by simply right clicking on the heading, choosing “modify” and then enter what you want.

Your next section will be Chapter 1. Your chapter title/number is Heading 1. If you had added spacing after in your paragraph dialog box for the Heading, you do not need to have more than one line return between the chapter title/number and the first line of your first paragraph.

And this is the next place you can play with your formatting and make it different from your e-book. Again, I suggest you look at books in your genre by traditional publishers and see what they do. You don’t usually see Drop caps in science fiction or fancy fonts, but you might in some fantasy or romance novels. For my SF novels, I small cap the entire first line. Now, when doing this, I sometimes have to play with the spacing in order to make it look right. You can do this in word by highlighting the word or words you need to adjust. Click on the font dialog box and then click on the advanced tab. When that opens, you have the option of changing your spacing and scale. Play with it and see what works best.I usually leave “scale” alone and work only with spacing. (Note: you will need to check this again later, after you have set your margins and gutters. I’m not having you set these yet because your page count is going to change based on how many sections you have and how many blank pages have been included.)

My paragraph settings, which are “Normal” on my style ribbon, are as follows:

  • Justified
  • First line indent 0.3
  • 0 spacing before and after a paragraph
  • line spacing of 1.15 (multiple)

My font is set at Georgia, 11 font size.

For section breaks, you can do pretty much whatever you want. Just remember, if you use an image, you need to embed it in your document and each time you use it, it increases the size of the file and, if you are in the 70% royalty program on Amazon, it will increase the transmission cost per download. Instead of an image, you can use symbols that are part of your font package. Once more, see what the trads in your genre are doing.

Add a section break at the end of the chapter (making sure you removed the page break, if it was already there). Rinse and repeat until you are done with the book.

Now that you have the body of your book formatted, select all and go into your paragraph dialog box. Click on the line and page break tab and make sure you have unclicked widow and orphan control. This is so every page, except for partial pages, end on the same line. Now save your as a PDF. Yes, yes, I know. I haven’t talked about headers and footers. We will in a a moment. Just bear with me. Once you have the PDF file, see how many pages it is. Make a note of the number. Now, go back to your working print file. It is time to set up your margins and gutter.

Createspace at least helps you here.

If your books is 24 – 150 pages:

  • inside margin of 0.375
  • outside margin of 0.25

If your book is 151 -300 pages:

  • inside margin of .5
  • outside margin of 0.25

If your book is 301 – 500 pages:

  • inside margin of 0.625
  • outside margin of 0.25

If your book is 501 – 700 pages:

  • inside margin of 0.75
  • outside margin of 0.25

If your book is 701 – 828 pages

  • inside margin of 0.875
  • outside margin of 0.25

Open your page dialog box. Your first tab should be margins. Choose the appropriate margins from above and fill them in. Choose your orientation (portrait). Where it says “pages”, choose mirror margins. Now click on the “paper” tab. Make sure your page size is appropriately entered. Now click the “layout” tab. Make sure it says a new section starts on the odd page. Under headers and footers, make sure both “different odd and even” and “different first page” are clicked. Press okay and then save your document.

Now, finally, it is time to do your headers and footers and this is where you will see why we switched to section breaks instead of page breaks between chapters. If you look at a traditionally published book, you will see that most do not have headers or footers on the first page of each new chapter. Also look at how they do their headers. Are the author names set out in the same manner as the book title? Some will be and others will not. Some will italicize the author name and cap only the first letter of each word of the author’s name. Now, how do they do the title? Capped? Small caps? Choose which you like best and now we will get to work.

Go to your first chapter. Click insert header. If you are working in one of the later versions of Word, this should take you to the “design” tab. Make sure “different first page”, “different odd & even” and “show document text” are clicked. Now look for “link to previous” and make sure that is not clicked. You do not want headers or footers on your front matter. Once you have that done, scroll to the second page of the chapter. Type in the author name. I have it centered in my manuscript but you can align it however you want. My only reminder is to do what is common in traditional publishing in your genre. Once you have it typed in, highlight it. Make sure it isn’t indented. If so, open the paragraph dialog box and removed first line indent. Also, consider changing the font size slightly to offset your header text from your main text. I drop my font size down to 10 for my headers.

Once you have done that for the author name, scroll down to the third page of the chapter. Type in the title of the book. Repeat the check for indents and font size. Now scroll to the beginning of the document and make sure you haven’t accidentally wound up putting headers in the front matter. If it looks all right, save your document.

Page numbers are next. These can go up in the header or down in the footer. I put them in the footer because that is easier to do. So, go to “insert” select page number, and basically repeat what you did for your headers. Once you have them aligned how you want, make sure there is no first line indent. Match your font size with your header font size. You have one more step. If your page number doesn’t say “2” on the second page of the chapter, click on “page number” and then “format page numbers”. The dialog box that opens up lets you choose what number to start with. Choose 1 — it won’t show since first page is different — and save. Make sure it works. If not, choose 2.

You’re almost done. Skip ahead to your next chapter. If your headers and footers aren’t there, don’t panic. Double click in the header section of your page and that will open up the design ribbon. Now you can click link to previous section. That should import all your settings from the first chapter. If you have done it right, you will have no header or footer on the first page of the chapter but those should be in place after that page, complete with correct page numbers. Check the rest of your document and save.

Now it is time to save as a PDF again. This time, when you save, you want to go back and check your formatting as it imported in. Pay close attention to how your first line of each chapter looks — did your special formatting carry over as you thought it would or do you need to go back and play with it? Does each page look right or do you need to tweak the formatting some. One problem that can happen on occasions is weird full justification of a short sentence. This happens when you accidentally put in a soft return (ie, you accidentally hit “enter” while holding “shift”). All you have to do is go to the end of that paragraph in your Word doc and erase the soft return and then hit “enter”.

Tweak as needed, until you are satisfied with how the document looks.

One more thing. You don’t need all the end matter in a print book that you have in an e-book. You have already listed your other work at the beginning of the novel. So there is no need to list it all again. You can add a “Note from the Author” or “About the Author” if you want, but you don’t have to. I do, simply because I don’t like the book ending with the last page of the novel and there being no chance to thank the reader. Again, and I know I sound like a broken record, check what the trads in your genre are doing.

In other words, copy, copy, copy but make yours look better than the trads.

Save our your final version in both DOC and PDF. You will upload the PDF version to Createspace — or whoever you chose to do your POD versions. Now you wait for them to tell you whether you passed review or not. When you have, download the PDF file they have compiled. Make sure nothing happened to your formatting and your book still looks the way you want it to. If you haven’t been doing this for awhile and aren’t comfortable with it — and even if you are — go ahead and order a hard copy proof of your book as well. See if you like how it looks in print. If not, change it.

In other words, don’t rely on the downloaded proof. I had a book where the downloaded proof looked great but when the printed version got here, my 250 page book was something like 125 pages. The font had screwed up somehow and you needed a magnifying glass to read it. Fortunately, I caught it before it was released into the wild. Believe me, it is better to spend $5 or so plus shipping to avoid that sort of headache.

I know this is a super-long post but there is no easy and quick way to handle this. Now I’m off for coffee and food.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Here a format, there a format

A week or so ago, I mentioned that I was busy formatting and, in some cases, reformatting, my books for print release. If there is anything I’m slow to do as an author, it is to sit my butt down in the chair and prep my books for print. There’s no excuse for it. I have generic templates built that I can use. It is just a mater then of dropping my book into the template, tweaking it as needed and then shoving it out the door. But I’m getting ahead of myself. In this day and age, before we worry about the print version, we need to worry about formatting our e-books. That’s where I’m going to start. I’ll do the print version next week.

So, how do you format your book for digital release?

The first thing I’m going to suggest may raise some eyebrows, but bear with me. Instead of writing your draft in standard manuscript format (1-inch margins, double spaced, Times New Roman or Courier font), write your draft in the same basic format that you are going to upload later. It isn’t much different and it will take a step out of your conversion process on down the road.

The down and dirty version is simple. Leave your margins at 1-inch. You can have your headers and footers for page numbers, title, etc. They will disappear when your book is converted into an e-book. Leave your paper size at the standard 8 1/2 X 11. From there, the decisions begin.

Font:

Keep it simple. In my experience, both as a reader and as a writer, the best fonts to use are Times New Roman, Georgia, Garamond and similar fonts. I like the way Georgia looks, so that’s the one I use.

Line spacing:

I generally use 1.5 for e-books. Double-spaced can look odd (too much white space) in an e-book and single space can be too little. I would recommend no less than 1.15 for your line spacing. Play with it, not in your working file but in a converted file, to see what you like best and go with it.

Paragraph indents:

This is where a lot of authors really muck it up.

  • The first rule of paragraph indents is do NOT use the tab. It won’t translate over to your converted e-book.
  • Instead of hitting “Tab” at the beginning of each paragraph, use the “first line indent” function in your paragraph formatting dialog box.
  • Set your first line indent to 0.3 to 0.33. (This is my preference. The old standard of half an inch is simply too much of an indent for an e-book. Again, this is one of those personal preference things that you have to play with. And, as with your line spacing, I recommend looking at it in a converted format to see if the indents are deep enough or too deep for your liking.)
  • Do not have a 0 first line indent. That gets distracting and can wind up with one great big wall of text for the entire page, scene or chapter.

Other paragraph formatting tips for the body of your text:

  • Alignment should be set to left. Do not justify your text.
  • Spacing before and after a paragraph should be set to 0
  • Widow and orphan control should be unclicked.

When you look at print books, you will see fancy drop caps for the first letter of the first line of a next chapter. That line, or a portion of it, may be all small caps and possibly intalicized or bolded or both. It looks great in print but that doesn’t mean it will in digital format. The problem is that not all e-book reader apps are created equal and neither are all tablets or e-readers. So this is where the KISS rule comes into play. Don’t do fancy drop caps or the like for that first letter. For one, it probably won’t survive conversion. Even if it does, it might not appear the way you want it to and then you run the risk of your readers getting a sub-par reading experience.

So what about other ways to fancy up that first line? Small caps don’t translate well during the conversion process. They tend to turn into standard capital letters. So, if you want to set that first line or first phrase off — and I recommend only a few words or short phrase — bold or italicize it. If your chapter heading is in bold, offset that with italics on your first line. One word of warning here. Because e-books give readers the ability to change font size, etc., I would not recommend doing the entire first line in special formatting. Choose a set number of words – 3 or 4 –for special treatment.

Chapter Headings

These are easily done and can be used to build your active table of contents. Type your chapter title, whether is it Chapter One or “And so it starts”, highlight it and click on Heading 1 (or 2 if you are nesting your headers. More on that in a minute.). The default in Word, at least, when you do that is Calibre Light, blue font color in font size 16. It is also left justified. So, if you want to change that — again, I am working in Word, so the process to modify may be slightly different in other programs — is to right click on the Heading 1 button and then click on modify. That will open a dialog box that will allow you to change the font, color, size and alignment. If you want to tweak it a bit more, look at the bottom left hand corner of the dialog box and you will see a format button. Click that and various options will open.

For me, I use the same font as my body text but increase the size to 16, center the text, change the color to automatic and both bold and italicize it all. (Yes, this does vary from genre to genre.) Again, it is a matter of preference and also a matter of what is common in the genre you are writing in. So look at e-books from not only indies but traditional publishers and see what you like and then do your best to replicate it. Just be consistent throughout your work or do modify your Heading settings and use them.

I know I don’t need to say this but I will. The way you set your heading is to type the text you want as the heading, highlight it and then click Heading 1, etc.

Nesting Headings:

If you have a book that is split into sections and each section has chapters, then I recommend you nest your headings. The way you do that is you use Heading 1 for your section title, which will be on a separate page from the next chapter. When I do that, I follow the same process I laid out above but change the font to 18. I bold the text and use all caps for the section title.

I then use Heading 2 for chapter headings and modify the default for Heading 2 in the same manner as I did above.

What this does is it will show the section headings in your table of contents with the chapter headings under them.

Right now, there is a lot of talk about tables of contents and where to put them, etc. Until Amazon gives more information on it, don’t sweat creating a table of contents and placing it as a separate page in your e-book. If you use the section headings as I’ve described, you will create what is called an active table of contents. It will save you some time and headaches by not having to put in the hyperlinks and bookmarks to create the ToC. Doing so prevents two potential problems. The first is that the ToC, if placed in the front of your book, becomes part of the preview and could mean the reader would get little, if any, of your actual prose to preview. That can cost potential sales. The second is that it avoids the problem of putting it in the back of your book and possibly having the wrath of Amazon come down on you by circumventing the “pages read” algorithm of the Kindle Unlimited program. Use of headings creates those nifty ToCs that appear from the menu of your e-reader or app. Besides, how many print novels have a table of contents anymore?

Page breaks:

This is the one headache that can come back to bite you in the butt when you are converting to print. But we will deal with that in the next post.

When you reach the end of a chapter, you are going to want to put a page break in. You can do this by holding CTRL and hitting ENTER or by clicking on the layout tab. There will be an “breaks” command that will open up to show different sorts of breaks you can insert. Choose page.

Nitty gritty here. You can insert your page break immediately after that last period of the chapter or you can hit enter, drop down one line and then insert your page break. I don’t recommend dropping down more than one line. If you do, you risk having a blank screen showing up for your reader. Then there is the reality that not all e-book distributors follow the same formatting rules. The last time I worked with Smashwords, they had a rule against more than 5 (?) returns. If you had that many returns, they read it as a break in your manuscript. So type that last line, hit return and then insert your page break.

That’s the basic nitty gritty of formatting for e-books. I’ll continue this tomorrow on my blog with what you need in your e-book besides just the novel and then how to convert it. If there is anything else you want me to talk about then, put your suggestions in the comments here. If you have any questions about what I did today, let me know.

In the meantime, you can check out my books here.

 

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Making it look good

Over the last week or so, there have been several requests from readers here and on a forum many of us belong to for more information about the nuts and bolts of publishing. So, over the next few weeks, members of MGC will be doing our best to answer your questions. I got volunteered to discuss how to format your manuscript.

Let’s begin with something that will cause some of you to cringe and argue and curse. I’m not going to debate what program is best or how bad one is when compared with another. Like it or not, Microsoft Word is still the publishing industry standard. If you are submitting to an agent or a traditional publisher, or if you are hiring an editor for your indie work, you will save yourself some headaches by getting Word. The simple truth is that for all its problems, and they are legion, it still has the best “review” function of all the other word processing programs out there and it is what the trads use. There is another truth that you, as the indie author needs to worry about. If you use one word processing program and the editor you hired uses another, unless you do a “come document” and don’t merge the documents, you are going to get junk code and that can impact the conversion of your manuscript to e-book formats. This problem of junk code can also come up if you use Google Docs. It has nothing to do with what format you save your document in (although never, ever save as DOCX). It has to do with the the underlying code that is written into the program itself and how well it plays with your conversion tools.

It used to be very simple to format your work for submission. Back when self-publishing was an evil term and the only real option a writer had if they wanted to consider themselves a “professional” writer was to submit to an agent and/or a traditional publisher, you knew exactly what to do because the publishers told you. You were to use 12 point font in either Courier or Times New Roman. You set up for double spacing and a half inch first line tab. Your margins were set at one inch all the way around and your header included your title, your last name and the page number. All this went back to when everyone still wrote on typewriters. Very simple and very easy to remember and very easy to understand. Agents and editors wanted something easy to read and didn’t worry about “converting” because your manuscript went to the printers to be set up. E-books were not a major force in the market — they weren’t a force at all.

Then along came computers and, eventually, e-books and the submission guidelines remained the same. Even though e-mail was common, many publishers continued to require a physical submission of your work and would not accept electronic submission. This slowly started to change and now most all publishers and agents now want electronic submission. Even so, their submission guidelines haven’t changed much.

But that doesn’t really help the author who is considering going indie with their work. The truth of the matter is, if you follow the standard submission requirements we were all brought up with when converting to e-book format, you are going to get an odd, often sloppy looking book as a result. So, what do you need to do to have your book or short story look like it is something a “professional” put out and not something a wanna-be put together?

The first thing you have to do is decide if you work best by writing in a format that won’t be your final conversion format. If you do, then do so and don’t try to force yourself to do something different. However, if you are like me and want to cut out steps along the way, go ahead and set up the formatting for your rough draft in as close to final format version as possible.

The first step is to look at e-books — and physical books — where you appreciate the look of the “printed page”. See what characteristics they have that make them look “pro” and decide if you want to copy those characteristics into your own e-book. (We’ll discuss formatting for the printed version in another post.) Remember, the key here is that readers want their e-books to look as close to the printed page as possible. So don’t go trying to re-invent the wheel. Don’t format your work in such a way that it throws your reader out of the story.

For this, I’m going to walk you through what I do using Word. The steps will be basically the same thing using Open Office, Libre Office, Pages, etc. Some of the terminology may be a bit different but the results will be the same.

After opening a new document, I set my styles and assign them to various aspects of my document. Header 1 will be used to either name sections in the book or for chapter headings. If I have sections I will be naming using Heading 1, I will then use Heading 2 for chapter headings. Normal is for the body of the text. That’s it. At most there will be three “styles”

If you right click on any of them in the Styles ribbon, you will bring up a dialog box that includes the option to modify that particular style. After clicking on “modify”, you will bring up a new dialog box that lets you set alignment and font (including size, bold, italics, etc.). I set Heading 1, if it is for a section heading, at 16. I publish all my work using Georgia as the font. Alignment is centered. Next I click on the format button at the bottom left corner of the dialog box. That lets me access more options on not only formatting the font but also the “paragraph”.

If you don’t want to add any special characteristics to your font like Small Caps, then you can move on to the next step. However, I will open the font sub-menu and for Heading 1, click on bold italic. Next I click on Small Caps. Then click on OK to save your changes. Repeat the steps to open up the format sub-menu for the Heading 1 and click on the paragraph option to open that sub-menu. Here you want to make sure you are still set for centered alignment and that for “Special” — which is where you will set your first line indent for the body of your text — “none” is showing. Now, make sure 0 shows for all values of “indention” and “spacing”. To the right of “spacing” is “line spacing”. This is up to you. For me, single space looks too cramped for an e-book and yet 1.5 looks too wide. I usually go for 1.15 as the value there. To do this, I click on “multiple” and then insert the value I want.

Before you click “okay”, you have one more thing to do in this dialog box. You need to set your first line indent. Please, please, please, if you do nothing else, do this. Do NOT use tabs. They don’t translate into e-books and you will find yourself with one long paragraph, especially if you use single space for your line spacing. Also, don’t default to 0.5 which is where most of us were taught to set our tabs. In an e-book, that half inch looks a mile wide. I set my first line indent at 0.3. Play with it and see what you think looks best.

Now hit okay.

It looks complicated and, at first, it might seem that way. But it really isn’t and after you’ve done it a couple of times, you won’t even have to think about it. The good news is, everything I just walked you through to set up Heading 1 is basically what you have to do for the other “styles”. So, here’s the down and dirty of my formatting settings. Again, I’m not saying you have to follow what I do but it is a good place to start. From there, you can play around and see what looks good to you.

Heading 1 (for section titles or chapter titles)

  • Font — Georgia
  • Size — 14 (you can go to 16 if you want but I wouldn’t recommend going any larger. Remember that a lot of folks read on their phones and a larger font will do odd things on their screen)
  • Special characteristics — Bold Italic
  • Alignment — Centered
  • Spacing — will correspond with what I use for the rest of the book.

Heading 2 (used only if I am using Heading 1 for anything other than chapter headings)

  • Font — Georgia
  • Size — 14
  • Special characteristics — Bold
  • Alignment — Centered
  • Spacing — will correspond with what I use for the rest of the book.

Normal (used for the body of the text)

  • Font — Georgia
  • Size — 12
  • Special characteristics — None
  • Alignment — left
  • Spacing — 1.15

Here are a couple of things to remember:

  • No tabs.
  • No spacing before or after paragraphs.
  • When you have section breaks within a paragraph, use something to denote the break. I use *   *   * to do so. It is centered and, using the paragraph options dialog box, I remove the first line indent.
  • Also in the paragraph dialog box, be sure you turn off the widows and orphan option.
  • Have a “page break” at the end of each chapter. This will make your reader have to “turn the page” to begin the next chapter, thereby making your e-book more like a “real” book. To insert a page break, you can either go to “Insert” at the top of your page and then click on page break or your can simply hit CTRL and Enter at the same time.
  • When showing internal thoughts, most authors use italics. That is what the reader is used to, at least here in the States.
  • I keep my margins and paper size — at this point — at 1 inch all the way around and at 8 1/2 by 11.

Because of the fact there are so many different e-readers out there and so many different apps that let people read their e-books, you have to keep your formatting simple. What looks good on a tablet might not look good on an e-ink reader. Just because something looks good on a Kindle Fire or iPad Air mini doesn’t mean it will look good on a smartphone.What that means is, as I said, you need to keep the formatting simple. Don’t use a lot of different fonts. Don’t try to re-invent the wheel when it comes ot how your e-book looks.

There is one more thing I do that I haven’t mentioned so far when it comes to “formatting” my manuscript. I take off first line indent for the first paragraph of each chapter. I also go to small caps and either italic or bold italic (depending on what is used for the chapter heading. I don’t want them looking the same) for the first three words or the first phrase of the first sentence. My intention is to make the e-book look as close to a printed book as possible. The reason I don’t use special formatting for the first line or the first sentence is because of the different screen sizes and magnification your readers will be using. By only doing the first few words of that first line — and you have to keep it consistent — you can guarantee that the special characteristic will appear only on the first line of text — assuming the reader isn’t using extreme magnification.

Again, this is what I think works best for me. Your mileage may vary. Just keep notes of what you have tried and discarded and what you like so you can remain consistent in subsequent books. Most of all, remember that formatting serves two purposes at this stage of the game. The first is to make conversion to both print and digital easier for you. The second is make the “page” look familiar to your reader. You want them focusing on what you wrote, not on how you formatted it. That means making it look like a “real” book.

When it comes time for conversion for either print or digital formats, there will be some tweaks just as there will be some front and back material you will add. But, for now, this is a good place to stop. We’ll pick up on the steps to turn your manuscript into an e-book and a print book later.

(edited to correct page size — sorry, I plead coffee deprivation.)

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The Pitfalls of the E-book Shopper

by Amanda S. Green

Over the last week or so, I’ve been watching the number of free and discounted e-books multiply by leaps and bounds. Part of it is the push by publishers leading up to Christmas. Legacy publishers might be mired in mud, but they recognize — at least I think they do — the fact that lots of new devices capable of being used to read e-books will be unwrapped Christmas morning. That means folks are looking for titles to load onto those new devices so their loved ones will have something to read. And part of it is Amazon’s new prime lending program that lets small publishers and self-published authors put their titles up for free for a week if — and this is a big IF — those titles are available exclusively on Amazon.

While I’m not one of those who has made sure there is a shiny new device under the tree, I am one who is looking to load a loved one’s kindle with new titles. So I’ve been trolling through the daily list of free and discounted e-books looking for something my mother might be interested in. As I have, I’ve noticed a couple of things and these, in turn, have gotten me thinking. Yes, I know, it is dangerous when I think, but what can I say?

The first thing that has caught my eye, and has me thinking as a publisher, is the sheer number of new titles being made available for free right now. It is as though every author and publisher is rushing to take advantage of the new prime lending program. This morning, there are more than 200 new titles being offered for free. Over the last week, there has been well over 1,500 titles offered for free. That’s not counting those titles that were already free and it most certainly doesn’t count those out of copyright titles offered for free. Some of these are digital versions of books where the rights have reverted to the author who is bringing the title out on their own. Some are new books. Some are novels, some are short stories, some are non-fiction offerings. Most have inadequate or poorly written or misleading blurbs.

The second thing that has struck me with all this is how the sheer number of new offerings each day has changed the way I look for titles. Instead of taking the time to click through and read the full listing on the Amazon page for the title, I’m looking at the bar across the top of the entry that indicates how well reviewed the book has been. (The site that lists each new title offered uses the bar method to show how well received a book has been instead of the star system.) If it looks like the book has received good reviews, then I check the author and genre.  It doesn’t surprise me that many of the offerings are erotica or Christian fiction. Those have always seemed to dominate the freebies, at least on Amazon. What does surprise me are the number of sf/f. It is as though every author who has ever thought he could write sf/f has come out of the woodwork. The same can be said about the influx of titles about UFO abductions, Big Foot and its cousins, etc.

IF the book has passed the review, genre and author check, I read the description. I may not always be the best at writing blurbs for titles but, guys, that blurb has to read as if it was at least written in English. At least it should if you are trying to sell it to English-speaking readers. It needs to give the reader some indication of what the title is about, especially if you, the author, aren’t a household name. I don’t care what your education background is unless, of course, it is germane to your qualifications to write the book. I don’t care that your mother’s best friend’s uncle thought this was the best book he’d ever read. What I do care about is having an idea about what the book is about.

If the blurb interests me enough, I click through to the Amazon page for the title. I check of the cover, a quick glance at the length of the e-book, publisher information, maybe a glance at the reviews (especially if there are only one or two reviews) and I decide if I want to “click” to buy or not. Most titles that are “clicked” are sent to my kindle to check first. A few are queued for my mother’s kindle, to be loaded Christmas Eve after she goes to bed.

Before you ask, those titles that are sent to my kindle for review come from either self-published authors I’m not familiar with or “publishers” I suspect are really just DBAs for self-published authors. No, I’m not discriminating against them. There are some great self-published authors out there. What I have discovered, however, is that almost all the e-books I’ve returned for a refund or just deleted off my kindle for bad formatting issues have come from these “indies”. So, before putting the titles on my mom’s kindle, I want to make sure they are readable in their current format.

And guess what? I’ve deleted a good 20% for poor formatting. One title I looked at last night had what can only be called fluctuating indents. One paragraph wouldn’t be indented. The next would be indented almost to the middle of the screen. The third would be indented normally, etc. Then there are those that think using fancy fonts will make the e-book “pretty”. Guys, word of warning here — and we’ll discuss this later in the how to series starting Sunday — fancy fonts are the bane of e-books. Just because it looks good on your Blackberry or iPhone doesn’t mean it will look good on Uncle Fred’s Sony e-reader or Aunt Mabel’s Nook, etc. Then there are those deleted for for other formatting issues that make it difficult to read the book. As I said, probably 20% of the books downloaded are deleted for formatting issues.

Another 10% or so are dumped due to copy editing and proofreading issues. If I want to throw my kindle across the room after a few screens, I know my mother, the original Grammar Nazi, really will. So those are gone. Add in the 30 – 35% that are then deleted because they are just BAD or BORING. Then there are the 20% that HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH THEIR DESCRIPTION and, well, you get my drift.

The bottom line, out of the 100 or so titles I’ve downloaded over the last week or two, there are exactly 14 that I have queued to go onto my mother’s kindle for Christmas. That isn’t good. With the exception of those that are just poorly written, most of the others could have been in the running had they been properly formatted and/or edited.

The other thing to keep in mind if you are considering the prime lending program as an author or editor is the sheer number of titles currently being offered for free. I’ve talked with a number of other readers recently who feel as overwhelmed as I do by the numbers and who, like me, are overlooking titles without no or few reviews in favor of those with a number of reviews. That’s something new for me. I usually don’t both looking at book reviews on Amazon, or any other site for that matter. But, with hundreds of new titles offered for free or deep discounts each day, things change. Readers are looking for something to help separate the good from the bad and, yes, they know if reviews are posted by sock puppets and challenge those reviews.

So, have I considered the prime lending program for Naked Reader Press or for my own work that isn’t going through NRP or another publisher? Absolutely. I’ve talked with the bosses and we’ve identified several titles we’re going to enter in the program. However, we are also looking at the trends not only of number of titles offered each day, but of reader response. Unlike some, we aren’t going to offer more than a few titles at a time through the program. For one, it is an exclusive program. You commit to selling your titles no where but on Amazon for at least 90 days. That means taking into consideration those customers who have Nooks, or Sony e-readers or an iPad. Not everyone is willing — or able — to convert a MOBI file. There are other considerations, but that’s for another post.

The reason for this meandering walk through my still asleep mind? That’s simple. I’ve seen some things checking out the prime lending program and the titles being offered that have confirmed that we are doing things right at NRP when it comes to how we “build” our e-books. What I’d like from you guys are specific issues or topics you’d like me to cover over the next several weeks as I do the “How to make your e-book” series. Post your questions or suggestions in the comments section. I’ll check in — in between baking and wrapping and trying to actually get some real work done — throughout the day and respond and, if possible, will expand on my responses during the series.

In the meantime, have a happy and safe holiday season!

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