Posts Tagged ebooks
While making an ebook is pretty straightforward, putting it into print is a pain. In traditional publishing houses, it’s an entire department’s job – because there’s a lot of invisible fiddling you need to do. (It used to be my job too, which is why I know.)
But it is possible to do it well, given the right instructions. I’ll walk you through what I did to get the text of My Memories of a Future Life ready for print. Be prepared – this will get pathologically nitpicky. And this stage is not about how the text reads – it’s about how it looks. Yes, to writers that’s the tail wagging the dog. Get over it now.
It’s quite a big job so I’ll split it in two posts. Today: choosing the size of the book and the typeface.
What size do you want the book to be?
Choose this first, because that governs how much you get on a page. Nail Your Novel is a short book at 40,000 words, and the first time I put it out was at 6×9. That made it look flimsy, so when I redesigned the interior I sized it down to 5×8 where the thickness and size feel just right.
My Memories of a Future Life, on the other hand, is a whopping 103,000 words. It would be rather chunky at 5×8 and expensive to produce because of the weight – which means I would have had to charge a lot more and everyone would think I was being greedy. Many literary novels are now being produced in 6×9 size, or even bigger – so it fits nicely with the genre.
If you use CreateSpace you can download a Word template for the interior. It sets up page sizes and margins so that everything looks right and you can do your fiddling in Word. Catherine Ryan Howard’s book Self-Printed has a detailed section on how to do this. There are other POD companies besides CreateSpace, but they’re not as easy to use. I used CreateSpace but with a design program, PagePlus, because it’s what I do my covers in and because my version of Word doesn’t make PDFs. (For CreateSpace and Lulu you submit your book on a PDF.)
PagePlus sets automatic margins as well, but the default ones are too narrow so I customise them. If you’re using anything other than CreateSpace’s template I suggest you check your margins too. They may have been set up for leaflets, not paperback books.
Before you finalise your margins, whack some dummy text onto the page, print it out and put it over an existing book of the same size to check it looks okay.
Important: get your margins right now. If you change them later you’ll have to redo a lot of tedious checking.
When you formatted the Kindle or ebook edition you probably established a style for the book…. didn’t you? You’re consistent about when you use single or double quotes, proper em dashes and so on? You checked you had curly quotes and not ticks, including on the apostrophes? You’ve never thought about it? Go and fix them now. They’ll make your book look a lot more professional.
Choose this next. And make your decision final. Every typeface is a slightly different width, even if it’s the same height.
Don’t use Times, it makes a book page look like a business proposal.
Obviously don’t use any of the fancy curly things that seem to have been supplied to design party invitations.
Get down a few novels in your genre (tastes in typefaces may vary between genres) and choose typefaces that look like them. I used Century Schoolbook BT for My Memories of a Future Life.
Check what the font’s italics look like. A lot of computers come with the Roman version of fonts but not the italics, and when you hit the little I icon it slants them. True italics have curled serifs (the little feet), and slanted feet look wrong. If you haven’t got the italic version of your font there are free places to download it – I found my itals here. Do this now too, for the mysterious tedium-avoidance reason I will explain.
Typesize and spacing
Most books are set in 12pt, or 11.5pt. Again, compare with other published books in your genre (for instance, literary can afford to go slightly smaller than YA).
If your book is 6×9 the page is quite wide, so you might want a bigger typeface or wider leading (space between the lines) to make it more readable. You can fine-tune this by editing the paragraph style – I set the leading as a percentage of the pointsize. So I had 11.5pt type on a leading that was a niftily precise 14.375pt – or 125% of the point size.
And each typeface has different properties. Some have tall ascenders and descenders (vertical strokes). So if you change from one font at 11.5pt it might look much smaller and less readable than another, so you might need to use it bigger. Before you finalise, print a page out and fold it around a book of the same size to see how it looks in the flesh.
When you’ve decided, run your text in and typeset it.
Part 2 tomorrow: chapter heads… and the really nitpicky stage
Have you released one of your books in print form? Did you do the production yourself? If you have any tips to add for this stage, I’d love to hear them!
Everyone’s talking about how publishing has broken all its rules this year. We’ve had agents publishing their authors’ backlists as ebooks, or arguing about why they shouldn’t. We’ve had agents lobbying for authors to get a much higher percentage of ebook rights. We’ve had authors tearing up their contracts and going indie – and some of them have become the infamous Kindle millionaires.
One idea I’ve heard whispered in these discussions is whether longform fiction should be serialised. Usually it’s quickly dismissed. Oh no one’s doing that.
Yes they are. I’m going to.
And this is it. I’m going to publish it in four hefty parts.
The entire novel is a scale-breaking 100,000 words, so each episode is roughly 25,000 – a good novella’s worth of reading each time.
Yes, this is an experiment. It could be argued that it’s a 150-year-old experiment as it’s the same model used by another famous self-publisher – Charles Dickens.
It’s either a great idea or monumentally dumb. But I’m already breaking rules by self-publishing a literary novel when most indie releases are genre, so why not stomp on another?
My agent tells me he’s watching with great interest. Not just out of curiosity, but to see if this is a viable model for the agency’s own ventures into new publishing models. So it’s not just a small step for me…
How much will it be? The magic 99c per episode. If you’re late getting to an episode, don’t worry – once they’re up in the Kindle store, they will be up for two months. Although you might have to block your ears to the chat on Twitter about it…
So that’s my secret weapon. My Memories of a Future Life is a literary novel written to be released episodically, week by week, the way Dickens wrote his serialised novels. Starting Tuesday August 30th, then Mondays thereafter – September 5, September 12, and the final episode on September 19th.
Wish me luck. And just so I feel more emboldened, tell me what rules – writing or otherwise – you’ve broken this week.