How to prepare your Kindle text for a print edition – Part 2: chapter head styles and cleaning up the text

Yesterday I discussed how to choose the size of your book and the typeface. Today, we finish your book’s interior  

Fancy stuff like chapter heads

You can leave the chapter title in the same font as your body copy, or you might want something eye catching to draw the reader to the first line – maybe a motif or a drop capital. (Designing this deserves whole posts by itself; there are trillions of ways to do it, but the short answer is to find a book you like the look of in a similar genre and copy that). You might want a different font (not too fancy, please). I used Copperplate Goth BT.

Unless you have a fantastically good artistic reason, don’t use more than one heading font besides your body copy. Books look better if typefaces are inconspicuous and style is uniform. A little contrast is allowable in chapter headings, but if you have more than two typefaces it looks like it was made by someone under a responsible age.

Chapter titles don’t usually begin at the very top of the page. You’ll want to add line spaces, both above the chapter heading and afterwards, before the actual text starts. Experiment until you find an arrangement you like. Then write down exactly what it is – eg 3 carriage returns above and 2 below. You need to do it exactly the same in all the chapters. Properly typeset books are consistent about everything.

Similarly between sections that aren’t chapter breaks you’ll need a gap. How many lines do you want them to be? Do you want a little motif in the middle to delineate them? What about the paragraphs? Do you want them full out after a section break? Full out (ie not indented) is the usual option but I have seen indents work nicely as well. Make your decision, write it down – and do the same thing every time.

Then go through the manuscript and put them in.

If you formatted for Kindle you probably put page breaks in for chapter endings. If you formatted for other strains of epub you probably didn’t use page breaks. Go and put page breaks in for chapter endings now. If you try to split the book with carriage returns instead of page breaks, the next stage will do your head in. And make you resort to far more flabbergasted language.

Blank pages and front matter

Use page breaks to make blank pages too. And strip off the folio on blank pages if your program allows, or change the text colour to white so it doesn’t print.

Where do you want blank pages? Certain parts of your book must begin on right-hand pages, so you might have to put blanks in to achieve this – especially at the front.

Before you get to the text proper you need a few bits of set-up copy, known as front matter. Look in any published book and you’ll see. Usually these are:

  • half title (right-hand page) – where you can put biographical info too
  • copyright notice and ISBN etc (left-hand page)
  • full title (right-hand)
  • either blank or acknowledgements (left-hand page)
  • start of book (right-hand page) or part 1/section 1 title page (right-hand page, then blank, then text proper on right-hand page)

Widows, orphans – the mysterious faffing I was leaving until last

Now you have the biggest, dreariest task of all. You have to look for bad breaks at the tops of pages – widows, orphans and stumps.

Widows and orphans are short lines in places you don’t want them – at the very bottom of a page or the very top. Stumps are words broken by a hyphen so that the first half of the word is on one page and the second half is on the next. All these can look ugly, although sometimes you can get away with one if there’s enough text on the rest of the page – it’s very much a matter of personal taste what’s acceptable and what isn’t.

Get this line back or make it longer…

… but this is okay

All on their own… take these lines back or push a few more over…

… like this

You also have to look for section breaks in awkward places. If you have a section break, you want more than one line below it or it looks weird. And you don’t want a page with just 1 or 2 lines hanging in mid air and then the chapter end.

NB – most word processing programs have auto settings to get rid of these pesky widows and orphans. Turn it off. It results in short pages, which in a text-heavy book like a novel looks dreadful. Yes, you have to do this bit by hand.

How?

NOT by squeezing the fonts together – that looks awful. NOT by sneakily changing the point size or the leading – it shows. You have to alter the text itself.

Remember when I said this isn’t about the text any more, it’s about how it looks? That’s what I mean.

Close up paragraphs, make new ones, cut out extraneous words to pull a line back, add a few to push one over. If you have sub-headings (weird in novels but de rigeur in non-fiction) put one in or take one out. If there’s no scope to edit on the page you’re on, go back a page and see if you can do it there. Sometimes you may have to go back a few. And keep checking the results.

This is the drudge. You have to do this for every single page. It’s fiddly. And this is why you want to have established all your other design decisions before you get here. Because you don’t want to have to do it all over again. And this is why you need to separate your chapters with page breaks, so that any change you make is confined to just a few pages. If you use carriage returns instead of page breaks, every change you make will affect the rest of the entire book.

You might wonder how you spot all these things. I do it automatically because I’ve done it for years. I can read the text and see all these things at the same time. (Hell, I scan for them when I’m reading other people’s books.) I can adjust the text so that it’s true to what I want to say and also looks typographically acceptable. In fact, because I knew I’d have to do this, I made my last major edits of My Memories of a Future Life in PagePlus so that the text would be identical to the Kindle version.

If you’re not practised at this it’s best to do several passes through the book, looking for one problem each time, until you get your eye in. And this exhaustive level of nit-picking might be one of the reasons you decide to hand this part of the project over to someone who can do it much faster than you can, and more thoroughly.

Once each of your pages looks typographically beautiful, proof-read it one last time, remembering to check that your chapter breaks are consistent – and your text is ready to go.

If you have a Kindle book you’ll have a front cover but you won’t yet have a back one. And you’ve probably got quite enough to do for now – so I’ll tell you how I designed mine in a future post.

Have you released one of your books in print form? Did you do the production yourself? If you have any tips to add or nightmares to share, I’d love to hear them!

HELP IS AT HAND… If reading all this has given you an intolerable migraine, I can format your book for you! Email me on RozMorrisWriter at gmail dotcom.

My Memories of a Future Life: episodes 1 and 2 available now. Episode 3 on 12th September. Print edition end September. Do you like podcasts? You can listen to or download, free, the first 4 chapters

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  1. #1 by David mark brown on September 10, 2011 - 3:49 pm

    That’s what I was afraid of with widows and orphans. I had noticed that Word and other programs didn’t deal with this well. Of course with ebooks there is nothing to be done about this really, but it still bugs me when I set the font size on my iPad and see a weird scene/section ending.

    • #2 by rozmorris @dirtywhitecandy on September 11, 2011 - 5:11 pm

      You’re right, David, programs don’t deal well with widows and orphans at all. But unless it’s pointed out we never think to look for them.

  2. #3 by Elle Strauss on September 10, 2011 - 6:20 pm

    Thanks for this awesome info, Roz! It will come in handy some day soon!

  3. #5 by Paul Brookes on September 12, 2011 - 4:47 pm

    You can automate several of these steps (especially defining spacing) by using Word’s Styles & Formatting feature. It’s a huge timesaver.

    • #6 by rozmorris @dirtywhitecandy on September 12, 2011 - 9:18 pm

      Paul, I wondered whether to get into style sheets and simply ran out of room. But you’re right – and not only does it save time it makes the finished book consistent.

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