- Books for writers
- FAQ: I’m a new writer: which book should I read first?
- FREE Nail Your Novel Instant Fix: 100 Tips For Fascinating Characters
- My writing process: the picture tour
- Nail Your Novel: A Companion Workbook
- Nail Your Novel: Why Writers Abandon Books and how you can Draft, Fix and Finish With Confidence
- Reviews of Nail Your Novel
- Who’s tweeting about Nail Your Novel …
- Writing Characters Who’ll Keep Readers Captivated: Nail Your Novel
- Writing Plots With Drama, Depth & Heart: Nail Your Novel
- Email me
Posts Tagged ebooks
Look what we found in the attic.
It’s a self-publishing supplement from the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain in New Year 2005.
When this was circulated, I was ghostwriting for Big Six publishers (when they were a Big Six) and hoping to get an agent for my own novel. My writer friends were on the same trajectory.
A book deal was the way – the only way – to get your work into the world. For posterity, for a career.
Self-publishing was a mysterious parallel universe. A few authors had used it to start good careers, but mainly because they got lucky. Maybe with influential reviewers. Maybe an agent bought a copy, as if they didn’t already have enough to read. If you didn’t get that luck, what happened? We never knew.
I think I had an early glimpse of a self-published book that didn’t get lucky. Our local second-hand bookshop had multiple copies of a mysterious grey novel that looked like no novel I’d ever seen before. It had a blank cover with only a title, which was curly, heavily shadowed and unreadable. I now realise it must have been an indie book that someone was desperate to get rid of, but at the time I was intrigued by its oddness. What was it trying to be? There were at least 20 copies and somehow this quantity, and the austere appearance, made the novel look like it knew something I didn’t. I believed that treasure came in odd disguises and I tried reading the first page. Oh dear, the prose was a droning info-dump and impossible to understand. But every time I went into the shop, those copies were still there, grey slabs of print that commanded a look because they were so wrong. Several times, I opened a copy and tried to like it. I wanted it to be a work of wonder and meaning. It wasn’t.
That seemed a shame. And the book seemed to embody so many of the things that could – and still can – go wrong with self-publishing. The general message at the time was: don’t do it.
Don’t do it. No, do
So when I found this self-publishing guide from 2005, I was curious. How did they make the case?
In the introduction, Tom Green notes how the publishing landscape has changed. It sounds familiar: ‘More people are chasing less space on the lists of traditional publishers and agents. Even established writers find themselves dropped without warning if they are not the flavour of the month and don’t have the required celebrity status to get coverage in the media.’
That could be today. But the reasons to self-publish in 2005 weren’t all negative. Tom also points out two clear advantages – control over the product, and control over other rights. Today, those are massive cornerstones of independent publishing – we decide how the book will be, we get maximum value out of other forms such as audiobooks, translations etc.
And with those freedoms came a warning. Again, a familiar one – the great potential to make mistakes. Not just mistakes of quality, like our friend with the unedited, mispresented grey doorstop, but financial mistakes. Then, as now, writers had to avoid overpriced services of dubious value, and contracts that strip you of your rights.
If only they knew
As I read, I thought how they couldn’t have known how much easier their path was about to become. Just a few years later, much of the expense and difficulty of self-publishing was swept away by two developments – ebooks and the miracle of the online world.
First, ebooks. All self-publishing in 2005 was print. It wasn’t that ebooks hadn’t been invented – Project Gutenberg made the first one in 1971 – but we hadn’t yet got devices for reading them comfortably. Who wants to read a book on a desktop or laptop?
And second, our online infrastructure – we hadn’t yet got the internet plumbing that allows us to sell books worldwide, via huge online stores that might be on a different landmass from the country we write in. That same internet plumbing also brought massive opportunities to share our learning so we can self-publish well.
So in 2005, books were paper chunks. Moreover, you had to guess how many to make (in the hundreds), then store and ship them or pay someone for that. Print on demand (POD) did exist, but not in the sense we know it. Although it was possible to produce one copy at a time, POD was more normally used by trade publishers for short runs of backlist titles.
Let us give hearty thanks for our highly evolved POD and ebook sales systems. Whenever I teach a course in self-publishing (yes, I do that), it’s the first thing I explain.
One interesting attitude in 2005 is that self-publishing was seen as a stepping stone. Joanna Anthony, who at the time was marketing director of hybrid publisher Pen Press, writes: ‘I believe there will be a time when all unknown authors self-publish to test the market and mainstream publishers will pick them up once they have proved they have a market’. Although that does happen now, many self-publishers are happy to stay indie.
So self-publishers of the 2020s can reach readers more easily, and with good-looking books – but that freedom has come at a price. The books world of 2005 was much, much smaller. Thousands of titles were published in the UK each month (about 8,000 a month according to the wholesaler Gardners), and that might sound like a lot, but they went out of print. Now, nothing goes out of print, and there are more new releases than ever because it’s easy. Soon we’ll have more books than there are atoms in the sea. Authors have powerful tools to market and promote their books, but it’s competitive and expensive – for some of us, prohibitively so.
In the simpler days of 2005, marketing was still a big issue, and authors were advised they needed to take it as seriously as the writing.
But they were also reminded that it could be an extension of their natural talents. Dick Sharples had a lot of cheeky fun with his book, A Year In Muswell Hill. It was a spoof of Peter Mayle’s A Year In Provence, penned under the name Pierre LaPoste. As Dick built awareness for the book, he says, ‘angry letters by apprehensive local residents began appearing in the local press demanding that the book be banned, especially as LaPoste had promised his book would “do for Muswell Hill what Peter Mayle did for Provence”, in other words, bugger it up.’ The national papers got wind of the story (nice one, Dick), and turned up in Muswell Hill, hoping to interview LaPoste. Dick pretended LaPoste had fled to Provence and the book sold out several print runs.
As I read the guide’s advice on marketing and other services, I reflected how lucky we are now. Authors of the 2020s can get advice and protection from several high-profile organisations – the Alliance of Independent Authors and Victoria Strauss’s site Writer Beware.
I turned the page and there was Victoria Strauss herself, sharing her knowledge and experience, helping writers avoid bad choices, already a strong voice to make the indie world a better place.
There were many surprises in this little publication, but that was the nicest.
There’s a lot more about writing in my Nail Your Novel books – find them here. If you’re curious about my own work, find novels here and my travel memoir here. And if you’re curious about what’s going on at my own writing desk, here’s my latest newsletter. You can subscribe to future updates here.
Alliance of Independent Authors, ebooks, how to self-publish, how we used to self-publish, indie authors, print on demand, self-publishing, Victoria Strauss, Writer Beware, writer's guild of Great Britain
I’ve had a worrying experience with a local book club. I’m not sure it is as it appears, so I won’t name names. But either way, it raises worrying questions about the way authors’ work is valued.
Recently, a book club invited me to make a presentation about Lifeform Three. The club voted to read it. The organiser went out of the room. Ten minutes later she returned. The books were ordered, she said! So quick. Everyone went home happy.
Except. I should have seen seven UK sales within 24 hours but there was only one. An ebook. Being indie, I know the local bookshops don’t have that many copies. Also, cheap second-hand copies on Amazon are scarce. Did the club just pretend they were going to read it?
It was sweet of them to spare my blushes. And I couldn’t exactly ask.
I shrugged it off. But this week I was talking to an author friend. She said she’d had the same puzzling situation, several times. She said that local book clubs had contacted her because they were reading one of her titles. They asked her questions about the text. But she saw no corresponding rise in UK sales. Like me, she knows local shops don’t have that many copies. The libraries don’t stock her books. Secondhand copies are in short supply. Each time a book club takes up one of her titles, she sees just one UK sale – one ebook.
It seems to be a pattern.
Finally, she said, she found the answer. She said that one club admitted that it buys one ebook and shares it among all its members. Could they be passing one copy between them all? Unlikely as they all needed to read it at once. She strongly suspected they were making duplicates.
Was this also the explanation for my book club experience? I saw just one sale, remember.
I asked. I was told: ‘We mostly get our books through Amazon, and often from the second-hand sellers. I like to read a real book and don’t have a Kindle’. So be it.
But why was I ready to believe villainy?
Because it fits a bigger picture. Because I frequently meet people who think piracy, file copying and illegal downloading hurts nobody. They say it’s a ‘victimless’ crime. They defend their right to do it. These are people in well-paid jobs, BTW.
What harm can it do? Let’s illustrate that by giving book clubs a fair hearing. Let’s show the good that just one group can – and does – do for an author’s reputation and sustainability and why we appreciate them so much.
Imagine if one club orders seven copies in a store. That puts the author in the store owner’s good books. If they’re bought online it spreads beneficial juice through the chart algorithms. Just seven copies can make a real impression. Many clubs are a lot bigger.
You might think traditionally published authors don’t have to worry as much because they’re funded by the publisher, but if the book doesn’t gain traction, the publisher drops the author.
So a book club is not only putting money where it deserves to be. It is doing a lot of good for that author’s long-term career. Thank you, BTW.
Money, money, money
I’m sorry to mention money so much, but I think this is one of the stumbling blocks. How many times have you had to explain to non-authors that books have not made you steaming rich?
Indeed, I wonder if we’ve helped create that impression? All these carefree pictures of authors signing heaps of books in crowded bookstores; holding launches in front of appreciative audiences.
Films and TV are even worse. I’ve seen LitHub articles that laugh at the kind of blissful artistic life that moviemakers think is the norm for writers.
Of course we like to share our highlights, but the public is getting an erroneous message that we’re all living the dream in a utopia of wordy fulfilment. So what’s a lost sale? Or 10?
We’ve failed to emphasise how much of an impact lost sales and piracy have (thanks for the pic Leo Reynolds on Flickr).
Selling ourselves too cheaply?
And obviously the freebie culture hasn’t helped – that’s a rot we can’t reverse. Neither have subscription services, where content is an all-you-can-eat buffet. We often hear people say they can’t afford to buy books, but many of those people can fund foreign holidays, concert tickets and regular doses of frothy coffee. They can’t fund their reading?
Because they don’t think they should have to.
Stealing is the new black
Yesterday I saw a sign in a charity shop: ‘If you steal from this shop, you are stealing from animals.’
Think about that. Who would steal from a charity shop? But it happens so frequently that the shop had to display a sign. How did the thieves justify that to themselves? The stock was donated so the theft harms no one? Another kind of victimless crime?
Unfortunately, there have always been ways to share files and cheat their creators. Ask any musician. It’s too late to change some people’s minds. But we can speak up so that more people don’t drift into it unawares. Ebook copying is damaging authors’ careers.
I don’t know how we’ll change people’s minds about this. Suggestions?
Amazon Marketplace, author careers, author earnings, author life, author lifestyle, authors, ebook piracy, ebooks, file sharing, illegal downloads, piracy, pirate copies, victimless crime, war on piracy
Today I gave a speech at The Oldie literary lunch (which was very exciting!) and they asked me to explain about making ebooks. I promised a post to distil the important details, and save them from squinting at their notes and wondering if that scrawl really does say ‘Smashwords’, and indeed what that alien name might mean.
If you already know how to publish ebooks you can probably skip most of this. However, you might find some of the links and reading list useful, or pass them on to a friend. And if you’re here from The Oldie – hello again. Nice to have you visit.
How to do it
It’s easy. Really easy. If you can format a Word file, you can make an ebook.
It’s more complicated if you have footnotes or multiple headings that might need to be visually distinguished, or you want graphics (which might not be advisable) but it’s generally easy. Have I said that often enough?
Here’s my post on how to format for Kindle, in which you’ll see how I had to be dragged into the ebook revolution. But by all the atoms in the heavens, I’m glad I was. You’ll also see the original, grey cover of the book that now looks like this.
That post includes the notes about stripping out the formatting codes and rethinking the book as a long-continuous roll of text, not fixed pages. The Smashwords style guide is also explained. (You knew you wrote that silly word down for a reason.)
If you don’t have the Word file
If you’re publishing a book that previously appeared in print, you might not have the polished Word file with all the copy editing and proofreading adjustments. Often, the author sees the later proofing stages on paper only, and any adjustments are done at the publisher. If you can get the final Word file, that’s simplest.
If not, try to get a PDF, which will have been used to make the book’s interior. You can copy the text off a PDF and paste it into a Word document. You’ll have to do quite a lot of clean-up as this will also copy all the page numbers and headers, and there will be invisible characters such as carriage returns. You’ll need to edit all of these out by hand.
Sometimes PDFs are locked. You can’t copy the text off by normal methods, but you can find a way round it with free online apps. Dig around Google and see what you find.
Another option is to scan a print copy. Depending on the clarity of the printing and whether the pages have yellowed, you may end up with errors and gobbledygook words, so again you’re in for a clean-up job. You’ll need a thorough proof-read as some scanners will misread letter combinations – eg ‘cl’ may be transformed into ‘d’ and your spellcheck won’t know that you meant to say ‘dose’ instead of ‘close’. But it’s quicker than retyping the entire book.
There are two main ebook formats. Mobi (used on Amazon’s Kindle device) and epub (used on many other devices). They are both made in much the same way, and the instructions in my basic how-to-format post are good for both. PDFs are also sold on some sites.
You need to get a cover. Cover design is a science as well as an art. A cover is not just to make your book look pretty, it’s a marketing tool. If you’re republishing a print book, check if you have the rights to use the artwork. If not, you’ll have to get another cover made. Use a professional cover designer (see later). Here are posts to clue you in:
Where I nearly made a disastrous mistake with a cover
Where do you get a good cover designer? See the books list below.
Hiring editors and proof-readers
In traditional publishing, a manuscript goes through a number of stages – developmental editing, copy editing and proof reading. If you’ve done this, go straight to formatting your manuscript. Otherwise, the following posts will help you understand what you need to do.
Daunted by the thought of an editor with an evil sneer and a red pen? Fear not, we respect you more than you know.
Getting your book on sale
The main DIY platforms to sell your ebooks are Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing, Kobo Writing Life and Smashwords (you’re getting used to that name now). Publishing on them is free and they’re simple to use. You can publish direct to ibooks, but that’s not easy unless you have a PhD in Mac. And a Mac. Besides, Smashwords (ta-daaah) will publish to ibooks for you. There are other platforms that act as intermediaries, for a greater or lesser fee, and greater or lesser advantage.
Beware of sharks. If you get what appears to be a publishing offer, read this.
Books to get you started
Written from an author’s perspective – The Triskele Trail
David Gaughran – Let’s get Digital
Catherine Ryan Howard – Self-Printed (also covers print as well as ebooks)
And some other useful resources
And, er, that’s it. Any questions?
Alliance of Independent Authors, Amazon, authors, beginners, Catherine Ryan Howard, Choosing a Self-Publishing Service, David Gaughran, Depth & Heart, ebook, ebooks, how to make a Kindle book, how to make an ebook, how to self-publish, how to write a book, how to write a novel, idiot guide to making an ebook, KDP, Kindle Direct Publishing, Let’s Get Digital, making ebooks, My Memories of a Future Life, PDFs, publishing, Roz Morris, Self-printed, self-publishing, Smashwords, The Oldie, The Oldie literary lunches, The Triskele Trail, Triskele books, writers, writing, writing a novel - Nail Your Novel, Writing Characters Who'll Keep Readers Captivated: Nail Your Novel, Writing Plots With Drama
As indies get ever more professional, an entire service industry is springing up to offer us services for every occasion. At this year’s London Book Fair, the Authors’ Lounge was heaving with suppliers, and no shortage of willing customers. While it’s great to have access to these, authors are ripe for rip-off.
This week David Gaughran highlighted unscrupulous companies that charge exorbitant prices, or hoodwink authors into paying for services that could be obtained for very little or no cost.
So this post is a self-publishing 101; a catch-up for those who are wondering what they need to spend money on. In some cases, knowledge is the answer; all books, authors and genres are different, and one supplier does not fit all.
It’s virtually impossible to publish a book without any expenditure, but we can make sure we use our budgets wisely – and stop writers filling the pockets of unscrupulous suppliers who are getting rich on our dreams.
Some authors don’t know they can create their own user accounts on Smashwords, Kindle Direct Publishing, Kobo and CreateSpace. Or how simple it is – basically, no more difficult than entering your details in a mail-order website.
Some companies offer to upload your books through their account, but this is unnecessary. Even if you don’t make the files yourself, you can still upload them. If your service company went out of business, what would happen to your book listings? Moreover, if a third party controls your access to these publishing platforms, it’s harder to adjust your book’s appearance and description – which as you’ll see is essential to successful self-publishing.
This week, as you may have gathered, I published the follow-up to Nail Your Novel. I was rusty with the e-platforms, but it didn’t take long to get reacquainted.
Basic ebook formatting is dead simple if you can use Word on an everyday average level. You don’t need to be a wizard, but you do have to be meticulous. The best instructions are at the Smashwords Style Guide, a free book with diagrams and reassuringly clear instructions. There are a couple of other useful links in this post I wrote 2 years ago when I first ventured onto Kindle. I reread them when I uploaded my new book last week and it all went smoothly.
Indeed, if you have Scrivener, it will format ebooks for you.
Print book interiors
Print books are more tricky than ebooks, and amateur ones can look dreadful. But there are various tools to help beginners do a good job for very little money.
I recommend you read Catherine Ryan Howard’s book Self-Printed, which I used the first time I ventured onto CreateSpace and I still keep to hand to remind myself how to set up a book. She also has a ton of other useful guidance on book formatting.
How do you make the interior? CreateSpace provides Word templates, if you need help (although I make my books in a design program and upload a PDF). CS templates are pretty plain, and Word isn’t ideal for interior formatting, but it’s fine for novels, which require hardly any design. In any case, a neat finish isn’t created by fancy typesetting, it’s from consistency and readability – and you can find a post I wrote on that here.
If you want a slicker look for little money, try Joel Friedlander’s book design templates for use in Word. Joel has created interiors that you graft your text into – which is exactly what happens when books are designed in mainstream publishers (although they don’t use Word).
Which print-on-demand company should you use? There are two main options: Lightning Source and CreateSpace. LS isn’t suitable for beginners. It costs to start a book project and proofs are expensive. CS, though, is free to set up and holds your hand. Here’s a post I wrote comparing the two for novice publishers.
A great cover is money well spent. But you need to take creative control because you could end up with something unsuitable, horrible, or even illegal if the designer downloaded images from Google instead of sourcing them legitimately. This happens.
When you hire a cover designer, you need to know how to choose them and how to know when the job has been done properly. Identify your genre, familiarise yourself with its most successful covers, then you’ll know how to judge which designer is right for your book. Here’s a post I wrote recently on getting a cover designed.
At LBF I talked to a publicity company to find out how they’d publicise a literary novel. They hadn’t tackled literary fiction before, and seemed unwilling to admit it until I pressed them hard. If I’d been a newbie, they’d have been selling me expensive packages that were unsuitable for my book. (I wasn’t looking to buy anyway; I was asking out of curiosity.)
With marketing, learn as much as you can before you hire publicists or buy advertising. I’ve learned a lot from Joanna Penn’s blog, and this is where I’d send you too.
Not all marketing has to cost money. Book descriptions, price point, tagging, titling and categorisation will all affect whether your book can be found by its ideal readers and you can experiment and tweak ad infinitum. (Remember I said you don’t want to have to ask a third party whenever you adjust your book’s back end? This is a good reason why.) You might find you know more about marketing than you realise, as I did when I was asked to write this guest post.
- Choosing a Self-Publishing Service by the Alliance of Independent Authors
- and Let’s Get Digital by David Gaughran
psst… Editorial services
First, of course, you need a book that’s fit to be published. In a publisher, there would be a team of people handling different editing stages:
- developmental (the big picture: book structure, characters, narrative voice, plot etc)
- copyediting (niggly details like plot consistency, names, timelines)
- proofing (looking for typos and other mistakes)
It’s worth hiring expertise to help you with these and it’s unlikely that you can do it cheap. But you can choose wisely: here’s my post on issues to be aware of.
What other warnings and tips would you add to my self-publishing 101?
Alive and sparking now on all ebook formats
Alliance of Independent Authors, authors, Authors’ Lounge, book design, book marketing, books, business, Catherine Ryan Howard, Choosing a Self-Publishing Service, cover designers, CreateSpace, David Gaughran, Ebook formatting, ebooks, editing services, how do I make ebooks, how to make ebooks, how to self-publish, how to self-publish free, how to write a book, how to write a novel, Joanna Penn, Joel Friedlander’s book design templates, Kindle, Kindle Direct Publishing, Kobo, Let’s Get Digital, Lightning Source, literature, London Book Fair, marketing, My Memories of a Future Life, novels, POD, print on demand, publishing, Roz Morris, Self-printed, self-publishing, self-publishing 101, self-publishing scams, self-publishing services, Smashwords, technology, The Creative Penn, writing, writing a novel - Nail Your Novel, writing business, Writing Characters Who'll Keep Readers Captivated: Nail Your Novel, writing life, Writing Plots With Drama
Everyone’s writing prediction posts right now. I wouldn’t have dared, except the website On Fiction Writing asked what I thought might happen in the industry in the next five years.
Obviously writers can’t be oblivious to what’s going on in publishing, but if you look at what’s changed in the past two years, do we have a hope of predicting anything with accuracy? Anyway, who would trust the predictions of anyone who makes things up for a living? Worlds, economies, social movements roll out of our imagination to suit whatever story we want to tell. (And I see they put my interview next to a novel called The Mad Scientist’s Daughter. Adorable cover anyway.)
The only certainties I can predict – for myself and for other writers in 2013 – are these.
- I will need to weigh up several new social media environment and decide if they’re worth the effort. I will need to remind myself that once upon a time I was scornful of Twitter, Facebook and even – gasp – blogging.
- I’ll need to embrace at least one new platform for publishing, on a device that I don’t see the need for. I will have to remind myself that putting Nail Your Novel on Kindle turned out to be a brilliant move.
- I’ll never decide what’s worthwhile unless I have help – which I will probably find by firing off a tweet or a Facebook post to all you guys.
- I’ll get stuck on the novel I’m writing, and when I think all is irretrievably lost the answer will fall effortlessly onto the page. (I talk about writer’s block in my interview, in case you’re wrestling too.)
- I’ll discover several writers whose work contains such insight, I will not know how I did without them (I talk about favourite writers too)
Predictions aside, I’m also talking about self-publishing, publishers developing new roles as partners for indies, finding readers – and ghostwriting. Do join me there and if you’re in a predictive frame of mind, leave a comment here with conjectures, projections and outright fabrications and fantasies for writers in 2013.
2013, authors, blogging, books, e-books, ebooks, fiction, how to write a novel, independent publishers, independent publishing, indies, inspiration, interview, Kindle, literature, marketing, My Memories of a Future Life, novels, On Fiction Writing, platform, platform for writers, predictions, publishing, Roz Morris, self-publishing, social media, technology, writer's block, writing, writing a novel - Nail Your Novel, writing business, Writing Characters Who'll Keep Readers Captivated: Nail Your Novel, writing life, Writing Plots With Drama, Depth & Heart
How to self-publish an ebook and get a traditional book deal – guest spot on The Write Lines podcast
When I was first discovering blogs – and looking for a home for my own fiction – I discovered The Write Lines on BBC Radio Oxford. Presenter and novelist Sue Cook brought together experts from UK publishing to give advice, information and resources for new writers.
Fast forward through a few revolutions and the latest series (now a podcast) is exploring indie publishing – both as a leg-up to a traditional deal and a viable option in itself. Some of the authors whose blogs I was reading as the first series aired are her experts this time – including Nicola Morgan and Catherine Ryan Howard – and me. I feel like I’ve graduated. Exciting times…
In my episode I’m sharing a studio with indie superstars Mark Edwards (one half of the Edwards/Louise Voss partnership) and Mel Sherratt. You can either listen on the site or download….
Amazon, authors, beginners, bestseller lists, bestsellers, books, bookshops, crime novelist, crime novels, ebooks, how to have an Amazon bestseller, how to make a print book, how to publish an ebook, how to write a book, how to write a novel, interview, Kindle, literature, Louise Voss, Mark Edwards, marketing, media, Mel Sherratt, My Memories of a Future Life, novels, podcast, print books, publishing, retailing books, Roz Morris, self-publishing, Sue Cook, The Write Lines, Voss and Edwards, writing, writing a novel - Nail Your Novel, writing business, Writing Characters Who'll Keep Readers Captivated: Nail Your Novel, writing life, Writing Plots With Drama, Depth & Heart
(If you’re not a Shamen fan, that headline will make no sense. Try saying it out loud. And admire your instant cockney accent.) Making the special print edition of my novel made me think how we still like a book we can get our hands around. Come over to Authors Electric where I’m trying to pinpoint what we love about dead tree books…
authors, Authors Electric, cockney accent, dead tree books, Ebeneezer Goode, ebooks, how to write a novel, I love print books, Kindle, literary fiction, literature, My Memories of a Future Life, novels, print books, publishing, Roz Morris, self-publishing, Shamen. The Shamen, special edition, tree books, writing, writing a novel - Nail Your Novel, Writing Characters Who'll Keep Readers Captivated: Nail Your Novel, writing life, Writing Plots With Drama, Depth & Heart
I don’t do waffle. We magazine sub-editors are Jedis of the delete key. We fillet flabby stories until they’re sharp and focussed. We know readers are busy and we don’t tolerate anyone who takes five paragraphs to explain something when one will do. I’ve always felt that books should be as long – or short – as the material deserves, but economic considerations have often forced authors to pad or to curtail artificially.
So today I’m at Authors Electric, happy to celebrate the emancipation of length… and books that are, like Goldilocks’s third porridge, just right.
Amazon, Authors Electric, book length, books, Do Authors Dream of Electric Books?, ebooks, guest post, guest posts, how long should a book be?, how to write a novel, Kindle, My Memories of a Future Life, Nail Your Novel: Why Writers Abandon Books and How You Can Draft, Fix and Finish With Confidence, publishing, Roz Morris, self-publishing
Ooh, a TARDIS. Because a novel is like one, which you realise when you have to condense its loveliness into a 150-word blurb. From the inside, it’s enormous, labyrinthine. From the outside – a virtual bookshelf, a description to a prospective agent or publisher, or a casual chat at a dinner party – it’s got to look manageable.
Today, at Do Authors Dream of Electric Books, I’m explaining how I squeezed my novel’s multiple dimensions into a convenient, transportable box.
agents, Amazon, Authors Electric, blurb, blurbs, Do Authors Dream of Electric Books?, Doctor Who, ebooks, fiction, how to write a blurb, how to write a novel, Kindle, Kindle Authors UK, marketing, Marketing your book, My Memories of a Future Life, publishing, querying, Roz Morris, self-publishing, summarising, TARDIS, writing, writing a novel - Nail Your Novel, writing business, Writing Characters Who'll Keep Readers Captivated: Nail Your Novel, writing life, Writing Plots With Drama, Depth & Heart
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!
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.
Amazon, book production, CreateSpace, ebooks, fonts, formatting for print, how to prepare your book for print, Kindle, My Memories of a Future Life, print on demand, publishing, Roz Morris, Self-printing, self-publishing, typesetting, Writing Characters Who'll Keep Readers Captivated: Nail Your Novel, writing life, Writing Plots With Drama, Depth & Heart
- Join 20,366 other followers
- What you can achieve if you try something a little scary… how I became a memoirist and novelist by @expatapple September 16, 2022
- How to master back story – book now for my mini-course, September 21st September 14, 2022
- The way we were – self-publishing 2005 and now September 11, 2022
- Fantasy novelists – your first pages: 5 more book openings critiqued by @agentpete @mattschodcnews and me! August 24, 2022
- From travel journalism to inner journeys – Mark Chesnut @munderamedia on writing his first memoir August 21, 2022
- Using real people in historical fiction – how much can you invent? August 14, 2022
- ‘If you are serious about writing, don’t hide it’ – John McCaffrey @jamccaffrey July 20, 2022
- Join 20,366 other followers