Posts Tagged print on demand
How to prepare your Kindle text for a print edition – Part 2: chapter head styles and cleaning up the text
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.
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.
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.
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.
I’ve had two questions recently about small publishers. First, Stacy Green: ‘Do you think self-publishing is a better option for new authors than a small publisher whose focus isn’t solely on the next bestseller?’
Also Tahlia Newland: My agent is waiting for the last 3 big publishers she queried for my book to get back to her. If no one wants it, it’s just small publishers left. I’m thinking I’d rather ebook self-publish than go for a small publisher who hasn’t got a big distribution. I’d be doing most of the publicity anyway, so why not be in a position to keep control and maximise profits? What do you think?
There’s an excellent piece here by Michelle Davidson Argyle on what a publisher should be able to do for you.
What I’ll add to that is my own opinion, from my own experience and that of author friends.
The term ‘small publisher’ can cover anything from the small adventurous imprints started by publishing professionals who have decamped from the major companies – to decidedly less qualified outfits led by people who are chancing their arm at publishing. With varying motives.
Quite clearly, the publishers started by the publishing professionals will have the edge. They have the experience, the expertise and the contacts – and you can weigh up an offer simply by googling them and finding out about their reputation. But some small – and micro-small – publishers may not be as good for you as going it alone.
It all comes down to what they will give you in return for the chunk they take and whether that suits you. And in some cases, you have to be able to assess whether they are properly set up to do the best for your book. Leaving aside the crooks, some of the very tiny publishers do not have enough experience in key areas of the business – but they don’t know how important those are. You’ll see from my horror stories below.
But first, here’s a run-down of the major areas in which a publisher can help you and the self-publishing alternatives.
Editorial help certainly can cost. If you go it alone you can hire a professional to do this, but it’s a hassle to set up and takes time away from your writing.
Art, editing and formatting all come with the package when you sign a publishing deal. Even harder to put a price on is the input of an editor who is in tune with what you want to do. The right editor, who chose your book from their company’s slush pile, has fallen in love with your work – unlike an editor you hire. Any good editor can make you better than you believed possible, but one who had to woo you will probably go the extra mile (provided you agree with their vision). They can guide you to revise and revise, and can reassure you when you’ve done enough. An editor you hire can only carry on as long as your purse can hold out. Having a trusted team around you who are helping you hone your book is terrific and irreplacable.
However, if you’re tied to a publisher you’re tied to their professionals. You may love the words people, but not like their cover artwork at all. And you may not get much clout to refuse cover designs you don’t like.
Moreover, you might be right to distrust those designs. I looked at the list of one small publisher and thought at first they were producing municipal leaflets – all their fiction had ugly covers produced with the one template. Yet they’d managed to get authors to sign up with them.
Distribution is where your book is stocked. If you go it alone, you can buy packages for this from the POD companies but if you don’t know what you’re getting how do you know what’s worth paying for? And let’s face it, it’s the least creative part of making books, so who has the patience to become expert in it?
But the grass isn’t necessarily greener in a publishing deal. Especially in companies that were set up solely by editorial or production people. And have never had to handle distribution. And don’t know what they don’t know.
I know of one publisher who produced beautiful copies of an author’s work – superior even to the very good quality that POD can produce – but couldn’t organise how to get the books onto Amazon. Instead they sold them through ebay, where no one buys books, and through an obscure website for that genre. They sent the author to a major fair to showcase his work and couldn’t arrange for copies of the book to be available there so that they could be sold. They got reviews in major magazines and the book still isn’t on Amazon.
Another question you have to ask yourself is: what is the publisher’s market reach? Can they market to more readers than you can on your own?
Publishers with rigorous selection procedures will be able to get reviews in places that never touch self-published works – such as the national newspapers. That’s a gate you simply can’t open on your own, no matter what you do.
But a couple of reviews aren’t enough to sell your book. You need other gates opened too – to wider audiences. I know of several small publishers who are well enough connected to be able to get reviews in influential places. But some aren’t at all, regardless of how much they talk about how passionately they love good books. Now that we all build tribes, this aspect of a publishing deal is like royal marriages. Some publishers’ tribes aren’t as big as those of some bloggers!
What rights do they keep?
This is a thorny question indeed and is why it is good to have a reputable agent on your side. I’m not offering legal advice here in any capacity, and every single case is different. So if you are currently studying the fine print of an offer and are worried about it, please get proper help. If you don’t have an agent, a rights lawyer can do it for you – although it will cost you (which is one of the reasons why an agent deserves their percentage).
Traditionally, most books are ‘in print’ for a period and once the run is sold they go ‘out of print’ or are printed again. After a certain period you may get your rights back or your contract may come up for renegotiation. Sometimes you can take the book elsewhere if you want.
Many small publishers launch a book through e-editions and print on demand. Print on demand allows a publisher to print a book only when it is needed, saving on warehousing. If a publisher uses POD, they might have a clause that says they will keep your book in print in perpetuity – and that means you can never take advantage of a better offer from somewhere else with a more prestigious reputation. Of course, to look at it from their point of view, they don’t want you using them as a stepping stone to something better, after they’ve put so much effort in (which they may or may not have, of course). Although any legal agreement can be undone if it’s wrangled enough, that’s messy and expensive.
There might even be clauses governing what you may work on in future and who owns it.
Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. We mustn’t forget that being published is the most important milestone a writer can imagine. What most of us want to do is write great books and find someone to handle the less interesting jobs and treat us fairly. A publishing offer may indeed do this. More than that, it may give you moral, emotional, practical and technical support that is beyond measure, pulling you out of isolation and into the ‘proper’ world of writing. After all, it’s not just about money; writers have an innate urge to share, communicate and to know our work is cherished.
But any deal you do is also a business deal about your career. Not all businessmen are nice. Or some may be terribly nice and awfully incompetent.
If you get any offer from a small or micro-publisher, look very carefully at what they will give you for what they will take.
Thank you, Very Urgent Photography, for the picture
Do you have any experience with small and micro-publishers? Share in the comments!
Oh – shameless plug – My Memories of a Future Life launches on August 30!