In our last post we talked about some of the high-level decisions (Parts 1 and 2) that an author should make when they’re finishing up their manuscript, and today we’ll be covering more of the nuts and bolts that can definitely make life easier for you during the publishing process. It’s not uncommon for authors to overlook various details of their “finished” manuscript, but proper pre-publishing requires that we examine all aspects of our manuscript–not only what’s there, but also what’s missing–so that we won’t encounter delays down the road.
Part 3: What’s in your book, and where do these things go?
Table of Contents, Title Page, Dedication, Introduction, etc:
Do you need a Table of Contents? Some books don’t, but many do–and I’ve found that some authors are unsure about whether they should include a TOC and how it should appear in their book.
Will you be including other interior content items such as a Dedication, Introduction, Forward, Preface, Acknowledgements, Glossary, Appendix, or Index with your book? If so, decide where each of these items will be located in your book relative to one another and relative to your main manuscript.
One of the best approaches for determining the look and feel of your TOC, Title Page, Dedication, Introduction and other parts of your book (plus determining whether you need them at all) is to look at successful books that are in your genre and follow their lead.
Graphics, Diagrams or Tables:
Does your book include images or other graphics? Although most books published today are primarily text-based, many books still include photos, images, tables or other graphics. If so, your printer may have specific requirements for those items.
For example, many printers and self-publishers require that all images be at least 300 DPI. Furthermore, if you’re planning on having your book printed as black and white but you’re including color graphics in your document, you should consider how those graphics will print in gray scale. Otherwise, you may be disappointed in your final print quality. Remember, it’s still cost prohibitive to “insert” color graphics in a black and white POD printed book.
When working with a service provider to format your book it’s also a good idea to list a couple other books that present their graphics in a manner that also reflects your expectations. This is especially helpful for the business and “how-to” genres, and makes it much easier for your service provider to understand what you want your readers to see.
If your book’s interior content requires supporting illustrations, have you located an illustrator? Do you have specific ideas in regards to interior illustrations? Has your illustrator reviewed your ideas vs. the printer’s specifications regarding color, image DPI, bleed, and other requirements?
Illustrations can certainly add personality to a book, but the process of successfully creating and transferring illustrations to a printed book can be quite technical–and therefore problematic. It’s important that you find an illustrator that understands the process of book publishing (including self-publishing) so that they won’t be surprised when facing margin, bleed or DPI specifications.
It’s also difficult for illustrators to read your mind (although they’ll try!) in determining exactly what you’re looking for, so again do some research and find other books that contain illustrations with elements similar to your ideas. This will help get you both off to a good start in regards to setting expectations.
Part 4: The Devil in the Formatting Details–Fonts, Pagination, Chapter Arrangement, and Margins:
Font Selection and Size:
Do you have a particular font in mind for your book? What are your decisions about using bold text and italics? When do you plan to have multiple fonts and fonts of different sizes? Make your font choices wisely!
Although the world of self-publishing and POD book fulfillment has made it possible for authors to display their written word in almost every way imaginable, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you should go out and pick a strange font just for the sake of being different or clever. It might work in poetry (and in fact it often does), but there are tried and true fonts for certain genres–business books and novels, for example–that most readers expect and are comfortable with. You don’t want to irritate your reader!
If you don’t know what font or font size to choose, again just visit your local library or bookstore to find other books that represent these established norms (and which also appeal to you). If you can’t recognize one of the fonts, just ask one of the working staff and they’ll probably know.
I was recently working with an elderly author who was adamant about making his book’s font size a little larger than usual (16 point) to better appeal to his target market. Digital self-publishing and POD offer this flexibility, so take advantage of it!
Yes, this might be considered a minor detail, but it’s also often overlooked. Professional looking books have effective pagination, and amateurish books don’t pay attention to pagination. Which is yours?
Many books have more than one type of pagination, so if you’re not sure what’s needed for your book you should do your homework. For example, do you want to use the Roman numerals i, ii, iii, etc? Pagination structure often depends on the type of book being published, so again find some other books in your genre to provide guidance. You might also find this brief Wikipedia page helpful.
Chapter Arrangement and Margins:
Many authors want every new chapter to start on the right side page of the book. Such consistency is more professional (although completely meaningless with ebooks), but will sometimes mean that you have some blank pages throughout your book. Are you ok with that?
What are the preferred left and right margins for your book– .75″ for the gutter margins and .5″ for the outside margins? What about the top and bottom margins–are you thinking about including your name, book title or chapter title at the top or bottom of each page?. Some genres follow different “unwritten” rules, so familiarize yourself with them.
By this time you should know the answer to this topic–examine other books similar to yours!
Don’t you miss the days of having a publisher do all this work for you? Now, in self-publishing, you have the privilege (or, as some of my authors would say, the chore) of making a myriad of detailed, yet critical, decisions that will influence how your book will appear–and appeal–to your reader. That’s ok, though. It’s not rocket science, and you have thousands, if not millions, of books that have come before yours that will help you make the right choices. A self-publishing service provider such as PublishandSell will also help guide you through this process.
Also, as publishing continues to evolve, the old adage of “If you want it done right you’ve got to do it yourself” is becoming more and more important. Doing your research, talking with other authors, and examining other successful books within your genre can certainly help you stay on the right path. Yes, you’ll sometimes make your final decisions based on the appearance of your printed proof, but you’ll save a lot of money (and anguish) if you make some sound judgments early on during this all-important pre-publishing stage. And you’ll be glad you did.
That’s it from the manuscript preparation side of things, and I hope you found this information helpful (you know how to reach me if you have questions). Next time we’ll discuss Market Research and Cover Art preparation–all of which make up this “Pre-Publishing” stage of self-publishing.
Thanks again, and till next time–keep publishing!