How to Format Your Book’s Interior

Typesetter

I have seen a large number of different format designs for pages. There is very little by way of right and wrong when it comes to font, letter size, margins, etc. It is not a one-size fits all motif. There are some industry standards, however, and some things that just make sense.

I write about size of books elsewhere, but book dimensions are a tricky thing. Many people prefer a 6×9 for all books—I hate 6×9 unless I’m reading nonfiction… then I think it’s the perfect size. I prefer a 5.5×8.5 in fact or even a 5×8. Font choice also ranges greatly but I recommend standard fonts like Times New Roman or Courier and an approximate size somewhere between 11 and 14, depending on the genre and audience. Line spacing is very important as well. Double spacing is much too large, 1.5 is better, and 1.15 is my preference (for fiction, anyway,) and 1.0 is much too crowded and strains the eyes.

Margins are very important. One inch is pretty common, but leaves more whitespace at the edges than many readers care for, unless the book is a 6×9. Half-inch is better for fiction if the trim size is less than 6×9. Gutter margins are another thing you will need to keep in mind.

What the heck are gutter margins you say? When your book is bound, the left hand side of the recto page (and right hand of the verso) needs extra space to account for the spine of the book and where the thick sheaf of paper is glued together at the binding. If you don’t create a gutter margin your text will run off into oblivion (especially if your margins are tight). It’s not nearly as difficult as it sounds. Simply put, a gutter margin is an additional amount of space your word processing software will add to the binding side to keep the margins correct. The size of your gutter margins depend upon the overall page count of your book. Createspace recommends the following gutter sizes:

24-50 pages        .375”
151-400 pages   .75”
400-600 pages   .875”
+600 pages         1.0”

Formatting might sound like a lot of headaches and monkeying around when you just want to write (and there are plenty of people who will do all your formatting for a fee,) but it really is critical to get this right. It’s important because there are industry standards, poor formatting hastens eye fatigue and makes readers quit, it helps salability, and it helps profitability.

At the end of the day, reducing whitespace (within reason) means fewer pages and that means extra money earned per book sold. If the layout looks bad with text too small, too large, too squished, or bad margins the interior looks unprofessional and thus unappealing and that turns people off from buying it. Those same things cause the eyes and minds of the people who do read it to get tired more quickly making them more likely to put the book down. A little time spent tweaking formats can have a broad impact down the road on the reader side.

The Independent Book Publishers Association lists a number of generally recognized industry standards on their website: http://www.ibpa-online.org/page/standardschecklist (you can check out their list of standards for covers as well). The standards include:

  1. Professional appearance
  2. Appropriate, easily readable font for body of text
  3. Consistent headers and footers
  4. Proper punctuation usage (em dash, hyphens, etc.)
  5. Appropriate margins
  6. Strategic trim size

The interior file should also include the following elements in addition to the text of the story:

  1. Half-Title page (has just the title of the book on the first page… this page is optional)
  2. Title Page to include title/subtitle of book, author(s)/editors, illustrators, publisher and location. The Title and Half-Title pages should always be on the right hand side (recto) pages
  3. Copyright page (should be on left-hand [verso] page following Title Page,) that includes copyright date and holder, copyright notice, edition information, Library of Congress info, publisher info, ISBN, title, author, design credits, waivers, and disclaimers
  4. Optional Dedication
  5. Optional Table of Contents
  6. Optional Acknowledgements page, including possible back matter for footnotes, endnotes, and formally credited citations
  7. About the Author (this may appear in front matter, back matter, or on the jacket/rear cover)

Ebook formatting is slightly different. When creating an ebook from a paperback (if you are using Createspace) you can automatically push the file from Createspace to Kindle/KDP and the conversion will take place automatically for you. This means that as long as you did it correctly for the paperback the ebook should be fine. Smashwords, however (which you should definitely use) has their own formatting procedures which are perhaps a little more difficult to nail down correctly (things like hyperlinks within the text and specific formatting methods for the Table of Contents, front matter, back matter, etc.) the end result is actually a more powerful book and one that is available on more platforms. While some people don’t bother with Smashwords because of the added difficulty and the fact that the sales via Smashwords pale in comparison to Amazon, it is worth it for a variety of other reasons. Smashwords pushes the book to Kobo, iBooks, B&N, and bunch of other places where users shop; the primary reason I like it, though, is the ease of setting up coupons to give discounts or free copies to people like reviewers, press, con attendees, etc. Smashwords and other specific ebook hosting/publishing outlets will have their own specific guidelines on how to format, prepare, and submit files.

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Review: Kinglet

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I didn’t know anything about Donna Migliaccio (or her publisher, Fiery Seas Publishing) or The Gemeta Stone books that she writes. I stumbled on them quite accidentally while chatting about nonrelated items on a forum over at Absolute Write and Migliaccio was kind enough to send me a review copy for my Inside the Inkwell blog.

Comparatively speaking it felt like a splendid mix of RA Salvatore and Christopher Paolini. Whereas Salvatore can read stylistically like a fantasy version of Stephen King (for all the pros and cons there) Paolini can sometimes keep on point and keep it short—perhaps to a fault. Migliaccio’s writing is a good mix and keeps the story moving nicely but the worldbuilding feels more smooth and established, like Salvatore.

It had some elements that give it a YA feel, but also some that seemed more like it targeted a mainstream market; by that I mean there is a kind of coming of age in the characters as they discover their inner strengths and overcome Daazna (who is a real jerk—so that’s a good bit of characterization by the author.) That said, general lovers of fantasy would be a good fit for Kinglet and the upcoming sequel in the Gemeta Stone series.

Click here to get a copy of Kinglet for yourself!

Review: Sparkle

sparkleI recently read Sparkle by Arin Kambitsis at his request for a review on my blog. I might’ve mostly said yes because I thought his name was cool (and I first read it in my mind as Eren—the main character from Attack on Titan.) Anyways, I’m glad I read it (the author shot me a free review copy).

I thought Sparkle an odd name, but it made more sense once you start reading. Sparkle is the ironic name of the town where the story takes place. Similar to Arkham, MA or Twin Peaks, OR Sparkle is a normal place… up until it isn’t.

Derek’s quest to defeat the Bunyine (which is the great, mysterious evil of this book) begins with a journal and an adventure into the woods. He picks up a crew of other adventurers as the pages turn… after all, an old man in a cave once told us “It’s dangerous to go alone…”

The cryptic setting gave me a feeling like a modern day Dunwich Horror, although the antagonist is less force of cosmic horror and more voracious, calculating evil (like the creature from It.) The familial thread of the Windward family in the story kept reminding me of the Whatley’s from Lovecraft’s mythos… and that’s alright—it certainly adds an element of timeless mystery as the story unfolds across multiple storylines until the author begins crossing them over, making a braid out of individual threads.

The story is finely crafted and the writing is tight. It might be something like Clive Barker meets CS Lewis (specifically being a horrific kind of Narnia—the Bunyine’s origins are in a kind of para-biblical tale stemming from an Edenic creation story. Like Lewis, there are some moral implications we walk away pondering.) I recommend you hop on over to Amazon and pick up a copy for yourself!

You can find it by clicking here.

State of Writing

Lots of housework over the week, but I’m still editing and working on other projects including trying to wrap my head around the specifics of a click funnel (I’ll report on that once I’ve given it a try.)

An agent is still interested in my manuscript for my post-apoc story so I’m polishing it up more to make it the best it can be and I launched my Indie Author’s Bible over the weekend!

I do feel a little like life was tough last week. In addition to other struggles I broke a tooth while flossing. That’s a little like drowning in a drink while on the verge of dehydration. Crazy—I’m hoping I can finally get it fixed this week.

How to Do a Good Book Cover

Typesetter

Your book cover is your first impression—if you have any hope of selling the book to someone who doesn’t know you, it’s got to be a good one. People judge everything by appearance. They say to never judge a book by its cover (or anything else, for that matter,) but we do that all the time. You have one of two ways to respond: either change the way our culture things (which will take decades and a personal investment numbering in the billions of dollars) or you can play by the rules already set up by the internal psychology of consumers.

Let me just say a couple things about covers. Your cover is almost as important as what is inside the book—if you don’t have the talent to create an amazing cover, don’t fake it, skimp, or settle for something that doesn’t really pop. I waited almost 3 years to self-publish my nonfiction book because I wasn’t happy with any possible cover art pieces. Once I found what I’d always envisioned and made it happen that book became my bestseller. A cover is your first and foremost marketing tool, and most people do a crap job with it. I’m not mincing words here. Three quarters of all the Indie book submissions I receive for my review service have covers that are absolute garbage. (Just in case you want to ask about my qualifications on this matter, I’m loathe to admit that one of my early covers ended up on an award site for “bad covers.” I commissioned an artist to redo my cover with certain thematic elements and sales took off.)

You should know that there are some industry standards for covers that you ought to abide by. Most of these are touched on if you use the tools available in Createspace, but not all of them. For instance, Createspace and most other Indie presses will put a bar code on your cover graphic, but they will not automatically put the price next to that UPC code—some book buyers, services, and stores will not carry a book that does not have one (though many will) because it is considered an industry standard. Your cover artist will need to manually put that that onto your artwork if you want it included (just be warned that price changes won’t be reflected on your cover art and so you will need to keep your artwork current and change as necessary—which could incur charges depending on how you’ve set up your printing.

Below are the kinds of things on covers that make up absolute garbage (and have no visible appeal—or worse, make people want to avoid your book).

  • A tightly cropped image/extreme close-up meant to distract from the fact that an author couldn’t find/commission artwork that is relevant to a story… or an image resized with improper aspect ratio (making it squished)
    •Characters, faces, or CG images that look they come from a late 90s video game (or really anything meant for 3D but represented in 2D)
    •Bad fonts (I’m looking at you Papyrus)
    •No texture or depth to text overlays
    •Looks like it was assembled in MS Paint
    •Bad photo-manipulation
    •Unreadable and/or crowded text or improperly placed text
    •Bad image blending techniques (superimposed pieces look like a 1970s green screen, etc.)
    •Artwork that looks like it belongs on a refrigerator rather than a book cover (unless it’s a kids’ picture book)
    •Spelling errors
    •Design is either too simple or too complex (if a cover has just text on a blank background, or it suffers from too many inserted graphic elements or is too busy the book becomes unappealing—it’s the visual equivalent of a cover blurb that is either too long or too short)
    •Clashing art techniques (like a pencil drawing overlaid on a stock-image photo)
    •Rampant abuse of opacity/transparency overlays
    •…and my ultimate pet peeve that I see all the time: a stock scenery photo with text overlay (like seriously, this is about 40% of all the bad books that I see and accounts for most people who put zero effort into this critically important marketing tool.) The only real exceptions to this are poetry books and books about landscaping.

Some of the generally recognized industry standards that you should be aware of are
• Human readable BISAC code
• All text is easily readable at full size and as a thumbnail
• Spine includes author name, title, and publisher info
• Human readable ISBN on back cover
• Bar code on back cover with 13 digit ISBN

There are many services on the internet or individual freelancers willing to help with a book cover—but be sure to ask for examples of work before you commit money or enter into a contract for the work. There many other reputable services available online. For a DIY cover design, try to avoid the above list of bad cover elements if you are voyaging ahead with your copy of Photoshop or similar program. For a DIY designer, your biggest concern will be securing rights to quality artwork to merge into your greater cover design.

Review: The Muse

muse

The Muse, by Arjay Lewis is a weighty tome. The size and feel of it help give it a certain, desirable feel as I read through the book (so definitely spring for the paperback) that I normally get when holding a big, scary book (King, for example.)

While I found Lewis to be unlike King in many aspects (mainly, he didn’t wax eloquent for thousands of words as he digressed,) I had a very Dean Koontz vibe as I read The Muse. Maybe that’s because I’ve been watching old episodes of Twin Peaks and I got a distinct feeling of similar tropes from the second half of the original show (after Laura Palmer’s killer was found but a new serial killer was on the loose—the show turned down the weirdness factor, but it was still a paranormal detective thriller). If the first half was King and the second half was Koontz, The Muse certainly lands in the second half.

Lewis’s writing was tight and the book had a good flow and vibrant characters. The tension between Court and Trajan is palpable and their mutual hatred is felt. Godwine is relatable (especially as an author, the character’s profession—I’ve had the sort of dreams and experiences thrust upon Godwine, and so Lewis certainly writes what he knows and understands people will relate.)

As far as supernatural detective thrillers go, this story is more Fallen (the 1998 Denzel Washington movie) than it is Dresden. That said, I loved Fallen and I think you’ll like The Muse, pick it up asap!

I did get a copy of the book for free in exchange for a review. You can get a copy by clicking here.

State of Writing

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I set some big goals last week… and then smashed them. I edited like 45,000 words last week–lots of late nights but The Kakos Realm (book 3) Death Upon the Fields of Splendor is done with my revisions and will be heading to beta readers soon!

Not much for my goals this week after such a big one. I’m monkeying a little this week with Fear in a Land Without Shadows and hope to query another round to lit agents with it. I’ll maybe work on some outlines for future TKR books and the Hidden Rings of Myrddin the Cambion. The Kakos Realm has blown open on a Game of Thrones-like epic scale (in the second book the crew spread into diaspora and now there are multiple main storylines each affecting each other… time to compile the 50 or so pages of notes into something a little more streamlined for the next 4 books).

Indicators of Fake Writing Contests

Typesetter

Social media is a powerful tool. It can be a boon to those with something to advertise, which can prove beneficial to savy Indies who use that route to market their books. It can also be a way for predators to hoodwink authors into really bad deals. While there are no end to the “classes,” “publishers,” and “author services” that will pop up in your feeds because of targeted marketing, you will also see a number of “writing contests” promising you the world as long as you submit right away (like, before you have time to research the contest and learn more.)

Many of the contests that I see listed as “sponsored posts” on Facebook (advertisements) are total shams. Take from me, a guy who’s been suckered by a couple of them when I went through a “let’s enter a bunch of contests” phase, a bunch of them have some pretty bad crap in the Terms of Service/small print. For example, one such contest reserved the electronic print rights of ALL submissions for YEARS. Before you enter any contest, make sure you look under the hood and do your due diligence on the program itself.

Here are some signs that the contest you are thinking about entering bears further investigation:

  1. Its name is very close to a more well-known contest
  2. You have to purchase additional author packages (or it is strongly suggested) for services of any kind or copies of your own work (like anthologies)
  3. Contest’s page is listed in Google as a possible scam, or has negative marks in Predators and Editors/Writer’s Beware (http://pred-ed.com/) or Winning Writers (https://winningwriters.com/the-best-free-literary-contests/contests-to-avoid)
  4. Low standards (everyone gets in) and/or the contest is popularity based (measured by the amount of clicks/traffic a story produces)
  5. Contest is free but writers must pay high prices to purchase personal copies
  6. Unusually high promised prize money
  7. Contest hosts are unusually slow to respond or don’t respond at all to questions
  8. It is hard to find info on past winners
  9. Contest judges have fishy or no qualifications
  10. Winners or “qualified entrants” are promised entry into a an anthology (and the word limit is very low)
  11. The “prize” is something that will actually cost money or is intangible (like agency representation from a company with no real credentials)
  12. Top prizes are only awarded if you pay to attend a conference or convention to receive it
  13. Published bio or extra info in an anthology alongside your work costs additional monies
  14. You feel a contest representative is trying to coerce you for any reason
  15. They try and sell you a “publishing package” or state that such a package is worth $XYZ in prize money
  16. You give up any kind rights for submitting (not necessarily for publishing, which is a later step)
  17. You have to subscribe to anything to enter/a subscription is included in the entry cost
  18. The contest is sponsored by a publisher that turns up scam warnings with a quick web search
  19. The publisher heaps unnecessary praise on your submission
  20. The contest was advertised in a venue unrelated to publishing (Facebook, newspaper, popup ad, etc.)

 

Review: Chimera Catalyst

51n51c5N2HLPerhaps the best part of Chimera Catalyst is Susan Kuchinskas’s world building. The scope of the environment is pretty quickly summed up in the early pages of the book when we find the protagonist in a kind of genetic pawn shop where strands of DNA can be bought and sold. I kind of got a Repo Men vibe, only nowhere near so graphic… but the concept is intriguing—like Minecraft meets genetics. In the midst of all the advanced science and tech the world is very relatable and familiar as our hero searches for Miraluna Rose. In all honesty, it felt a little like futuristic Magnum PI in all the right ways as Finder embarks on a quest for the troubled girl, checking in with some contacts on the shady side of the law.

The story isn’t as raw and noir as the “Detective Miller” plot arc from the Expanse, but the book evoked similar themes of a future missing persons case in a relatable world of high technology and corporate greed. Perhaps unlike the Expanse and Repo Men there’s an internal dialogue that allows itself to dwell on humor for moments—even if it’s dark humor. That monologue helps keep the story from flinging itself into the darkness and keeps the tone from becoming dreary—it gives the narrative a kind of unique voice as well and does it without making light of an increasingly complicated case.

I’d recommend this book for readers who like Crime/detective stories and want to try something with a futuristic flair or want to add a dash of SF to their normal hard-boiled thrillers. While it’s not Minority Report or Bladerunner (Philip K Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,) this is certainly a 5 star book that deserves a place on the bookshelf near such iconic titles.

You can check out the book by clicking here.

I did receive a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

State of Writing

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I hope for two chapters in my TKR3 revisions–I actually got 3 of them done and I’m very optimistic that I’ll be done on time (before Oct) so I can get it to Betas asap. On top of that I also got the Indie Author’s Bible proof into editing, scheduled some new events (which are always posted to my Amazon Author’s Profile under the events calendar), and got my main website redesigned. If you haven’t seen it, go take a look!

Hopefully I can get another two chapters completed this week and stay on course or even get ahead of schedule!