5 Days to a Self-Published Book: Day 2 P.M.

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Just so you know, this will be a whole lot easier if you drink at least one double espresso before proceeding.

This morning was a big bag of fun, wasn’t it? (If by ‘fun’ you mean complete and utter nightmare.) Now that you are so confident your book has no errors in it whatsoever, so much so that you’d be willing to stake your personally inscribed photograph of NASA Astronaut and STS-120 crew member Dan Tani on it (or something, you know, you love a lot), we can proceed with formatting.

The bad news is that this isn’t much fun either.

The good news is that it’s the last not-much-fun thing we have to do.

(Kinda.)

1. DO YOUR HOMEWORK

I have been a constant reader since the day I learned to read, but I never really paid attention to how the books were laid out. I didn’t have to. So when it came to things like margins, justification, fonts and copyright notices (and the hundred other things you have to consider) I wasn’t sure what to do. Not off the top of my head, anyway. So I pulled a few of my favorite books – similar in size to mine – off the shelves and studied them. What was on the very first page? How were new chapters headed? Did the Acknowledgements go right at the back, or on the page after ‘THE END’? Take note of all this, because you’re going to need to know.

2. SIZE DOES MATTER

Here comes your first big decision: pick a size for your book.

The most popular size in the world of POD seems to be 6 x 9. I ordered my first Let’s See What This Is Like proof in that size and I didn’t like it at all; it was thin, as floppy as a copybook and screamed ‘self-published’. For Mousetrapped, I settled on 5.5 x 8.5 and at 232 pages, it looks and feels like a ‘proper’ book.

Now here’s a tip: regardless of who you’re POD-ing with (why does that sound like a bodily function?), you can download a MS Word template for the interior of your book from Lulu.com. You could do it  yourself, but why bother? Every odd page has different margins to every even, and the page numbers are already inserted. Just make sure you choose the right size.

3. FONTABULOUS

Now is not the time to profess your love for Mistral, Brush Script or that font you designed yourself based on scans of your own handwriting. Stick to something simple. I used 12pt Book Antiqua because it reads well, looks good and I’ve seen it used in actual, proper books. Before you pick a font check what it looks like in italics (if you’ve used them in your book) and make sure you get the size right – a font that’s too big is just as bad as one that’s too small.

NB: Everything in the book but titles and your copyright notice should be the same size. (Titles bigger, copyright smaller). Cohesiveness is key. Don’t lose the run of yourself, as my dad would say.

4. FANTABULOUS

Copy and paste your (pristine!) text into this new document, change the font to the type and size you’ve decided on and justify all text. If you’re like me, you will now have to spend several hours of your life removing the tabs you used to indent your paragraph. Instead, we’re going to use the ‘indent first line’ feature of MS Word and we’re going to do this for three reasons:

  1. It’s the ONLY WAY to guarantee all your paragraph indent are exactly the same size.
  2. The conversion to PDF works better without tabs.
  3. When you go to convert this document to an e-book format, you’ll thank your lucky stars you took this advice.

5. A CHAPTER IS BORN

Use something simple but effective to delineate the start of a new chapter. Here’s what I did:

  1. Start each new chapter on an odd page (the page that’s on your right as you hold the book).
  2. Press return until you’re approximately 1/4 down the page (check the ruler to see exact position).
  3. Type chapter number in words (i.e. ‘One’) in 12 pt italics. Press return.
  4. Type the name of the chapter (i.e. Arrival) in 14 pt bold, all caps. Press return twice.
  5. Start your chapter.

6. FIRST IMPRESSIONS COUNT

What goes on the first page of a book? Sometimes it might just be a title, sometimes it’s praise, sometimes it’s the ‘About the Author.’ As Michiko Kakutani has – inexplicably – yet to review my book, I decided to go with the author bit. I wrote a short but pithy paragraph (if I do say so myself) and put my website underneath in bold.

NB: Remove the page number from the first page. (You can do this by clicking the ‘Different Front Page’ option in your Header/Footer properties.) Having a number ‘1’ on the first page is just so uncouth, daaarling.

7. THE STUFF AT THE START(Sorry, couldn’t come up with anything for that)

Books don’t just start, you know. You don’t flip open the cover to be met with the prologue – a quick flick through some proper books will show you that. What you absolutely have to have is a copyright notice and a title page; whatever else goes in is up to you. (But again, don’t lose the run of yourself.) Here’s what I did:

About the Author (#1)

Copyright Notice (#2)

The Title Page (#3) – [Full title with author]

Table of Contents (#5)

2nd Title Page (#7) – [Just ‘Mousetrapped’]

Prologue (#9)

Part I Title (#11)

Chapter Headings and General Layout (#13, etc.)

Click here to see the first 13 pages of Mousetrapped exactly as they appear in the book.

8. THE JUNK IN THE TRUNK

The back of your book needs some thought too – typing ‘THE END’ and then having nothing but a cover to close is a wasted opportunity, at the very least. Imagine you are the reader and you get to the end of (what I hope) is an enjoyable book that piques your interest in both the author and the subject matter. Don’t you want to give them something more?

In Mousetrapped, ‘THE END’ appears on page 277. Then we have:

Further Reading (#228)

A list of books divided into topics (Walt Disney World, Disney’s Town of Celebration, NASA and the Apollo Program, Central Florida in Fiction, Working Abroad, etc.) that were touched on in the book that the reader might be interested in.

Information Page (#229)

Some basic information about the recruitment company/visa program that I went to Orlando on.

Sane Person’s Guide (#230)

Originally, Mousetrapped had a little appendix at the back called The Sane Person’s Guide to Walt Disney World. Now I offer this as a free e-book download from my website. This page has a little blurb about it and instructions on where to download. (And you know what else it does? It tricks people into coming to my website. Take note.)

Acknowledgements (#231 and #232)

The people you have to thank so they don’t get mad at you.

Now all that’s left to do is print it out. Createspace will print your pages exactly – EXACTLY – as you submit them, so any mistakes will be yours. Ideally, you’d print out the whole book but as this may not make economical (or environmental) sense, I’d recommend printing out everything at the beginning, everything at the back and at least a chapter’s worth of the bit in the middle. How do the pages look? Cut the page to size and slip it into a proper book to see how it compares. Are all the chapter headings at the same level on the page? Are the page numbers in the table of contents correct? Does it look like a real book?

Once you’re perfectly happy that it looks as good as it can, save the document and put it somewhere safe. (We can’t convert to PDF until we get our ISBN, which we’ll be doing on Thursday.) Now tonight, in between your dreams of being stranded on a desert island with Matthew Fox and your dreams of  being stranded on a desert island with John Mayer (No? Just me?), start thinking about your cover design. What do you want on it? How are you going to put it there? Which picture of you least resembles a troll?

You need to think about all this because tomorrow, we’re going to make it.

Read the next post in the series, Day 3: A Cover Story.

Read all my self-printing posts or read about the book I’m self-printing.

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2 thoughts on “5 Days to a Self-Published Book: Day 2 P.M.

  1. Tracy Johnson (@LastTangoBook) says:

    ive been at this four hours now and am still stuck on the pristine text downloaded into the format (downloaded from CS). Ive got these odd chunks of white space between text with no reason – at least there are no symbols showing hidden icky stuff. About to give up as I cant find anywhere to Google WHY this is happening

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