An author interview of Harry James Fox was published on Penny De Byl's site. She did it in a clever and a bit crazy way. Click the coffee cup to read the whole thing. This is an example of ways that an author can use to build a web presence. This is very important in marketing published books. The main problem an "indie" or independently published author faces is to be discovered by the readers. There are literally millions of books on the internet, which forces an author to work as hard publicizing the book as in writing it in the first place. Otherwise, the new book will simply be lost in the crowd.
Microsoft Word is the word processor of choice for writing your manuscript. Most of us learned how to use Word by opening it and typing away. Unfortunately, some of us picked up some bad habits that will come back to haunt us when we prepare our manuscript for publication. It is not enough to have a document that looks good in Word, because there are plenty of wrong ways to get that appearance. Some of these wrong ways will have to be fixed, and it is much easier to avoid them in the first place. Here are some of the most common errors and a few suggestions:
1. Putting two spaces after a period. I was taught to do this in typing class. It made sense on a typewriter, since that was the only way to adjust spacing. This is a problem when the book is formatted for publication. All of those double spaces will have to be removed, so don’t put them in.
2. Indenting a paragraph using a tab or the space bar. Don’t use tabs. They mess up the formatting and using spaces is just as bad. They will all have to be removed, and this is a tedious job. So how do you set the paragraph indents? The correct way is to go to the “paragraph” bar (in the top middle of the page when the “home” tab is selected). Click on the little arrow in the bottom right, and a dialog box will open that says, “Paragraph.” The second item is “Indentation.” On the right, you will see an item called “Special.” Select below that and you will see two options. Select “First Line” and set the paragraph indentation to 0.5”. Now your paragraph indentation will automatically be set for you, and this will make it easy to format your book. Actually, an even better way is to set a style for your “Normal” paragraph in the “Styles” section, but I will discuss this in a more advanced tip.
3. Using extra paragraph returns to adjust spacing. The best way to format is to use paragraph returns only at the end of a paragraph. OK, if you are writing poetry, a paragraph return is fine at the end of each line. Otherwise, don’t use them. So how do you get white space without using paragraph returns? Again, open the “Paragraph” dialog box like I explained above. This time go down to the “Spacing” section and you will have the option of putting white space before and after your paragraph. But note that if you are using paragraph indents to set off a paragraph, you do not want extra space between paragraphs. Use one or the other but not both. If you want block paragraphs, then don’t indent and use space to delineate the end of a paragraph. For block paragraphs, set the space after to 6pt.
4. Should paragraphs be double-spaced? For review drafts, double-spacing is good, since it lets the reviewers have white space to make editing easier. In hard copy, changes can be written between the lines. It is easy to change the spacing to single-space for the final draft when it is ready for publication. If you are using paragraph styles, this can be fixed for the entire document with a change in the style definition. If you aren’t using styles (and you should be), and you want block paragraphs, then I recommend that even for double-spaced paragraphs you set the spacing between paragraphs at 6pt, so you won’t have to laboriously change each one for the final draft.
5. Centering Items. Never center items with tabs or the space bar. All of these will have to be removed. Use styles to center, or use the “Center” function. The “Center” function can be found in the middle of the “Home” bar and looks like a stack of symmetrical lines. It is the second one from the left.
6. Full Justification. Do not use the function for “Full Justification” when writing the manuscript. Final formatting can do this and do it easier. The reason for this is that full justification will not work well when you are formatting for the Kindle or Nook. Formatting for print books does look much better if the text is justified on the left and right margins, to be sure. If you have to use Word for this purpose, you can then turn on “Full Justification” as a last step, but it is far better to use a professional program like InDesign for the final formatting. This is the program that we use at Foxware Publishing.
7. Use “smart quotes.” Smart quotes look much more professional than the alternative. Fortunately, they are easy to add as you type. Word will do this automatically for you. To turn on “smart quotes,” go to the big circle icon at the upper left corner of the top bar and click on it. At the bottom of the dialog box that pops up you should see a button that says “Word Options.” Click on that and a second box will appear. Select “Proofing” in the left column and yet another box will display. Select the button that says “AutoCorrect Options.” The final box has tabs at the top, so select “AutoFormat As You Type.” There will be a number of options that you can check. I recommend that you leave most blank, but definitely put a check in the box “Replace as you type: ‘Straight Quotes’ with ‘Smart Quotes.’” Close all the boxes by clicking “OK,” and you are done. Now when you type, your quotation marks will be much smarter.
8. Turn on hidden characters. You may not want to do this when writing your manuscript, but when editing, you definitely want to turn on hidden characters. There is a button at the top center that looks like the Greek letter Π with a black half-circle to the top left. When you press the button, your spaces, paragraph returns and other hidden characters will become visible. This allows you to eliminate the ones that are not needed. If you committed any of the formatting errors mentioned above, they will become blindingly obvious.
Let's talk about the size of your manuscript that you want to publish. The average novel is about 80,000 words long. There is a school of thought that this is probably too long for an eBook, and that it is better to break that same novel into two 40,000-word works and start a series. That is certainly something to consider, even though there is evidence that readers actually prefer longer reads. Should you decide to go larger, the nice thing is that longer eBooks cost no more to produce than short eBooks.
But what about printed, paper-and-ink books? Do the same rules apply? Again, many readers would consider 40,000 words to be a novella and not a full-length novel. Don't let that discourage you, if you feel you have told your story in 40,000 words. But what if your novel demands a much longer platform to tell the entire story? The nice thing about self-publishing is that you don't have to be constrained by someone else's decision on this. If you want to go to 150,000 words, you certainly can. It appears that in the world of print books, a bit longer work is certainly fine, and many prefer it.
But there are advantages to making sure that your book is as tightly written as possible. One of the most difficult thing that any writer faces is to cut out some nicely-written prose. But if that prose does not really advance the plot, then it is slowing and possibly frustrating the reader. A bloated book, like a bloated body, is not healthy. This is where a good editor can be valuable. Often a tightly-edited work is a great improvement over the writer's wordy first draft.
Another consideration is printing costs. A shorter book is cheaper to print. Each page costs money. I think a good rule of thumb is $5.00. We use Snowfall Press as our print-on-demand printer. A $5.00 (print cost) book in 6 X 9 inch format is a book of about 375 pages. This is a good size to shoot for. Admittedly, some books demand more room than that. It is possible to squeeze the margins, fonts and spacing to get more words on a page at the cost of readability. But there are limits, and a longer book may mean paying more than the ideal upper limit of $5.00.
But if you decide to set your print book on sale at Amazon for, say, $9.99, by the time you pay for Amazon's fees, packing costs and shipping costs, the difference between a $5.00 book and a $6.00 book is significant. It might mean the difference between a profit of $1.00 and almost breaking even.
The other thing to consider is shipping costs. Mailing the book using media mail is the cheapest way to go, but it is slow and if the book gets lost in the mail, or the customer claims that the book was never received, you will have no recourse but to mail out another copy. If the book takes a long time to arrive, readers might complain. First class mail is much faster and better, but the costs go up significantly if the weight of the book plus packaging weighs more than 13 ounces. The 375-page book will probably fit within that weight. A 500-page book won't. Again, these extra shipping costs are coming out of your pocket.
So, in a lot of ways, smaller is better, as long as you have created a work worthy of the reader's time and money.
A new website that offers a convenient link to eBooks for the Kindle is found here: http://bookcage.com/
It has a page that lists free Christian eBooks: http://bookcage.com/free-christian-ebooks/
This is an easy way to find eBooks of all kinds. There are several easy search features to help find the book that is right for you.