I’ve been re-reading a lot of books, specifically literary classics. As I think about my next project, I’ve also thought about my previous works, noticing the things I did wrong and that I’d like to improve on this time around. That’s what I like about Self-Publishing, with every new book there is something different that I discover (for better and for worse). This time around, I’ve been paying more attention to the interior layout and formatting of my books; how to do so properly for eBook and for paperback.
I stood in front of my bookshelf and stared at the books. I went to another book shelf and stared at it. I went back to my bedroom (since my favorites are in the bedroom) and took a handful of books and scattered them on the bed. It hit me: Here is all the research I need to help properly format my books. I discovered in that moment that books can help Indie Authors in more ways than one. Obviously, reading them. Here are five more:
- Book Cover Design
Probably the most obvious is Book Cover Design. Reading books can help Indie Authors to study the graphics of Best Selling books and how the design help to interpret what the story is about. Because I am not a graphic designer, I may not understand typography and all the important elements that should go into a Book Cover. True, I can pay someone to do this for me. However, if I am on a budget and therefore purchasing a premade cover, it’s important for me to understand how the colors and text all come together. Premades aren’t as easy to choose as they may seem since the author must choose one that will accurately represent the book.
- Front Matter
One of the primary things I’ve been paying attention to is the front matter. This is the first few pages of the book before the first Chapter (or before the Prologue). It’s the title page, copyright page, dedication page, acknowledgement, forward, preface, introduction, and so forth. Looking at how professional quality books format their Front Matters has helped me to understand the foundation to how it is to be done. I can see where the ISBN Number is, how the wording of the Copyright Notice is set up, and the credits to the editor, co-author, or illustrator. I can also notice that the Front Matter is not numbered or is numbered differently than the book Chapters. Either there are no page numbers or there are Roman Numerals instead.
- Paragraph Structure
Another huge aspect of formatting for me with this next book is improving my paragraph structure. If you would take the time to browse the books on your shelf (yes, do it now. This article will still be open when you get back. Unless your computer isn’t charged and it dies but you get the point. To the bookshelf you go) you’ll see how the paragraphs are lined up. Further, they are different for the kind of book. Young Adult books for very young adults (starting at maybe pre-teen) have text that is larger than general adult fiction books. They also have more space between them. This makes it easier to read. On the other hand, books that are harder to read or are for older audiences have text that has less space and are closer together. How does this help the author? We want our books to be appropriate for the grade level to which it is meant for. A children’s book is going to have big text and lots of space but as we go up in grade level or age, then the text becomes smaller and less spaced.
- Page Numbers
Another tidbit we can pick up from looking over the books we already own is the page numbering. While I add page numbers to my books Chronologically (because the order isn’t that important to me, just as long as its numbered), I’ve noticed that some books (most of the ones that are Traditionally Published and that I grew up with), are numbered in a certain order: The “even” numbered page is on the left-hand page and the “odd numbered page is on the right-hand page. I don’t know why as this style of page numbering isn’t very important to me, but it can come in handy for those who’d like to mimic this style.
- Back Matter
Finally, books can help Self-Publishers to see how to properly format the back cover of their books. Maybe you’d like your picture in the corner with a brief bio or maybe you want it all blurb. If you don’t have a professional Book Cover Designer already, you can easily mimic a professional looking back book cover layout for your print books just by taking the time to browse your book shelves. This can even be done on the Spine. Have a Publishing Company behind your books? Maybe you can add your logo to the spine or on the back so it looks like “Your Awesome Publishing Company Name Inc.”
And now for my 2 cents….Be Inspired
What I find so inspirational about Malcolm X, is that he was what I like to call an uneducated smart man. He didn’t start out as what people considered an expert but rather a criminal. Someone who robbed banks and snorted coke. The point is that he wasn’t someone you looked up to or came to for knowledge on a skill aside from running numbers. Yet, he became someone who spoke to and inspired millions of people. What I’m saying is that it is not who he was, it is who he became. By reading books and studying history his voice alone commanded the attention of thousands. I believe Indie Authors can do the same. Don’t underestimate yourself. Anyone can follow a trend or rehash the same kind of advice but until you’re willing to step outside the box and be different, until your are willing to do something beyond what you’ve never mastered, you will never grow.