Finishing your book is a great accomplishment. How many times have you heard people say they’d like to write a book one day––but for most, that one day never happens. So if you’ve written the words The End, you owe it to yourself to get it out to the public. Looking for agents and publishers can be daunting, but there is no better feeling than to finally receive that contract. Don’t sell yourself short––go for the gold and don’t give up.
That being said, I have one caveat. When you think your book is done and you’re ready to send out queries, that’s when you start over. Go through the entire manuscript. Delete sections and lines that don’t move your story along. You’ve worked hard and written such fabulous words––it’s hard to dump them, but trust me on this one. Now it’s time to keep your target audience in mind. As great as your writing is, saying too much is the kiss of death. I believe that the best authors paint a picture in the minds of their audience just enough to spark the readers imagination to fill in the gaps. That way, the story becomes a more personal experience for each person.
So dump the fluff, and then, as my fabulous critique group leader Barbara Conner once told me, weave golden threads throughout the manuscript. The first book is a milestone and you’re anxious to let the world see your masterpiece, but don’t jump the gun. When I finally completed my first draft, I thought I was done, but I had really only completed what I now call the “mind dumping” stage. For the next year, my manuscript evolved––but the end result was far better! Critique groups are invaluable and I recommend them to all writers––especially newbies.
Once again, my deepest thanks to Ross Murphy and Aberdeen Bay for these essential tips.
Formatting Foes continued:
13). Designating chapter breaks, page breaks and section breaks. If you insert page breaks into your Word document (Insert: Break: [choose one]), the PDF and .RTF versions will honor them, but these commands will be lost in most other formats, which strip page breaks and section breaks. Loss of page breaks is okay in an ebook, because you can’t predict the font size or screen size the reader is using, and you want to have continuous re-flowable text anyway. The worst thing that will happen is paragraphs may become artificially close or too separated.
If you use paragraph breaks, be sure to enter a paragraph return or two before and after the break so that when the break disappears in some formats, your paragraphs don’t smash together.
Remove all section breaks from your document. For some reason, they create unnecessary blank space in your ebook.
If you want to separate chapters, insert a consistent number of paragraph returns (maybe three or four), or use a combination of a couple paragraph returns, followed by centered text characters such as “~~~~” or “* * * *” followed by a couple more paragraph returns and possibly chapter headings if you have them. Do not use solid separator bars.
The general rule for formatting is “simpler is better.” DO NOT use a long series (more than four or five) of paragraph returns anywhere in your book to try to arrange words on a page, or to designate page breaks, because not only will this cause your book to be rejected from the Premium Catalogue, it’ll also create a lot of awful looking blank space in your ebook.
14). Working with Images. If you have images, they should be embedded in your Word file, usually via the Insert: Picture File option. If the images are critical to your book, then when you publish your book uncheck the checkbox option for “Plain Text” because photos and charts don’t translate into plain text. If the images are a nice-to-have but not a need-to-have, then go ahead an allow the Plain Text option.
Do not use floating images (If you can click on the image and drag it, it’s floating) because your image may appear in unpredictable places after the conversion.
We’ve also found that images work best if you keep them small. If your current image runs the length of a 6 inch wide page, it may not display properly on the smaller screens of some ereading devices. Restrict images to widths of 500 pixels. Before you import images into your manuscript, use a photo editing tool such as Photoshop or a free utility such as Picasa by Google at http://picasa.google.com, to reduce the dimensions and file size.
15). Text justification. I’ve found that text converts most cleanly if it’s all left justified. Centered text works well, especially for your title and copyright page. I don’t recommend using Word’s “Justify” command, which attempts to spread your words evenly from margin to margin without leaving spaces at the end of each line. The PDF conversion can sometimes look odd for justified text. If you love justified text, then go ahead and try it – the results may still be acceptable to you.
17). Style formatting and symbols. Italics, underlines, strikethroughs and symbols (such as é î ® © Ω ∑) translate moderately well into most formats.
18). Headers and footers. These generally remain in the PDF and RTF versions but disappear in the other versions. We recommend you remove headers and footers. Definitely remove auto-page numbering because it can trigger a text-box error.
19). Margins. Try to format your book to adhere to Word’s standard margins for printing, otherwise your PDF and RTF files won’t print well or present well on screen. Authors often ask if they should format for American-style pages (8.5 X11 inch) or A9. About 60% of eReader customers are American, so it’s really up to you.
Front Matter (Important!!!)
Front matter is stuff that goes on the first and second page of your book.
Caution: This step not required for inclusion in the Premium Catalog. In fact, there’s a potential downside to this step. If you add too much testimonial content to the front of your book, it can actually decrease readership because the reader doesn’t want to have to flip multiple pages to start reading.
Most authors who add blurbs put them at the very front of the book, before the Title & Copyright page (see below). If your book has received rave reviews from readers, consider adding a couple short snippets on the first page, so readers who sample your book will feel more inclined to purchase it. These should be real, honest reviews.
The End of Your Book
Most authors end their book with a period, and then give the reader nothing more. Don’t squander this opportunity. If your reader makes it to the end of the book, reward them! First, add a ### centered on the next line to signify the end.
Consider adding a personal message. Put yourself into the mind of the reader. They just finished your book. They loved it. They want to read more of your material. This is an opportunity to connect with the reader.
So that’s it. If you want to know more about ebooks, listen to the video above. Good luck and happy writing!!