10 things I have learned whilst formatting a book in MS Word

  1. Apparently, if you’re going to be making changes to your book after formatting, MS Word is your best choice as it’s easier to edit content. That, and InDesign is just scary if you don’t know how to use it at all, really – so what hope would one have when it comes to formatting a whole novel?
  2. You’ll probably start with a font size which will make your book seem shorter. But then you’ll change the page size, line spacing and margins, and suddenly your book will seem longer. Much longer. Not good if you’re self publishing and more pages=less profit.
  3. It is surprising how bookish your book will look with only the things mentioned in (2) formatted. Because yes, surprisingly, there is more. Once you do get to the ‘more’ part, MS Word will start to seem like a living, thinking thing that does illogical things just to annoy you. This sense of working with a living, thinking thing will not deter you from insulting it frequently with all kinds of profanities, however, and you will feel no guilt in doing so.
  4. If you’re a first time self-publisher and have no experience in publishing, well, anything, you’ll inevitably have to refer to other (more traditionally published) novels to figure out what yours should look like. This is useful, and you should do it. Pick one book you like the look of and use it as a point of reference. Preferably something from your genre. After all, you don’t want your crime-thriller looking like erotic fiction (though if it’s all about tension anyway, what’s really the difference?).
  5. Referring back to point (3). You will format, you will think you are done, and then you will notice something that isn’t as it should be. For example, paragraphs breaking on the next page, thus giving you uneven line-to-page frequency. (Tip: if you have this problem, uncheck window/orphan control in format/paragraph for the whole document to fill your pages completely with lots of lovely prose). There will be other things, but at least you will feel accomplished when you fix them.
  6. Even if you do the above and check off window/orphan control, if you have inserted chapter dividers that look fancy, this will knock off your layout on your lovely new-chapter pages. Still trying to figure out how to fix that one without simply changing the font size of the empty line above said fancy chapter dividers (because, somehow, that seems crude).
  7. Headers and footers are important – format them well! Choose ‘different odd/even pages’ and make sure you mirror your margins through format/document. This does something else to make it look more bookish. From looking at various books I have determined that authors usually have their name on the even page and the title of the book on the odd page.
  8. Inserting Section Breaks is an absolute nightmare. Seriously, first you figure out that you’re supposed to inset a Section Break relative to whether it’s an odd page or an even page, then you figure out how to get the page numbers to start at ‘1’ on the fourth actual page, and then you realise through exporting to PDF that each new Section Break has skipped a page number and thus created a ‘phantom page’ with nothing on it before every chapter in your document. Huzzah.
  9. Confident in all the abilities you have learned (as listed above), you calmly go through the document to rectify the problem, only to have one Section Break change reset all the others into a paradoxical chaos of wrong numbers and jumps and gaps where your book is suddenly longer or shorter than it actually is (but not really, hence the number-paradox).
  10. You fix the above (9) without screwing everything else up. But you’re still editing or there’s a few things left to change. You now wish you had finished the final draft before even attempting formatting, because you’re terrified the slightest change might destroy everything you’ve worked so hard to achieve. Who knows? Maybe a paragraph more or less will confuse everything and you’ll be stuck undoing everything you’ve done in order to redo it properly. Let’s hope not.

The Future King: Logres – book cover release!

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The Future King: Logres is due to be released in October of this year. Keep checking back for teasers and confirmation of a release date.

So today I am finally ready to post up the above design. This is my novel, this is my my book cover: this is what it looks like. It’s simple, it’s clean, and it’s a great start to the look and feel of the rest of the series.

The name of the series, The Future King, is born from the promise of King Arthur’s messianic return to save the country despite his downfall at the end of the original legends. Logres is the scene in which this second coming is set: the secondary school at which fifteen-year-old Gwenhwyfar Taliesin starts after moving from Swansea with her affluent parents. It is 2052, and the gap between rich and poor has never been wider. Immigrants are persecuted and dubbed ‘illegals’ while day-to-day life is becoming increasingly monitored: just another year under George Milton and his ruling party, New National.

Things are going well for the release of The Future King: Logres – the book has been fully formatted and I am just perfecting my final draft. It will then be sent off to my proof-readers (very kind friends and family who don’t mind checking for errors). I’m greatly looking forward to seeing Logres printed and in final book format – my full book design is waiting patiently in photoshop as a psd file for my confirmed spine width. Then I just need to write a blurb.

Feel free to let me know what you think of the chosen design if you’d like to leave a comment. It’s back to editing, here, but keep checking back for more news, updates and teasers in the weeks to come!

10 things I have learned whilst making a book cover

  1. Pre-existing book covers are your friend. Look at them, examine them and focus on studying books in your genre, but don’t be too disappointed if your self-publishing platform doesn’t support the trim size you inevitably fall in love with as a result (five by seven, five by seven!).
  2. Make sure the cover correlates with the interior feel of the actual novel (and then dance about celebrating your own brilliance when you think of something that looks really cool).
  3. Having twenty layers live at once in Photoshop will destroy your computer. No, really. The fan on mine has just… died, or something.
  4. After spending four hours trying to align font at the bottom of your page to font at the top of your page, your eyes will go funny and everything will look wonky anyway.
  5. The longer you stare at the block colour red, the more it begins to look like some whacky gradient.
  6. Apparently due to variations in book binding the artwork for the cover will sometimes end up on the spine, and spine on the cover. You will be advised to avoid sharp lines and complex patterns, so naturally use them anyway.
  7. You should (and probably will) print out your book cover and wrap it around some other less important novel just to see what it looks like on a bookshelf (mighty good, I tell you).
  8. An actual, real life plastic ruler can be very helpful when determining layout spacing on your screen for the less technically gifted of us.
  9. Asking (non-graphic designery) people their opinion on your artwork can be confusing. Just focus on the things they agree on, and ignore anything they don’t.
  10. Making a book on a template before you have your final page count is just asking for trouble. You think you’re finished, then a last-minute cut adds or subtracts a page or two. New spine thickness, new document! Yeah!

What I’ve been up to

Today has been busy. Impatient to get some idea of what my book might look like once it is finished, I have been fiddling about with formatting in MS Word. With no clue where or what to start with, I found a very helpful website (http://www.diybookformats.com/mswordtemplates/) and have managed to set my margins, my paper size, choose a font, and even make chapter dividers in photoshop which match the feel of my draft design for my book cover. Being an arty person, I am very excited by this small achievement (it looks really cool).

Less encouraging is my page count. Yes, I know my final draft is not yet done, and having carved through about fifty pages today I am fairly certain that it will end up being about 20 A4 pages shorter than it is now. In my new layout however, the book as it is (140,000 words) is close to six-hundred (5.25 x 8) pages. I had assumed that publishing your own book might give you greater freedom concerning word count, but after doing Amazon’s royalty calculator I have discovered that my novel would cost me 50p per book to print in the UK. Not the 30-70% royalties I had in mind!

Before settling on the decision to self-publish I did approach the crowdsourcing website, Unbound. Set up by writers Dan Kieran, Justin Pollard and John Mitchinson, Unbound purports to let the readers decide which books get published through a process in which authors present pitches on Unbound’s website. These pitches then receive pledges (payments) from future readers. Only the pitches that reach their target (of about £15,000 from what I can tell from their FAQs [please do correct me if I am wrong]) get published.

It sounded perfect. But, of course, to avoid being swamped by endless pitches, Unbound do have a submissions process. Great for the works that make it through, but that means those works have (ironically) been chosen by the publisher. There is an eight-week wait to get to the top of the slush pile, so percentage-wise not many submissions seem to make it past the selection process (my pitch was one of them). Basically Unbound seems to be a publisher with the best of both worlds – no upfront costs to publish their chosen author’s works, because the readers (may or may not) cover that for them.

Crowd-funding in publishing still seems to be relatively new, and whilst exploring my options I did come across several other sites that seemed to adopt the same concept as Unbound, with the difference that any pitch is posted. So far however, these websites only seem to publish e-books with a much lower crowd-sourcing target (for one of these sites the target was £500 per book). Others claimed to be free, but with the surprise of pop up adverts in your novel when anyone reads it, and (let’s be honest) no author wants their masterpiece repeatedly interrupted by weight-loss ads.

Unbound was tempting for me, because at 50% royalties as well as a paid-for investment in your book concerning editing, book cover and proof-reading it sounded like the best deal. It’s worth a go if anyone out there hasn’t tried it already, particularly if you have a large social media following – it’s one of the things they ask you when you apply because the more followers you have the more books you’re likely to sell. It is discouraging to find that yet another creative endeavour essentially boils down to a popularity contest (or, you could argue, a large social network), but this is already endemic in many artistic fields and is hardly new. Followers = distribution = wider market = more sales. It is becoming the case in the fashion industry, with models with higher numbers of followers getting booked for bigger jobs. Free advertising makes perfect sense.

Ultimately, the author knows what will be a good fit for them, but unfortunately for us writers we’re not usually the ones who get to choose. I am excited about self-publishing though. It’s a challenge, a test to see if I can do it. Can I be editor, designer, agent and writer all at the same time? We’ll find out when it’s released. I’ve already announced my intention on Facebook, and though my social network is modest I’ve had encouraging feedback (and great encouragement). They’re probably just pleased that I’m finally taking the initiative to get it out there – I have been harassing them all with novel-related updates over the years.

I’m half-way through my revision. I caught a scene that referenced something that had already been resolved earlier in the book, so I think as editor I am doing well. I will post up artwork updates as I create them and closer to the release. In the words of most people everywhere, ‘let’s do this!’