Thursday, September 23, 2010

So You’ve Written A Book. Now What? Formatting Your Book

So You’ve Written A Book. Now What?

Formatting Your Book

In the last part of this series, we spoke about the self-editing of your manuscript, something that is essential to getting your work accepted into the first layer of publishing—the acceptance by the agents or publishers who will take you through the process. DO NOT discount this vital part of your work. Whether you hire an editor to look over your work or you do it yourself, you must remember the mantra: “The very best you can make it.” With over 300,000 books being published every year now, what is going to make yours stand up and be noticed—even accepted in the very first place?

After the internal part of your work, self-editing, there is still the designing of your cover, the writing of your backmatter and the ultimate typesetting of the book. Even more important (to readers) than the story itself, your cover and backmatter are the parts that will get the book up to the cashier. They are critical, and yet we overlook these items so often.

If you’ve looked at self-publishing companies, you will notice that most of the really inexpensive ones have a template, or several, that is to become your cover. Many of them are, in general, nice, but you must ask the question, Will this cover really show my book off to its best advantage? Does the style reflect the mystery and suspense your book is about, or the peacefulness, or the happiness? Do the colors show off the book, or do they hide it? Is the title one-size-fits-all, or can it be changed? What about the color of the text? Do they show off well against the background color or scene? Does your name stand out or get hidden? Can you get a sub-title on the cover or just the main title name? My next book is entitled “The Lesser Evil” but it really needs the sub-title, “Comes the avenger executing wrath on those who practice evil” to really set off the intrigue in people’s minds as they see it for the first time.

All of this must be looked at carefully before you say, “It’s okay.”

What about the backmatter? That’s what is on the back cover of your book. Is it just words describing the story? Does it also have a picture of you and a short biography? Or do you need the whole back cover to describe enough of the story to get people’s interest? And, who will write your backmatter—your editor or you? If you are with a traditional publisher, you will likely have a full editor and usually they do that writing. However, who has the final approval? YOU. You must make sure it says what you want it to, that the words excite you as it must a buyer. Nothing wrong with having your picture there, but do you really want it and the bio to take up space? Do you really need that space to tell about the story properly? More things to consider.

Keep in mind this extremely important aspect of putting your ultimate book together: What will buyers see when they look at the bookstore shelves? Will your book stand out or just be lost in all the color? Can people read the words on the spine of the book (because that will likely be what is standing out to them)? IF they happen to pick the book off the shelf, what will the cover tell them? Will it excite them or cause them to put it back? IF the cover keeps them looking, what will they read on the back that causes them to consider opening it and reading a few words?

And then, what will the typesetting of the book do? IF they get past the cover and the backmatter, is the type too small and scrunched together? Do the margins get lost in the edge of the book so they have to “break” it to read it? Is the type so flowery that they have trouble reading it—and put it back on the shelf? Are the lines too close together? If you have pictures or charts and graphs, are they absolutely clean and readable? Does the color of the paper match the story and can you easily read the text against it? Again so much to consider as you work to make your book “the very best you can make it.”

Don’t get so enamoured over this magnificent creation you’ve put together that you run off to publishing land without spending considerable time considering all these aspects of your book. If you use a self-publishing company, YOU will be responsible for how this all looks and how it will be received by the reading public. If you use a traditional publisher, YOU will still be responsible, ultimately, for what your book will look like. I don’t necessarily mean to fight with your publisher for “your rights” on this, but again, ultimately, YOU have to be excited about what the end result is and YOU have to approve of it. It’s YOUR book—YOUR baby—YOUR creation. “The very best you can make it.”

Next time we’ll look at the actual publishers out there. What kind are there and what will they do, or not do, for you as you walk on through this mine field. So, look for the next edition or head right into the Website and get the mini-book, So You’ve Written A Book. Now What? at

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Jim Magwood is the author of the international mystery novel, SANCTION. You can visit him at his site, He is also the webmaster of a site dedicated to showcasing authors and their works to readers everywhere at a cost any author can afford. Visit The Author’s Inn at

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