I’m back! + Book Formatting Services

After several months of survival mode, I’m finally sleeping a little more and am ready to reenter the blogging sphere! I’ve missed reading all your beautiful words and am looking forward to catching up with everybody.

For you writerly types out there who are considering self-publishing, I’ve now added a page detailing my book layout design services. I love giving books that final polished sheen that a good layout provides, and hope to be able to help with some of your books in the near future.

So talk to me! Tell me what you’ve been doing the past few months! Any exciting book news? Good reads? Crazy summer adventures?

Setting your margins

Next up in our layout design class is page size and margins! This is fairly straightforward, but there are a few important aspects to consider.

First things first: you have to set your page size. Many self-publishing sites give you options as to how big your book can be, so pick a size off the list and open up your manuscript to set the page size.

Click the Page Layout menu, then the Size button. At the bottom of the list, click More Paper Sizes.

size

That will open a dialog box that allows you to set exactly what your page width and length should be. Enter the dimensions, click OK, and there you go!

size box

Now for the margins. Pick up any book, and you’ll see that there’s not the school-standard one-inch margin all the way around. Also, keep in mind that your pages will be seen side-by-side, not individually, so you’ll want to set inside and outside margins, rather than right and left margins. Here’s what you need to do:

Go back to your Page Layout menu and click the Margins button, then hit Custom Margins at the bottom of the menu.

margins

That will bring up your margins dialog box. About halfway down, you’ll see a drop-down menu next to Multiple pages. Select Mirror Margins, and the Margins section will change to inside/outside margins.

margins box

Now, it may look like my example above is a bunch of arbitrary decimal numbers, but there is some method to it. The bottom margin in books tends to be slightly larger than the top margin–it weights the page to the eye just right. So my top margin is 3/4 inch, and my bottom margin is 7/8 inch.

When setting the inside and outside margins, consider that the inside needs to be big enough that the binding won’t hide the words. I set mine to 1 inch to give plenty of space so the reader won’t have to strain to read the words on the inside of the pages.

The outside margin needs to be big enough that your reader has a place to hold the book, but not so huge that you have an enormous strip of useless white space on the outside of each page. I went with 5/8 inch.

Play around with different margin sizes and see what look you like best. And don’t forget–you’ll most likely have headers and footers in your top and bottom margins, so that will affect the look of it. We’ll cover setting those up on Friday.

Happy Wednesday, everybody!

Life’s easier with breaks and indents

One of my biggest pet peeves of Microsoft Word misuse is flagrant overuse of the Enter key and the Tab key. Useful in their own right, but NOT to be used in place of indents and page breaks.

So today, I’m going to help you give your keyboards a rest. We’re going to talk indents and page breaks.

Let’s start with indents. Remember how we set paragraph styles last time? Right-click on your paragraph style and click Modify to open the dialog box again. At the bottom of the box, click Format, then Paragraph.

style-paragraph.jpg

That will open up your paragraph formatting box. In the Indentation section, on the right, there are two drop-down menus for special indents. Select First line, then decide how big of an indent you want.

first-line indent

So here’s the thing. When you hit Tab, it gives you a 0.5″ indent, which is HUGE. You’ll never see that big of an indent in a book. As you can see above, I like to set my indent at 0.2″. If you want a little more of an indent, you can go up to 0.3″, but I wouldn’t go any bigger than that.

Voila! You now have an automatic indent that will appear every time you hit Enter while typing in this paragraph style.

Okay, next point. I see SO MANY people who, when beginning a new chapter, just press Enter until they get to the next page. But what happens if you change your font? What if you add a line? Or remove a line? You have to adjust your number of blank lines EVERY TIME.  Pain.

So be more efficient! Use page breaks! So easy, so effective. One step. Ready?

On the menu bar, click Insert, then Page Break. Aaaand you’re done.

page break

Seriously, isn’t that easier than hitting Enter a billion times? I just saved your pinky finger from overexertion. You’re welcome.

Next time, we’ll get into setting up the actual page–making it look like a book! Happy weekend, everybody!

Stylin’!

With the end of NaNoWriMo, I’ve plunged back in for the final edits and design of Stone Alliance. It’s been a JOY. You have no idea. Writing is my first and truest love, but honestly, editing work is not far behind. There’s something so satisfying about nitpicking and fine-tuning, and I LOVE that I get to do my own layout design this time around.

As I go through this, I want to share a few tips for other authors who are looking to learn more about designing their own layout. Of course, you can always hire out for layout design, but if you want the control and want it to look professional, I can help you out.

Now, my first tip to anyone planning to lay out their own book is to get Adobe InDesign. However, you have to subscribe to the ENTIRE Creative Cloud to get that one program, and if you’re on a budget like me, that’s not the best option. So I’m working with Microsoft Word. Since most people have that (or the Mac equivalent), that’s the program I’ll use to give any technical details.

So where do we go first?

I’ll start with my favorite, most underused function of word processors:

PARAGRAPH STYLES!

Why are paragraph styles important?

They make it so super easy to make sure your formatting is consistent across your entire manuscript. Instead of finding every chapter heading and laboriously making them each 20 pt, bold Arial or something like that, you can click the heading, select your paragraph style, and–tada! It’s also great for the main text of your manuscript, ensuring that every paragraph is the same instead of having a weird paragraph that somehow ended up being 9 pt font instead of 11 pt.

ALSO, I like to mess with my formatting a lot and try different looks. This is the way to do it. You can change every chapter heading at once by adjusting the paragraph style, rather than hunting down and changing each one individually. Same with the body text.

So where do we start?

You know that weird bar on the Home menu in Word that has boxes titled “Heading 1,” “Normal,” “No Spacing,” etc?

styles bar (2)

Those are your paragraph styles. The default ones are fairly useless, which is why you make your own. Start by clicking this button.

styles bar circle

That will expand the menu. Click on Create a Style.

styles menu

I believe that in an older version of Word, this takes you straight to the control center of paragraph styles, but Word 2013 brings up a useless dialog box prompting you to name your paragraph style. Give it a pertinent name and click Modify.

style name circle.jpg

Then you get to the fun part. This is where you set your paragraph style exactly how you want it to be. But there are a few important things you want to check first:

  1. Make sure Style type is set to Paragraph.
  2. Change Style based on to (no style).
  3. If you want this style to show up in the style menu for all new documents (so you can use it again in another document), click the circle at the bottom that says New documents based on this template.

style dialog box important

From this main screen, you can format your paragraph style just like on the home menu: font, size, justification, line spacing, etc. It will show you below the formatting menu what your paragraph will look like.

style dialog box formatting.jpg

And there you have it! Your very own paragraph style to fit your very own work.

I like using paragraph styles even when I’m just hammering out drafts, because I can easily set every new document to my “Stories” paragraph style and have it look clean, crisp, and uniform, just how I like to read it.

Stay tuned for more layout design info! Next time, we’ll delve into some deeper aspects of text formatting.

Questions?

The Decision

About the time I finished Demon’s Heart, I began working on another, unrelated novel. I had been researching agents and publishers and query letters and all those wonderful mysteries of the publishing world, and I wasn’t at all confident that anyone would pick my work up to be published. I also really didn’t want to field all those rejection letters that inevitably come raining down on the aspiring author. At the same time, I wasn’t convinced that self-publishing was the way to go for me for a host of reasons that I will cover in another post.

So I made myself a deal. I would put myself out there, query some agents and publishing companies, and see if I could sell Demon’s Heart. If I had not been successful by the time I had finished up my other novel, I would self-publish my second novel and see if I had any success with it. Either way, I would be published, and I could those terrible rejection letters with the firm knowledge that they would not forever close off the possibility of getting published.

Long story short, I sold my book to the fabulous Cedar Fort Publishing, and here we are. It’s been interesting to see the mix of self-published and traditionally published authors in the blogosphere. How did you decide which route to take?