What should the insides of your book look like?

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Since you’ll start thinking about the inside layout and format as you are writing the book, take a quick look at my blog from a few weeks back, Don’t write dumb; read five more books very similar to yours first. You’ll see that what you want in your book is hiding inside the five or so prep books you read, plus any other books in your category in the library, bookstore, or in your house. You just have to find and fine-tune it.

That is, they are in-print examples of the style you want for your pages. You can copy any other layout or format that you want!

What are you looking for? Probably your book’s size, its binding, the cover (paper quality, finish, colors, and layout), and the way the contents inside the covers are designed, like paper color and density, type size and color, whiting (leading) between text lines, margins, use of header and/or footer, and what you do with the empty even pages, plus the artwork (images, charts, graphs, photos, and more).

Three guidelines:

1. Look at Dan Poynter’s Self-Publishing Manual for additional thoughts if you are unsure. (It’s a book you should have on your shelf anyway when you consider any form of self-publishing, including open publishing.)

2. Find a style you like in one or many of the books you have just read, make a photo copy of each item, and simply replicate or modify it on your pages.

3. Some of this won’t matter at all because the open publishers will make the lesser decisions for you once you determine the size book (among their choices) that you want.

[A quick interruption: My newest book became available in paperback and ebook formats today: Surviving Prostate Cancer. If you know anybody so afflicted, they might get some help and laughs here.]

Let me zero in on some style decisions you must make, then you can mull over the rest until you’ve finished writing your book and know its final contents.

Book size: The publishers will give you choices, but unless there’s another reason, consider a book 5” x 8” or 6” x 9”.

Binding: Unless the open publisher has a fancy choice for a specialty book you have in mind, your book will be a bound paperback with a perfect bind, it will be digital, or it will be both.

Cover: We’ll discuss this later, but for a bound paperback you are either going to design it yourself at Lulu, CreateSpace, or Blurb or you will pay somebody else to do it for you.

Paper color and density: Again, the open publisher will decide, but count on white or off white with black type.

Type: Use a serif type (like Times Roman, Verdana, Tahoma, or Century), probably 11, 11.5, or 12 point for your text; rarely use any type under 9-point; use the same font throughout, and once you have a style and size for the chapter heads and sub-heads, stick with it. (This book is in 11.5- point Times Roman.)

Leading: Don’t worry about it since the fonts have the leading built in.

Margins: Think of starting at 1” on all sides. If you like another layout better, use your ruler, move the Word margins, and see if that works.

Header or footer: You’ll probably use one or the other, but not both. Centering them removes hassles. No headers on chapter opening pages or before the introduction. You may have to delete both the header and footer and the page numbers in your digital final draft.

Empty pages: In novels, the first chapter starts on the right. There are no empty pages after that. Non-fiction often has every chapter starting on the right, which leaves empty pages on the left. You can leave them blank; most insert quotations or artwork, as I’ve done here.

Other concerns:
* Don’t underline.
* Single space between sentences.
* Don’t indent the first paragraph in your chapters but do indent the regular text two or three spaces from the left.
* Rarely use bold copy in the text itself.
* Don’t use BOLD CAPS.
* Also, only use CAPS when absolutely necessary.
* Lots of italic font is hard to read.
* Don’t use “by” on your cover or title page (no “by Lee Lumpkin, just Lee Lumpkin).
* Use no spaces before or after “em” dashes.
* Never use two hyphens – – for an — (em) dash. (See an example at Insert/Symbol/Special …)
* Justify the text on both sides. (See the next paragraph.)
* Activate the hyphenation.
* Steal somebody else’s table of contents and index formats as your model.

If you’re preparing your book in Word, go to File/Page Setup, and in “Paper” insert 6” and 9” (or the size your book will be) for the whole document. Then return to the “Margins” page and insert 1” on the four sides for the whole document.

Do all of these things and write your first draft in this format. Add any artwork, then print out a copy of several chapters and see how it looks. That’s when you start moving things around or modifying the appearance. Just don’t worry about it until you are nearly done—or you’ll spend so much time fidgeting that you’ll either forget what your book is about or you will lose interest!

Best wishes,

Gordon Burgett

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