Reading a book is a lot different to writing a book. There’s a ton of stuff we take for granted that publishers and printers (and of course, indie authors) know all about, but that might not be obvious to the newbie author/publisher.
Now, I don’t consider myself to be a newbie but every day I learn something new about books, writing and publishing. And while it’s all fascinating stuff, it’s stuff I need to know about and understand. This has become more obvious to me over the last month or so and the various challenges of publishing my books on Createspace…
1 White space
Leaving huge gaps or spaces when formatting a manuscript for an eBook is verboten, as readers generally don’t want to be scrolling down, down, down to find the next bit of text. In proper printed books, however, the spacing out of text and images is important for presentation – cramming everything up doesn’t look good. In my hard-back version of Sarah Waters’ The Paying Guests for instance, there’s a nice pattern on the first two pages, then a measured five page turns before we get to the first chapter. It looks good, it feels good, and it smells quite nice too.
2 Start on the Right
I’m sure I knew this before, but it wasn’t until I was forced to consider it for my own books that I realized the first chapter always starts on an odd-numbered page on the right hand side. This is traditional in book publishing and probably unnoticeable to most folk – until they come across a book that starts on the left hand page, and then it stands out (probably because we’re used to seeing it on the other side). Whether you go with the further tradition of starting every chapter on the right hand page is another matter. Most of the tomes on my bookshelf don’t follow this ritual, but I can see why they might – as with White Space, it looks nice.
3 Blank pages
Creating a manuscript where the first chapter is on the correct page, often prompts the need for the insertion of a blank page. When I first tried this, I naturally assumed it was simply a case of hitting ‘enter’ until I got to the next page. But no. Blank pages have to be fixed in place so they don’t disappear later on. I now do this using the time-honoured method of creating page breaks/sections. (I won’t go into how, as my own research revealed a multitude of different methods and I’m not sure my way is the best. Anyhoo…)
4 Page Numbers
The first book I attempted to publish on Createspace (The Architect’s Apprentice) resulted in a nicely laid out copy – without page numbers. Arrgh! Okay, so I forgot. And I must admit I did wonder how necessary they are, but common sense prevailed and I got to grips with the (again) multitude of different methods that might/hopefully lead to displaying the correct numbers (odds on the right, evens on the left) in the right places. After several wretched days of duplicated numbers, unnumbered pages and other catastrophes, I finally got the hang of it. Well, I say that, but it still doesn’t work every time.
5 Headers and Footers
This is another one of those traditions that some folk ignore while others swear by. The idea of having the author’s name at the top of one page and the title of the book on the other, once again, isn’t borne out by the bestsellers on my bookshelves (Sarah W doesn’t do it), so I’ve ignored this, though I’ll admit it would add a little something to the overall presentation, so it’s something to think about for the future.
This is another of those traditions that we’re all used to – reading text that’s fully justified ie goes right to the edge, giving the impression of a block of text, rather than a raggedy edged one. While eBooks don’t require such rigidity, I’ve noticed an increasing number of authors are going with the simple left-justified look in their printed books and though at first I did think it a little odd, like a bowl of soup, I’m definitely warming to it. Anyway, I’ve fully justified some of my books and not others and so far I haven’t decided which is best.
Tradition is often nothing more than the way we’ve always done things, but that doesn’t mean we have to continue in the same vein. After all, if that were the case, we wouldn’t have eBooks. As Bowie said, ‘Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes, Turn and face the strange…’