A Journey to E-Books, Part 4

Let’s say you’re now at the point that you have your book written, and the formatting is all in order. I touched briefly on proofreading and editing in Part 1. I think they’re a pain, but very necessary. You are probably going to have to read your own manuscript at least three times, if not more like seventeen or eighteen times. You need to read it to make sure the continuity of your storyline is correct, you want to make sure your grammar and punctuation are correct, and you want to make sure you don’t have any spelling errors. Trying to do all three at once is a bit much, but I also think it’s rather difficult to do a read-through looking for grammar and punctuation issues and ignore any spelling errors you see (because if you pass them by for the next read-through, you might not see them then. As I said in Part 1, if you typed ‘form’ and it should have been ‘from’ you brain may see it as from, and probably thinks it being helpful, stupid brain). Even when you’ve done three or more edits on the manuscript, if you have a friend (who hopefully was an English major) with a lot of time on his/her hands and is willing to read it for you, that can help. (But a word to the wise, don’t rely on that completely either. I had edited a book multiple times and thought it was letter perfect. My sister, a teacher, offered to read it; she found about 25 errors. In the process of correcting those errors, I found about 75 additional errors. Yikes! Maybe missing mistakes runs in the family.)

I participate in the Kindle Community Forums, and a thread was going on a couple weeks back about the importance of hiring a professional editor to proofread your manuscript. Someone said doing that “wasn’t that expensive” and quoted a price of 4 cents a word. My books average about 100,000 words, or $4,000 if I were to have just one book professionally edited. To me it would be totally unrealistic to spend that amount on editing a book because the chances of recouping the money on sales is far, far less than zero. I’ve seen plenty of posts of people complaining the book they published on Kindle sold only 1 or 2 copies or none at all. Imagine how you would feel if you’d spent $4,000 preparing the book (plus the cost of the cover, and all your time writing) and your sales were abysmal. That’s a feeling I can easily live without. Just try to make your book as close to perfect as you can without using up your savings or going into debt.

Okay, your book is proofread and edited, so it’s ready to publish, right?

Not quite, but we’re getting there.

There are a few things you need to add to your manuscript at this point: a title page, a table of contents (which is a little more involved than you’d think), a metadata page, and an ‘About the Author’ page.

The title page is simple enough: your title, centered, in a font size no bigger than 16. (And when I say ‘centered,’ I mean centered horizontally on the page, not in the middle of the page. Apparently if you hit ‘enter’ more than 4 times in a row, it makes the conversion process go wild.) A size 16 font won’t seen very big on standard page of typing paper, and not having the title near the middle of the page will look wonky on Word, but on a Kindle screen, the font looks gigantic and the placement seems fine. Several lines below that, again centered, in a smaller font, 12 or 14, type your name. If you are using a publishers’ name for your books, it would go a couple lines below that. (Kindle/Amazon, Nook/Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords are not your publisher, although they are where you e-publish you books. I think they refer to themselves as your ‘platform’ or something like that. So if your name is Joe Smith and you want to call your e-book enterprise Joe Smith Publications, you can put that (or whatever you choose) on your title page as well. But a publisher’s name is not mandatory. (BTW, don’t put: YOUR TITLE by Joe Smith on your title page, just YOUR TITLE followed by your name, Joe Smith. I read that advice somewhere and it emphasized that by using ‘by,’ you’re marking yourself as a rank amateur. Just look at any physically published book and you’ll see they don’t use ‘by’ on the title page – or on the cover, though you will see that on some e-books too.)

The metadata page is that page with the copyright information. The basic format for it is to center everything. Whether or not you have decided to copyright your book with the U.S. Government (which costs $35 for an electronically submitted book, and they are slow as molasses in January at getting it processed), you are still technically copyrighted if you write Copyright 2014 (or whatever year it happens to be) followed by your name. Below that you can put Kindle Edition or Smashwords Edition or wherever it’s being e-published (stating Smashwords Edition is a requirement on Smashwords, but it is not mandatory on the other platforms), and below that the usual stuff you’ve been ignoring in books for years: “All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without prior written permission of the author/publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in reviews.” You can also add something like: “All characters in this book have no existence outside the imagination of the author and have no relation to anyone bearing the same name or names. Any resemblance to individuals known or unknown to the author are purely coincidental.” Print books carry a lot more information on the metadata page because there are Library of Congress designations that must be included for print books. But the Library of Congress doesn’t recognize e-books (the bastards!) so indie e-authors don’t have to bother with their crap.

Next comes the Table of Contents. Start with centering Table of Contents at the top of the page, and below that, in single space, type, according to your preference, Chapter One, Chapter Two, or just One, Two, etc. for all your chapters. It’s going to be a navigable TOC, so you’re going to have to add bookmarks to your chapter headings in the text, and hyperlinks to the list in the TOC. I’m not going to go into great details about how to do that; even if you’re like me before I took the on-line e-publishing class and the only hyperlinks you’ve ever made were the ones that formed automatically when you typed a website address into an email or a Word doc, you can learn how to do it fairly quickly and it’s stupid easy. For the chapter headings, you highlight the first heading, go the ribbon and click on Insert, click on Bookmark, click on Sort by Location, go to the empty box under Bookmark Name and enter a one-word name for the chapter with no punctuation and click Add. Keep doing this until you’ve bookmarked all your chapter headings. Then go to your TOC, highlight the first chapter heading/number, click on Insert, click on Hyperlink, in the options on the left select Place in this Document, click the bookmark you want associated with the heading and click OK. Keep doing this for each of the chapter headings/numbers in the TOC. That’s it. Word offers instructions for bookmarks and hyperlink in their Help section as well, probably more detailed than what I wrote here. But as I said, it’s stupid easy (can you tell I’m a Psych fan?) However, just to make sure everything’s okay with the TOC, you have to undertake the boring process of checking each of the hyperlinks to make sure it works. Sometimes, for some unknown reason, they don’t, and you just have to delete the existing one and do it again.

Finally, About the Author is almost self-explanatory. Write whatever you want the reader to know about you. But keep it brief and professional — I’ve seen some that included the names of the author’s cats. Come on. If this is your first published e-book and you know the name or names of any future books, you could list them under a heading like: Look for These Books in 2014 (or whenever you think they’ll be out), and maybe even include a one- or two-sentence synopsis to whet their appetite for more of your work. If you already have other books published, list them here as well. (But why are you reading this if that’s the case?) I like to put the About the Author at the end, so when they’ve finished the book and if they liked it, they can see what else I have to offer. But I’ve also seen it at the beginning of books.

One thing I failed to mention earlier is that between each of the aforementioned pages, you need to add a Section Break. (If you’re putting About the Author at the end, put a section break between the last page of your book and the ATA page.) Why a Section Break and not a Page Break? I don’t know. The ed2go class I took on e-publishing said to do it that way, so I’ve done it that way and haven’t had any problems with it during conversion. Maybe you can just use a page break but I figure, why mess with something that works? But if you want to try it, feel free.

Next week I’ll cover covers, and, hopefully, finally get to the publishing part.

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