So many people want to write a book. I think it must be on about 65% of the populations bucket list. Yes, I just pulled that out of my back pocket, but it feels right. They may even delve into the pool of ideas and words. The struggle for most who get to the point of starting a book is they give up and never finish it.
Writing is hard. It takes a lot of time. There is a steep learning curve. There is so much more that goes into publishing a book than just writing a bunch of words on a page and throwing it out there for the world. Well there is if you want to sell your book. If you are only writing for your family and friends, then it doesn’t have to be perfect or even look professional. If you are writing to get readers outside of your family it does need to be professional.
This post is about finishing what you have started and part of that is not getting lost in the overwhelming tasks ahead of you. Focus on finishing your manuscript first and foremost. There are somethings you will want to start doing while you are writing, if you intend for your book to sell to more than your family and friends and especially if you want to have a writing career either full or part-time. We’ll talk about those things later.
Set yourself a word count goal and set aside time each day or each week to write. This is important if writing is your hobby or if you are working full time at the day job. Word count goals should be something you can reasonably achieve. You don’t want it to be something too high where it is difficult to achieve because if you fall behind it is easy to just give up and say you cant do it. So consider this goal carefully.
Having a special time and space to do your writing is also helpful. The time is probably a bit easier than the space. Both are a challenge when you have a full time job and a family. You can write on your phone as well. There are many apps that are specific for writers. You can just keep ideas or you can compose a full novel in the spare moments you find hiding in the bathroom or in a closet.
If you can only find an hour a week, then start there. Start with a word count of 150 words for each hour you have to write. If that is way easy, then bump it up a bit. The point is to make it doable and also motivating. If you go over, that doesn’t mean you get credit for the next session and can skip. If you need to miss a session try to make it up somewhere else.
Tell other people who care about you. If you tell those who support you in your goals then they can help make sure you have your time to write. They can also hold you accountable and encourage you to keep at it. This can be critical when things are difficult or you hit a block or lack motivation.
Just keep at it. It can take years to write a book. It’s okay. It really is. Lots of authors only produce one book every year or more. You have to work within your life.
Mama’s Choice is now available in the Amazon store. This is a wonderful book for all types of mother child relationships including adoption, kinship, stepparents, and natural parents. Mama’s are more than the ones who carry us in their bellies or sit upon our eggs. Mama means hugs, kisses, and cuddles. Mama means I love you always and forever. Mama’s Choice can be a gift for mom on Mother’s day, her birthday, adoption day or just because. Moms and children will love this tender book about what a mama is with pictures showing different mother child relationships including some you would not expect. All are actually found in the world, most of the animal relationships are among the families at sanctuaries.
Big Feelings, Little Ballerina is now available in both ebook and paperback on Amazon! This is a debut children’s picture book for Nicole McBride.
Riley Ann is a little ballerina with big feelings and when they happen, she says not so nice things to people she loves. No one wants to play with Riley Ann because she isn’t very nice. Riley Ann and Mama come up with a plan to gain her friends back. Will Riley Ann’s plan help her stop saying mean things that hurt other’s feelings? Let Riley Ann help your little ballerina come up with her own plan of dealing with big big feelings. Get your copy here.
The little piece of story found on the back of a book is called the back cover blurb, well that’s what we call it anyway. These few sentences have a lot of work to do. Their job is a continuation from the front cover.
The front cover shoots out the tractor beam drawing the reader in with its irresistible call and gets them to pick up the book from there, it’s up to the back cover to seal the deal.
So how do you write a great, no an amazing, no an award winning blurb? By boiling your book down to the most intriguing one to three paragraph summary, without spoilers, and lots of foreshadowing.
Introduce your main point of view character, set the scene, hint at the character’s ghost (hidden past, trauma, loss) and the give them a taste of the plot.
Doing some heavy in the trenches research is going to lead to a big payoff here. Take your handy dandy notebook (yes, that’s a blues clues reference) and held to your nearest bookstore or library. Virtual visits and research is accepted.
Look at books from the genre you are writing in. How long, what’s the structure, what elements of the story are covered, what point of view is used?
Your blurb should leave the reader with unanswered questions and a connection to a character. I know this is really difficult in just a few paragraphs. That’s why you need to research and write it over and over. Have people review it. Have followers vote on versions before choosing one.
The cover of your book is arguably the most important piece of creating your book. I believe the statement “Don’t judge a book by its cover is exactly opposite of what happens.” is now a cliché. I’ve read some rendition of that statement on every blog and heard it in every YouTube video on creating your cover that I have read/seen. That said, it is absolutely true.
Your cover is the first thing readers see. It is the thing that get’s them to pick up your book in the first place. It get’s them to turn it over and read the blurb on the back. It may even be the selling point of the book if it is eye catching and intriguing enough.
How do you make sure your cover is something that pulls your readers rather than repels them? The first step is doing your research. Go to the book store, virtual right now due to the Covid 19 pandemic. Once the pandemic allows and you are comfortable with venturing out, go in person and also head to your local library. Take a note book with you. Find the section for the genre you are writing and go through the books. Look at their covers, I mean really look.
Keep notes on what is popular, what you don’t like and what you like. Is there a person on the front. More than one, what is in the background, what colors seem to be the most prominent. Where is the title placed. How big is the Title. How big is the author name. Where is the author’s name placed. Is there something about the way the art is done such as faded backgrounds or metallic colors with some sparkle to them.
Don’t for get to look at the spine and the back as well. The spine is very important because in a physical bookstore, it’s likely the first thing readers see. Does the art wrap all the way around the book. Is the color uniform. What aspect of the art is on the back. Does it interfere with reading the blurb. What else is on the back cover. Publisher’s name. Age range. Quotes from the book or book reviews.
In person research is important because you need to ask yourself these questions: How does the book feel in your hand. Can you feel the cover design. Is it a matte finish or glossy. Is it a hardcover or paperback. Does it have a dust jacket.
I would start with virtual research even when it is safe and you are comfortable (not always the same thing) going to places in person. It is easier to find best sellers virtually. You can search on Amazon for the best sellers in your genre. This is great especially if you plan to publish on Amazon. If you are publishing wide, you will want to look for more extensive best seller lists just to be sure you are all inclusive in your research.
I recommend looking at and taking notes on 15 to 20 top selling books. This should give you a good idea of what is catching readers attention in the genre. Yes some books sell because of the author and the book cover could be bad, but with looking at 15 to 20 books you should be able to weed those ones out.
With the research you have collected, there are a few ways to find a book cover. 1. hire a book cover designer. You can find some on Fiverr.com and upwork.com are the most recommended cites to find this work. Etsy also has book cover designers. Please do your research on designers and get samples of their work before you hire them. Try to find reviews of their work and look on other self publishing author’s websites for recommendations. Make sure they understand the genre you are publishing in. Work closely with them especially if they are a newer designer. You will want PDF and PNG files of the book cover and the Title. You need to use the same font/typeface for the title page as what is on your cover.
Second option: buy a premade book cover. There are a bunch of them out there: bookcoverzone.com, thebookcoverdesigner.com, and selfpubbookcovers.com. Most of these websites with premade covers also offer custom cover designing as well. Looking at these cites can also help in the research.
Third option: design and create your own cover. This is time consuming unless you already have the programs and skills to do it. You can teach yourself to do this if you have hours and hours of time to dedicate to it. This is the last option for a reason. Most people can’t do this well.
If you are creating your own or buying a premade book cover, have other people look at it and critic it. If you have a following on instagram, facebook, or other social media platform ask for feedback or take a poll between two or three designs you are considering.
Back matter or end matter is the stuff you put at the end of your story. It’s what you type after you have typed “The End.” Just as in front matter, there are a lot of different things you can stick at the back of your book. Some of it is standard and some of it is dependent on the genre you are writing in. Some of the elements in your front matter can be included as back matter instead. Some authors even put their call to action in both the front and the back along with the list of their other books.
Why would you put these elements in both the front and the back of the book? because if a reader picks up your book and flips through the first pages or previews the book on Amazon, then they see you have other books so even if they don’t buy the one they are looking at, they may go and buy another. For the call to action, they may not buy your book right then but look you up on their smart phone and follow you on your social media sites, which may get you book sales in the future.
For a list of the elements you can put in either front or back matter, see last weeks post all about front matter here.
Here are some elements for you to think about when deciding what to put after your story:
Epilogue: this comes immediately after the main text. The purpose is to provide a sense of closure to the book. Basically it is your last chapter called by a different name. It is the resolution portion of your book or the what happens after the climax of the story. It can be set in the future like 10 years later or in the days following the climax.
Afterword: This element explores how the book came to be written, how the idea developed. It is the same as the Preface but at the end. It can also be more similar to a Forward but at the end. If used more like a forward, it is typically written by someone other than the author and covers the books historical and cultural impact.
Postscript: Basically another word for afterword. It is typically found as letters or personal communications between the author and someone else about why the book was written or the authors desire for the impact of the story and theme being communicated.
Extro or Outro: This is the opposite of an introduction. It’s used to conclude the book. It’s not often seen in books but music. However, you can include it in a book.
Appendix or Addendum: This includes supplementary information about the book such as extra details, updates and corrections to earlier materials.
Glossary: This is a collection of terms from the book. Its purpose is to explain new, uncommon or specialized terms to provide a clear definition for the reader. It’s like the books personal dictionary.
Index: This is used to find terms in the book. It is an alphabetized list of terms and indicates on which pages the terms are used.
Bibliography or works cited/reference list: This is a list of resources the author used in the book or are someway relevant to the book. You can include a bit of detail in this section about why references were used and a brief summary of the reference material.
Colophon: This provides information on the printing and publishing process of the work, mostly the technical details. It can include the type of paper used to print the book, the ink, the binding used, and the typeface (font). Sometimes the information about the typeface is separate and called “Note on Type” and includes a detailed description of the typeface, its history and characteristics.
About the author page: This is where the author provides a brief summary of their previous work, education and personal life.
Copywrite permissions: if the author has sought permission to reproduce song lyrics, artwork, or extended excerpts from other books it should be included here.
Discussion questions: This is thought-provoking questions and prompts about the book intended for use in school settings or book clubs.
Chronology or timeline: This is mainly found in nonfiction but could be helpful in a fiction series like epic fantasy.
End notes: This is supplementary notes that related to specific passages of the text and is denoted in the body of the book with a superscript. Mostly used in nonfiction but it has also been used is classic fiction as well.
As you can see, there are a lot of choices. Try not to overwhelm the reader and only include what you believe is beneficial to the readers understanding of the book. Try not to duplicate things from the front matter.
What is all the crap that goes in the front of a novel? well that’s the front matter. There are standard things which are pretty much required and then there are optional things that occupy the pages before the actual novel starts. What you put on the pages before your story begins is also impacted by the genre of your novel.
The standard pages for every novel are: copyright page, endpapers, and title page.
What’s on the title page? The full title of the book including subtitle and the author’s name. Endpapers? these are the pages at the front of the book and back of the book that hold the book together. One attaches to the cover of the book the other is the first page seen on the right, usually blank or with some design. What’s on the copywrite page? publisher’s name and address, copyright language, ISBN, edition notice, and date of publication. Sometimes there is the author’s contact information.
The other pages you can include are: illustration information, dedication page, half title page, call to action, list of other books, a forward, epigraph, table of contents, character art, map, preface, acknowledgments, introduction, prologue, tables or charts, list of abbreviations, list of pronunciations, frontispiece, and list of contributors. It can be as complicated as you like. Some of this can also be put in the Back Matter, which we’ll talk about next week. For now, let’s go over each of these in turn.
Illustration information: this is what materials were used to create the illustrations. They could be digital art, watercolor, gouache, acrylics, colored pencil, charcoal, markers, pastels, you name it. Whatever was used to create the illustrations is listed. Obviously, this is mostly used in picture books.
Dedication page: this is who the author is dedicating the work to. It can be a person, a group of people (general or specific), a company, an omniscient being, again who or whatever you would like. This dedication can also share a page with something else such as at the top of the copyright page.
Half title page: this page includes only the title of the book and lots of blank space. It is used for the author to sign and include a personal message to the reader/recipient of the book.
Call to action: this can be included in the back matter as well and sometimes both. A call to action includes a bit about the author (not as much as an author page), where you can find the author on social media or a website, there may be a picture of the author but its main purpose is to ask the reader to do something such as follow you on social media or join your mailing list to get updates on your next publication. When including the social media information, make sure to use the icon and also add a link (especially for ebooks).
List of other works: this one is pretty obvious. It would include all the other books in a series, but it can also include any other books the author has written. Usually only books of the same genre but it’s your book so you can list any of your books. You can list only the titles or you can include a thumbnail picture and a link to purchase the book. Links only work in ebooks, but the can also be useful in print books because the reader can then go to a computer/phone (whatever) and type it in to find your book. You can also list or put the icon for the places/websites where it is available.
A forward: this is an essay or short piece of writing done by someone other than the author. It can explain the relationship between the author and the writer of the forward or between the writer of the forward and the story being told.
Epigraph: is a quotation included by the author that is relevant but not essential to the text.
Table of contents: this is included in all non fiction works and in ebooks of any type. It can be simple and just list chapter headings or it can be very detailed and describe the chapter and list subheadings.
Character art: this can be front or back matter. It includes any art created of the characters in the book.
Map: a map of the world or the area where the story takes place.
Preface: is an an introduction to the book and is written by the author. Typically, it covers how the book came into being and where the idea of the book came from. It’s the journey of the book from idea to publication.
Acknowledgments: this can be in the back matter. It can be very short and include only those individuals who were essential in the creation of the book, such as publishers, editors, cover designer, and format designer. It may be extensive and include anyone who was supportive of the author during the process of creating the book including those providing encouragement (family, friends, and professionals), proof readers, research assistants, and beta readers.
Introduction: lists the goals and the purpose of the book.
Prologue: is the opening of the story and provides background details and setting of the story. It comes right before the first chapter of the novel.
Tables and charts: this can be anything that will help the reader understand the content of the book.
abbreviations and/or notes list: this can be included as back matter. It defines any abbreviation used in the novel and any notes specific to each page indicated by a footnote or some other way throughout the text.
Pronunciation: this can be included in back matter. It contains a key to pronouncing the names and places in the book. It can be very helpful in fantasy and Sci-Fi books.
Frontispiece or Frontis: this is a picture or illustration that appears on the page opposite the title page and is an image of something relevant to the story but not necessarily a character or a scene depicted in the story.
List of contributors: this can be other people who contributed to the contents of the book such as: conception or design work, data collection, data analysis and interpretation, drafting, critical revisions. This is usually only applicable to non fiction works.
Margins are way more important than you might think. They actually have a lot of jobs. They provide space for the readers fingers, make your text easier to read, they are space for readers to write notes, keeps your text out of the gutter, provide space for headers and footers.
So how big should a margin be? It depends on the size of your book. The centerfold will include the gutter depth as well, so it is a larger margin by 0.15 to 0.2 inches. The margin at the bottom of the page contains your page numbers and is typically a little larger than the margin at the top. You will want to look at different sizes of books and get an idea of what is standard for the size and genre you are publishing in.
Kindle Direct Publishing has a minimum margin of .25. This is really only so your text doesn’t end up in the gutter or off the side of the page during printing and cutting. You should not use a margin this small. There needs to be enough white space (negative space) on the page to make it easier to read.
Many self-published authors choose smaller margin sizes to make more text fit on a page because it is then cheaper to print the book which means higher royalties for the author or so it looks at first sight. The issue is you may sell less books because of this formatting fopaux.
There are other ways to make sure you get the most words on each page. The easiest is to try different typefaces (font). You can get a lot of variation even with the same size of font just because of the style you have chosen. Examples
The red hen clucked at her chicks, who peeped at the mouse scurrying off with their seeds. (Bahnschrift light)
The red hen clucked at her chicks, who peeped at the mouse scurrying off with their seeds. (Adobe Devanagari)
The red hen clucked at her chicks, who peeped at the mouse scurrying off with their seeds. (Flamingos)
The red hen clucked at her chicks, who peeped at the mouse scurrying off with their seeds. (Garamond)
The above four typefaces are all the same size (11). For most books you are looking for 30 to 35 lines of text per page.
Another important term you may see thrown around when discussing margins is the “bleed.” Bleed is the very very edge of a page. Typically picture books have a bleed. Novels, in most cases, do not have a bleed. With a picture book you want to make sure that the pictures go right to the edge of each page. The bleed edge is just slightly outside of the trim edge. The trim edge is where the page is cut. Having a bleed ensures that if the page shifts during cutting your picture still goes to the edge of the page.
What size of book, or trim size, are you planning for your work in progress? As everyone knows, size does matter. You want your book to fit in with the rest of those in its genre. Size impacts the number of pages of your book, the number of words per page, the margin size. Size also effects the cost of printing. Cost of printing changes the price of the book and the amount of royalties the author gets. So, again size matters.
We’re going to be talking in inches for this most. Inches are used in the US and millimeters pretty much everywhere else. And like most American’s I would have to use a conversation calculator to get the millimeters and thus just resort to using inches and hoping everyone else can convert. Sorry.
Typical paper back fiction novel sizes include 6 x 9, 5.5 x 8.5, 5.25 x 8, 5×8, and 4.25 x 6.87. Non fiction are 5.5 x 8.5, 6 x9, and 7 x10. Hard back novels are typically 6 x9 to 8.5 x 11. For children’s books you find 7.5 x 7.5, 7 x 10, 8 x 8, 8.5 x 8.5, 10 x10, and 10 x 8. Novellas are usually 5 x 8.
Here is an example about how size impacts costs:
100 pages = $4.45 on KDP and $3.58 on ingramspark
150 pages = $3.95 on KDP and $3.58 on ingramspark
200 pages = $3.35 on KDP and $3.58 on ingramspark
Why Ingramspark stays the same? I have no idea. Obviously cost of printing should not be the most important thing you consider when choosing the size of your book. First you need to check what sizes are offered by the printer/publisher you are using. Then look at your genre and see what some of the standard sizes are, then take into consideration the costs of printing.
What size font (typeface) you use depends upon the type of book you are writing. The size of the font should correlate with the reading ability of your audience. In a novel for young adults and up you can get away with a 10.5 at the smallest. You probably don’t want to go larger than a 12 unless you are writing specifically for geriatric readers, in that case, you may want to go up to a 13. In picture books you don’t want to be smaller than a 16.
The smaller your font size, the more words you can fit on a page. The more words on a page the less pages you have. The less pages, the cheaper it is to print. The cheaper it is to print, the lower the cost is for your readers. The lower the cost, the more books you sell. The more books you sell, more royalties you get. You get the point.
The style of font will impact the size of font you choose. Some styles are just bigger or smaller than others. If you choose something with flare, it may need to be larger to make it more readable.
Speaking of flare in your font style, it is not recommended. Go with simple and professional fonts. Less curves is better. Really the only time you should be diverting from this is for your title, chapter headings, and to make an example of font style. Okay, okay you can get away with more fun styles in children’s picture books. Even in picture books they have to be easy to read. The audience is trying to learn their letters, so they should be able to easily recognize them in uppercase and lowercase.
Type up a paragraph or page (using 1.2 or 1.3 line spacing) and try reading it as you would a book. As other people in the age group of your audience to read it. Is it easy to make out the words? do you have to hold it closer? are their particular letters that are more difficult to make out?
If you are seriously stuck on a font style and there is some difficulty reading it, try increasing the space between letters (google how to do this in the word processing program you use).
Of course people have researched what size font is best for various ages. Here are some general guidelines based on age of the reader: