Posts Tagged With: tips

9 Ways to Make Your Self-Published Book Look More Professional

In my continuing attempts to promote and improve the self-publishing scene, today I present a handful of helpful tips you can use to make your self-published print book look more professional. These tips have been compiled via examining multiple traditionally published books and comparing them to the collection of self-published books I’ve acquired over the years. Read and enjoy!

Note: I’ve used my own book for all the examples below, as copyright law is confusing and I don’t want anyone to sue me.

#1: Formatting your page numbers

Step 1: Page numbers should begin on the first page of your story. This means Chapter 1. If you have a prologue, use Roman numerals (i, ii, iii, iv, v, vi, etc.). Do not start page numbers on the very first page of the book (i.e. the title page).

page number 1Step 2: Page numbers should end once the story is over. You can obviously keep them going into the Acknowledgements, but no blank pages at the end with page numbers. Bad!

(Updated) Step 3: Page numbers can go at the bottom of the page or the top of the page. A random survey of my bookshelf indicates it’s about 50/50. I personally prefer numbers at the bottom of the page, centered, but this one seems to be dealer’s choice!

Step 4: Put enough space between the text and the page numbers. Otherwise the page will look squished, and pages don’t enjoy being squished. That’s how bloody revolutions start.

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#2: Paper choice (cream vs. white)

This is technically up to you, but cream paper really does look better than white for fiction books. White paper is for textbooks and picture books. Go with cream.

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#3: Book size

I’d suggest making your book between 5×8 inches and 6×9 inches for a fiction book. Anything bigger is kind of awkward to hold. Not to mention it doesn’t fit very nicely on your bookshelf with your other novels.

#4: Formatting your title page and front matter text

Step 1: Your title page should be eye-catching. None of this “same font and size as the paragraph text” nonsense.

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Step 2: Put the front matter text (i.e., copyright info, “please do not illegally distribute this work” info, publishing info, etc.) on the back of the title page (i.e., the left-hand side). The right-hand side page after the title is usually reserved for the dedication.

#5: Headers 

Step 1: Use headers. They look classy. You want the author name on one side, and the book title on the other side. And for heaven’s sake, make sure the header is centered.

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Step 2: But make sure you don’t have a header on the first page of a chapter! It makes it look cluttered. Clutter is evil.

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#6: Chapter titles

Step 1: Speaking of the first page of a chapter, make sure your chapter titles are eye-catching.

page number 9Step 2: Use small caps or drop caps on the first paragraph in a new chapter.

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#7: Formatting your text / paragraphs

Step 1: Don’t use Times New Roman or Arial. These are used in everything, and will make your book look generic.

Update: The important thing to note about Times New Roman and Arial is that they’re very easy to read. So make sure the font you pick is readable. Some good options include: Georgia, Cambria, Garamond, etc.

Step 2: Don’t underline. Use italics if you need to emphasize something.

Update: Some people don’t like italics used at all in writing as emphasis, and that’s personal choice. The point here is not to underline or bold your text, as it in general looks amateurish. Unless you’re writing something a bit off-beat, like a humor book or a book where your text is spaced out to look like a shark head. In which case, do whatever crazy formatting you want!

Step 3: Don’t put space between paragraphs. Instead, tweak the space between the lines of text to make sure it doesn’t look too squished. But for the love of chickens do not use double-line spacing. This makes it look like an essay, and that’s the absolute last association you want to make. 

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Step 4 (update): Always justify your paragraphs (as in, each line of text should reach from the left to the right side of the page). Left justification is fine for your Word doc, but it looks a bit sloppy to have uneven text edges once you get to your final published version.

#8: Cover design

Get a professional cover design. Seriously. Your readers, your sales stats, and your book itself will thank you.

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Note: My Paint skills are truly out of this world.

#9: When in doubt …

When in doubt about a particular bit of formatting, pick up a traditionally published book and flip through it. Heck, pick up a couple of books. If they all tend to do the same sort of thing, formatting-wise, then you should probably do the same.

This concludes my tips! Seriously, though, flip through some traditionally published books. You can get some really great formatting ideas from them. And obviously these aren’t hard and fast rules. But if you follow them, you will definitely have a more professional-looking novel than when you started. As always, if you’ve got questions, hit me with them in the comments section below.

Happy formatting!

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Categories: Self Publishing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 47 Comments

Guest Post: 10 Safety Tips for 10 Fictional Cannibals (London McGuire)

Today’s guest post comes to us from London McGuire, who has a fun, cannibal-themed post to keep us entertained on this dreary Wednesday!

 

10 Safety Tips for 10 Fictional Cannibals

Cannibals – they truly are what they eat.  Perhaps the most terrifying thing about them is you don’t know what they are until it’s too late. You don’t know what’s truly inside until you ARE inside … literally. However, for being such sinister figures, we sure do love to watch them work.

Turn on the television and there’s a show about a cannibal. Open up a book and there’s a cannibal. And, of course, there are the movies – both new and old – all featuring humans with a hunger for other humans. There’s just no getting away from it but, lucky for you, there are some tips* to avoid becoming part of the cannibal’s carnivorous cuisine.

*DISCLAIMER: These tips are for the 10 fictional cannibals listed below. There is no guarantee that these will work with any of the real-life cannibals you likely encounter in your day-to-day routine without even knowing it – the barista at Starbucks, the mailman, perhaps, your next-door neighbors, etc.

 

1. Recognize Wordplay Early into the Game

Hannibal Lecter – you knew he’d show up at some point, so let’s get him out of the way in this first tip. Whether you’ve read him in the Thomas Harris novel Red Dragon, seen Anthony Hopkins manifest him in movies, or caught Mads Mikkelsen’s portrayal in the television show Hannibal – one thing fictional man-eaters have taught us is that they love some good old-fashioned verbal repartee.

Whether it’s something subtle like:

“… I’m having an old friend for dinner.”

Or something a little more obvious:

“I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti.”

If someone says they want to “have you for dinner, sometime” or they compliment you with things like “your house is simply murderous,” that’s probably a red flag. Recognize the signs! Some of these playful predators can’t help but telegraph what’s going to be on the menu.

 

2. Try Not to Be Such a Loner

In the Walking Dead comic series, Rick and his band of world-weary survivors had cannibals of the undead variety to deal with. Things, however, took a much darker (if that were possible) turn when they encountered Chris and the hunters in the 2009 story arc Fear the Hunters.

Fan favorite Dale lost his leg after a zombie bite, which was a real bummer. However, that failed to compare to what happened next when the cannibalistic hunters found him wandering off on his own. Rick and his superior numbers got the drop on Chris’s group, but the damage had been done and Dale was no more. The thing to remember about cannibals is that, as terrifying as they are, they are by no stretch of the imagination the majority. Strength in numbers.

 

3. Get to Work on Your Cardio

It might seem like poor counsel to make yourself healthier (or more wholesome) when dealing with cannibals, but then how else would you be able to outrun Fat Bastard? Ah, yes, Fat Bastard – the comical antagonist from Austin Powers the Spy Who Shagged Me. He was fat, he was obnoxious and, oh yeah, he craved the taste of baby flesh. Yeah, when it comes to fight or flight, sometimes flight is your best bet … so get to work on your cardio!

 

4. Identify the Exits Before You Enter

Even the humblest lodge can seem like a twisted, endless maze when you’re being pursued by a cannibal. It’s funny how the mind can really play tricks on you when overwhelmed with thoughts of being devoured bite by bite. This was proven time and time again throughout the Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise which featured an entire family of cannibals – the Sawyers.

Of course, one of the more notable Sawyers that managed to outshine the notorious Leatherface was Chop Top. Ol’ Chop Top Sawyer was especially scary because of his otherwise personable mannerism.  A Vietnam vet who took a few too many to the head, his actions and attitude resembled that of a flower power hippy … that ate people.

Whether it’s Chop Top, Leatherface, or any other childishly-named nightmare creature “inviting” you in, get a feel for the exits if you can.

 

5. Try to Be Wary of the Help

Sweeney Todd gave new meaning to “taking a little off the top” when he went on a murderous rampage with a straight razor and a wise idea – turning the bodies into meat pies. Granted, not every barber with a straight razor is out to get you (probably) but, when faced with a service that puts you in a compromising position, such as a shave, it’s prudent to remember that it’s 2013 and you can buy decent razors almost anywhere. No need to tempt fate.

 

6. Leave a Note Before You Leave

It’s usually wise to leave a note if you plan on going somewhere – especially if that somewhere happens to be a rural town in the Welsh countryside. The members of the hit TV series Torchwood learned this lesson the hard way when they were investigating mysterious disappearances in the country village of Brynblaidd in the infamous Countrycide episode of Season 1. The Torchwood team soon discovered the source of the Brynblaidd disappearances – the cannibalistic villagers.

Stranded in the middle of nowhere, they were cut off from outside communication and absolutely NO ONE knew where they were. Luckily, as they often do, the team managed to come out of the ordeal intact … physically.

 

7. Don’t Overlook or Underestimate the Quiet Ones

Silent but deadly is one way you could have described Sin City‘s iconic human-monster “Kevin.” Looking to make a clean break from the “nice guy” image he built in the Lord of the Rings films, Elijah Wood decided his next big role would be the silent cannibal of the 2005 Sin City film. What made Kevin particularly memorable was the complete lack of anything obviously resembling a human soul. Whenever you DID see his eyes past the obscuring glare of his glasses, the gaze was vacant, and whenever he fought, his moves were agile like an animal and lacking any mechanisms or mannerisms resembling humanity.

What really sold the creep factor on this cannibal, though, was when he finally got his comeuppance at the hands of equally creepy vigilante, Marv. Even with half his body eaten by a wolf and his head slowly hacked away with a saw, Kevin never ONCE utters a sound and smiles serenely the whole time.

 

8. Don’t Waste Time Appealing to Their Humanity

The only thing more dangerous than just any old cannibal is a cannibal who actually thinks they’re right with God and, frighteningly enough, most of them have reached this point. How do you think they go on living with themselves? It’s probably cheating, but we’re going to list off another cannibal from Sin City – Patrick Henry Roark.

Not only did he keep silent about Kevin’s actions, he willfully joined in on the feasts. The really messed up part about it, though, is that they both, especially Patrick, believed they were inheriting the sinful souls of all the prostitutes they cannibalized. They believed they were delivering them to salvation. Try reasoning with that? You can’t. When faced with a cannibal, indicting them on their actions may not be the best use of your time – they are fully aware of what they’re doing.

 

9. Be Careful Who You Tell Regarding Cannibals

While we mentioned, earlier, that cannibals do not make up the majority of humanity (and hooray for that), that doesn’t mean they don’t stick together. Probably the largest group of fictional cannibals around is the Soylent Corporation. They not only regulated cannibalism, but made it mainstream.

You often hear about people mysteriously disappearing when they stand against the corporations. In the case of the Soylent Corporation, however, they aren’t going to simply “make you go away.” That would be wasteful.

 

10. Never Ever Leave the House Again

Among their litany of devious qualities, cannibals also carry another quality – their ability to blend with the rest of us. Many of the cannibals we’ve listed demonstrate this quality, but probably one of the more iconic ones is Patrick Bateman. Now, forget what you know about American Psycho and forget EVERYTHING you’ve seen of the Nolan Batman films.

Take one look at Patrick Bateman and tell me you think he’s a cannibal. That’s the real horror behind these “unique” individuals – they know how to blend. That’s why, if all else fails, maybe the best piece of advice on this list is to simply never leave the house. You just can’t tell.

Besides, you can buy pretty much everything you need online from groceries to cars. Who needs to socialize? Who needs to date? Some of us like being single and uneaten …

 

London McGuire is a freelance writer and blogger for WeLoveTVMore.com. In addition to the horror and thriller genres, she enjoys writing about sports, great food and anything related to television or movies. Follow her on Twitter @londonmcguire.

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