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How To Format Your (self-published) Novel

The readability of a book depends entirely on how your manuscript is formatted. Something with poor readability probably won’t sell. So if you want to go toe-to-toe with traditionally published titles, your product needs to look its best, inside and out. While cover design is critical for the reader’s first impression, interior design can’t be overlooked.

Here are 11 tips on how your self-published novel should look (in paperback).  I have recently come across a few new authors who have published new fiction and their book ended up looking very amateurish and hard to read. 

Tip #1. Beginning Pages. The important pages such as title page, dedication, and tags extracted from reviews of the book, should be assigned an ‘odd‘ numbered page. The less important content, such as Copyright Notice, a list of the author’s other books and Acknowledgements should appear on’ even‘ numbered pages.  Not to worry if you have a ‘blank’ page on the left (even numbered) opposite the title page, for example. Once your book is built, it will look normal.

Sample. Title Page: (text centered and nicely spaced on page). 

                                            Angel of Murder  (minimum of 20 pt. font)

                                               (4-5 spaces between)

 

                                               by   (10 pt. font)

                                       Trisha Sugarek      (12 pt. font)

 

        Book #4 in the World of Murder series (12 pt. font)

Tip #2. Many new authors (as I spoke of above) have neglected to have a ‘Copyright Notice’ page. This is what it looks like. It is very important as it puts all plagiarists on notice that this content is owned by you, the author.  Note: If you quote anyone in your book you should give them a line of credit.
Sample:  (Text should be centered on the page). 
                                                                                 
                                         Notice (double space)
Copyright (c) 2020 Trisha Sugarek. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without the written permission of the Author. Printed in the United States of America. For information contact author at www.writeratplay.com. The Library of Congress has catalogued the soft cover edition of this book as follows: Sugarek, Trisha, The Writer’s Journal/Trisha Sugarek – This is a journal/handbook. The suggestions and tips are solely the opinion of the author. The quotes were taken from various publications and the author takes no responsibility for the accuracy.

                                    Made in the USA ISBN-13: 9798669379384

                                    Poetry and ink drawings by Trisha Sugarek

                                   Cover and Layout Design by David White

                  To view all of the author’s fiction and play scripts go to:
                                   www.writeratplay.com

Tip #3.  A quick way to see what I am describing is to pick up any novel by a known, published author and see the layout of the first few pages. For the most part Publishers use the same order and layout. ‘Acknowledgements’ (odd numbered page) can be placed in the front pages or at the end, in the back.  This is a list of people or organizations that have assisted you.

Sample: (centered text)

                                                     Acknowledgments

My friend and beta reader, Doug Johnson, whose insights, feedback and encouragement made this a better story.
My wonderful narrator/producer, Daniel Dorse, who helps me take these stories to Audio Books.
The Chatham County Coroner’s office.
And the many police and crime scene experts who share their time and knowledge so generously with me while writing this series.

Tip #4. Each chapter should be on an odd numbered page. The word ‘Chapter‘ can be used, however I’ve noticed that more and more authors are just using the number of the chapter or spelling out the number (One, Two, Three, etc). Placement is arbitrary;  I like to space down 5-7 spaces.  I use a 16-18 size font, and it should be centered. I often times use a different font style for chapter headings. Text should follow after a double space, when beginning new paragraphs.  Paragraphs shouldn’t be too long. 8,10, maximum of 12 lines is when you should begin a new paragraph. I’ve seen authors go up to as many as 22. Of course, content and a natural break also dictates a new paragraph.

Tip #5: Your contact information should never appear on the interior except if you are submitting it to a agent, publisher, etc. (That’s a whole different subject; submitting your ms.)  You can list your website address and/or your email address.

Tip #6:  Pages should be numbered and numbering should begin with the first chapter page. Pages preceding this should not be numbered. Page numbers can be created automatically by using your header or footer feature. Your name, as author, should be on each even numbered page and the title of the book should be on odd numbered pages, in the header. 

Tip #7: Separation between sentences: Single space. (I learned to type when two-spaces after each period was the rule.) One space is now the rule. 

Tip #8: Indentation of paragraphs: You can set this up using:  Home, the ‘Paragraph’ tab; the arrow to the right:   will open the menu. Alignment: Justified. Do not choose ‘left’ or ‘right’ but rather, Choose ‘Special’. Set it at ‘First line‘ 0.3 or 0.5.  Click on ‘Set As Default’ and then ‘This Document only?’  Yes.
 

Tip #9: Word count:  A full length novel is 80,000 and up.  A novella or cozy is approximately 37 to 40,000. 

Tip #10: If your page arrangement causes you to have a blank odd numbered page that seems awkward:  Put another title page on it.  I just finished reading a Robert B. Parker mystery where they use 3 title pages before I got to the first chapter. 

Tip #11:  Use black, 12-point, Times New Roman as the font. Single space the entire chapter. There are no double spacing between paragraphs.

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