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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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Pay It Forward ~~ A Review

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 5 out of 5 quills   A Book Review

The book is better than the movie….as it should be. I watched the movie (an iconic film) years (decades?) ago and took the lesson in the story very much to heart. I have tried to pay it forward when and where I can. Time pasted and then I discovered the book’s author, Catherine Ryan Hyde, when I read her book, Have You Seen Luis Velez? Only then did I learn that she was also the author of Pay It Forward.  Full circle. I love when that happens.  Not long ago I had the pleasure and honor of Interviewing Ms. Hyde. 

A synopsis (which is not my style of reviewing) is unnecessary as everyone knows the premise of the story. Even fifteen years ago, Hyde was a brilliant writer. But, now reading her more current offerings I can say she improves like a fine wine.  Which is all any writer wants for themselves; that they grow and improve. 

If you haven’t read the book, you must!  If you won’t read the book, you must watch this wonderful movie.  We all need lifting up during this terrible time in our country. The movie or the book will lift you up.

I am slowing reading through the entire collection of work by Catherine Ryan Hyde.  Have You Seen Luis Velez? still remains my favorite to date. And that’s saying something!!
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A Slice of Time….How to Write a Ten Minute Play

I always see the script (for a 10 minute play) as a slice of time. ‘I Can’t Breathe’ was a slice of time before the event that prompted me writing the play. ‘Parkland Requiem’ was during  the event, that is the massacre that happened at Parkland’s high school. We all know what happened immediately after the shooting and not much before the shooting other than it was a normal day of  families getting ready for the day and hopeful young people hurrying off to school. 

For me, the writer, it’s like walking into a room where people are having a conversation (without you) and you are plunged into the story from there.

None of the rules of writing change when writing a ten minute play, just because it’s short. You must still have a beginning, an arc, and an ending(of sorts). You have to introduce the characters through dialogue quickly and concisely. You must attract the empathy of the audience with record speed. Remember, you only have ten minutes.

How do I know when I have ten minutes? Here’s some tips: The typical rule is a page equals one minute.  If a page is heavy with blocking, (movement) it will usually go longer than a minute. If you have a page that is solid with dialogue and movement you can rely on the 1 page = 1 minute. And leave lots of white space; an actor will need some space to write in blocking, from the director, and notes while in rehearsal. 
 

Check out my many “Motivational Moments for Writers” in past posts. 
Want to try your hand at writing a ten minute play? This journal is a great place to start. 
Want to see more of my ten minute plays? Click here 

Do you need help Formatting a Novel? 
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   May:  Joram Piatigorsky, June: Mike Maden writing for TOM CLANCY. July: Guest Blogger Desiree Villena, August: Carolyn Brown
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  On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks!