L … is for Layout

L[1]  is for layout. In this case I am using layout, but for the purpose of explanation, it could also be described as presentation, or format. However you’d like to consider it by name, it is a massive area to cover, so I’ll touch on it with a few basic points.

I self-publish my novels and poetry anthologies as eBooks, so it is fitting that I refer to my own particular layout in the body of this post.

An eBook is no less a book because it is in digital format, so it should have a similar general appearance to the printed page, and it should contain the appropriate supplementary information.

Do you require a fair grasp of e-pub formatting?

I’m not an authority on it, but I have a reasonable knowledge of the task. I formatted both my novels, and my five poetry anthologies. It isn’t easy, and if I’m being honest, it can raise the heart-rate at times, but it is rewarding.

There is a feeling of accomplishment when you download the book to your Kindle or other e-reader and know that you have been responsible for every aspect of the production.

In self-publishing, there is a greater requirement for self-promotion, and this should be taken into consideration at the formatting stage.

How does an author promote within an eBook?

My own method is twofold. First, I wait until I have at least two 5* reviews before I update and include them. Secondly, I promote my other writing within the endnotes. There are obviously no reviews at initial publishing; the scary stage.

My layout is: Title, copyright, acknowledgements, reviews (in brief), contents, and then the story. After the story: Epilogue, a word from the author, about the author, also by the author, and contact details.

I don’t believe in pushing the ‘author’ information until after the story is read, because initially, it’s the story the reader is buying into. If by the end of the story, they like the writing, then they will take more interest in the endnotes.

Considerations when formatting for e-publishing?

1. Line spacing is a key factor. Too little space creates blocks of text that fill the screen. Too much space creates too much white space. Both achieve one thing; an uncomfortable reading experience. I use 1.15 spacing.

2. Fancy fonts can create issues, and the procedure is complicated enough. Stick with a standard font that will do the job; Arial, Courier, or Times New Roman. I use Times New Roman, headers size 14, regular text size 12.

3. Throughout the process, it is a good idea to keep the number of fonts and styles, to a minimum. This maintains a better reading experience. I tend to use bold capitals for chapter headings, or supplementary headings, regular text for the story, and italics for emphasis, or when dealing with telephone dialogue.

4. Paragraph indents should be less than for the written page. An indent on an e-reader is much more pronounced and can spoil the reader’s enjoyment. Standard indent is approximately 1.27cm. I reduce this to 0.25cm.

5. A line break, should be used after sections of supplementary information (copyright, reviews, etc.), or it all becomes a constant stream of text.

6. A line break, should be used at the end of each chapter to avoid the beginning of a fresh chapter occurring part-way down the screen.

7. An asterisk (centre-aligned), is useful to create a natural break between scenes, and this ‘educates’, or guides the human reader, just like signposting within the text.

8. Placing all the author info at the back of the book provides the human reader with more of a sample of the story, before deciding to make a purchase.

This is only an introduction to a challenging, but rewarding task.

Please note, that the procedure for formatting poetry is even more ‘challenging’.

Once again, thank you for reading my post, and if you have any queries, I respond to all comments.

See you tomorrow for ‘M’.

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18 comments on “L … is for Layout

  1. Hi Tom. I have a technical question I hope you can help me with. I work in Word and have the page layout set with indents for new paragraphs. However, when starting a new chapter, or a paragraph that indicates a change in time, there should be no indent. Is there any way of doing this without using the tab key, as that can mess up formatting when converting to a html document. Thanks!

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    • Hi Julia. I know what you mean and it’s a bit long-winded to explain here, but I’ll get something sorted out to send to you via email on Wednesday.
      As you may already know, the ‘tab’ key is a no-no when formatting. I hardly even use it now.
      I’m at my part-time retail job tomorrow, but I’ll be free the next day and I’ll be able to spend quality time on a simple tutorial. I hope you’ll be able to stand the suspense.

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      • Thank you so much! I appreciate it! I’m flying back from Dubai early Thursday, so won’t be back in my ‘normal’ flow till after the weekend probably. I’m up half the night here because my body clock is all over the place (hence my proliferation of comments!).

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    • I’ve already discovered that there are two things that help to sell eBooks, which have nothing to do with marketing.
      The first is a couple of good reviews, and the other is having a second title out there.
      Two brief quotes added inside your book’s first pages gives it a subtle boost, but they must be from actual reviews.
      Just as we would do ourselves, readers do take an interest in who has written a story, so a little ‘about the author’ in the endnotes looks good too. You become more than simply a name.

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      • You are right! I guess I just never thought anyone might be interested in reading much about me 🙂 Am in the process of editing a second manuscript now …

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  2. Getting the layout right can raise your heart rate. I’ve only self published one short story collection and thought I’d go crazy. It’s hard when you format the document the way Amazon tell you too, but the preview looks completely different. *sigh*

    I think I got it mostly right in the end, but decided maybe I’m not cut out for self -pubbing…yet. Just need to learn and practice a bit more.

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    • Personally, I don’t use the Amazon method. I use my own slightly amended version of the Smashwords method.
      By the way Charity, you haven’t lived until you’ve formatted poetry. LOL.

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  3. I’ve never had to deal with trying to format a manuscript for official publication, so I admire all of those who have managed to become skilled at it! I do a lot of freelance writing through Elance and I know there’s a big market right now for people who can design covers and format ebooks for authors–so it could be a way for you to make extra money between books!

    Stephanie
    http://stephie5741.blogspot.com

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    • I saw some really bad examples, and was tempted to offer my services to a couple of authors who live locally. When I pointed out in a friendly way that there might be one or two minor issues I was met with an indignant response. I let the matter drop because I know their sales, or lack of them will speak volumes.
      I do like the idea of making a little money in between books. I’m pushing so hard at the moment, I’ve got my schedule tight up to about December. I wouldn’t have it any other way, and I’m sure you’re the same Stephanie.

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    • Hi Marlene. Thank you for dropping by, and for the kind comment. I’ll get over your way later today to check out your blog. I didn’t realise you had one set up, so I’m looking forward to seeing your alphabetic efforts.

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  4. Apologies for getting to your post so late in the day. As with your post on book jackets and book blurbs (J… is for,,), this is another area that although I don’t have to confront just yet, is still nonetheless looming on the horizon for me, and one I’m equally dreading, so any help and advice on it is again much appreciated. I noted your comments on ‘italics’ for telephone conversation dialogue; I think only one of my blog short stories actually has any telephone dialogue in it, but several of my non-blog one’s I’m currently editing/revising do, and having substituted italics for said conversation in the master draft of my Cold Callers story, I agree it looks and makes for a better reading experience. Another great and informative post as always..

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    • No apology needed or expected Paul. Your patronage, comments and Tweets are a bonus to any writer.
      Don’t dread the idea of formatting; ’embrace’ it, LOL. Something I didn’t mention in my post, which is common sense, is that it is a time-consuming process, so give it some respect.
      On the telephone conversation idea, I try to avoid giving both sides of the conversation. The distant caller is referred to, but rarely ‘heard’.
      I’m looking forward to seeing your efforts when you start compiling that anthology.

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  5. Great information, and I’ve found that my efforts at layout when I self published my books made for a better looking book than when I allowed another to do the work. Control over the material is key.

    I loved your story on my blog about the lathe – I did something very similar the very first time I wrote a murder scene. Had to get up and check the locks on all the doors and windows!

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    • Yes I agree with you on layout. I think we have a fair idea who we want the work to look, having lavished so much time on how it sounds. It’s still our baby and we want to have as much to do with it’s formation as we can.
      It brought a smile to think of you with the doors and windows check. I know I’d do the same.

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    • Thank you for the endorsement Damyanti. Having seen what you’re capable of; your comment warms my heart.

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