Thursday, 24 January 2013

Formatting your book

Once you've completed the 'Edit' stage the next step is to check the format of the text. You need to format it differently depending on who will read it. I produce four different formats:

  1. A manuscript sample for sending to agents
  2. A 'paperback' book format
  3. An e-book format for Kindle
  4. An e-book format for Smashwords epub readers (Nook/Kobo/iPad)  
Here's what's required for each.

Formatting the Agent Manuscript Sample

It's been suggested that agents accept as few as 2% of submissions. They receive hundreds of manuscripts per week to look at. Put yourself in their place. How would you feel, presented with this amount of material to read through? Whatever you can do to make it easy for them is worthwhile. 

In general you’ll need to use a different format to the format you would produce for printing a book. Your agent’s website will probably detail how they wish the text you send them to be formatted but if not try:
  • Font style: Garamond or Times New Roman
  • Font size:12 point
  • One-inch margins (2.5cm) at left, right, top and bottom
  • About 0.5 inch (1cm) paragraph indentations
  • Double space, no extra lines between paragraphs, unless this is for a text break
  • Left align  the text. 
  • Add page numbers, starting with the first page of the story, not the title page
  • Indicate scene breaks with a blank line, then centering one of the following: ---, *, or ***, followed by another blank line.
  • The page header should contain: Last name/title/page number, for example: CHAPMAN/Immortality Gene/1.
  • At the end of a chapter, insert a page break, and start the next chapter on a new page.
  • Center the chapter title (even if it’s just Chapter One or Chapter 1), put two blank lines before and after it. (That's NOT good practice but OK for this copy which will only be printed out)
  • At the end of your text hit Return, then center 'Sample End.' Do this so you don’t leave the agent wondering if they have read all the pages or not. It’s not always obvious to an agent when they’ve reached the end of a story sample.
  • If you want to show thoughts, remote side of a telephone conversation or emphasis on a word, use italics. 
  • Do not underline anything
  • Use a single space at the end of a sentence; double spaces went out with typewriters.

Formatting a book for a print-on-demand service

What you are looking for are the following errors:
  • Does your book have the title page and Chapter 1 on an odd page number? It should have. Unfortunately MS Word does not display pages on the correct side in Print Layout view. There is a way round this problem which I wrote about in my blog at 
  • Do you have ‘widows’ and ‘orphans’? A widow is a single line of a paragraph which appears on a page on its own at the end of a chapter. An orphan is a single line of a paragraph at the bottom of a page.  Often you can fix this by adding or deleting words in an earlier paragraph or by using Word’s ‘keep together’ feature. To use it, right click in the ‘orphan’ and choose ‘Paragraph’. Select the ‘Line and Page Breaks’ tab and make sure ‘Widow/Orphan control’ and ‘Keep with next’ are both checked.
  • Do you have straight quotes(") where you should be using the 66 and 99 quotes? (“and then”)
  • Turn on the Show/Hide. Are you using two return characters at the end of paragraphs? You shouldn’t need to do that if you have set a paragraph first line indent. But if you prefer a space between paragraphs, then change the paragraph style in Word to use space before and space after settings. Such a style is often used in non-fiction books.
  • Do you use spaces or tab characters to indent the first line of a paragraph? With MS Word's 'Show/Hide' turned on, spaces show up as dots and tab characters as arrows. You shouldn’t use either. Instead change the style in Word . Right click the quickstyle button and choose ‘Modify…’ Then use the Format button and select ‘Paragraph…’. Set a first line indent of 0.5cm
  • Have you added paragraph spacing and paragraph indents? Unless you have a very short book that’s not usually a good idea. It’s definitely not a good idea if you later want to publish an e-book at Smashwords because this will cause your book to be rejected. Use indents or paragraph spacing but not both. There is however an exception to this rule. See below 
  • Is your text fully justified? If so is the last line of each chapter displayed properly? If there is a problem add an extra return character at the end of the chapter.
  • Do you need to hyphenate a word to get the line looking right? If so, in Word, use Ctrl hyphen at the location you wish it to appear at. This inserts a soft hyphen which will be removed if the text is reformatted.
  • Check the first paragraph in a chapter and after section breaks. That paragraph should NOT be indented. Check a few printed books to see what I mean. Here's how to set that up to happen automatically in MS Word 2007+

Formatting an e-book

E-books require a slightly different format to printed books. You need to be aware that some features are not available or not quite the same in an e-book. Your e-book should not have the same opening pages as a printed book and must contain a table of contents - even if that's just Chapter1, Chapter 2... e.t.c.
Start with the copy of your document formatted for creating a paperback. Save it as a web page (filtered)  and then make the following changes:
1. First pages
This picture shows the first pages for a paperback compared with those for an e-book

As you can see six pages from the paperback have been compressed into three pages for the e-book copy.
2. Book Title
Change the style to use no bigger than 18 point text.
3. Table of Contents
Remove this entirely if you plan to use Calibre to produce the file necessary for creating a Kindle book. Calibre does a better job than Word of creating a table of contents. If you plan on submitting a Word file to Smashwords you will need to leave Word's contents page. Smashwords will accept a file produced as an epub by Calibre though.
4. Headers, footers and footnotes
Remove these. The easiest way to do this is to use the File tab > Check for Issues > Inspect Document. Select everything  and use the 'Remove all' button on everything found.
5. Fonts
Keep fonts used to a bare minimum and use only one size of text for your main body style. You'll often find that it's easier to remove all styles completely and then go back and apply heading style 1 to chapter headings. You should either set the 'normal' style as either indented or to use space before/after paragraphs but not both. The only exception being the first paragraph after headings or section breaks which as previously described should not be indented.
6. Tables
Many e-book readers still don't support tables. If you need one in your e-book then you may have to create it as a graphic. Keep tables very simple or they will be unreadable in some readers.
7. Drop Capitals
Many e-book readers don't support these. The safest option is to remove them.
8. Hyperlinks
These are pointless in a paper book but very useful in an e-book. You can use them for quick navigation to another part of the book or to a web location. Change references to 'Appendix X' to a hyperlink. It's possible to use a link shortening service to both shorten the hyperlink and/or direct the user to the appropriate site for their country. See my page on using SmartURL to promote your book for how to do this. (
9. QR codes
Yes - it's really free and has been in the top 20 for three years!
In a printed book it's useful to use a QR code where an e-book would include a link. They can be scanned with a smart phone far easier than typing in a shortened link. Here's an example which takes you to my free technothriller when it's scanned.
10. Pictures
Many e-readers can't display left or right aligned images as in the picture above. Change them to be centered. Check the images to see what they look like in 16 shades of grey

If this post has proved useful to you would you do me a favour in return? Download a FREE copy of the book I co-author - a romantic technothriller called 'Immortality Gene'. Even if you don't read it it will help our ratings. You can get it at and if you want to read it, you can use a phone, a tablet, a computer or even a Kindle.

Have you seen my posts on editing a book and getting the first line right?

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Editing your book

It's essential that a book you want to promote is free from the sort of errors an editor would pick out. A book full of typos and grammar errors is an excellent way to ruin your reputation as an author. Line editing services seem expensive to a new author; however, so many will attempt this job themselves. The following is an extract from my book 'An Illustrated Guide to Getting Published.'

Assuming you produced your manuscript with Microsoft Word, you already should have used Word's spelling and grammar checker. You might think this step has been covered - right?
Wrong! It'll probably still be full of mistakes. Here are the steps my wife and I go through before we send a file to a publisher.

  1. Read the book through. Either print it out and read the printed copy, or send the file to an e-book reader and read it that way. (More on this later.) Reading it on your word processor isn’t the best solution. After all – any mistakes were made on that. Make corrections on a copy of the document and save it with a different filename so you can revert to an earlier version if necessary. Keep a backup of your book on something else such as a USB memory stick. Trust me, sooner or later, you will have a computer disaster. You don’t want to lose your hard work. If you're paranoid keep a copy in a different building or ‘in the cloud’.
  2. Are you sure you used the right word? If you are in any doubt - check it again unless you want to look foolish in print
    Bear-faced or bare-faced?

  3. Watch out for:
    • Unnecessary words? "She gave a loud shriek." Quiet shriek anyone? 
    • Characters appearing without explanation
    • Minor characters who are named but take no further part in the plot
    • Crossing time zones without time being affected
    • Chronoclasms in historical novels - President Lincoln looked at his wristwatch (not used by men until the early 1900s)
    • Bits of the story that drag because of detailed descriptions
  4. Put the text through a grammar checking program. We use two:
     Grammarly ( It’s a subscription service.
    Ginger ( Needs a slightly more powerful computer. Also a subscription service.

  5. Both Grammarly and Ginger will find mistakes, which you didn’t spot. Not all of these  ‘mistakes’ will be errors just as the grammar checker in Word also  finds false errors. I find it’s best to put no more than one chapter at a time through it.
    Grammarly allows you to set your writing style.
    Ginger is better at punctuation.
  1. Get a text to speech program to read the book aloud while you follow along. We use ‘Text Aloud’ which has a plugin for Microsoft Word, but there are lots of other programs including some free options. This step is essential since when reading it yourself, you read what you expect the document to say rather than what is actually there. Addition 2014 - the text to speech option of Word 2013 is very good now and even better on Windows 8.1.
  2. Get a proofreader to read the document. You can use a professional proofreader or a friend or do a swap with another indie author. Consider using a proof reader on the other side of the ocean at this stage to find those words and expressions which don’t quite have the same meaning.
    e.g. Midgie – midget or small candy in the US.
    Midgie – small biting fly, especially in Scotland.

Sending a file to the Kindle Touch/Fire/Keyboard

If you have an e-book reader such as the Kindle Touch, Kindle Fire or Kindle Keyboard it will do a fairly good job of reading the text to you. The basic Kindle and Kindle Paperwhite do not offer this feature.
At this stage, it’s enough to send the file as a .doc or .docx file attachment to your Kindle e-mail address. Use File > ‘Save and send’. Enter the email address provided with your Kindle. If you don’t know it you can find it from the Home screen menu > Settings > Send to Kindle email (You might have to go to a second screen). A subject isn’t important, but give it the document title + ‘draft’. Once you’ve sent the email it might take a few minutes to show up on your Kindle. Consult your Kindle guide for how to have the document read to you. Expect it to make some terrible pronunciation mistakes though. It will be enough, however, to draw your attention to errors.

Sending a file to another Android device e.g. Nexus 7

Although there is a Kindle reader available for these devices, it does not offer ‘Text to Speech.’ To get round that use an e-reader which offers to read the text to you. One such e-reader is Moon+ Reader Pro which is available from the Google Play Store for £3.10 ($4.99). This reader accepts DRM free .epub files. That means you will have to convert your Word file into an .epub file first. I use Calibre to do this.
  1. Save the Word document as a .doc or .docx file
  2. Open Calibre and use its ‘Add books’ icon to add the .doc or .docx file
  3. Use the ‘Convert books’ icon to convert the file to an epub format – this is probably the default format. You don’t need to add a cover or meta data unless you want to at this stage.
  4. Use the ‘Connect/share’ button in Calibre to start the content server. Clicking the dropdown allows you to find the ip address of the server – enter it in Moon + Reader Pro (Menu > Net Library > Calibre Library > Local Calibre)
  5. Attach your Android reading device and download the e-book you just created from the Calibre Library.

Think you’ve got your book ‘perfect’?

The Wicked Bible mistake
Even after going through this process you are still likely to have made or overlooked errors. Professionally printed books contain them. Take consolation in the fact that errors can be corrected in a print-on-demand book or e-book far easier than in a conventionally published book.
You are also unlikely to suffer the fate of the printer who accidentally missed out a crucial ‘not’, producing the ‘wicked bible’. As a result, he was heavily fined and lost his licence to print.

Save the final document

When you’re satisfied with your document, save it again as your master copy. You are now ready for the next step - formatting.
If this post has helped, will you help us? Download a FREE copy of our book 'Immortality Gene' from
Even if you never read it (but we hope you will) - it will help our rankings.
Look - a FREE e-book

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Blogging to promote your book

What sort of blog post should an author make?

John Locke in his book How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months! suggested that the best method an author could use to use blogging to promote a book was not to write about the book itself but to produce a blog post designed to go viral and which contains subtle links which encourage the reader to find out about your book. Although John is in 'author disgrace' over the paid for review issue, he's spot on with his approach to blogging.

John Locke's famous blog post

John wrote a post Why I Love Joe Paterno and my Mom! in which he blogged about how his mother encouraged him to find a role model, his choice being Joe Paterno, a longtime football coach at Penn State. The blog makes only a minor reference to John being an author but is hosted on his website where his audience can read more about his work. John promoted the blog by sending the link to it to Penn State University related bulletin boards, blogs and people tweeting about PSU. It quickly went viral, being read not just by football fans. Part of its attraction was his choice of title - we may not all know Joe Paterno but we all have a mother. The post was made before the Penn State scandal became an issue.
John doesn't post often. Each blog is very carefully planned and aims to tug at the heartstrings. He did it again with a post 'Fathers and Daughters' in August 2012.

My attempt at a John Locke style post

I had a go at writing a John Locke type blog post myself. Here's what I came up with:

Bio-terrorism and the cure for the common cold

Sooner or later someone will use a bioterrorism technique to release a pandemic which actually helps people! It could be that the common cold is it's first target.

How to catch a cold

Everyone knows how easy it is to catch a cold but there are some things about the process that aren't common knowledge. Let's try an experiment. While you read this don't touch your eyes!

Imagine someone with a cold gets in a lift. They sneeze and a fine mist of spray spreads everywhere. It quickly settles though. They get to their floor and exit the lift. You call the lift from two floors down and the first thing you do when you get in is to press the button to select your floor. A button covered by a fine spray of cold virus.

So now you have the cold virus on your finger. Not a big problem, it's unlikely to get through the skin on your finger. Of course you could infect yourself with a cold by now eating something.

Touched or want to touch your eyes yet?

As you've probably found out by now, we touch our eyes all the time and as soon as you do, that  virus finds a warm, moist very thin membrane and promptly infects you. Ever noticed how a cold can make your eyes sore?

Deliberately spreading contagion

Now imagine a terrorist intent on using biological warfare. A good way to spread contagion would be to spread their substance on anything which people frequently touch. Lift buttons, push plates on doors, door handles, shopping cart handles, magazines in a shop,  newspapers and books in a library. Money! Forget the idea of sending letters. There are a huge number of ways of spreading any virus using things we touch.

Why there's no cure or vaccine

Now imagine a genetic researcher who has made a fantastic discovery. He/she has come up with a genetic fix which will forever stop people from catching the common cold.

Would you buy it assuming it's 100% safe and costs little? Of course you would!

So if this had been produced do you think you would get the opportunity? Frankly you would have as much chance as a celluloid cat being chased by an asbestos dog through the fires of Hell!

"Why?" I hear you ask. "If it was safe why wouldn't it be available?"

The answer is simple. The people who would be marketing this are the very people who make a fortune  every year by selling cold remedies. Are they ever going to willingly give up those billions of dollars of regular income?

That's why there are really no serious research projects into curing or preventing the common cold. None of the so called remedies actually cure a cold. If you buy them you might, if you are lucky, get some slight relief from the symptoms ...and you can get that effect with a simple home remedy. Here's the recipe:

A home remedy

In a tall glass:
  • add 2 fingers depth whiskey (cheap stuff)
  • add 2 fingers depth honey
  • add 2 fingers depth lemon juice
  • Fill the glass with hot water, stir well and drink.
  • Go to bed with a good book and relax or sleep it off.
If you find your symptoms are not better after an hour or so repeat.

Now I know what some of you are going to say. "I don't like whiskey," but believe me - this tastes nothing like it. It tastes good, relieves a sore throat, relieves congestion and after three of them you won't care about the cold!

OK - free advice over; now let's consider something else.

What bio-terrorism has to do with a cure

During the course of researching our 'A Vested Interest' books I had occasion to investigate gene therapy. It is possible to alter a virus so that it inserts the genes which prevent a cold. Imagine a genetic researcher has produced that cold cure. It really works and he knows it's safe. But he/she can't market it for the reasons explained above. He/she can't announce it either without putting their life at risk. There's a multi-billion dollar industry at stake here remember?

The researcher knows the people of the world want the cure though. Does that researcher have the right to deny them it? Should they risk the wrath of the drug companies to make it available?

I think you'll find that the researcher would adopt the bio-terrorist tactics to release his/her product.

Sooner or later some well meaning person will do this!

So how did my post do?

Well I followed the John Locke formula and wrote a post which replaced the common to all factor of 'Mum' with 'Cold' - something we've all gone through the misery of. Like John I made a subtle reference to being an author and didn't over emphasise 'the book'. I used a buzzword 'Bio-terrorism' instead of 'Joe Paterno' which played on media fear factor rather than hero worship. I even got some well known authors, including John Locke, adding comments - which I responded to. You can see the original post and comments here. My post didn't go viral however. John Locke's Joe Paterno post had 100s of comments and mine had 10. Where I failed was in promoting the blog.

  • I failed to seek out people posting about having a cold or bio-terrorism 
  • I failed to use Twitter effectively. At the time John made his post he had 1000s of Twitter followers whereas I, was new to Twitter, had only 200 followers and didn't know about hashtags or searching Twitter.
  • I didn't know about Triberr either and wasted the opportunity to have it promoted there.
  • My blog was hosted at blogspot rather than at my own domain and in the original post I didn't have links to my site.

My post was better than John's!

In three areas my blog post was better than John's. 
  1. I included a graphic. People like pictures - they are attention grabbers. Use relevant pictures!
  2. I used lots of sub-headings. Subheadings allow the reader to quickly skim an article to see if it's what they are really interested in without having to read the whole thing.
  3. I used the Associated Press style of writing in that I started with a quick synopsis and then went into more detail section by section.

What you as an author should do

  1. Write about a blog subject which you know well and which you feel others should know about.
  2. Don't write 'Buy my book' blog posts. Reading those is as popular as sitting down to watch just the adverts on TV.
  3. Include subtle references to your author craft and books. Give the reader the opportunity to find out more if they wish.
  4. Use pictures and break your blog down with subheadings.
  5. Unless you have a massive blog following already, you are probably wasting your time if you don't have a good understanding of how to use Twitter and Triberr to promote your posts. 
  6. Seek out those who have blogged, discussed and tweeted about similar subjects and make them aware of the link to your post. Don't be afraid of posting to other authors. Authors are usually prolific readers - I read 64 books last year just on my Kindle.
  7. Your aim is for the post to go viral! If it does people will want more and, the more they see your name, the more likely they are to buy your books.
  8. Add a 'Call to action' at the end of your post and make it a prominent feature. Here's an example:
    If this post has helped or entertained, will you help us? Download a FREE copy of our book 'Immortality Gene' from
    Even if you never read it (but we hope you will) - it will help our rankings.
    Look - a FREE e-book

Have I missed anything?

Yes I have #9. Finish with a question which invites comments.

Feel free to comment - If you know of any other technique to promote your book through blogging which I haven't included, please feel free to add it..