Should You Format Your Book While Writing It?

Formatting Should You Format Your Book While Writing Itwhen writing to a small degree makes some sense. Many authors want to get a feel for what their book will look like in print. Or perhaps to get a “head start” while waiting for a proofreading to be completed, they start formatting.

Almost invariably, though, this actually creates more work.

Before formatting, you want to be absolutely done writing, fact-checking, editing and even proofreading the book. If you format in Microsoft Word and then make changes to the text, you’ll likely run into one or more of the following problems:
• Page numbers change – Book design traditionally places the first page of a chapter on the right-hand (odd-numbered) page. When text is added or deleted, this can alter the locations of headers and chapters, forcing you to add empty lines to the page or even entirely new blank pages.
• Table of contents and index change – Usually regenerating the table of contents is easy enough…but editing after page numbers have been set requires you to redo this step. With indexes, you may recheck every entry.
• Hyphenated words shift – To get wording to space properly across a line in MS Word, sometimes hyphens are manually added. Delete or add a single word, however, and usually those hyphens no longer appear at the end of a line but its middle.
 Page breaks shift – Especially with MS Word, you might place artificial breaks in the text to ensure it is justified on the page. Changing a word can result in an empty line of text or push text to the next page.
• Images and text boxes get cut off – Adding or deleting text also means that images and any text boxes (such as for drop caps or breakout boxes) will shift on the page. They may no longer appear next to an image or only parts of them may appear on the page.

This is not to say that you shouldn’t make changes to a formatted manuscript. If you notice a typo, by all means fix it. Usually a lone misspelling won’t cause major problems, as its impact on the formatted text is localized (such as throwing off hyphens within that paragraph). But the fewer typos you have to correct, the less likely corrections will mess up the formatting.

Of course, some minor formatting can begin the moment you start writing. Selecting the font, the font size, and the line spacing, as well as boldfacing the chapter titles and headers (presuming you want them boldface) makes perfect sense. But any formatting that might be impacted whenever you revise the text ought to wait.

Professional Book Editor: Having your novel, short story or nonfiction manuscript proofread or edited before submitting it can prove invaluable. In an era where you face heavy competition, your writing needs a second eye to give you the edge. I can provide that second eye.

Is Your Manuscript Ready to be Self-published?

Before making Is Your Manuscript Ready to be Self-publishedcoffee in the morning, you’ve got to have grounds to put in the pot. Before grilling a steak for dinner, you need to have a thawed T-bone. Before self-publishing, you’ve got to have a completed manuscript.

If you haven’t yet finished writing your novel, anthology or nonfiction book, stop reading now. Bookmark this page and come back once you’ve completed writing it. We’ll see in a few days!

If you’ve finished writing your manuscript, congratulations (and welcome back all of you who stopped reading this book a few days ago and have just finished writing your book)! Now the bad news: A completed manuscript doesn’t just mean that you’ve got a book ready to be self-published. There’s a lot more to it than that.

Professional Edit
First, the manuscript ought to be professionally proofread and edited. Even the best writers need someone looking over their work to find stray typos and to ensure that the sentences and the book’s organization makes sense (Full disclosure here: I run such an editing service.). Writers often get so close to their work that they don’t realize they’ve made some oversight or that they’re rambling in a section. A good editor will advise you of this and help you determine a solution to many other problems, from plotting to logically organizing your ideas.

Sections to Include
Secondly, you must have ready all of the sections of the book that you need before uploading it to a self-publishing site. Among those often overlooked sections are:
• Title page – This is the page that readers first open to and see the book’s title in large letters as well as the author’s name and publisher.
• Copyright page – Turn a page and you’ll find in small print the book’s copyright, information about the publisher, the book’s ISBN and probably a notice saying parts of the book can’t be reproduced without permission or that the characters in it are wholly fictional.
• Acknowledgements and dedication – The next couple of pages probably give a list of people who the author is appreciative to for help in writing this book (aka “acknowledgements”) and a person or two who the book is written in honor of (aka “dedication”).
• Table of contents – A few more pages list all of the section and chapter titles in the book and on what pages they appear (or in the case of ebooks, links to those sections and chapters). A novel probably doesn’t need a table of contents, but a nonfiction book absolutely does.
• Index – After the book’s main text comes a few pages listing key words and concepts and what pages they appeared on in the book. As with the table of contents, an index isn’t needed in a novel, but a nonfiction book demands it.
• Author’s bio – While not necessary, many readers like to know a little about who wrote the book: what makes them an expert on the subject, if they’ve published other books, where they live, etc.

Finally, your manuscript needs to be formatted. That means it appears on your computer screen exactly as it will be printed. That involves fitting the text within the margins of the book’s trim size (the book’s dimensions), that the text is in the correct typeface and point size, and that the page numbers are included, and more. We’ll also discuss formatting the book in upcoming entries.

Completing all of this is essential before starting to upload your manuscript to a self-publishing house. If it’s not done, your book either will look unprofessional or you run the risk of spending money to resubmit your manuscript because you must go back and complete all of this work.

Unless you’ve already published the first book in a series and you want each sequel to look the same, don’t start formatting the manuscript before all of the editing is done.

Professional Book Editor: Having your novel, short story or nonfiction manuscript proofread or edited before submitting it can prove invaluable. In an era where you face heavy competition, your writing needs a second eye to give you the edge. I can provide that second eye.

How to Upload Your Ebook Cover at KindleDP

One you’ve How to Upload Your Ebook Cover at KindleDPcreated your ebook cover, the next step is to upload it. Before doing so, save the cover as a .jpg. The cover should be no more than 50 MB in size. Next, go to your Kindle Direct Publishing account.

We’ll presume you’ve already started uploading your manuscript to KindleDP. The cover uploading occurs on the “Kindle Ebook Content” page. About midway down the page, you have the option to create a cover or to upload your own. Since you’ve already created the cover, you’ll check the second option.

Once you’re done, a new box pops up on the screen. Click the yellow oval that says “Upload Your Cover.” You’ll probably need to locate the folder your cover is in.

The uploading will take several minutes. The more color pictures that are in the book, the longer it’ll take.

After KindleDP uploads the cover to its site, “processing” occurs. This also can take a few minutes.

Bots at KindleDP quickly check your cover for the basics. If it’s too large in size, the dimensions don’t fit KindleDP’s requirements, it’ll probably be rejected. Unfortunately, KindleDP isn’t very good at telling you why it didn’t like the cover. If you’ve followed all of the guidelines in this book, though, it shouldn’t be rejected. If it is, you’ll need to figure out why and then fix it. 

Some common reasons KindleDP rejects ebook covers include:

  • Wrong dimensions – You’ll need to build a new cover unless you’re off by fractions of a fraction of an inch. Then you might be able to fudge it by stretching the cover to fit the space, though doing so is dangerous as you’re risking distortion of the artwork and lettering.
  • A bleed area was included – Sometimes authors just make a copy of their paperback cover and crop it so only the front cover shows. Unfortunately, they forget to crop the bleed area as well.
  • Text is too close to the cover’s edge – The title, byline and tag line all need to be at least 0.375 inches from the margin. KindleDP can be very picky, so if you’re 0.374 inches away, you might get rejected. I always recommend keeping your text a half-inch away from the bleed area.
  • Title and byline doesn’t match what you’ve already entered when uploading – Check the title and byline entered on the Ebook Details page. It should match what’s on your cover. If you bought an ISBN from Bowker, check it to make sure that your title and byline match your cover. If any of these don’t match, whichever one was in error needs to be corrected.
  • Pixilated artwork – The artwork is too small. Any artwork placed on the cover should be at least the same size as the space it will fill and be 300 dpi.
  • Printers marks placed on cover (includes color bars) – Some cover designers place lines, what look like targets, and small colored squares on the edges of their covers. They’re used to ensure your image lines up with the paper it is printed on. KindleDP doesn’t need these printers marks to line up your ebook cover, though.
  • Copyright issues with artwork – Sometimes artwork contains metadata that establishes it’s copyrighted. If KindleDP notices this, it won’t allow you to print photos or illustrations that you don’t own.

There are other arcane reasons why the cover might be rejected. Usually KindleDP will send you an email explaining why it did not accept the cover, though the reason given often sounds like gobbledygook. You may need to do some online research to figure out exactly what KindleDP means.

Professional Book Editor: Having your novel, short story or nonfiction manuscript proofread or edited before submitting it can prove invaluable. In an era where you face heavy competition, your writing needs a second eye to give you the edge. I can provide that second eye.

Guidelines for Placing Your Book Cover's Byline

When designing Guidelines for Your Book Cover's Bylineyour book cover, you'll need a byline. The byline is the author’s name. 

Generally, the byline is in smaller type than the title and often is in the same font and color. There are plenty of exceptions to this rule, though. If you’re a big name author, the byline may be equal in size and appear in a prominent position on the cover. Sometimes for design reasons, you may not want it to be in the same font or coloring. This is especially true if you’re using a unique font intended to convey a mood, such as lettering made to appear like dripping blood on a horror book. In that case, using the same font and color for the byline may be overkill (no pun intended) and actually distract from the novelty of the title’s appearance.

The byline typically appears somewhere below the title. The bottom of the cover is a good spot. Again, there are exceptions. Sometimes the author’s name sell the book not the title, so in such cases the byline appears above the title.

As placing the byline on the page, make sure it is readable. As with the title, you don’t want stray lines from the artwork intersecting letters so that they are unreadable or could be easily confused with another letter. Finding a spot that is monochrome on the bottom of the artwork is an ideal location for the byline.

Lastly always leave “by” off the cover. The only name that ought to appear on the cover is the author’s, so why place “by” before it? Besides adding clutter to the page, it looks amateurish. If you’ve written a children’s book, include wording such as “Illustrated by” or “Pictures by” before the illustrator’s name to clarify she is not the author.

Professional Book Editor: Having your novel, short story or nonfiction manuscript proofread or edited before submitting it can prove invaluable. In an era where you face heavy competition, your writing needs a second eye to give you the edge. I can provide that second eye.

Guidelines for Placing the Title on Your Cover

When indie Guidelines for Placing the Title on Your Coverauthors design their book cover, usually they place a lot of time and thought in he illustration or photograph that will appear in it. Just as important as the artwork, though, is your book’s title. It is, after all, the way people refer to your book. Given this, you want it to be visually memorable. That can be done by looking at its location, size and font.

Place the title near the top of the cover. Most people will look at the top half of a book cover before the bottom half. Because of this, the byline typically goes at the cover’s bottom, unless the author is a recognizable, household name, in which case it will be more prominent.

If placing the title over artwork, do so in a dead spot where the letters won’t clash with what’s in the photo or illustration; the sky or a grassy field where the color is fairly  monochrome are dead spots that are usually perfect for titles. Watch for lines in the artwork, such as telephone poles or tree branches, and where they intersect letters in the title. A letter superimposed over such lines can make the title unreadable as the background image causes the letter to look like a different one in the alphabet or even unlike a letter at all.

Mind Your Margins
As placing the title (and the byline or any other text as well), make sure it doesn’t get too close to the left, right, top and bottom margins. Doing so might mean letters get chopped off when a thumbnail of your cover is placed on a website. A good rule to follow is to never put any text within 48 pixels (that’s about a half-inch) from the left, right, top and bottom margins.

Ideally, titles and bylines are centered. That is, the left edge of the first letter and the right edge of the last letter on any line of the title are equidistant from the left and right margins.

For the title’s size, large, boldfaced letters usually work best, as they stand out more on a thumbnail. Try to make the longest word in the title fill the space a half-inch from the left margin to a half-inch from the right margin. Don’t be surprised if the title’s font size is 120-150 points.

The subtitle can be a smaller size and sometimes not in boldface. Always make the title a larger font size than the byline. The subtitle can be slightly smaller than the byline, however.

For font selection, you want to pick a style that matches your book. Some of those styles are a bit cliché, but they’re how readers subconsciously know a title is in a specific genre. For example, horror novels often have titles that look like dropping blood while westerns have fancy, serif-heavy fonts that look like they’re out of the 1880s. At the same time, don’t go overboard unless you’ve written a comedic book. A science fiction novel that uses a font in which the letters resemble robots won’t be taken seriously.

General Rules
Some general rules for your front cover title include:

  • Use readable and large fonts – Avoid fancy fonts, especially those that are italicized, in Old English or gimmicky (like Comic Sans) for your cover’s text. There may be instances when those fonts would work, but rarely can they be read on a thumbnail. Instead, opt for an easy-to-read font and place it in boldface to stand out.
  • Limit wording on the cover – The book’s title, subtitle, and a byline are all that’s needed for an ebook. Any more just clutters the cover and forces you to make the text smaller, thereby ensuring it is more difficult to read.
  • Make the title the largest lettering – If the picture and overall cover design is attractive, then a potential buyer will notice the title. Help them find the title by ensuring it is larger than the subtitle and the byline. The only time to make a byline larger than a title is if you are a famous author whose name is a household word.
  • Arrange text so it reads right to left – Avoid having lettering reading north to south or scrambled about on a page. Remember that potential buyers will view and read the thumbnail very quickly, so the more difficult the text is to read, the more quickly they’ll move on to another author’s book.
  • Avoid color clash – Use contrasting colors. The text lettering should stand out against the picture. If the spot on the picture where the lettering will go is light or bright, use dark text and vice versa. If placing your text on a black background, use a light hue that is an accent color in your picture. Also avoid changing the color of each word or sets of words within the title, subtitle and byline. Keep to one color.

These, of course, are just general guidelines to make the designing simple for writers, who generally are more interested in penning their next story than spending hours on a computer playing around with the size and location of the title. But if you’re willing to spend time with it, there’s no hard definitive rule that says a title can’t be in regular type or that it can’t be aligned to the left. The only rule it must follow is it must succeed in selling your book.

Professional Book Editor: Having your novel, short story or nonfiction manuscript proofread or edited before submitting it can prove invaluable. In an era where you face heavy competition, your writing needs a second eye to give you the edge. I can provide that second eye.

How to Design Your Cover’s Background

Sometimes when How to Design Your Cover’s Background self-publishing, the artwork you’ve selected doesn’t fill the entire cover. In that case, the background of your document that you're building the cover on will show. You’ll want to select a background that works well with your photo and allows readers to easily see your title and byline.

Begin by ensuring the background complements the artworks’ dominant colors and the title’s colors. At this stage, you probably just know the artwork’s dominant color. You can upload your artwork to a color palette generator. There are several of them online that you can use for free; to find them, simply type “color palette generator from photo” into your favorite search engine. Personally, I like the palette generators at Cooler and Canva. You’ll then get a set of six colors that are in your photo or hues that complement those colors.

Select the lightest of the colors in the palette for your background color. Usually the background of a book cover is light so as not to distract from the artwork. This means that the color of the title and byline must be dark so the letters will stand out. For example, on a white background you’d use black lettering. Usually black is your best bet, but there may be a hue of black or of a dark blue in the generated palette that will work for your lettering.

Sometimes, though, the background needs to be dark to work with the photo. In that case, the color of your title and byline must be light, for example, yellow lettering on a royal purple background. In that case, select the darkest color in the generated palette for your background and the lightest one for your title.

Professional Book Editor: Having your novel, short story or nonfiction manuscript proofread or edited before submitting it can prove invaluable. In an era where you face heavy competition, your writing needs a second eye to give you the edge. I can provide that second eye.

First Sketch then Build Your Ebook Cover

Before designing First Sketch then Build Your Ebook Coveryour ebook cover, sketch what it will look like. This is the blueprint that you’ll follow. Creating a sketch to follow as you gather the materials needed to bring your design to fruition means you’ll save yourself time by not having to redo work if you’ve just pantsed it.

Your sketch doesn’t need to be too fancy, but the more time you spend on it, the more likely that your cover will look good.

To come up with ideas for a cover, look at what others are doing on their books. Amazon’s bestsellers list for your genre is a good place to start. You don’t want to copy another cover’s design but instead to be inspired by it. Maybe you like the color scheme used on one cover, possibly the font used on another book. Can they be melded together in your design? Does a certain style of artwork grab you more than the style used on other covers? Can that style be emulated for your sketch?

When sketching your cover, think of how you want the four elements to look and where they will go. What artwork will you use – a photograph or an illustration? What font and color will the title be? Ditto on the byline. Will you use a tag line and what will it say?

In the sections ahead, we’ll examine all of that and some good design principles your should follow. 

Always remember, though, your sketch is just a sketch. You always can change it. You may have to, in fact. Maybe you won’t be able to find the artwork you originally envisioned. Maybe you’ll see a better piece of art or a better font than you planned. Be willing to switch up. Just make another sketch with the new materials or ideas. Allow your cover to evolve.

Professional Book Editor: Having your novel, short story or nonfiction manuscript proofread or edited before submitting it can prove invaluable. In an era where you face heavy competition, your writing needs a second eye to give you the edge. I can provide that second eye.

Ebook Covers Consist of Four Major Elements

An ebook DALL·E 2023-09-26 13.09.27 - ereader neo-expressionismcover – perhaps wrongly – tells the reader a lot about the pages that follow. A poor cover hints at unprofessional writing and vice versa. So invest a little time working on the cover, even though you’re a writer; after all, you're not a fashion designer but you still wouldn’t dress your child in rags during her first public outing!

Because of this, you’ll want to spend some time thinking about and working on your cover rather than slapping it together.

An ebook cover essentially consists of four parts: artwork; the title; the byline (i.e. author's name); and a tag line.

The artwork you use should receive the most consideration. Many potential readers won’t see the words so much as the illustration or picture that graces your front cover. Because of this, your artwork should be dramatic enough and convey something about the book. It’s a lot more complicated than that, of course, so we’ll spend more time discussing the elements of a good illustration for a cover in an upcoming blog entry.

Once you select artwork for the cover, you need to find a spot for the title and the subtitle if you have one. First decide on a font that best represents the feel of book. A romance novel might have an elegant cursive typeface while a science fiction piece might use a futuristic font. The point size is another consideration. The title ought to be the larger than the subtitle and the author’s name but not so large that it covers too much of the artwork and distracts from it. Indeed, where you place the title in relation to the artwork is key. While it can be laid over the artwork, ideally the illustration you use will have white space (or blank space) where the title can appear.

After placing the title and subtitle, the author’s name needs to go on the front cover. While it doesn’t have to match the font used for the title, good design usually requires that it come from the same family of typefaces. One aspect of the author’s name that must absolutely be followed is that it exactly match the name used on the half-title and copyright pages (If I used Robert A. Bignell on the title page of this book, placing R.A. Bignell on the cover would be a no-no.). Finally, you may want to add a promotional line telling who you are (For example, I might use Author of “7 Minutes a Day to Your Bestseller” on this book’s front cover.).

Tag Line
Another element you might add to the title is a tag line about the book. This usually are a four or five words of something nice someone has said about your book (For example, this book might say: “‘The only worthy guide out there.’ – Kyle John Janison, editor”). The person or the source (such as a newspaper or magazine) should be reputable and recognizable, however. More on this later.

There are two parts of a paper book cover that you do not need to design for your ebook. The first is the spine. This is the side of the book that we see when it’s placed in a bookcase. It typically includes the title, author’s name, publisher, and if fiction possibly the genre. The second part is the back cover, which is blurb or synopsis about the book, aimed at getting readers to purchase it, usually tops the page. The ISBN with barcode and price typically appear in the lower right corner. The back cover also might possibly include an author’s bio with photo, publisher and a website to learn more about the author/book series.

Professional Book Editor: Having your novel, short story or nonfiction manuscript proofread or edited before submitting it can prove invaluable. In an era where you face heavy competition, your writing needs a second eye to give you the edge. I can provide that second eye.

Create a Document to Build Your Ebook Cover

Just as Create a Document to Build Your Ebook Coverconstruction workers follow blueprints, so should you when creating your ebook cover. Begin by establishing the cover’s size.

If just using the front cover of your paper book for the ebook, this isn’t a issue. Simply create a copy of your paper book’s cover and crop it so only the front cover shows.

If creating only an ebook, however, you’ll have to decide what size your ebook cover should be. Usually a good ratio is 1.6 pixels of height for every 1 pixel of width. So, you could make the ebook cover 2,560 pixels in height x 1,600 pixels in width. This gives you a rectangular shape common to ebooks and what typically fits on websites that use thumbnails of ebook covers. Of course, your cover doesn’t have to be those exact dimensions, and if you’re simply using the paper book’s cover, it may not be. But if you’re only making an ebook cover, that’s the dimension Kindle Direct Publishing recommends.

As a first step, on your software or app, create a shape that matches those dimensions. If you’re able to select the dpi, go for 300. Your cover then will be plenty large enough to look good when shrunk down.

As part of the shape creation, you’ll probably have to choose what background color you’ll use. This is where having an idea of what your cover will look like before designing it is useful. If a photo will fill the entire page, any color for your background is fine, since it’s going to be covered. If the photo is going to sit on a background, you then have to choose a background color. More on that in a later chapter.

Once you’ve created the box, save it, including the words “EBOOK COVER” in its name. That’ll make it easier to find when searching through your files. Ideally, you’ll use a software or an online app that will allow you to save the document in a format so you can go back and work on it and change what you’ve created. For example, in Photoshop, save it as a .psd rather than a .jpeg or a .pdf.

With the document created, you now can start setting your cover’s basic elements on it. In future articles, we’ll examine what those elements are.

Professional Book Editor: Having your novel, short story or nonfiction manuscript proofread or edited before submitting it can prove invaluable. In an era where you face heavy competition, your writing needs a second eye to give you the edge. I can provide that second eye.