"The Final Page" column provides a weekly tip for avoiding common self-publishing mistakes. A professional final product makes the difference between being reviewed on The New Podler, or being one of the millions of books that sink through Amazon's sales rankings to languish below the 4-million mark.
"Do it yourself" shouldn't scream "I did it myself!"
Graphic designers are expensive. In my years as an editor, however, I have learned that they don't charge half of what they are worth to authors, and that a $700 book cover or $500 layout job ought to buy them a pair of angel wings. In an increasingly savvy indie marketplace, an ugly book will embarrass you and hurt sales.
Mama may have said, "Ain't nothing is free." Listen up. If you are publishing a book without the help and expense of a graphic designer, what you don't know will cost you. You can typeset your book in Word, but there are reasons not to. The industry-standard software, Photoshop and InDesign, will cost you more than a designer who knows how to use them. Whatever program you use, be sure to avoid these common mistakes.
1. The page margins must be set correctly. There are certain proportions the margins should conform to; specifically, the margins that face the center fold should be wider than outer margins, to leave room for binding.
2. Running heads and page numbering are often cluttered, and sized either too large or too small.
3. Chapter titles, subheads, and epigraphs often look disproportionate.
4. Paragraph's indents should not be a full half-inch. Two to three spaces is usually enough.
5. Tracking may be too tight, and the leading, too loose. Tracking is the space between lines, and leading is the space between letters.
6. Readers will lose patience with ugly, hard-to read font. Although standard for manuscripts, twelve-point font size is a bit excessive for the body text. Be keenly aware of how big or small your font will appear, realistically, in the published version.
7. Your typing teacher may have taught you to put two spaces between sentences. But in the age of computers and nice readable fonts, the accepted standard is only one. Do a find-and-replace for double spaces.
For more reading on the subject, visit this article and this one. And if you prefer to spend your money on Adobe software instead of a graphic designer who knows how to use them, at least drop $12 for this book on typesetting in Microsoft Word.
Sarah Cypher is the author of "The Editor's Lexicon: Essential Writing Terms for Novelists" (Glyd-Evans Press, 2010) and runs a two-woman editing and book design shop, The Threepenny Editor.