• Bridges Washington

Anatomy of a book (part 2)

Updated: Dec 20, 2019

With the last post, I spoke about many of the industry based agencies that you will need to interact with to register your creation formally. I did manage to skip the copyright office for those registering works in the United States. While this is a formality to protect your work, citing copyright is not likely a new concept for anyone. You can see the © symbol everywhere you go, but registering your work with the copyright office adds credibility to a claim.


And now back to the guts of your book. My closing paragraph of the previous post in this series mentioned designing your book around it printing regardless of whether you choose to offer a physical copy. I decided to go with US trade (6in x 9in) for the paperback version of my first title, and will likely do so for the next one. This size is typical, and it means that production costs will be lower. There is no point in handicapping yourself by choosing an uncommon size, thereby making your book ultimately cost more. At this time, you are a nobody, therefore pricing your book above-market due to productions cost will handicap you. Print-on-Demand (POD) already places production costs into a higher price tier compared to large production runs.


In all the research I did about getting paperbacks printed, I found all manner of unpleasant reviews about nearly every one of the major Print-On-Demand (POD) houses in the market. The one that I found to be the most worried about the in-your-hand quality was @BookBaby. They are a genuine full-service POD house that will not leave you married to one distribution channel. There are numerous experienced authors out there that will talk about being able to take your book wide, meaning that it is available in every vendor possible. While I understand the logic, you can't live under the pretense that if you write it, the readers will come. I will talk about building a "platform" in a future post, but now back to the anatomy of a book.


So you have assembled the words, picked a size, and now you need to concentrate on putting it all together in a way that does not make you look like a complete novice. I mention in my bio that I fancy myself a renaissance man, and this endeavor would ultimately be another feather in my cap. While I do have previous experience in composing marketing type pieces for a specific audience in an earlier life, the constraints of a predefined book standard were new to me. Knowing the impact a font can have, and terms like leading, kerning, and tracking are all in my wheelhouse. Here is a well illustrated article from Creative Market to get you started. Additionally, most of you have played with justifying a paragraph, or line-spacing, aka leading, but how often have you adjusted margins? In a business context, you might start a new document in your word processing software and leave the defaults of the software or perhaps be bound by a company template.


You have a little more latitude with your book; however, the book business has been around for quite some time, and there are best practices that readers have come to expect. I the case of #nonfiction, like my first work, starting a section on the right-hand page is the convention, fiction not so much. Details like this are why you should build the contents of your book from the outside and work inwards. One small change to your side margins can throw a major wrench in the layout of your entire book. I learned this one the hard way. When I started prepping my book for the advance reader copies (ARCs) I planned to have printed I downloaded the template from @BookBaby and used the required side margins rather than the recommended ones, lousy idea. The ARCs did not turn out bad, but the whitespace surrounding the text didn't seem to frame the page quite right. It's not as though words were falling off the page, but the text was a little tight on the binding edge and overall a bit close to all of the page edges. Formatting is just one more reason to have a small run of ARCs printed.


So you have defined the size of your canvas, now to start painting. I mentioned in the previous post that IBPA has an excellent checklist for the anatomy of a book. I would recommend you become a member of a similar organization. I say this because before you start formatting the heart of your book, you have to add all the bones that are missing. Title page, copyright page, foreword, acknowledgments, about the author, etc. all need to be in the document before you start down the road of choosing fonts, sizes, line spacing, etc. so that you can properly assign styles to types of text rather than formatting groups of words as you go. If a piece of text is of a particular type, it gets assigned a style, this way you don't have to remember the details, and it also means that you can make changes globally. For instance, you decide to make your chapter titles a little bigger. Do you want to visit each one individually, or change the size of the style and have all of them change, further ensuring consistency?


Assigning all of the text elements of your book to a style also sets itself up well to the ebook market. The thing you may not know is that an ebook is just a collection of web pages zipped up into a single file. Some variations exist among the proprietary formats, but they have that basic structure. This web page structure means that they also use Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) to provide formatting of the document. If you have used a style based approach, this CSS file will ultimately be smaller, and your ebook delivery will be cheaper because you don't have a lot of redundant styles, so why waste money just by choosing poor formatting practices? Wait; what? Yes, that is correct, depending upon the vendor and type of royalty structure you want, there could be a delivery charge based on the file size of your book at the time of purchase.


We all know that printed books are not dead. You can't get a signed copy of an ebook. You don't need electricity for a paperback. We all know that many readers still prefer the feel and smell of a book in hand, but ebooks have become a legitimate format for many. With that in mind, next time, I will go a little more in-depth about ebooks and discuss a couple of tools you should get to know.


Next step, ebook preparations...


Please let me know if this post gave you something to consider in the comments below. Good or bad let me know what you think, this is about starting a dialogue. If this post made you think about your own relationships or those of someone you know like and share it with them. If you are interested in other topics check out some of my previous posts and subscribe to get email notifications of new posts.


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