cheapass guide to publishing a book – Fit the Second

this is all first draft stuff, so i may actually go back and rework earlier topics..

What does a BOOK NEED to be a BOOK?  

For the most part even Ebooks follow the same traditional structure –

  • Title Page
  • Copyright page
  • Table of Contents
  • Front matter
  • Text
  • Backmatter

If you crack open chapter one of The Chicago Manual Of Style you will find there are a variety of  subsections for these parts  none of which are mandatory.  The good and easy thing is that there is no LAWS, just rules that everyone leans towards so that the reader has familiarity with the landscape..if you confuse them by putting the sections in the wrong order, they won’t trust you.

If you are doing BOTH an digital version and a paper version….assemble the paper version FIRST and then take out the stuff you don’t need for the E-version. Basically  you will be taking out the blank pages and condensing things and adding internal links, so you really need a PARENT document with all the bits to start with. If you are ONLY doing a digital book, what the hell is wrong with you?  what are you going to sign at events? What are your parents going to put on the shelf?

Drilling down from the front cover –

  • Front Cover – Title, subtitle, author and/or editor.
  • Inside front cover – (it’s blank, it will always be blank you have no choice)
  • a Blank or Blurb Page– sometimes people call it a fly leaf; you could add a small bit of print here, like ‘blurbs’ from people who have read it, saying how great the books is. I use it for the caption for the cover artist or illustration or perhaps a very short epigraph line.  • Some books SKIP any flyleaf,  you open the cover and there’s the Title page staring back at you. This is not a good sign. This is a sign that the book WAS done on a budget. We want to DO it on the cheap, we don’t want to advertise the fact.  Opening the book straight to the title page is like a woman not wearing underwear – no frills.
  • Frontispiece or Blank Page – Frontis is usually an illustration that relates to the entire book – the author’s image or a map or diagram.
  • Title Page – don’t fill this page up with minor data. Mandatory: Title, Author(s), Publication Year, Publishing Imprint. Optional: Subtitle,  Editor, Illustrator, Publication location, Source material.
  • Copyright Page (or the verso) –  Here is where you can hide all kinds of technical stuff.  This page MUST contain the Publishing year, Publishing Imprint and Location.   If you include the title, author and isbn – that’s even better. This page is specifically for the person doing CATALOGING, help them out.   Other data you SHOULD put here: Information about previous publications and publishers comments or explanations about changes to the text. Don’t forget – Contact data to BUY more copies – email, website, etc.

NOTE: Remember to THINK about how much extra matter you want to pay to include.  You are paying for each and every page, the fewer pages the lower the cost….you love your wife, you don’t need a entire leaf (two sides of the page) to say thank you for all your love and support.  Sell books, give her money.  Multiply that one page by every copy you sell.  If  you only have a couple of names to thank stick them on the copyright page.  If you have more than a short paragraph, sure add another leaf – the copyright page won’t look so cluttered.  

  • Table Of Contents –  This is the LAST THING YOU CREATE.  Trust me, ignore it, don’t even think about it now.  You can USE software like MS Word, Google Docs, Pagemaker, Indesign etc… create the data for this page, by tagging the chapter headings. When you are finally, finally, finally finished moving things around, you create this list of chapters with their page number.  FOR EBOOKS, these will be internal document links generally without page numbers.  
  • Optional Frontmatter
    • List of Illustrations – normally found where the illustrations are the subjects of the text – people, buildings, places, etc.. it’s not mandatory, but it is helpful if you expect people to use your book for reference.
    • Forwards & Introductions – are used to explain to someone WHY the book or topic is important and how the reader would benefit from reading it, etc..who knows what else it contains….most people skip right past them anyway. If possible get the most famous person you know to write something, then copies will sell to their friends and fans, regardless of your contribution.
    • Preface – This is generally extra conversation from the author about why they wrote the book and why they really, really want you to buy it. But if you want people to read it, ONLY include data the reader should know before  they read the book.
  • Text
    • Chapters:Chapter One, Chapter I, I.  are all the same thing, pick one form and stick with it.   Try not to make your Chapter Titles..if your Chapters have titles, very long, it will make you crazy formatting the table of contents.  In Fiction Chapter titles are optional. In Non Fiction, it is not optional.  Non Fiction can have Sections inside of Chapters, for a very technical or instructional book the Sections SHOULD appear on the table of contents, if it’s a prose form non-fiction, the sections aren’t necessary in the Table of Contents.
    • Page Numbers – Using Print on Demand technology, the 1st page in the book is page number one.   Using OTHER methods to publish you can have page one occur on the 1st page of Chapter One, and all the frontmatter is numbered with roman numerals.  NewsFlash – NO ONE CARES! live with the automatically generated page numbers and move on to other problems.  – Chapters should start on the Odd Page, this will probably leave you with blank or mostly blank pages on the Even page opposite, this is normal, if you have a FAT book where you are trying to save money, you CAN start your new Chapter on the Even pages, it looks weird but no one is going to hurt you for doing it, when you are rich you change it back.  –  Sections  generally just follow the previous section. – Blank pages shouldn’t have page numbers on them, it’s a general convention which is sometimes difficult to accomplish. Software adds the pages automatically and you have to go in and try to remove or hide it.
    • Typeface/Fonts – DON’T PICK SOMETHING WEIRD. Don’t do it, don’t even think about it.  Pick something STANDARD. Funny, sexy fonts are for posters, programs and greeting cards.  If you are using a Non Standard Font that’s a sign there is something lacking about your words that you need to dress them up as a distraction. Some fonts are designed for computer screens and don’t look the same in print.   SERIF are the feet on letters as in Times New Roman, Baskerville, etc..and SANS SERIF are without the feet, like Arial or Verdana.  Narrow it down to 3 or 4 COMMON fonts, print two pages of your book with each font and hand them to people on the street and ask them to choose one.  For the most part: Technical books use sans serif, traditional fiction uses serif, modernist fiction sometimes uses sans serif. Conventions again that make the reader feel comfortable.
  • Optional Backmatter 
    • Afterward/Endnotes/Appendix – Afterward – Hopefully you said everything you needed to say IN the text.  I reprinted a small memoir by a young girl, and I ended up adding an afterward which gave a thumbnail of the rest of her life, so the reader doesn’t go away wondering what happened to her.  Endnotes – footnotes are what you need to know to put something in context immediately. Endnotes are for further reading; its what we had BEFORE we had HYPERTEXT.  There is a section of endnotes for every chapter, each note is numbered numerically INSIDE each chapter, even if there are only a few.  Try it the other way, try numbering them 1 to 3 in Chapter one,  4 through 6 in Chapter will KILL YOURSELF trying to renumber them all every time you ADD one.
    • Index – This is the SECOND TO THE LAST THING YOU CREATE.  If your book needs one, Indexes are awesome, they are also the biggest pain in the ass.  If you are doing it yourself, KEEP IT SIMPLE STUPID.  Learn to use the software to tag things.  A short, basic and CORRECT index is more useful than one that’s complicated and wrong. Start with proper names, locations, businesses, publications, topics. Once you get better at it, you can add a level of cross indexing, but anything else HIRE SOMEONE, and not someone who loves you or hates you, someone objective.
    • Advertisements – If you are selling something, sell it here.  List of other books, stuff available online, etc.. whatever.   THIS page can be on the EVEN side facing the back of the back cover.
  • Back cover – (inside back cover is blank) write this absolutely LAST, after the entire contents of the book are collected, formatted and ready for publishing.  Because NOW YOU CAN STEAL WORDS from the forward, the preface and all the other places inside the book.  You have a complete view of what is INSIDE the book and not what you WANTED to be inside the book.  The Back Cover can contain some basic author information, but SHOULD contain a pretty decent description of the contents and WHY the person reading it should buy the book and give you money.


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