5 Quick Tips for Indie Writers: Formatting

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One complaint I’ve heard about Indie novels is lack of proper formatting. While this is usually one of the services provided by a publisher, when you’re an Indie you’re on your own unless you want to hire someone to do it for you.  Otherwise such oversights, ignorance or perhaps laziness contribute to a poor reputation which hurts everyone. Here are a few simple formatting tips which will help your work shine:

  1. The first paragraph of a new chapter typically begins with a letter that is larger than the others and called a “dropped cap.” This gives it a more professional appearance. This does not necessarily work for some formats, however, where this larger letter will increase the leading (e. spacing) between the lines. For print format, however, this is the convention.
  2. The first paragraph of a chapter is flush with the left margin; it is NOT indented. This is also true for each new section and provides a stronger visual clue than doubled spacing, which is sometimes inadvertently introduced into ebooks by a page break in the original file that doesn’t necessarily indicate a new scene or viewpoint has begun.
  3. Along these same lines, it’s easier on the reader if you demarcate the end of a section with some sort of indicator whether it’s a few asterisks or some other design.
  4. Speaking of section breaks, when you change viewpoint from one character to another or start a new scene you should start a new section unless the entire book is written in omniscient point of view that switches from one person to the next continually. Remember, however, that you don’t necessarily have to get into everyone’s head to know what they’re thinking. Describing a character’s expression or body language can convey what they’re thinking or feeling just like it does in real life. Clearly is you’re writing in first person you can’t read another person’s thoughts directly and would use visual clues.
  5. Book design refers to the fonts used for chapter headings and text, your paragraph indentation style, line spacing, page number and heading placement, and so forth. Paying attention to these details gives your book a more professional appearance. For ebooks these details don’t show up but if you’re publishing in a print copy they make a tremendous difference as far as presenting your work as that of a professional.
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