Things I wish I knew as a first-time Author
It was around the same time last year when my relationship with Blogchatter started. They had announced their annual BlogchatterEbook Carnival, which transforms a blogger to a self-published author. Since I didn’t have much time to create new content for the Ebook and I desperately wanted to test publishing waters; I decided to edit and compile the existing top blog posts from my blog ‘The contemplation of a Joker’ and give this activity a real chance.
Today I can proudly say I am an author of a ‘self-published’ book. This year Blogchatter has given me an added responsibility. They took from a blogger to an author and now they are converting this author into a mentor for the people who would be participating in this years’ carnival.
I am proud to be considered a mentor for this year’s #BlogchatterEbook and I am here to help you out with your doubts and queries. Since the last years’ affair was so rushed for me there were many questions and things that bothered me right before compiling and putting the content in a book format. There are multiple questions that pop up from what font to use, what should be the order of the content, how to go about formatting the content, what is the ideal word limit and so on.
Based on my experience from last year and the questions I have been getting, I am writing this post on the ‘Things I wish I knew as a first-time author’.
I want to begin by saying; this is YOUR book and is a reflection of you. You are here to have fun and make sure you enjoy the journey from a Blogger to a published Author. There are no set mandatory rules, just a set of guidelines to help you come up with a better version of your book. Many people get scared because of the guidelines and never publish the book itself.
Just remember – Every Criticism is good criticism if you are a writer. Reach out to as many people as possible and ask them if they can give feedback for your work. That will certainly help in boosting confidence and correcting errors. Even if you aren’t finding people to dedicate time for you, do a couple of thorough self-reviews.
To begin with I would say just pick up a random book and go through the look and feel; how the content is formatted, how the chapters are starting, what the margins look like on each side, how many lines are there in a page and how many words in each line and so on.
Let’s start with the cover page:
Do include a cover page, with a pic, title and your name and/or any tagline. You can use Canva and Snapseed to design and edit. If you are looking for free pictures; Canva, Unsplash and Pixabay are good resources. Since it is an Ebook, you can choose a picture in either a vertical or horizontal format. I consider it a mistake since I chose a horizontal picture that might not ideally look like a book cover.
Length/Size of the book:
Personally speaking, there is no defined limit – It’s not an essay contest. Just make sure whatever story you are conveying and the central plot are complete. Don’t worry about word count – still, try to keep it around 15k at least. The more the merrier. If you are going with a compilation of let’s say recipes or travelogues then try to focus on each chapter and make it complete. In that scenario, keep a healthy count of somewhere around 12 and more.
It will be best if there is a central theme around the work. Last year I compiled random short stories and that worked too. A theme gives an insight to the readers about what they are getting into. Sometimes, since it is the first time, the book might have two themes – then also go ahead with it and divide it into two sections. Remember there is no right or wrong here.
I wasn’t sure what the title of my book should be – when I looked around it was right in front of me. It was the same as my blog’s title. When you have a THEME, it becomes easy. If it’s a compilation, my advice is to pick the title of most imp story and write ‘other stories…’ If the book has more than one theme, then the title should focus on the theme with more content or importance.
It is always about the content in a book and not fancy fonts. Try to keep any ‘serif’ font – Times, Courier, Century Schoolbook, Palatino.
Size – ideally 10 or 12 points (also depends upon page formatting n font)
Well, it’s not important but if you want your book’s content to look like a regular ones’ then indentation gives that look and feel.
Select-All (Content/Chapter) and then Control+J. Your content is perfectly done.
Margins give better readability. Usually, keep half an inch as margin.
Page size – I have mostly worked on A4 so I can recommend that. If you want to convert it into paperback later then A5 for a 6*9 layout is good. Try to keep 250-300 words on a page. I have seen the regular books have somewhere around 20-25 lines on a page. Try to keep that depending upon the size of the font and page.
Header and Footer
Try to keep the name of the book as header and a page number as footer. Start page numbers from the first chapter. I kept the author name too in the header.
For page numbers – go to Insert – Page numbers and then format. Insert only page numbers and not Page1, Page2… The beginning pages like Title, preface, acknowledgment should be devoid of page numbers or if you really want then go for roman numbering.
The order of the book
There is compulsory order but the one that is usually followed is – Cover Page – Title Page – Copyright page – dedication (optional) – Acknowledgement (Optional) – Table of contents – Chapters – About the author (it can be placed before Index as well). If you are writing non-fiction or content that requires a lot of references, then you can add the list of references at the end. If the book has more than one part then you can also add a teaser for the next part in the end.
How to save as pdf
Everybody is not tech savvy and since I received a couple of questions on this – After you have put everything in order – verify the order of chapters and pages. Close the file, open again and re-check. Go to ‘SaveAs’ and then in the format or file type change it to pdf from doc or docx. Save it and your ebook in pdf format is ready.
Try to keep consistency in the formatting of heading throughout the book – it looks very professional. It is not pleasing to the eye to look at different fonts on different chapters. Similarly, for sub-headings, if your book has them, then keep them same everywhere.
How to reduce the size of a picture
It is not advisable to stack-up your book with a lot of pictures as it will dramatically increase the size of your book and might not meet the maximum size criteria provided by the platform. Hence if it is unavoidable then you can follow these steps to reduce the size of any picture. I use Mac – in that when you open a pic in preview – Go to tools – adjust size, there you can reduce by percentage or pixels or cms. It definitely reduces the size in MB by 50% in one go itself.
Just remember no question is a silly question.
All the mentors including me are here to help you out to get your book ready.
All the best of love’n’luck for your journey.
For all the first time authors,
For all those bloggers who will take the plunge,
For all those who found this helpful,
For all those who now know things as a first-time author
It’s not a goodbye,
But it’s a GOOD BYE.
Manas ‘Sameer’ Mukul