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Thursday, April 25, 2019

Genre Expectations

Lost Melodies is the fourth instalment of the Wynter Wild series. Wynter is a teenager, but this series is not YA.

On Wattpad, where I'm uploading the book, readers skew young. The stats say 30% of my readers are under 18, 30% are 18-25, 30% are unspecified, and the remaining 10% are 25+. YA, of course, is read as eagerly by adults as by teens, but the expectations are the same: as a publishing genre, YA by definition deals with teen concerns.

The Wynter Wild series isn't YA. Three of my POV characters are adults, but the New Adult label doesn't fit either because (1) they are male, and (2) their stories aren't romances. I used to refer to the series as a Family Saga although it only covers a few years. An author who rated the series on Goodreads called it "New Adult Family Saga" and I like that... but it's not a genre that publishers recognize. (Publishers need to know where to "shelve" a book and a random crossover is a hard sell.)

In addition to publishing genres, there are Wattpad genres - not only main categories such as General Fiction (where I put this series) and Teen Fiction, but also tags by which readers can search for what they like. My series has certain tags for visibility, such as teen and cult and music, as well as the popular "little sister/older brothers"-type tags (a subgenre I never knew existed when I wrote the series). This subgenre comes with expectations of its own that I can't fulfill...

Friday, April 19, 2019

Nitty-Gritty Formatting for Print Books: Making Word Do What You Want, Part 2

In Part 1 of "Making Word Do What You Want" we looked at your options for making attractive matching page lengths. Today, I'm talking about hyphenation. If you're finding this series of Nitty-Gritty series useful, please share!

The alignment of text in a novel is fully justified, meaning the left and right margins are flush (even). The software achieves this by stretching out the spaces between words to a greater or lesser extent. Professional layout software also adjusts letter spacing (to a less obvious extent), which Word doesn't do.

The longer the words you use, and the larger the font (i.e. the shorter the line length), the more likely it is you'll get ugly spaces between words. In the sample below (I've increased font size to emphasize the problem), the first paragraph looks fine, but the words in the second paragraph are widely spaced because the word "important" didn't fit on the previous line:

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Nitty-Gritty Formatting for Print Books: Making Word Do What You Want, Part 1

When I worked in a publishing house, the job of laying out books, or "layout", belonged to the inhouse book designer and the (out of house) typesetter. They used book design software such as InDesign, which has magical tools to address the nitty-gritty formatting issues to turn a raw manuscript into a beautiful book. (I come from the textbook publishing world, where things are ten times more complex than novels.)

Can a word processor like Microsoft Word replicate professional layout software? The answer is no, but you can come close. In the next two posts I'll look at two things layout software does with ease to make a book look nicer, and which you can sort-of replicate in Word... but with warnings and caveats. Today, page length.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

The House on Tiger Mountain - plan view

If you're reading book 4 Lost Melodies on Wattpad right now, I created a plan of the old farmhouse that the family buys in Washington state. My previous post showed the front view.

So, below is the plan with the room assignment when they first move in (it changes over time, and the furniture isn't accurate - e.g. some bedrooms are "junk rooms" rather than having beds in them).

Shown here is the first floor (what we call the "ground floor" in the UK and Australia) of the house on the right, with the basement on the left slotting underneath, and the second floor on the left fitting directly on top.

This gives you an idea of what the deck looks like, as it wasn't visible in the front-view image in the previous post.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

The House on Tiger Mountain

My book family buys a run-down old farmhouse at the end of book 3 (Rhythm & Rhyme) on Tiger Mountain, east of Seattle. It's on five acres of land backing on to a state forest, and is hidden behind a stone wall.

This house becomes a character in its own right in the series, so I spent some time imagining it, drawing the plans, and eventually mocking up a view from the front. The house is eccentric, which in this case is another way of saying *ugly*, built in stages over the years.

I think I have a slight obsession with houses. We grew up with huge drawerfuls of Lego, and all I ever made with Lego was houses. I didn't play with the houses. I just made them. The three most fun parts about making Lego houses were:

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

The Future of My Books on Wattpad


I am a terrible salesperson and it's never really bothered me. Now that I'm taking the indie publishing route, apparently I have to start doing the sales thing. I've read all kinds of advice on how to market books, and I've been going about it sort of haphazardly. I am trying a particular marketing strategy in the pricing of my books, although I'm not sure I'll stick to it.

Books 1 to 4 in the Wynter Wild series have been, or will be, uploaded first to Wattpad. I chose that platform because it's huge, it allows for immediate interaction with readers, which I love, and it's free to use for everyone. Wattpad has a young-skewing audience, many of whom don't (and probably won't ever) pay for ebooks, so it's been more of a testing ground to discover readers' reactions.

I always intended to release Little Sister Song as a free ebook to generate some interest in the series, and I've also released book 2 Out of Tune for free as well.

So now I need to formulate a marketing strategy for the remaining books (7.5 of which are written).

Monday, April 8, 2019

Nitty-Gritty Formatting for Print Books: Body Text Font Choices

If you're formatting your novel (either the raw manuscript, or an existing ebook) for distribution as a paperback, choosing the main font of the text is one of your most important decisions. After all, it's what your reader is going to be staring at for the next few hours of their life.

Commercial novels usually use serif fonts for the body text (although you'll find sans serif in YA and children's titles). It's allegedly easier to read because the serifs group the letters together so that the eye more easily sees a single word as it travels over the page. Readers are probably therefore more used to seeing serif fonts, and for the body text I think it's a good idea to use them. Chapter headers can be anything you like, of course, as long as they're legible.

Google "best fonts for a novel" and you'll find lots of lists of recommendations. But aside from how the font looks, and whether you can afford it (or whether your free fonts have a commercial license), there are some other considerations. All the fonts mentioned below are free (or come with Word).

Little Sister Song - paperback edition

If you like the feel of a book in your hand... Little Sister Song is now available as a paperback edition at most Amazon marketplaces (check your local site):

Buy at Amazon US
Buy at Amazon UK

Unfortunately, Amazon Australia doesn't offer this service so my Aussie readers will have to order from Amazon US and pay shipping. Even I wasn't able to order a proof copy, so please let me know if you do order the book and discover something horribly wrong with it!

I worked for many years as an editor, helping to create books with other people's names on the cover. I remember the thrill of receiving my box of author copies of Song of Scarabaeus and holding in my hands a book with my name on the cover.

And this time, the book with my name on the cover is one I wrote, edited, and formatted as an indie publisher!

My current blog series looks in-depth at formatting your manuscript for a print book,

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Nitty-Gritty Formatting for Print Books: Font Sizes Part 2

These posts are a formatting series for indie authors looking to produce professional looking paperbacks. In part 1 of my tips on font sizes, we looked at the cover, title page, copyright page, and chapter headings. In part 2 we'll be looking at body text, and header and footer formatting, including a bit of technical stuff to get things looking nice. Other posts in the series are listed and linked at the bottom of this one.

Body text 
Font size for your main body text is the one you've probably thought about the most. You may decide to deliberately use a large font for the visually impaired, but if not then take a look at a commercial novel and compare it to a printed page of yours. The biggest error I see is using too large a font. This makes your book more expensive for readers (or lowers your profit) because it'll increase the length of your book, and it doesn't look professional.


Saturday, April 6, 2019

Nitty-Gritty Formatting for Print Books: Font Sizes Part 1

In my ongoing series, I'm looking at all the little things you can do, as an indie author, to make your paperback book look more professional. I'm assuming you're starting with an ebook manuscript but it still applies if you're starting from scratch (i.e. with the scrappy all-over-the-place file you actually typed your story into, using whatever font and color appealed to you that day).

How do I decide on my font size?

There are actually several points during the formatting of your print book where this question needs to be asked. When you format an ebook manuscript, it's less important because most ebook devices allow the user to adjust the font size.

Flick through a commercial novel and you'll see different fonts and font sizes used throughout:

Friday, April 5, 2019

Nitty-Gritty Formatting for Print Books: Hard & Soft Section Breaks

Today's nitty-gritty is all about section breaks. Not Microsoft Word's section break that enables you to change the layout, margins, headers & footers separately, but the visual section breaks on a printed page, that little row of asterisks or hashes or wingdings used to separate time jumps, POV shifts, or a new location.

You don't control the pagination in an ebook, beyond adding forced page breaks to start each chapter (which may or may not appear in the final ebook, depending on the platform). The text flows from start to finish on your readers' Kindles and Nooks and mobile devices without page numbering. To delineate "jumps" in the narrative in an ebook, you've probably used a centered set of symbols, with a line-space above and below, to indicate these shifts:

* * *

Bonus points if the symbols are in sync with the book theme. I should've gone with:


But I wasn't organized enough.

Did you know there are two kinds of section break?

Nitty-Gritty Formatting Your Indie Print Book

I recently re-formatted my ebook Word files for to create files for paperback printing via Amazon. It can be a laborious process, especially for perfectionists (that's me). Establishing a checklist is invaluable for working methodically.

This series of blog posts gets into the nitty-gritty of making your paperbacks... beautiful! It will also make your checklist longer.

Okay, perhaps most of us, as readers, don't care whether our paperbacks -- I'm talking about the interior text -- are beautiful. But I labor over those little details. So, let's get stuck into it.

You probably know the standard advice, and if you don't you can look at a commercially printed book and figure it out -- such as:

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Three Horn Toots

It's been a weekend of headaches jumping though Amazon's hoops to get the plagiarized versions of my first two books removed from their store. This process reset to 99c the "permanently free" price-matching Amazon did for me, but it looks like the books are free once again in the Australian and US stores. I've asked for them to be free across all marketplaces.

On April 1st, Little Sister Song hit the top 100 free Kindles in the Literary Fiction category, which was a huge and pleasant surprise. Today it's still there, ranked at #78, and Out of Tune is at #99. I took screenshot evidence! Thank you to readers who downloaded the books. Breaking the #100 barrier is important because it then appears in the Best Sellers lists, which means readers browsing the category for something to read will come across it, even when they've never heard of the author.