From Idea to Book (Part 6)
Welcome to the sixth and final part of this series of practical tips based upon my own experience of tackling the mountain that is the writing process. I’ve covered Forming & Developing an Idea, Creating & Developing Characters, the Importance of Time & Place, Plotting, and the Editing Process. This month, I’ll be sharing how I format my books into eBooks and paperbacks, and my process for designing the covers.
If you have a question that isn’t covered in any of these segments, feel free to send me a direct message on either Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook. I’m also happy for you to email me directly at email@example.com.
There are numerous pieces of software available for creating eBooks, some you may download from Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing platform. As my books contain few images (in the back content of each book), I find using Microsoft Word on “web layout” works best for me. I also switch on the “show paragraph marks and other hidden formatting symbols.” This is represented by the ¶ symbol on the “paragraph” section of the “Home” tab on the ribbon within MS Word.
By showing these marks and symbols, I may clearly see the number of blank lines and their locations, the start and end of paragraphs, page breaks, and extra spaces at the beginning and end of lines. A rule of thumb is to insert page breaks at the end of a chapter, notafter each A4 page. This allows the eReader to form its own pages based upon the level of zoom the viewer places the text on. I usually place around five blank lines at the end of a chapter, one blank line above the chapter heading, and two blank lines between the chapter heading and body of text.
To create a (basic) table of contents, start by selecting a chapter heading. Next, go to the “Home” tab on the ribbon and hover your mouse over the “Heading 1” preview within the “styles” section. Right-click on this preview and left-click on “Update Heading 1 to Match Selection” on the menu that appears. Once done, select each chapter heading in turn and left-click on the “Heading 1” preview within the “styles” section to convert them into the same style as the first. Be sure to select the headings you don’twant to include in your table of contents and convert them to the “Normal” style.
After you’ve converted the chapter headings into the “Heading 1” style, go to the page where you’d like your table of contents to appear. Next, go to the “Reference” tab on the ribbon and left-click on “Table of Contents.” On the drop-down menu that appears, left-click “Custom Table of Contents…” In the dialog box that appears, left-click on the tick in the box beside “Show page numbers” to deselect it. Next, left-click on the downward arrow beside the number in the “Show levels:” box until the number changes to “1”. Left-click on “OK” and your table of contents should appear on the page in the form of a list of hyperlinks. You may alter the colour, size, and style of the links’ font.
At this stage, if you discover you’ve mistakenly left out a chapter heading, you may easily update the table of contents. First, go to the chapter heading you missed and convert it to “Heading 1” using the steps outlined above. Once done, return to your table of contents, hover your mouse over the list of hyperlinks, right-click, and select “update table of contents” (or something similar) from the drop-down menu that appears. This will amend the list of hyperlinks to include the missing chapter heading. You may use this method to remove unwanted hyperlinks, too. Simply convert the offending text into the “Normal” style and update the table by following the steps above.
Finally, add a title to the page of “Table of Contents” and select it. Next, go to the “Insert” tab on the ribbon, and left-click on “Bookmark.” This may be found within the “Links” section. A dialog box should appear. Type “toc” (without the quotation marks) in the “Bookmark name” box and left-click “Add.” This will mark your table of contents, thereby allowing Amazon’s software to add it to the menu within your Kindle eBook.
Once you’re happy with the format of your eBook, go to the “File” tab on the ribbon and select “Save As” from the drop-down menu. The “Save As” dialog box should appear. Left-click the downward arrow beside the “Save as type” box and left-click “webpage, filtered” from the drop-down menu that appears. Left-click “yes” on the dialog box that appears. Close the document in the usual way.
If you have images in your eBook, you may notice a second folder has appeared beside your newly created HTML file. This folder contains your images. To upload them with your eBook, you need to first send the HTML file to a Compressed Zip file. Once done, drag and drop the image file into this Compressed Zip file. By doing this, your images will appear in the eBook once you have uploaded it to Amazon’s KDP platform.
Within the “Help” section of Amazon’s KDP platform are topics regarding the formatting of your books. One of these is about paperbacks and contains downloadable MS Word templates. You may select your template by trim size (I use 5 x 8 black & white, cream paper). I strongly recommend using these templates as they have the correct margins built in. Some authors write directly into these templates, but I tend to write into an A4 sized document and copy and paste the completed manuscript, chapter-by-chapter, into the template.
Again, I make use of the “show paragraph marks and other hidden formatting symbols” tool to help me tweak the formatting. A rule of thumb here is to remember this is a “What You See Is What You Get” template. Don’t allow text or images to go outside of the set margins, otherwise you risk them being cut off when the paperback is trimmed to size.
Once you’re happy with your paperback interior, insert page numbers by going to the “Insert” tab on the ribbon and left-clicking on “Page Number” within the “Header & Footer” section. You need to select a different page number location for odd & even pages (numbers should appear in the bottom left corner of even numbered pages and the bottom right of odd numbered pages. The first page, usually the title page, should not have a page number). You may alter the colour, size, and style of your page numbers’ font.
To insert a table of contents into your paperback, insert a table on the page where you want it to appear using two columns. The first should contain your chapter heading left aligned and the second should contain your page number right aligned. I usually write out the page numbers of each new chapter and manually type them into the table of contents at the end. If there is an easier way of doing this, please let me know! Finally, when your paperback interior is complete, make a note of the total number of pages.
Cover Design: eBooks & Paperbacks
I use MS Publisher to design the covers of my eBooks. I then save them as high-resolution JPEGs or TIFFs. Unlike a paperback, you only need to design the front cover of your eBook, notthe spine and/or back cover.
Similarly to the paperback interior, Amazon’s KDP platform has downloadable cover templates in the form of PDFs. Again, select your trim size (5 x 8) and input the total number of pages of your formatted paperback that you noted earlier (see above). Amazon’s KDP software will automatically choose the template applicable to your book based on these specifications and download it to your computer.
If you don’t own Adobe Photoshop, I strongly recommend you purchase it under a lifetime business license.
Once downloaded, open the PDF template with Adobe Photoshop. You will see there are dotted lines, red sections, white sections, and a yellow box on the template. The dotted lines represent the edges of the book (outer edges and edges of the spine). The red sections represent the parts of the cover which will be removed when the book is trimmed down to size. The white sections are the “safe” zones which you may design your cover in. The yellow box represents the location of the barcode that either you or Amazon add. If you stay within the white sections and avoid the red, you can’t really go wrong with this template.
A final note on style guides
If your book is part of a series, or a particular brand, it’s important to ensure each addition adheres to a style guide of your own making. This enables your readers to instantly recognise your books and brand at a glance. All Bow Street Society Mystery book covers have a black background with the Bow Street Society logo at the top, the title of the book in white, bold Bookman Old Style font beneath, and then a central illustration. Beneath this illustration is my name in white, bold Bookman Old Style font. Similarly, all Bow Street Society Casebook book covers have a red background and also use Bookman Old Style font. It may seem a little pedantic, but visual consistency of a brand/series does help to build familiarity of it within the reader’s mind.
Your style guide should also include the styles and size of fonts used for different elements of your book’s interior. For example, all my paperbacks use size 11 Times New Roman font for the main body of text and size 12 bold Times New Roman for the chapter headings. The chapter headings are also capitalised.
In terms of the artwork used on my book covers, the same artist creates each illustration to a particular style. Again, this consistency of style helps to build familiarity within the reader’s mind of the series and overall brand.
That’s it for this series of “From Idea to Book.” I hope you’ve found my practical tips helpful, and you’ve gained an insight into my whole writing process. As with everything in life, one continues to learn and grow with each passing day. The old adage of “read, read, read” is as important today as it’s ever been. At the same time, though, have confidence and believe in yourself. Good luck!
~ T.G. Campbell, May 2023