Tips from an Idiot

A year ago I was readying to “submit” to agents for mainstream publishing. I read some agents’ blogs and watched their tweets fly by. I decided they are dicks and so I maneuvered around that process, learning that there was no opportunity to get a widespread, quit-your-dayjob publishing opportunity without agents.

So I ditched it all and published my book myself.

I sold about 100 print copies of *that book* (you know what I’m talking about, that I can’t mention it here) and only had a couple of months to promote it before the world ended. I’ve had about 1000 downloads on various free-e joints, so that’s not bad, but you can’t count if people actually read the downloads.

I’m not into analytics on this stuff anyway. I just want to know people enjoy my work as much as I do. That’s actually a lot to ask, but my mantra has been to publish as much as you can wherever you can.

I’m on to my first novel now, which I’m issuing RIGHT NOW. Moxie Mezcal put a great cover together and I formatted this motherfucker last night in a few hours. It didn’t take the month + help I got on my first book, because I took the steps to ensure I didn’t have to retrofit more than 200 pages as much as I would have.

I am an idiot with formatting and graphics. That’s a disclosure it is important to understand. I’m not at the bottom of the barrel–in fact, I consider myself close to being an MS Word whiz. But in order to format a book properly, you really do need to be that whiz, not just be close to it.

Start writing your book the way you want it to look and the process isn’t as painful. I had to retrofit my entire first book, and that process sucked.

Using styles, this book was much easier to format since there were no bizarre blocks of text in a different font. tnd once I realized that my indents were too big (and gee, that’s why the thing looked so lame), I just went in and moved the top tab to .1 rather than .5 and the whole thing magically fixed itself. *Awesome*

Global seek and replace was a winner for my sections–those imperative but annoying breaks within a chapter but not quite a chapter break. I had two asterisks, then I had 5 asterisks, some separated by tabs, some not, but a global search and replace worked wonders.

I write a lot of dialogue that is cut off, like, “Hey, asshole, what are you–” In Word, it tends to not like the emdash followed by a closed quotation, so you have to manually go in and replace the open quote with a closed quote. Again, global search and replace works fine for symbols and punctuation so don’t hesitate to use it. (However, search & replace function doesn’t work for finding curly quotes and replacing with straight quotes. Or at least it doesn’t work on my system. You should try it though, to make sure you have all your quotes in the same style.)

I should have (but didn’t) customize each header to match the chapter, since I wrote Back(stabbed) In Brooklyn with multiple perspectives. It would have required going in and inserting a section break for each of my 36 chapters. Then the pagination gets all fucked up. Meh….

Table of Contents is easy, it’s an *insert reference* function on your menu and you just make sure your chapter headings are identified in your TOC settings. Once you finish formatting, right-click on your TOC field and click update. Because I messed with a few of the headings, I didn’t want to update the entire TOC but just the page numbers.

Mirrored margins was an easy choice to find and it wasn’t a custom or manual function. (This makes it so when your book prints each facing page is centered correctly.)

I laughed when I opened the book on my nightstand to get double-check the pages before the text actually started (copyright, acknowledgements, kudos, bullshit, whatever) in Murakami’s last book there were 10 pages of bullshit before the text started! But I did learn I had to put in a blank page so that the text started on the right side, not the left. I could have put the TOC on two pages then to avoid a blank page, but then it wouldn’t have been facing each other and that’s lame.

I DID NOT align the text along the bottom of each page. I don’t know how to do that and I didn’t fuss over it. I probably should have. I know I’ll get my ass kicked for not doing it. But I didn’t. Meh, again. (If my story is so boring that you are focusing on the bottom page alignment, then I need to worry more about my story rather than the formatting.)

And there it is. I formatted my book. Now go ahead and do yours.

Thanks for reading.


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5 responses to “Tips from an Idiot

  1. And all of that is why writers should hire professionals to do it.

    • Professionals, fine, I can buy that. But the professionals who really have experience doing it the right way *are still working for the publishers.*

      So until your revolution has crushed all mainstream pubs to death and all employees are out on their asses, they are going to stay employed with their benefits at the companies they work for.

  2. There is so much to learn! Wow. Since I haven’t written a book yet, I didn’t know how much I don’t know. Will bookmark this page to return to it when needed.

    Just laughed at your “kudos, bullshit, whatever.”

    You’re very amusing. I mean it in a good way! :)

  3. Pingback: Tips From An Idiot | Publetariat

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