Giving Birth to a Book

A book is the author’s baby from the moment of conception. It starts out as an idea, then a single uppercase letter. It grows into a sentence. Then a paragraph. A page. Chapter 1. Eventually, the structure is complete, but even then it continues to develop through formatting and revisions.

The author carries the baby book in a file for several months. The file is saved in multiple versions on the computer, email, and jump drives. The author is a parent who will do anything to protect the book baby.

A month or so prior to the due date, the author will have a book shower, where several of the author’s friends and family will provide valuable feedback that the book will need in its early development. The writer must also shop for the book’s clothes, like a cover and professional editing services.

After several months, the author gives birth to the book by publishing it. This is an excruciating process, which can take a very long period of time. The author may actually put more effort into the birthing process than was put into the writing itself. The writer may also become very moody during this period, with sudden emotional outbursts. Most modern authors prefer to take some medications to help ease the pain and steady their behavior.

Once the baby book is born, the author nurtures it through continued editing and provides for it through a serious marketing campaign. Since most writers serve as single parents for their books, they provide both the tender loving care and the financial support for the book.

Surprisingly, as long and arduous as book-birth and book-rearing are, most authors will provide several siblings to accompany their first-born books. A few writers, who are either sterile or just prefer not to have their own book babies, may become editors or publishers, serving as foster parents for books. Those who are ready for a bigger commitment may become librarians or start a bookstore.

Yes, authors’ books are their babies. They love them, they cherish them, they watch them grow, and they protect over them. If anyone says anything negative about one of their books, it’s no wonder that they become so emotional over it. It’s like saying something bad about one of their kids.

But authors must remember that all books seek independence. The books want to live their own lives, and want to stand up for themselves.

Chris McMullen, self-published author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

What Was that Indie Author Thinking?

1. “If anyone complains about the grammar, I can hire an editor later.”

– You can edit your work later, but you can’t remove the bad reviews.

2. “My cover might stink, but the content is good.”

– People won’t notice the content unless they first notice the book.

3. “Let me just publish the first chapter to get some feedback about my writing.”

– Would you go to the video store to rent just the first scene of a movie?

4. “Opinions from my friends and family aren’t biased.”

– Do you trust the views expressed in infomercials?

5. “I’ll respond to that review to show everyone how wrong it was.”

– You’ll be showing everyone how wrong it was, all right. Just the wrong ‘it.’

6. “People will judge my book for the ideas. Spelling and grammar don’t really matter.”

– There are over a million well-edited books to choose from. Why choose one that isn’t?

7. “It looks perfect on my screen so the ebook will look perfect, too.”

– Get ready for a big surprise!

8. “Where can I buy some reviews?”

– Did you just ask that out loud? Even worse, did you just type that on Amazon’s community forum?

9. “Why doesn’t Amazon market my book for me?”

– What about the other twenty million books? Should Amazon market all of them?

10. “Why were my reviews removed?”

– Did you write them yourself? Did your friends or family write them? Did you exchange reviews with another author?

(Note: These weren’t quoted from real people, but do simulate many opinions that hundreds of indie authors have expressed.)

It takes much time and effort to write a book. First, you need a great idea. Then you have to iron out the details. The writing itself is a monumental task.

Most indie authors do put much thought, time, and effort into their books. This blog wasn’t written to try to disparage the self-published author. Rather, it reflects how much more work is involved in publishing a book than just writing.

Traditional publishers have editors to improve and perfect the writing, graphic artists to design an attractive cover, and experience with marketing. The self-published author who has finally finished the time-consuming project of writing the book is suddenly faced with all of these responsibilities.

The indie author began his/her project because he/she loves to write. Someone who excels at writing often doesn’t also excel at editing, cover design, marketing, and – this is so important! – public relations. For the person who loves to write, writing is by far the easiest part of publishing.

We can understand the common mistakes that many indie authors make. Unfortunately, people tend to dwell on mistakes, and the mistakes help to give self-publishing a bad name.

There are many quality self-published books, though; and it’s natural for people to enjoy the exhilaration of discovering a gem. A significant percentage of book customers are themselves indie authors. If you add to this number their friends and family, there is a large population of potential customers who may be willing to support the self-publishing concept.

Although it is possible to understand the common mistakes that many indie authors make, the bottom line is that the customer expects a good product in return for his/her investment.

Chris McMullen, self-published author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

A Silly Little Space

One little press of the spacebar can make a huge difference.

One  teensy  weensy  little  extra  space  was  added  between  the  words  of  this  sentence.

See the difference?  It’s just a space.  What does it matter?

How many spaces do you use after a period before starting the next sentence?  A very common answer ─ even among well-educated people ─ is two.  Those same people tend to be very surprised to discover that publishers actually use just one space ─ not two ─ after periods.  That’s right, if you don’t believe it, you should start pulling traditionally published books from your bookshelves and inspecting them.  If you look closely, you’ll see that there is just once space there.

Most of us were taught that there should be two spaces after a period.  Historically, the reason for the extra space has to do with the typewriter.  The trend of adding this extra space continues today – as many teachers continue to teach what they were taught.  This extra space is actually a good idea for teachers:  Just like double spacing an essay, an extra space after the period leaves a little more room for annotations on students’ papers (specifically, a correction note for capitalization at the beginning of a sentence of punctuation at the end).  Teachers are also probably used to seeing this extra space, and so it may look strange to their eyes to suddenly see one space instead.

The problem is that so many people who were taught to use two spaces in school are now self-publishing books.  Thus, the two-space trend has entered into the publishing industry.  Here’s the thing:  Traditional publishers use one space, not two.  If you want your book to look like a traditionally published book, then one space following a period is the correct answer.

Look, I’m a two-spacer myself. I have used two spaces in every paragraph of this blog, until now. This paragraph just has one space after the period. The paragraphs that follow also just feature one space. Compare the paragraphs to see the difference.

Which do you prefer? You could say that it’s just a matter of style. It’s an aesthetic quality. Right?

Wrong! If you publish ebooks, the correct answer is to use just one space after the period – not two. Why? Because the text displayed on ereaders may occasionally show a formatting issue when two spaces are used instead of one.

Word processors, such as Word, accommodate the extra space nicely. If a sentence happens to end at the end of a line, Word will hide the extra space. This is convenient because many teachers require this extra space on essays or lab reports.

However, ereaders often do not hide this extra space. When a sentence ends at the end of a line and a new sentence begins on the next line, the extra space either appears at the end of the first line (making it appear to end short compared to the other lines) or at the beginning of the next line (making it appear to start late compared to the other lines). So if you want even margins in your ebook, use one space instead of two after periods.

Stuck in the old ways? So am I. Here’s what you do: When your manuscript is finished, use the Replace tool to collapse two consecutive spaces down to one. (And if you can retrain yourself to use one space instead of two, your thumbs won’t have to work quite as hard to type a book.)

You may be interested in an article called “Space Invaders.” It’s the resource that enlightened me. Here’s the link:

http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/technology/2011/01/space_invaders.html

Chris McMullen, self-published author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers