Revising Leah

December 26, 2008

Publishing Through Lulu: Preparations, Part 1

In this final series of posts for Revising Leah, I’m going to document and comment upon how I am publishing my novel through Lulu. If you’ve ever wondered whether self-publishing is right for you, I hope you’ll follow along and learn out what it’s all about.

Lulu.com, and services like it, have become a force for the democratization of publishing. Now, anyone with a story to tell can publish one’s work. With this freedom, however, comes great responsibility. While it’s true that publishing through Lulu is easy and relatively inexpensive, if you want to do it right — if you want to produce a book that you can be proud of, that will sell — then there is a lot of work that you must do.

Revise and Edit! (Have you learned nothing from this blog?)

Obviously, the most important preparation involves carefully revising, editing, and proofreading your text so that you don’t give your readers the impression that you are barely literate. Even if the book you publish is for your eyes only, you don’t want it to be littered with errors and passages that you wish you had revised. If you do want your book to be read by others, then certainly you want it to look as professional as possible. If this means “beta testing” your manuscript with other readers or hiring an editor, then do it. Moriah Jovan had a nice rant on this subject over at Publishing Renaissance recently.

I’ve been working on my novel since April (and, of course, I have documented that process in this blog). My manuscript has reached a point where I am satisfied with it. I’m able to read through a chapter without seeing anything that needs to be changed or corrected. When I receive the galley proofs next month, I’ll probably find a few last minute errors that I ought to fix, but for now, I feel like the book is ready to go.

Formatting

So once the manuscript is the best it can be, it’s ready to be formatted. This may not sound like a big deal, but this is a step that you can expect will take a few days, at least.

The first step: page size and orientation. Lulu allows for several different possibilities for the size of a book, but the usual size for a novel published through Lulu is 9″x6″ — that’s a little bit larger than most novels published, but it’s not freakishly large or anything; it’s still easy to carry and hold in your hands and read.

You’ll need to format the pages so that they mirror each other. In other words, you have to imagine that page 1 of the novel will be on the right, page 2 on the left, page 3 on the right, etc. This can easily be set up within your word processor, usually in the same dialogue box that you used to set up the size of the page.

Lulu has specific requirements for the size of the margins. Basically, you’re setting up a half inch all around except for the inner margin (where the pages join at the book’s spine) which is a 3/4 inch margin.

Pretty easy so far? Well, now things get interesting. The next choice you have to make is the font style and size. Unless you are doing something wacky, you’ll probably want to stick to a size 12 or 13 font. The font style is up to you, though. Lulu has a list of font styles that they prefer you use, but it is possible to use others. I like to use Garamond because I think it looks really nice when the book is printed, but this is a subjective choice. There will be a lot more of these kinds of subjective choices as the process goes on. It can seem a little overwhelming, but this is what I like about self-publishing: the opportunity to direct all of the little details of the publishing process. I find it very satisfying. Satisfying, ultimately, but not always easy. . .

The Ninth Circle of Formatting Hell: Page Numbers

Nothing will frustrate you more than wrestling with the page numbers. Although I like to use OpenOffice for most of my word processing needs, the biggest beef that I have with the program is that it makes formatting up page numbers very, very difficult. In Microsoft’s Word, the process isĀ  much more simpler — in fact, it is so much easier that when I need to insert page numbers I often just open the file in Word, do my business there, and save it.

Depending on where you want the page numbers to go (top or bottom of the page), you might need to format breaks between the chapters. (I found this page online which helped explain how to do this in Word.) The purpose of creating a break between chapters is that it allows you to format the page numbers so that, if you choose, the page number won’t appear on the first page of the chapter. Depending on what the first page of each chapter looks like, you might not want the page number in the same place as the other numbers on the other pages. For example, if all of the page numbers for the rest of the text are in the top corners, maybe you want the page number on the first page of each chapter at the bottom of the page. Personally, I prefer not to include the page number on the first page of each chapter, but that’s just me. Whatever you decide to do, establishing formatting breaks between chapters makes this process easier.

At the same time that you are setting up the page numbers, you have to make a decision about whether you want your name and/or the title of your novel at the top of each page. And here is where you can literally do whatever you want. When I was setting up my page numbers, I sought inspiration and guidance by browsing through a dozen different books by as many different publishers. Almost every book had set up its page numbers and top margin material differently. Some put the numbers near the outer margin, some put them near the inner margin. Some books put the page number at the top of the page, others put the numbers on the bottom. Some books only used the title of the book, others used only the author’s name, others used the chapter title, others had a combination of some of these. Some books centered the material, others placed it near the page numbers. Apparently the only rule with page numbers and margin material is that there are no rules. You can do whatever you want.

So this has been a glimpse at some of the work you have to do when preparing the manuscript for Lulu’s publishing process. I thought you might want an example of what I’ve done, so take a look at this file:

Chapter One

It’s the first chapter of my novel, formatted more or less the way it will look when it is published. Look at my font, my spacing, the page numbers and headings, the first page of the chapter, etc. Again, you don’t have to format your manuscript exactly as I have formatted mine, but hopefully it will reinforce the idea that your text should look clean, neat, and organized — in other words, professional.

Next time: Preparing the title page and the book cover.

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September 15, 2008

What Is Your Word Count?

Filed under: Uncategorized — J.M. Reep @ 4:05 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Lately, I’ve made a point to visit some of the other WordPress blogs about writing, especially those blogs which, like mine, are chronicling writers’ work as they create their own novels. They’re interesting to read; I like writing about my own writing process, and I find I like reading about others’ writing processes too.

One thing that I’ve noticed in most people’s blogs is that they make a big deal about their word count, and some folks even have word count goals for their projects — not only an overall goal but also daily writing goals.

When I started writing during my teenage years, I didn’t use a word processor. I wrote everything out by hand, and when you write that way, counting words just isn’t an option unless you have a whole lot of time to kill. So I counted pages, and, in my mind, 200 pages was the minimum page requirement for a novel. That continues to be my mindset today; I think more in terms of pages than words. Frequent visitors to this blog will find that I refer to my page count more often than my word count.

Right now, for the record, Leah is 231 pages long (or about 83,500 words). Claiming that the text is “X” number of pages, I guess, doesn’t really mean much to readers of this blog. The question becomes, “What constitutes a ‘page’?” For example, altering the font size, the font style, the page margins, or the line spacing can all affect the page count, so what does it mean when I say “231 pages”? The answer is that I have formatted the document file in exactly the same way that I formatted The Spring when I published it — the same font style, same page size, everything. Again, for the record, here are my specs:

  • Garamond font, size 12
  • 34 lines of text on each page
  • Fixed line spacing set at .22″ between lines
  • Approximately 370 words per page
  • Pages set at 9″ tall X 6″ wide
  • Half-inch margins for the top, bottom and outer margins. Three-quarter inch margins for the inner margin.

So Leah’s 231 page count is perfectly comparable to The Spring’s 263 pages, and 231 pages is how long the book would be if I published it today.

But whether I’m going by pages or total words, I believe that an obsession with one’s word or page count can have a detrimental effect on one’s writing. I try not to worry about how physically long my story is. I believe that what’s most important is that the story is as long as it needs to be. A novel that is 1000 pages long is not necessarily a better novel than one that is 150 pages long. Since I began this revising project 5 months ago, I’ve cut at least 30 pages of material from my novel, not because I’m trying to meet a specific page goal, but because I didn’t need those 30 pages. The material that I cut was superfluous, repetitive, or it contradicted other elements in the story. When I’m finished, the story will be however long it needs to be, not a word more or a word less.

I’m sure not everyone shares my point of view. If you are writing a novel and counting your words as you go, does it really help you to know how long your story is, or do you think it puts undo pressure on you as a writer to reach a certain overall word count?

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