TCK Publishing Non-Traditional Book Publishing for Independent Authors Thu, 29 Jun 2017 10:00:58 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Publishing 32 32 We believe authors change the world with by sharing important stories and ideas. Let us help you get your story out to more people and make the world a better place. We interview authors who are self published, indie published, and traditionally published to find out what’s working right now to help you build your career and sell more book.s<br /> <br /> On The Publishing Profits Podcast show, international best selling author and publisher Tom Corson-Knowles interviews the publishing industry's best authors, publishers, editors, literary agents, marketers and attorneys to share inspiration, education and best practices. Our mission is to help authors and publishers succeed in the new era of publishing.<br /> <br /> Ebooks didn't even exist 15 years ago. Today, readers spend more than $6 billion each year on ebooks in the United States alone. Are you taking advantage of this huge shift in readers’ purchasing habits? Tune in and learn how to build a full-time career and income as an author by proactively responding to the huge changes in the industry.<br /> <br /> Whether you're just thinking about writing your first book or you're a multi-published author, you'll find new ideas to help you take your career to the next level.<br /> <br /> The show's audience includes writers, new and experienced authors, publishers, literary agents, editors, graphic designers, bloggers, content creators, marketing professionals, public relations and PR experts, and publishing attorneys.<br /> <br /> Learn more at TCK Publishing clean TCK Publishing (TCK Publishing) Copyright 2017 by The Publishing Profits Podcast The #1 Show for Writers, Authors and Publishers TCK Publishing We believe authors change the world with by sharing important stories and ideas. Let us help you get your story out to more people and make the world a better place. We interview authors who are self published, indie published, and traditionally published to find out what’s working right now to help you build your career and sell more book.sOn The Publishing Profits Podcast show, international best selling author and publisher Tom Corson-Knowles interviews the publishing industry's best authors, publishers, editors, literary agents, marketers and attorneys to share inspiration, education and best practices. Our mission is to help authors and publishers succeed in the new era of publishing.Ebooks didn't even exist 15 years ago. Today, readers spend more than $6 billion each year on ebooks in the United States alone. Are you taking advantage of this huge shift in readers’ purchasing habits? Tune in and learn how to build a full-time career and income as an author by proactively responding to the huge changes in the industry.Whether you're just thinking about writing your first book or you're a multi-published author, you'll find new ideas to help you take your career to the next level.The show's audience includes writers, new and experienced authors, publishers, literary agents, editors, graphic designers, bloggers, content creators, marketing professionals, public relations and PR experts, and publishing attorneys.Learn more at Weekly Understanding the Different Types of Editing Thu, 29 Jun 2017 06:46:55 +0000

Source: Nic McPhee


Writing is only a quarter of what goes into making a successful book. Maybe less.

What? Don’t believe me? Writing creates the whole experience, you say? The ultimate experience in a writer’s life is putting “THE END” on the page?

Right. Sure. This is your first book, isn’t it?

Authors wear many, many hats—enough to open an entire hat shop, honestly. Not only do you have to write the book, but you also have to edit and revise it, manage its production, and market the thing when it’s finally ready to go public.

That’s at least four distinct and challenging jobs.

Bringing in the Experts

Luckily, authors get to call upon experts in each field to help them out so they can focus on the writing part—the thing they’re an expert in.

Traditionally, you’d hire out all the other work to one, maybe two sources: your publisher and maybe your agent, if they were inclined toward doing some editing.

Today, though, authors have many more options, and most indie authors choose to establish their own team of experts to produce their books, paying a la carte for services instead of licensing away their rights and accepting an 8-10% cut of the sales in exchange for the publisher handling everything.

But figuring out what help, exactly, you need can be tough—especially in the world of editing, which can sometimes be even more grueling and frustrating than writing the book in the first place!

When it’s time to find a wonderful professional editor, how do you know what type of editor you need for your book in the first place? Editors, like writers, specialize—and not just in genre, but also in the style and depth of editing they do.

Let’s go over the main types of editing so you can figure out what’s best for your project.

Developmental Editing

The first stage after you write a book is developmental editing.

No, strike that. The first stage after you write a book is waiting.

As Stephen King said, “When you write a book, you spend day after day scanning and identifying the trees. When you’re done, you have to step back and look at the forest.” It’s that step back that’s critical—your book is your baby, and no one else will ever be as close to it as you are.

That’s why you have to get some distance from the manuscript—and also need to call in someone else to take an objective look at it.

This is where a developmental editor comes in.

What Do They Do?

A developmental editor’s job is to pick apart all the pieces of your manuscript and help you put them back together better and stronger.

A great developmental editor is more of a guide than a collaborator, although you’ll need someone that you get along well with and who can nudge you in the right ways.

Basically, you want someone who can point out the flaws in your writing, as well as the things you’re doing well, and help you figure out ways to fix the things that aren’t working and amp up the things that are.

What a developmental editor shouldn’t do is rewrite your work for you. They can offer suggestions and potential phrasings or possible solutions, but you’re not looking for a ghostwriter here—you’re looking for someone who can teach you how to write better, using your own draft as a learning tool.

Developmental edits focus on the big picture: does your book make sense? Is it missing anything? Does it contain too much?

In fiction, that means looking for plot holes, undeveloped characters, weird pacing, strange jumps in point of view, characters who appear and disappear out of nowhere, inconsistencies, and so on. A great developmental editor will also point out your crutch words and help you polish your writing in general.

In nonfiction, the developmental editor will help make sure that your arguments all line up, that your book flows in a logical fashion, that you’re not missing any key points, and that you’re not spending too much time on any given point. In some cases, the editor will also help you fact-check your research, but that isn’t inherently part of the job.

What Don’t They Do?

In a lot of cases, developmental editors don’t provide copyedits or proofreading (we’ll get to that in a minute). They’re just there to help you whip the structure and function of your book into shape, going over matters of plot, pacing, characterization, and more.

Granted, some aspects of mechanical writing will come into play—if you struggle with certain grammatical rules or spelling issues, that will get addressed—but developmental editors mostly focus on the big picture.

However, some developmental editors will offer a discount or a bundle of services, so you can use the same editor to copyedit your manuscript once you’ve gotten through the developmental revisions and produced a draft you can be proud of.

Developmental editors don’t write the book for you—they’re not ghostwriters. They guide you through looking at your book more objectively, like a reader would, and help teach you the skills you’ll need to improve both this book and future books.

How Does It Work?

A good developmental editor works very closely with an author to refine a draft manuscript.

This usually takes the form of a whole lot of tracked changes and comments within Word or another word processing program.

You should expect to get back a marked-up document that’s got a lot going on in it—and you should expect to spend a lot of time and energy going through each change and question, rewriting huge chunks of your book, adding and deleting scenes, maybe even restructuring the whole book or changing the point of view.

You may also get a “letter from the editor,” a document pointing out bigger items and commenting on the whole reading experience. This sums up the editor’s general assessment of your book, while the marked-up document digs into individual points and details.

It will probably take a few passes to get everything right. Your editor will send you a document loaded with comments and suggestions, and you’ll go to work revising it. You’ll send back the new version. They’ll send back another round of changes and suggestions.

This might take one back-and-forth pass, it might take six. It all depends on the book.

When you’re hiring a developmental editor, be sure that you’re both clear on what exact services the editor provides and how many rounds of revision you’re going to get.

Also check to find out if the editor is willing to accept questions or have conversations about your writing when the project is technically out of their hands—that is, during the copyediting or proofreading phases. You may want input on some idea you have in the middle of the night a month from now!

How Long Does It Take?

Developmental editing is by far the most time-consuming part of the editorial process.

The editor needs to carefully read your entire book and make thoughtful notes. They also need to dig into the details of your book, editing for structure and clarity in Word and making comments and suggestions throughout.

This takes a lot of time and energy!

Plus, then you’ll have to respond to all those questions and suggestions and changes, rewriting your book with the editor’s guidance in mind. This stage can take a lot of time, especially because there will always be edits you don’t agree with and you’ll need to figure out what makes sense to do and what doesn’t based on your unique work and style.

A really skilled, efficient editor can thoughtfully respond to about 800-1,000 words per hour, but can only keep that up for about 3 to 4 hours at a time (editing is hard work!). Some editors may be faster or slower. So obviously this process would take a while for a 90,000-word novel!

How Much Does It Cost?

Every editor charges different rates, naturally.

If you get an editor who’s just starting their career or who’s transitioning from being a publishing house employee to a freelancer, you might be able to get a lower rate than with someone who’s spent 25 years working for the Big 5 and has a huge list of freelance clients.

How editors charge also varies. Some editors charge by the hour, while others charge by the page or the word.

I recommend that new indie authors working with a particular editor for the first time try to find someone who charges by the page or the word—that way, you know exactly how much to budget.

The Editorial Freelancers Association has a super-handy list of average rates so you can see where the quote you’ve been given falls.

In general, a good developmental editor will charge:

  • $50-$60 per hour
  • $15-$25 per page
  • 6-10 cents per word

Expect a standard novel to cost anywhere from $3,500 to $9,000 for developmental edits done by a skilled professional. If possible, make sure that this price includes copy edits and proofreading for the final draft!

Copy or Line Editing

Copy editing and line editing are two ways of referring to the same basic procedure.

This next part of the editorial process picks up where developmental editing left off.

After you’ve gone through a few rounds of revision (both editing on your own and working with a developmental editor to address issues you didn’t spot yourself), you’ll be left with a clean draft.

In some cases, you’ll come through your writing process with a pretty good draft. You may be able to self-edit and work with beta readers or a writer’s group to refine your first attempts without paying a developmental editor. If that’s the case, you can head straight into copy editing.

What Do They Do?

A copy editor looks for mechanical, rather than stylistic or structural, issues.

“Mechanical” writing issues are things like grammar problems, capitalization errors, spelling glitches, and word choice problems.

This is where the “line editing” name comes in—copy editors go line by line through your manuscript hunting for glitches.

Think of this like spellcheck on steroids: you’ll get insight into homophone errors, problems with phrasing or spelling, missing words, funky capitalization or paragraph breaks, and more.

A great copy editor will also look for the use of passive voice, too much use of italics or other emphasis, and other things that might detract from your book.

What Don’t They Do?

Copy editors don’t provide you with an overall view of the quality, structure, pacing, etc. of your book—that’s for a developmental editor.

They might leave little notes about something that doesn’t make sense, but it’s not strictly part of the process. They’re there solely to make sure that your writing is technically sound.

How Does It Work?

Much like a developmental editor, a copy editor will go through your manuscript in Word and make a ton of changes using the Track Changes feature. This will allow you to see everything they’ve suggested and to accept or reject the changes.

It’s best to go through all these changes carefully, because there will always be things that you don’t agree with or want to look into a little more.

Feel free to accept or reject changes as you choose, but remember—you paid for copy editing because you wanted a professional-quality book that would impress readers and present your work in the best possible light. Your copy editor is an expert, and their advice should count.

How Long Does It Take?

Copy editing is faster than developmental editing because it’s less focused on big-picture issues that take a lot of thought and time to figure out solutions to.

Instead, by focusing on details that have clear right-and-wrong forms, copy editors can scoot through a manuscript pretty quickly.

A good copy editor can do about 1,500 to 2,000 words, or about 6 to 8 pages, per hour. As always, some editors may be faster or slower than this.

How Much Does It Cost?

Copy editing is a bit cheaper than developmental editing, again because of the differences in time and effort involved.

For the most part, you can expect to pay:

  • $30-$50 per hour
  • $3-$5 per page
  • 3-5 cents per word

A standard novel will often cost about $1,000 to $2,500 to copy edit thoroughly, but you can sometimes find freelancers willing to work on well-developed, previously edited manuscripts for under $1,000.


Once you’ve gotten your manuscript whipped into tip-top shape, it’s time to start thinking about proofreading.

If you’ve had your book professionally edited already, I recommend doing the proofreading after you’ve had it laid out for publication.

The layout and formatting process almost always inserts a few errors into the text—that’s just the way it goes. Proofreading at the end of the process helps you catch these glitches and any other mistakes that may have survived your previous rounds of editing.

It also gives you a chance to review the book when it looks a little different from a default Word format on your screen—and those visual differences, believe it or not, do often let you catch errors that slipped past before!

What Do They Do?

A proofreader checks your manuscript for any and all errors related to its final display. That means missing words, spelling errors, strange sentence or paragraph breaks, messed-up formatting, or other goofs.

Think of this as the general quality-control phase. The heavy lifting of structural, content, and style editing has been done; the grammar has been fine-tuned; and everything is basically in good shape. Now you’re just trying to make sure that there’s no chips or scratches on the final product.

What Don’t They Do?

Proofreaders don’t comment on style, structure, pacing, or other big-picture items.

Often, they don’t even offer grammatical suggestions. They’re focused exclusively on making sure that your book is as error-free as possible…not that it makes sense or engages the reader.

How Does It Work?

Because proofreading a book often takes place after the layout is done, this one doesn’t happen in Word.

Instead, the proofreader will take either your physical proof copy or your “soft” PDF proof and mark that up.

Some proofreaders will make changes using proofreader’s marks, a series of scribbles and squiggles that mean certain things or indicate certain actions you need to do.

But because most freelance proofreaders now work with indie authors and others outside the publishing industry, this arcane language is starting to phase out.

Instead, modern proofreaders often use the built-in editing functions in Adobe Reader or other PDF tools.

You’ll get back a PDF marked up with highlights, sticky notes, and strikeout/replacement notes indicating what needs to be done. If you were thorough during copy edits and careful during layout, you may not have a lot to fix. Still, even a great copy editor is human, so you may see more corrections than you anticipated when another set of eyes goes over your final proof!

Some proofreaders also provide a spreadsheet of corrections, particularly when working with an ebook proof. This will list out the page and line where the error appears, the phrases on either side of it, and the problem itself, as well as how to correct it. Including all this information makes it easy to use the Find function to locate and resolve the error.

How Long Does It Take?

Proofreading can be done much more quickly and efficiently than other types of editing, because the proof the editor is working from should be in pretty good shape already.

Expect your proofreader to be able to get through about 2,500 to 3,000 words per hour, or around 10 to 12 pages per hour.

You shouldn’t see too many errors, so implementing the corrections shouldn’t take you more than an hour or two.

How Much Does It Cost?

Proofreading is a critical part of the editing process, because it’s the last check for errors before you actually put your book on sale. As a result, it’s not something you should skimp on!

That said, proofreading is also the one place where you can think about using volunteers to help you out. The more sets of eyes you have on a document, the more likely you are to find all the errors—though there’s always some that slip past, even in Big 5 publishing houses.

Consider rounding up a few beta readers, friends, or family members to help proofread your final version once it’s been laid out and ask them to point out any errors they find. Having about 3-5 people look over your final proof gives you a good chance at catching any problems that might have slipped through.

But professional proofreading help is even more likely to find those glitches. Expect to pay:

  • $20-$35 per hour
  • $1-$2.50 per page
  • 1-2 cents per word

Proofreading a completed book that’s been formatted and laid out will generally cost around $500 to $750, though you can often find proofreaders who will work for less and some online proofreading services are very affordable.

A well-edited book better expresses your point, looks more professional, and better engages readers. Take the time to find the right editor who provides the type of editing you need and watch your reviews go from “meh” to glowing in no time!


Different types of editing deal with different issues. But all of them contribute to making your book the best it can be!


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Source: Nic McPhee


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Don’t Get Crippled by Crutch Words: How to Speak and Write More Effectively Wed, 28 Jun 2017 06:47:16 +0000

Writing is hard.

Writing smooth, flowing prose that uses exactly the right word at exactly the right moment, with no filler or fluff?

That’s dang near impossible.

Which is why we writers exist—most folks write well enough to make it through their daily emails and memos, understanding instinctively that writing well is a difficult skill to master and more than happy to leave the craft up to those of us crazy enough to love it.

Yet even professional writers have some trouble when it comes to that “no filler or fluff” part of the program.

Humans, you see, are inherently lazy. No matter how hard you work at your craft and how much time you spend with writing coaches, writers’ groups, and daily page practice, there’s always a few bad habits that sneak in simply because we’re wired to take the easy way out.

Most often, we see this in the form of crutch words.

What Are Crutch Words?

Filler, fluff, weasel words, crutch words—all refer to the same bad habits that result in us cluttering up our message with stuff that doesn’t matter.

Note that the term “crutch words” isn’t meant to be ableist—it’s not a dig, just a description of how we use the terms to help hold ourselves up when we might struggle a bit to do so alone.

Crutch words, simply put, are the words and phrases we use to prop ourselves up when we don’t quite know what to say.

They appear frequently in everyday conversation, and that makes it easier for them to creep into our professional writing—whether that’s a presentation or speech, a business email or memo, or even our next book.

By definition, a crutch word doesn’t add anything to your statement. It gives you a moment to breathe and think about what you truly want to say, inserting a forced pause.

Now, that’s helpful when you’re in conversation with someone, but it can also backfire. When you develop the habit of using crutch words in everyday life, they start slipping under your radar and emerging where they’re not welcome.

When you’re doing public speaking or when you’re writing, crutch words clutter up your message. They make you seem unsure of your topic and allow your audience to tune you out.

Worse, in writing, crutch words are easy to spot because our minds are tuned to look for patterns. If you overuse a particular word or phrase, your reader will notice it and will start to get annoyed by the frequent repetition.

Common Crutch Words

Almost anything can be a crutch word, but there are certain words that are abused more than others.


The most common crutch words aren’t really words at all—they’re filler mumbles like “um,” and “ah.” Most of us have been told that we need to get rid of these in our speech, but they still sneak in.


When we’re trying to drive home a point, it’s easy to fall back onto crutch words like actually, really, and literally.

These words certainly have their places, but they’re often just filler. I mean, do you actually need to really state that something literally happened?

Probably not. You can just state that the thing happened. Done.

Other emphasis terms that often creep in as crutches include fabulous, awesome, great, super, and excellent.

One that fiction writers use way too often is suddenly. Suddenly, a figure jumped out. Suddenly, he made his move. Suddenly, the car turned.

Used alone, it’s useful; used over and over, it’s annoying. Try rephrasing for variety:

  • A figure appeared out of nowhere, startling her.
  • He darted forward, making his move.
  • The car careened around the corner.

Unnecessary Adverbs

Adverbs are awesome. They let us modify what we’re saying and make it more nuanced and specific. But that can also go too far.

Basically, definitely, very, truly, honestly, absolutely, totally, seriously, and obviously are some of the biggest offenders here. They all have a place in our writing, but they’re all frequently overused.

Hedging Phrases

Crutch “words” can be phrases, too—little blips in our language that we think are adding style or substance, but are, in fact, detracting from it.

That’s because these phrases are typically qualifiers—they’re modifying the statement but not adding to it. They “hedge” what you’re saying by taking it from being a confident statement to a “well, maybe…I guess” moment.

Hedging terms include:

  • Well…
  • Maybe…
  • I guess…
  • In a weird way…
  • Somehow…
  • I suppose…
  • Regardless…
  • Nevertheless…
  • For what it’s worth…

Good Words Gone Bad

Some of the hardest crutch words to get rid of are the good words gone bad.

All crutch words have a use, but the ones that are critical to certain phrases yet unwelcome in others are tough to spot and eliminate.

After all, if you’re making a comparison or asserting a preference, you may need to use the word “like” in your sentence. But it can also sneak in as a crutch.

For instance, I’d like to talk about how similes are like metaphors because I like figurative writing techniques.

But one of these “likes” is not like the other one! That first one can go—the statement would be stronger if I’d simply said “Similes are like metaphors; I like to discuss these figurative writing techniques.” Heck, even that second one can get deleted because it doesn’t add much of importance to the statement relating similes and metaphors.

Personal Pitfalls

But not all crutch words or phrases are common. We all have pet phrases that sneak into our writing, especially in certain genres.

For instance, I once worked with a science fiction writer who was incredibly fond of the action tag “she spun.” It got very repetitive, very quickly, and needed to go.

Another writer, a business expert, loved “each and every” a little too much. That was his personal crutch phrase.

Seemingly innocuous terms can veer into “crutch” territory if we use them too much instead of simply saying what we mean. It takes a keen eye and a lot of dedication to root out our personal pet phrases.

This can be one area where a professional editor is a lot of help—we’re often too close to our own writing to see when we’re overusing terms or phrases, whereas a pro isn’t that attached and can easily start to recognize patterns.

How to Avoid Crutch Words

So crutch words are bad, but they’re also sneaky. How do we break free of our reliance on them?

1. Know Your Enemy

The first step in avoiding crutch words is to figure out what your unique crutch words are.

There’s a few ways to go about this. Since our crutch words appear in both speech and writing, it’s best to look for them in both places.

Grab your phone and find its built-in recorder function; if your phone doesn’t have one, you can download a free recording app like Parrot or use a separate digital recorder. Record your next few conversations or meetings.

Later, go over the recordings and start tallying up words that appear regularly. You’ll end up with a list of crutch words to watch out for.

For your writing, plug a few pieces you’ve written, like short stories or blog posts, into an online word frequency counter. This tool will let you know how often you use certain words or even phrases in your writing.

2. Seek and Destroy

The second step in eliminating crutch words is easier in writing than in speech. That’s to seek out and destroy all your bad habits!

Pick a relatively straightforward place to start, like with a blog post. By starting with a shorter piece, it’s easier to see progress and to start building good habits.

Use the Find tool in Word or your favorite word processor to highlight all the instances of each crutch word on your list. Go through these carefully to see if you really, truly need to include that word in that place.

If it’s not desperately critical to your message, delete it.

Don’t look back. Don’t pass “Go.” Just delete it.

It’s okay, really! Remember, by definition, crutch words don’t add anything to your message, you can just skip them and move on.

At first, it’ll feel uncomfortable to be chopping words out of your manuscript—don’t we all track our word counts obsessively?—but as you start to tighten up your writing, you’ll see the difference that ditching crutch words makes and start doing it more and more automatically.

3. Figure Out the Why

Once you’ve started eliminating crutch words from your vocabulary, you still need to make sure you’re getting your point across.

This is particularly important in speech—because writing is composed, it’s easier to take your time and gather your thoughts, using the right words in the right places.

When we’re speaking, whether in conversation or in front of a group, we tend to stumble, flinch, or need to regroup—all places where those pesky crutch words can pop up again.

To build better habits, practice speaking and writing without using any of your crutches. Wander around the house practicing your elevator pitch or giving the gist of that presentation to your boss next week. Listen carefully—record yourself if you need to—and stop every time you use a crutch word.

Figure out why you used it there. Are you feeling unsure of your point? Worried that someone’s going to ask a question you don’t know the answer to? Maybe you’re too excited about what you’re saying and your enthusiasm is letting the “reallys” and “actuallys” loose.

When you understand why you’re using the words you are, where you are, you can then start practicing to overcome them. Spend more time working on that area of your message, or practice speaking in front of other people until you can give your elevator pitch half-asleep in the middle of a typhoon without missing a beat.

The crutch words will start disappearing as you start gaining confidence.

4. Get Comfortable with Minimalism

Crutch words are often an indication of hesitation, discomfort, or thinking so far ahead we forget where we are in the moment.

Being present and mindful helps us to pay more attention to what we’re speaking and writing right now, rather than focusing on a question someone might ask or the next thing we’re going to say.

This is the least comfortable part of ditching crutch words: learning to embrace minimalism.

In writing, that means striving to get your message across in a clear, straightforward manner, rather than reaching for a word count goal.

When you’ve decided that this chapter has to be 6,700 words, you’re more likely to use crutch words to get you to that goal. But maybe you only need 3,400 words to get your point across. Embrace the message, rather than an arbitrary word count, and your writing will start to become more polished and less cluttered.

But you’re speaking, not writing, you say? You can’t just stop entirely to gather your thoughts?

Oh, but you can!

Embrace minimalism here, too. You don’t always need to be talking. You can allow silence into your conversation—or even your speech or presentation. It’s okay to take a beat or two to take a breath and regroup.

Someone asked you a question that you’re not quite sure how to answer? Take a moment to think. If you need more than a second or two, just say “Let me think about that for a moment” or repeat the question in your own words. You’ll look thoughtful and composed, rather than seeming unsure of yourself as you sputter out a stream of crutch words to buy time.

Pauses are not the enemy. Learn to get comfortable with silence and you’ll be well on your way to defeating crutch words in both your writing and your speech.

Where Crutch Words Belong

Believe it or not, crutch words do have a place!

Many are perfectly lovely words that can add to your writing and speech when used correctly; they’re just often overused and become meaningless fluff in the process.

But our tendency to use crutch words left and right is exactly what makes them useful in certain contexts!

If you’re a fiction writer, you can improve your dialogue by slipping in some crutch words here and there. By mimicking the way people speak a little more closely, you add realism and help make your characters sound like real people, not like they’re reciting lines.

So the next time you write dialogue, go ahead! Slip in a “literally” or an “actually” here and there. Just be careful not to do it too much, or you’ll have developed a crutch for your crutch!

Eliminating crutch words makes your writing and speaking more confident, clearer, and more engaging.


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NOW HEAR THIS!!! 3 Mistakes You’re Making when Writing Emphasis Tue, 27 Jun 2017 06:14:32 +0000

Writing a great book is all about capturing your reader’s attention and keeping them so spellbound they can’t dream of putting your book down.

But that’s easier said than done—when readers have so many other options for entertainment (and we’re not just talking books…there’s Netflix and Facebook and games to tempt readers, too), you have to be at the top of your game to grab and hold them.

So what’s a writer to do? You’ve got a great plot and engaging characters, but how do you compete with all the explosions and action on TV when all you have to work with is words?

Too often, writers fall back on emphasis tricks to ramp up the action and excitement in their work. Usually, it’s fiction writers who fall into this trap—but nonfiction authors are guilty, too, when trying to really drive home a point.

What Are Emphasis Tricks?

Emphasis tricks are sneaky—or not-so-sneaky—little ways to tell the reader to sit up and pay attention.

Rather than letting your writing stand on its own and trust that the reader will pick up on what’s important or be swept along by the pace and power of your writing, these tricks tell the reader that something is important.

Like that italicized tell up there. See?

Now, emphasis tricks aren’t all bad! They’re really helpful for pointing out certain words or phrases that you want to call attention to or for heightening drama within your work.

But it can be all too easy to start relying on them as a crutch, forgetting to pay attention to the flow and rhythm of your writing more than anything else.

And they can be distracting for readers—if you use too many emphasis tricks in your writing, they stop having the intended effect of making your reader pay attention. The reader will slide right over your important message, eager to get on to the next passage that’s not swimming with italics or all-caps.

Here’s the top 3 mistakes that writers make when using emphasis and how to avoid them.

1. All-Caps

It’s tempting to try to call attention to a passage in your book the same way you would in an email—USING ALL CAPS.

After all, your eye goes right to that!

But using all-caps in a book, whether fiction or nonfiction, is tricky for the same reason it’s discouraged in email: basically, you’re shouting at the person reading it.

Even when a character in your novel is, in fact, shouting, you should hold back on the caps-lock. Your reader doesn’t need to be overwhelmed by the dialogue; you can use dialogue tags to show what’s going on instead.

For instance, which would you rather read?


Dane sighed. His boss was just being unreasonable again.


And there it was. The fussy little jerk was going to threaten his paycheck, as usual.

Dialogue Tag

Dane sighed. His boss was just being unreasonable again.

“Don’t you look away from me, Dane. I pay the bills around here!” his boss screamed, going red in the face and spitting a little as he raged.

And there it was. The fussy little jerk was going to threaten his paycheck, as usual.

Probably the second one, right? Not only is it more vivid, including descriptions of what Dane’s boss was doing beyond just yelling, but it’s easier on the eyes, too.

That’s because capital letters aren’t meant to be used for extended passages—they’re meant to call attention to the start of a sentence or a proper noun. The blocky letters kind of mash together and become hard to read when used for regular text…and that means readers might skim over the very thing you meant to emphasize.

All-caps isn’t just used for shouting, though. Many authors use capitals to call attention to a word or phrase in the text that they want readers to pay attention to.

For instance, something that’s REALLY important to note.

That REALLY up there? Not necessary. If your writing is solid, readers will understand that you want to make a point. And even if you’re sure you need to add emphasis, there are better ways to do it than all-caps, which can be hard to read sometimes, as mentioned above.

Instead of using all-caps to emphasize a critical word, try using italics instead. It’s easier to read and helps keep the reader’s eye flowing smoothly over the page so that they can really absorb what you’re imparting.

When Is It Okay?

Using all-caps is okay sometimes, though! It’s often used with good effect when you’re indicating a sound or an escalation of volume.

For example:

BANG! The door slammed shut, startling Jennie.

“Tom?” she called. “Is that you? Tom? TOM!”

Notice how both are very short, though, and are pretty much used as a last resort to show a very loud noise or call.

Use caps-lock sparingly, and it’ll retain its power. Use it too much, and people will start skimming through your important passages!

2. Font Tricks

The most frequently abused emphasis trick involves changing the font.

On the surface, this seems like an okay thing to do—after all, I just told you to use italics instead of ALL CAPS to call out a critical word, didn’t I?

But while font changes are powerful tools, every tool can be overused or used in the wrong ways. And because font changes are easy and effective, the temptation to use them can be strong.

There’s a few different kinds of font tricks that can prove problematic when attempting to emphasize something in your writing.


Many writers like to use bold to highlight words or passages in the text. This isn’t often used by professional fiction authors, though, so it can make your work look sloppy or amateur to a reader accustomed to how Big 5 publishers do things.

Why no bold?

It’s an old typography convention. Before the age of digital printing, type was set differently, using physical plates or even hand-set letters stamped onto a page. Ink could seep, making the letters slightly different thicknesses, and therefore seeming bolder.

Plus, bold type had a tendency to run together or be unclear on the page.

Overall, it just wasn’t part of a good reading experience, and so the industry convention came to be to use italics to mark emphasis instead.

The exception to this rule of italics instead of bold happens mostly in nonfiction books. When you’re using a lot of headings, subheadings, and important terminology, bold can help to point out key concepts.

Think about a textbook where key vocabulary terms are highlighted in bold and you’ll get the idea of how bold can be used correctly.


So if bold is out, italics are in, right? Yay, finally some emphasis we can use!

Hold on a sec. While italics are awesome (see what I did there?), they’re also easy to overuse.

As with any emphasis, italics are best used sparingly. Your writing should speak for itself, being active and exciting enough to keep the reader engaged without having to tell them explicitly what’s exciting…which is what italics do.

Again, it’s best to use italics for only short words or phrases that really need to be emphasized.

“Diane,” she said warningly, “I really, really wouldn’t do that if I were you.”

Diane shot back, “And why not? I can open it if I want to! What could you do to stop me, anyway?”

See? In the first line, the speaker is emphasizing how strongly she feels that Diane shouldn’t do something. In the second, Diane is emphasizing that the first speaker, specifically, is powerless.

The italics become more powerful because they’re not highlighting everything, like I can open it if I want to! but instead, just punching up key bits of information to add depth to the narrative.


Underlines should basically never be used in modern texts. There are a few exceptions for nonfiction writing where you might need to underline a subheading or key term, but they’re not meant for emphasis within a narrative.

Why not? Well, same as bold text, underlines can get lost or squished depending on how your book is typeset and designed. It’s easy to have things start looking cluttered, making your reader think the book is amateurish or just plain hard to read.

If you’ve ever seen underlines in an old manuscript, like something typed up in the 1950s, you’re actually seeing an author’s note for the typesetter to add italics!

Because typewriters didn’t have easy formatting options like we do with today’s word processors, people typing manuscripts had to have ways to indicate desired changes. Italics were therefore noted with an underline back in the day.

Later, when the manuscript was professionally formatted for large-scale printing, the underline would be replaced with the correct italics.

With word processors, we don’t need to do this, so you should just use the italics where you want them to go, not an underline.

Different fonts

Particularly in fiction, it’s tempting to use different fonts to indicate certain information. This happens a lot in sci-fi and fantasy novels, in particular, where you might run into a character who’s a computer, or from a different world, or speaking a strange language.

For example:

Again, this can be a very effective technique, but it can also be incredibly disruptive. Your eye immediately jumps to the changed font, and you may subconsciously focus more on the look of the passage than on what it’s saying.

Plus, a lot of fancy fonts can be hard to read, especially for extended passages. You want to make your reader feel relaxed and engaged, not strain to make out the text. So it’s best to keep your fonts simple.

Most character voice and strange effects can be indicated through your writing instead of by changing the font. Just tinker with your dialogue tags and see what you can come up with. In the examples above, you might use:

“Hello, Dave. How are you today?” asked Hal the computer, its synthesized voice flat and cold, despite the warm words.

“Why, Agnes,” purred the demon, its smooth tone marred by the words hissing around its huge fangs, “I didn’t know you cared.”

Give the reader the tools to build the sounds and ideas in their imagination! You don’t need tricks for that…just great writing skills.

When Is It Okay?

Some font changes are okay, though.

As mentioned, careful use of italics can be helpful, as just demonstrated. Be sure to control yourself and don’t go overboard and you should be just fine.

When writing nonfiction, you might choose to use some different font styles or even different fonts entirely to set off subheadings, key terms, or quotes.

The best thing to do is to write your manuscript using very simple formatting changes, like the built-in Heading styles available in Word.

Then, when your book designer comes on the job, you can have a discussion about what you’d like the book to look like. Those simple pre-set heading styles will be easy to update to new, streamlined designs that will give your book a professional, cohesive look.

3. Exclamation Marks

The exclamation mark was made to add emphasis. Literally! This punctuation mark shows excitement, intrigue, anger, and a host of other strong emotions.

But it can easily become a crutch when you’re writing, appearing too often and making its magic seem mundane.

As with all emphasis tricks, the problem is that it’s so easy to use. Need to point out that something exciting is happening? Just add an exclamation mark! Or, better yet, how about four!!!!

Nope. Nope, nope, nope.

You only get one. Period. As Terry Pratchett once wrote, “Multiple exclamation marks are a sure sign of a diseased mind.”

Now, he was talking about a deranged character in one of his books, but his point holds. More than one exclamation mark is just too many—the symbol itself gets the meaning across just fine.

If you’re actually trying to show someone becoming unhinged, then you might add an extra one or two:

John snarled at his captor. “You can’t hold me! No one can hold me! I am the night! I am a ghost! I will break free!!”

But really, that’s a heck of an exception.

Exclamation marks can be abused in other ways, too.

In plain text, your writing should convey the excitement and action that’s happening. If you’ve honed your writing skills, you won’t need to use the exclamation point to signal that something cool is happening—and doing so will just make you seem a little desperate, or at least unsure of your writing.

They fled down the cold passageway, sneaking glances behind them to see if they were being followed. It seemed like they’d made a clean getaway! Andy and Karen slowed to a jog, then a walk, breathing hard but relieved they’d made it. Free at last, they rounded a corner and came face to face with an ogre!

In this example, the first exclamation mark, after “getaway,” just disrupts the passage. It’s completely unnecessary.

The second one is also unnecessary, but because the ogre is automatically surprising. The reader doesn’t need to be told to be shocked; they’d just gotten away and everything was fine, so the creature’s sudden appearance has the same effect as an exclamation mark. Adding one here doesn’t do anything for the text.


A sub-category of the exclamation mark is the interrobang.

That’s the ?! that comes along with an exclamation of surprise, pain, or shock.

Note that the interrobang is always formatted as ?!, never !?. That’s because it’s technically a single punctuation mark, made up of the “interrogative,” or question mark, followed by the “bang” or exclamation point.

These can be handy tools, but should be used sparingly, as with all emphasis tricks. They’re best used for expressing extreme shock or surprise:

“But…Betty!” he gasped. “He’s your brother! How could you?!”

When Is It Okay?

As we’ve seen, some exclamation marks and interrobangs are great! It’s just when you use them too often that they lose their power.

Use the Find tool in your word processor to count up how many exclamation points appear in your manuscript. Where do they appear? Are you using five or more on a single page? Can you rewrite so that the narrative carries the action, instead of relying on punctuation marks to do it?

Challenge yourself to cut out at least a third of your exclamation marks. It’s a great exercise in streamlining and focusing your writing.

Overusing emphasis in your writing can have the opposite of the effect you intend. Use emphasis sparingly—trust your writing skills to express the action and you’re on your way to a more gripping book.


Trust your writing skills and use emphasis sparingly to retain its power.


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How to Self-Edit: Tips to Improve Your Manuscript, Save Time, and Be a Better Writer Mon, 26 Jun 2017 07:36:11 +0000

Can you edit your own writing?

More importantly, should you edit your own writing?

The answer to both these questions is yes. Self-editing is a valuable skill that will help you produce better work, get better, faster feedback, and ultimately become a better writer.

That said, self-editing is not a substitute for working with an editor or proofreader. Getting a fresh, objective set of eyes on your manuscript is one of the best things you can do to improve your writing and its chance of success in the marketplace. There are editors out there for every genre and every budget, so please don’t skip the vital step of working with one (or more than one).

Still, it’s well worth polishing your manuscript as much as you can before sending it to editors, beta readers, and proofreaders. Self-editing will save time (and maybe money) by enabling your editor to work with fewer distractions; mistakes will be less likely to slip through; and you’ll be better aware of your weak points and less likely to make the same errors again.

What Is “Editing,” Anyway?

“Editing” is an unfortunately broad term that covers everything from organizing the overall structure of a narrative to picking up minute spelling and punctuation errors. They’re actually very different tasks, and they require different approaches (and in most cases, different people, once you get to the hiring stage).

I’ve divided the suggestions here into the three broad stages of editing: Developmental, Copy, and Proofreading. Entire books have been written about each of these stages, so this won’t be a comprehensive look at each one. Rather, I’ll just note a few key points that will help you to better assess and improve your own work.

Before that though, here are some tips to make your editing more effective regardless of what stage you’re at:

Self-Editing at ANY Stage

No matter what type of editing you need or where you are in your process, there are a few tricks that always come in handy.

Take a break between writing and editing.

The longer the manuscript, the more time you should take before picking it up again. Obviously, deadlines and other life pressures may make this impractical, but to the extent that it’s within your power, schedule your writing so that you can let it sit anywhere from overnight (for, say, a blog post) to several weeks (for a full-length book).

Optimize your editing environment.

It should be quiet and distraction-free, of course. Also make sure that you’re working in good light, are mentally alert, that your posture is good, and that you are physically comfortable.

Take regular breaks.

Staring at a computer screen for five hours in a row will only strain your eyes and tire your brain, making you less likely to catch mistakes. Get up every 25–30 minutes and move around a bit before getting back to work.

Enlarge your display.

I suggest reading at a minimum of 200%. This limits the number of words that you’ll see on your screen at any one time, making you less likely to skim, and literally helps you see errors more clearly.

Change your font and/or font color.

Sounds silly, but it will help you see your manuscript in a fresh light.

Self-Editing at EVERY Stage


You’ve finished (or are working on) your first full draft. At this point, you want to be sure that your manuscript meets reader expectations for your genre/subject, includes all the information it needs, doesn’t include extraneous or distracting material, and has a clear, well-supported theme.

Here are ways you can improve your manuscript at this stage:


Learn the “beats” for your genre. One of the biggest issues I see in fiction at this stage is that authors don’t have a solid grasp of narrative structure. They end up with long passages that go nowhere, distracting subplots, or multiple climaxes (fine in a sex scene; not in a narrative).

If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of beats, check out Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat (and don’t worry about the fact that it’s about screenwriting; the same principles apply). Study successful books in your niche and note when and how important action takes place—is there a particular rhythm that books in your genre use?

There’s plenty more to say about story arc and character development, but learning how to hit the beats is an excellent place to start.

Hook ’em on the first page. If the first page—heck, the first sentence—doesn’t compel readers to keep reading, they won’t. Does your opening give readers a tantalizing glimpse of what to expect from the rest of the book? If not, keep trying.

Check your chapter endings. These are some of the best places to create tension and compel the reader to keep turning pages, but all too often they simply cut off randomly in the middle of a scene or fail to leave the reader with a burning need to know what happens next. Use your chapter endings to showcase an important insight or action.


Know your theme and be able to define it in a single sentence. Your theme is not the subject matter; rather, it’s your opinion about the subject matter—why it’s important and how it will help the reader. Once you’re clear on it, make sure that everything in the book supports your theme.

Follow a chapter template that organizes the information for each chapter into a consistent format. Each chapter should have its own theme, and everything in the chapter should support it. Chapters that more or less follow the same pattern will make for an easier and more enjoyable experience for your readers as well as being easier for you to write.

Watch your tone. Be clear on the mood you want to convey (authoritative, humorous, relatable, etc.) and make sure that it’s consistent and appropriate for both your subject matter and audience.

Copy/Line Editing

At this point, you’ve more or less nailed the content of your manuscript; now you want to be sure that the language flows—that it’s appropriate for your audience, conveys the right feeling, meets grammatical standards, and isn’t confusing or redundant.

Listen to your writing. One of the best ways to “read” your writing objectively is to hear it out loud. Invest in some text-to-speech software (or download a free app), or get a friend to read it out loud to you. (You can also read it out loud to yourself, but this may not be as effective.)

Tighten it up. I bet you’ve included information or scenes that don’t really need to be there. Look for ways to shorten paragraphs, sentences, and even words.

Watch your metaphors and similes. When used badly, they can be confusing or unintentionally humorous. Double-check your descriptions to make sure that they’re in line with the tone you want to convey.

Fiction writers: check dialogue and actions scenes carefully, as these are common areas for confusion. In dialogue, make sure that it’s clear who is saying what, either from context, accompanying action, or dialogue tag (e.g., “he said”). With action scenes (including sex scenes), carefully block out the action in your head (draw diagrams if you have to!) to make sure that all your characters are where they are supposed to be and that the action is physically possible.


I really can’t stress the importance of having another person (ideally someone with proofreading experience) look over your work before you publish it. At this point, you’ve read your draft through too many times to be able to reliably catch tiny errors.

But it’s still a good idea to send as clean a copy as possible to your proofreader, so here are some tips:

Use your word processing program’s grammar and spell check. No, it won’t catch everything—and many of the things it catches won’t actually be errors—but it will almost certainly find some mistakes you’ve overlooked.

Use the find-and-replace function. You can change your straight quotes to curly quotes and your double hyphens to em-dashes (so, — to —) in a snap and far more accurately than if you do them one at a time. While you’re at it, replace all your double spaces with a single space—this is in line with current standards and will help the final product look more professional.

Just remember that find-and-replace is a double-edged sword; make sure that you replace only what needs to be replaced.

Use the Search function. If you know you have a tendency to make the same errors over and over again (typing “from” for “form,” for example, or spelling a character’s name different ways) do a search for those mistakes and check them one by one to be sure they’re correct.

Print out your work, if possible, and proof on paper. Time-consuming and not always practical, it’s still one of the best ways to see your manuscript in a fresh light.

Go Forth and Self-Edit

These are just a few of the many ways that you can improve your own manuscript before sharing it with readers and editors. I hope you’ll be able to put them to work for you.

Care to share your own self-editing tips? Please comment below!


Sarah Barbour is a book coach, editor, and author. She has been working with self-publishing authors since 2011, and is the author of Edit Me! How to Find, Hire and Work with an Editor and The Copy Editor’s Guide to Working with Indie Authors. She also writes fiction under the pen name Thea Dawson.






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Book Art Lets Inspiration Burst Off the Page Sun, 25 Jun 2017 07:42:11 +0000

Books can be incredibly inspiring and uplifting.

Reading stories that resonate with you can lift you out of depression, give you a new outlook on life, or just make you smile when you’re feeling a little down.

But beyond the words they contain, books themselves can be a source of inspiration. Artists all over the world are creating astonishing works of book art, using ancient and modern bookbinding techniques, papercutting, pop-ups, drawings, paintings, fiber art, and more to transform these everyday objects into something much more.

Here, we’ve rounded up a few of the most breathtaking examples of book art we’ve seen recently.




Source: Luciana Frigierio

Artist Luciana Frigerio makes custom book art that turns the pages of an old hardcover into personal messages, like a monogram or inspirational phrase. She carefully folds each page to create amazing 3D works, like a pop-up book for grownups.


Source: Kaspen

Source: Kaspen

Source: Kaspen

Design firm Kaspen created a striking series of book art images for the now-closed Czech store Anagram Bookshop. The store may have shut down, but the book art lives on, inspiring artists and writers alike.


Source: Su Blackwell, “Cinderella”

Source: Su Blackwell, “The Raven”

The works of artist Su Blackwell transform books into artistic representation of their plots, literally making the words jump off the page to illustrate their stories.


Source: Julya Hajnoczky

Source: Julya Hajnoczky

Another artist bringing works of fiction to life is Julya Hajnoczky. From wild imaginings of houses inside bird cages to 3D representations of the tale of the labyrinth and the Minotaur or Dorothy’s trip to Oz in the twister, Julya creates works that stay with you.


Source: Thomas Wightman

Source: Thomas Wightman

Source: Thomas Wightman

Designer Thomas Wightman has long created artist’s books, which appear similar to traditional books until you open them and find the beautiful vellum pages and intricate paintings within. But he’s also done a series of book sculptures made from existing texts, meant to illustrate the challenges of living with OCD.


Source: Lisa Occhipinti

Are you bored with having art only on your walls? Are your ceilings feeling left out? Artist Lisa Occhipinti may have the answer for you, in the form of her whimsical, cascading book page sculptures and mobiles.


Source: Thomas Allen

Source: Thomas Allen

Thomas Allen uses precision cutting tools and techniques to turn book covers and pages into dynamic pop-ups that represent characters and ideas.




Source: James Allen

Source: James Allen

Another artist who carves into books to create art is James Allen. His “book excavations” carefully cut into page after page of a book, revealing particular images or words that create a new story or scene from what was hidden inside the covers.


Source: Luminous Creative Imagery

Luminous Creative Imagery created an entire book from the concept of a 3D paper sculpture modeled on a computer. Rather than carving away an existing book, they turned a sculpture idea into a working book shaped like a skull, complete with text inspired by ancient writing.


Source: Tim Baker

Artist Tim Baker creates sculptural book covers, typically around a steampunk theme. Intricate carvings, working dials, latches, gears, clasps, and more turn these covers into something more special than your average hardcover.


Source: PRRINT

PRRINT studio uses old pages of dictionaries and other textbooks to provide a backdrop for embellished prints of vintage anatomy textbooks and other art. Their floral explosions add interest and intrigue to the textbook diagrams—there’s a story (or 10) just waiting to be told!


Source: Mike Stilkey

Painter Mike Stilkey uses books as the substrate for his paintings, stacking walls full of old books and then painting his fanciful illustrations on the spines to give these discarded texts new life.


Have you done any book art? Would you mind if an artist repurposed one of your books into a sculpture? Let us know in the comments!


Share the inspiration:


For more ways to get your creativity flowing, read on:

Focused Breathing: Reduce Stress and Boost Concentration with a Simple Breathing Exercise Sat, 24 Jun 2017 08:12:26 +0000

Although we hear all the time about the benefits of yoga, meditation, and all kinds of other techniques for improving focus, flexibility, mindfulness, and calm, they’re not for everyone.

Not all of us have the physical ability to do yoga—although chair yoga can be gentle on achy joints.

Not all of us have half an hour to devote to meditation every day—although, really, you only need about 2–5 minutes to get some benefits.

And not all of us have the focus required to clear our minds and sit still as mindfulness requires—although moving meditation can be just as effective.

There’s always an excuse for why you can’t do whatever healthy trend is currently all over Instagram, even if it’s just that you don’t have time between all your other obligations.

So what if I told you that there’s a form of relaxation and focus therapy that you’re already doing every minute of every day?

Just Breathe

Breathwork is, quite simply, focused breathing.

You can do that! You breathe all day, every day, without even thinking.

All breathwork asks you to do is to think about it for a change.

Whether you call it breathwork or pranayama, the formal yoga name for controlled breathing, it’s quite simple: a series of focused, controlled breaths that help you relax, focus, concentrate, and be present in the moment.

Although there are hours-long classes devoted to many different kinds of breathwork, some of which even add group therapy sessions to the lineup, and there are hundreds of pranayama classes in yoga studios all over the world, focused breathing at its most basic is incredibly accessible.

All you have to do is count and breathe!

It takes only a few minutes, requires no special equipment, and can be done sitting in your desk chair.

Best of all, you’ll likely find yourself recharged, refreshed, and even experiencing less anxiety and depression, according to some studies. That’s because when we get stressed, we tense up and start breathing shallowly, reducing the amount of oxygen coming in. That makes our bodies start inching into fight-or-flight territory, snowballing into the land of stress and making it hard to calm down and get back into your groove.

When we consciously relax and breathe more deeply and purposefully, we’re short-circuiting that negative loop and giving our bodies what we need to focus.

Six Steps to Refresh

Focused breathing is super-simple to get started with. It only takes 6 steps and less than 5 minutes!

1. Sit Comfortably

To get ready for focused breathing, just sit comfortably. If you want to sit cross-legged on the ground, go for it. If you’d rather hang out in your desk chair, that’s fine, too.

Relax your arms by your side and sit up straight, with your spine lengthened and your shoulders square. Keep your chin lifted slightly.

Close your mouth and breathe through your nose.

2. Breathe from the Belly

To get the most out of your breathing practice, take conscious, deep breaths from your diaphragm.

In simple terms, that just means breathing from your belly, deeply, and feeling your chest and belly expand as you breathe. Most of us take shallow breaths, only inflating the very top of our chests—we never get the deep intake of air that refreshes our bloodstream and floods our bodies and brains with healing, revitalizing oxygen.

3. Find Your Pattern

When you first start doing focused breathing, you might find it hard to take super-long breaths.

That’s okay! Everyone has different inherent rhythms and it’ll take you a little experimentation to find what works best for you.

Start out by breathing in while counting slowly to 2, then breathing out to the same beat. As you get more comfortable, try extending your inhale and exhale.

Most practitioners and coaches suggest that the optimal exhale is twice as long as your inhale: so aim for inhaling for 2, 3, or 4 beats and exhaling for 5, 6, or 7…or even more. Counts of 5 to 10 are totally normal.


You might find that you’re comfortable holding your breath for a little while between the inhale and exhale. Wellness expert Dr. Andrew Weil suggests a pattern of breathing in for 4 counts, holding for 7 counts, and exhaling for 8 counts.


Experiment and see what reduces your stress and boosts your concentration the best. Whatever works for you is the right pattern!

4. Lengthen Your Exhale

When we get stressed, our breathing gets choppy. Count to 3 as you inhale deeply, then count to 5 as you let the air out slowly.

Lengthening the time it takes you to breathe out forces you to relax more of your muscles and focus more on the pattern of your breathing, letting go of whatever might be bothering you.

5. Feel the Rhythm

As you relax, your breathing becomes almost like a wave—the pattern of in-out-in-out matches the feeling of your chest and belly rising and falling.

Focus on that pattern and pretend there’s an ocean wave cresting and falling inside your body, washing away whatever’s bothering you and bringing in a tide of calm, focused relaxation.

Just breathe in and out in a continuous, rolling stream—don’t hold your breath or make any choppy inhalations or exhalations. Ride the wave.

6. Cycle It

As you get used to focused breathing, you’ll figure out when you start to feel refreshed, as your body relaxes and oxygen starts flowing freely to your brain, giving you a boost of focus and concentration.

A lot of people feel great after about 10 cycles of in-and-out, but you may do well with more or less.

Regardless, it usually doesn’t take more than 5 minutes to perk yourself up and come back to whatever you’re doing with an improved mindset!

Advanced Breathing

Once you’ve got the hang of basic breathwork, you can try doing some advanced techniques…which are still pretty darn simple.

Most of these involve blocking one of your nostrils on the inhale and then blocking the other nostril on the exhale, or using different patterns of breathing and different inhale-exhale counts.

If you’re interested in learning more, check out this great article on Yoga Journal.

So the next time you find yourself stressed out by an impending deadline, a character that just won’t cooperate, or even the piles of laundry you’ve been trying to ignore, take a minute and just breathe.


Focusing on deep breathing can help calm and focus you, boosting your concentration and wellness.


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142: Six Simple Steps to Effective Book Market Research Fri, 23 Jun 2017 04:00:35 +0000

TCK Publishing has published more than 400 books, and many of them have become number-one bestsellers. In this episode, I’m going to share what I’ve learned about book market research that can help you achieve your self-publishing goals.

Three Keys to Book Market Research

  1. It’s critical that you understand who your reader is.
  2. It’s critical that you understand what your reader wants.
  3. That way, you can give them what they want most effectively.

Market research is about creating a product that serves your customers better. If you know who they are and what they want, you can make better decisions about what to put in your book.

The reason you’re doing market research is because you want to provide more value to your readers.
—Tom Corson Knowles

As an author, you want to serve your readers better than anyone else. That’s how you become a number-one bestselling author and stay at number one.

Six Simple Steps to Effective Market Research

1. Find Comparable Best-Selling Titles

Finding comparable titles, or “comps,” means you want to find self-published books in your market. If at all possible, you want to find books written by authors who are at your level.

If you are a new self-published author, you want to find books by other self-published authors who have only published one or two books.

After you find books comparable to yours, you’re going to want to make a list in a program like Excel or Google Sheets that includes the book title and a link to that book’s Amazon page so you can easily do further research in the future.

Two Ways to Find Your Comparable Titles

  1. You can go to Amazon and search keywords related to the book you’re writing. So if you’re writing a vampire romance, you would go to and type in the keywords “vampire romance.” You’ll then find comparable books in the search results.
  2. You can use Amazon’s bestseller lists. Simply go to Amazon’s ebook store, find your genre, and drill down until you get to the most specific category you can.

The more specifically you can identify your category, the more likely you are to be successful, because specific categories have less competition and more targeted readers.

If you want to save time, you can sign up for Bestseller Ranking Pro, the proprietary web-based software I had developed that can help you search all of Amazon’s thousands of categories in a few minutes.

An Amazon category is simply a virtual bookshelf in Amazon’s store. All you’re doing when you choose a category is telling Amazon what bookshelf to put your book on.

2. Analyze the Covers of Your Competition

Your book cover is a crucial piece of branding for your book. The more you can make your book cover look similar to other books in your category, the more likely your target readers are to click on your book and read your product page. This gets you one step closer to the sale.

This is where your list of comparable book titles comes in handy. You’re going to look at the covers of the books on your list of comps. What you’ll notice is that a lot of these books have similar covers.

That’s not an accident.

Covers are designed to suggest the type of book the customer wants to read.

When you look at the book covers in your market, pay special attention to:

  • The colors that are used.
  • The fonts that are used.
  • The images that are used.
  • The size and placement of text on the book cover.
  • The emotion(s) that the book covers make you feel.

As I said before, you want your book to look like it belongs in the category you put it in.

People buy books primarily based on emotion. This is especially true for fiction books.

Never miss an opportunity to have an actual conversation with readers of your genre. You can learn so much from just talking to people about why they read the books they do.

3. Analyze The Titles of Your Comparable Book

The title of your book is another crucial piece of the puzzle when it comes to marketing and selling your book.

The number one reason people buy books today is still word of mouth.

In order for a word-of-mouth sale to occur today, a book title needs three things:

  1. The book title has to be memorable.

The book title has to be easy for people to remember so they can easily recall it to tell their friends to buy it.

  1. The book title has to be repeatable.

The book title should be understandable and easy to repeat in a conversation. You want to avoid confusing book titles as much as possible—being too clever can actually backfire. You want a book title that is easy to communicate.

  1. The book title has to be searchable.

After you’ve created a book title that is memorable and repeatable, you need to make sure it is unique enough that it will rank in the search engines online.

If you wrote a romance book and titled it Sexy, that would be a really bad choice. That’s because there is no way that your book would rank on the first page of Google with that title, unless you spend an enormous amount of money and time to optimize your Amazon product page for that keyword.

Even then, it would probably be a waste of money and time because the title is simply too vague.

Using Keywords in the Subtitle of Your Book

Another thing you’re going to learn when you study the titles of your competitors is the keywords and key phrases that they are using to attract the attention of your audience.

This is especially true for nonfiction books. A subtitle that describes the benefit that your audience will receive from reading your book will help you sell many more books.

You can also use your subtitle to stand out. If you’re writing a book on investing and every book in your comparable list uses the words “low risk” in their subtitles, you don’t want to use the exact same words in yours.

You want to stand out and be different. If you look just like every other book in your genre, people who don’t know you aren’t going to want to take a chance on you.

Studying the book titles in your target market gives you an idea of where the gaps are so that you can craft a title that sets you apart from the crowd.

4. Study the Book Descriptions of Your Competition

When you read the book descriptions of your competition, you’re looking for the keywords and key phrases they’re using to sell their book to your potential customers.

You want to look at the keywords, key phrases, and concepts that jump out at you as you’re reading book descriptions.

After you read the book descriptions, model what works and avoid what doesn’t work.

5. Study the Reviews of Your Competition

Read the reviews of your comparable books. This is how you’re going to find out what people like about books in your genre, as well as what they don’t like.

Throughout the research process and especially when reading reviews, you should have a notebook with you so you can jot down notes.

It’s important that you read every review of the comparable books in the market. The more reviews you read, the more data you will have when you go back and analyze it.

As you read these reviews, you’re going to find there are patterns to what people like and don’t like. Pay attention to those patterns.

Your readers pay your bills. Pay attention to what they have to say about your work and the work of others.

Knowing what your readers want allows you to edit your story based on what will serve your readers best.

Reading reviews can help you identify gaps in the market that you can fill, allowing you to become successful quickly.

Doing market research allows you to see the world through the eyes of your readers. By understanding what your readers want and need, you will be able to serve them better than other authors who don’t do this type of research. If you give your readers more of what they want, they will come back to you and help you become successful.

6. Research Author Websites

After you have done the market research on Amazon, go and look at the individual author websites of the authors you’ve been researching. What are they doing on their website to market to their audience?

Do they:

  • Have a blog?
  • Have a podcast?
  • Have a YouTube channel?
  • Have an email list?


Basically, is their website a part of why they’re successful?

Some authors have websites but they clearly don’t maintain them. As with all market research, consider modeling what works and avoid what isn’t working.

Look for additional revenue streams.

Both fiction and nonfiction authors have the ability to sell related products to their audience.

So if you’re a nonfiction author in the health space, you might sell health supplements, an exercise plan, or other health-related products to your audience.

If you’re a fiction author who writes about dragons, you might find that 20% of the authors in your market sell dragon figurines or T-shirts. Again, copy what works.

Reach Out

The next step you can take if you want is to connect with other authors in your genre or category. You should do this after you’ve done your market research and published one or two books in your category.

When you connect with these successful authors, try and find a way for the two of you to collaborate. If you can build a relationship with someone who is successful in your genre, it can go a long way to building your audience faster.

It’s important that you do your research and publish your work first so that you have credibility when you contact other authors.

Questions to Ask Yourself as You Go through the Market Research Process

As you go through your research process, you’ll want to pay attention to some specific elements.

1. What market or sub-genre are you in?

Get really clear on what your market is. The more specifically you can define your market, the easier it will be to serve the needs of your audience and market to them.

2. Who is my ideal reader?

Have this question in the back of your mind as you’re reading reviews. Get as much information as you can about who these reviewers are.

  • Do they seem old or young?
  • Are they mostly men or women?
  • What kinds of careers do they have?

3. What do my readers love?

  • What do your readers love about life in general?
  • What do your readers love about books in your market?

4. What do my readers hate?

  • What do your readers hate about life in general?
  • What do your readers hate about books in your market?

By focusing on what your readers love and hate, you can better craft a book that meets their needs.

Links and Resources Mentioned in This Podcast — My free webinar, which goes through the process I use when doing market research. — The software I use when doing market research. — This link will take you directly to Amazon’s bestseller ebook categories so that you can start doing market research.

Rules of the Rich: 28 Proven Strategies for Creating a Healthy, Wealthy, and Happy Life and Escaping the Rat Race Once and For All — My bestselling book on how to create success and financial independence.

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TCK Publishing has published more than 400 books, and many of them have become number-one bestsellers. In this episode, I’m going to share what I’ve learned about book market research that can help you achieve your self-publishing goals. TCK Publishing has published more than 400 books, and many of them have become number-one bestsellers. In this episode, I’m going to share what I’ve learned about book market research that can help you achieve your self-publishing goals. Three Keys to Book Market Research It’s critical that you understand who your reader is. It’s critical […] TCK Publishing clean 30:38
Why Diverse Fiction Matters Wed, 21 Jun 2017 06:51:20 +0000

For most of us, diversity is part of our everyday lives. We regularly interact with people from different backgrounds as we go about our day and never think too much about it.

So why should what we read be any different?

That’s the question asked by the #WeNeedDiverseBooks and #DiversityinYA movement, which started in 2011 in response to conversations between authors Cindy Pon and Malinda Lo, who wondered why people thought they wouldn’t enjoy their YA fantasy books just because they were in fantasy Asian settings.

The conversation expanded on Twitter in 2014 to include author Ellen Oh, and the three questioned why major book conferences like BookExpo kept having panels made up of all white men.

Turns out, plenty of other people had been thinking the same thing (especially in the science fiction and fantasy worlds), and #WeNeedDiverseBooks was born, soon followed by other offshoots aimed at getting more diverse characters into the books we read—and especially the books kids read.

June is Pride Month, and so it’s a time when many of us are more conscious about issues of diversity and inclusion than we might be normally.

But when LGBTQ people, people of color, and others have to struggle every day to be accepted into mainstream society and simply treated like the ordinary folks they are, why does including a diverse range of characters in fiction matter?

Fiction Shows Who We Are

Simply put, fiction shows who we are.

Humans have been telling stories for as long as we’ve been able to communicate. It brings us together and it allows us to pass on knowledge, share wisdom, issue warnings, and relieve tension.

Storytelling is the essence of who we are.

And so stories themselves are capsules of who we are—they represent our hopes, our dreams, our fears, and our goals.

But when the stories that most people read consist of white upper-class characters, they don’t represent everyone doing the reading.

This is a particular problem in children’s and YA literature, because kids need to see themselves represented in order to develop healthy self-images and to feel comfortable with who they are. Teens, in particular, may struggle with accepting themselves—imagine being an LGBTQ teen in a small town, trying to come to terms with your identity. You may not see other folks like you out and about in town…and you’re not always seeing them in books, either, making you feel even more isolated.

By including characters from diverse racial, sexual, and other backgrounds, books can become more truly representative of the fabric of life in this big, messy, crazy world of ours—and therefore they can help us learn more about ourselves and others.

As Walter Dean Meyers, an author and publishing expert, has said, “As I discovered who I was, a black teenager in a white-dominated world, I saw that these characters, these lives, were not mine. What I wanted, needed really, was to become an integral and valued part of the mosaic that I saw around me.”

Reading fiction about the way the world around us really is, with its diverse tapestry of people, backgrounds, and ideas, helps us better deal with that reality and to celebrate it every day.

Fiction Shows Who We Want to Be

But fiction doesn’t just show us who we are—it shows us who we dream of being.

Science fiction and fantasy, especially, can give us glimpses of the best and worst of humanity as they present broad life lessons in parable form.

Think about Hunger Games or Divergent and the lessons they taught about embracing challenges, fighting oppression, and being the best you can be. Inspiring, right?

The call for more diversity in fiction supports those messages by including everyone in their representation, urging writers to depict the world as it should be, with everyone coexisting regardless of race, religion, sexuality, etc.

There will always be conflict, because that’s part of human nature, but conflict is also a part of storytelling. We don’t have to sit around and sing “Kumbaya” to recognize that there’s more out there than a single viewpoint or a single cultural background—and to represent that in fiction.

The Stats

The problem of a lack of broad representation of different people in fiction has been recognized since at least 1965.

That year, The Saturday Review published an article titled “The All-White World of Children’s Books” detailing how only 6.7% of children’s books published in the past three years had included black characters.

For 2013, the numbers weren’t much better: only 10% of children’s books included people of color, even though a full 37% of the United States—and most of the rest of the world!—wasn’t white.

There haven’t been many similar studies done on representations of LGBTQ people in children’s and YA books, but the numbers are probably very similar. For instance, author Malinda Lo compiles her own statistics on LGBTQ representation among traditional publishers, and found that 47 YA books with queer characters or themes appeared in 2014—not many, considering all the YA books published that year, but a 59% increase from the mere 29 books published by mainstream publishers in 2013.

Thankfully, the tides have started to turn thanks to the broader awareness brought by social media and the fact that people who care can now communicate and come together to promote change no matter where they are.

What Do We Mean by Diversity?

Diversity can mean many things to many people.

Often, diversity movements focus on race representation, looking to have more people of color turn up as fully realized characters in fiction.

But diversity is far more than skin deep. LGBTQ characters, disabled or differently abled characters, and people of different ethnicities, religions, and political leanings are all often marginalized in fiction.

Authors devoted to diversity are starting to bring these people into the mainstream in their writing. We’re seeing more and more autistic characters, physically challenged characters, deaf or blind characters, and characters with mental health issues turning up. Gay, lesbian, bi, trans*, and asexual characters are starting to appear in books, too—and not just as the token Gay Best Friend in a chick-lit book.

That’s the other key: diversity in books means writing real people as full characters, not giving a walk-on part to a half-Polynesian gay hairdresser who only appears for two pages to deliver a punchline for the protagonist.

Diversity means including real people throughout all levels of fiction (and nonfiction), representing real struggles and challenges—and the complete mundane ordinariness of life, too!

True diversity often means having a boring, normal life and just being an average person. Rather than highlighting how out of the ordinary a non-white, non-upper-class, non-straight, differently abled person is, diverse fiction just drops in a character who didn’t come out of a Barbie box and presents them as a real, complex person, not just a stereotype or a sidekick.

How to Get Involved

Publishing is a business, and so many of the Big 5 publishers will only start putting out books featuring diverse characters as anything other than token figures when there’s enough demand for them.

Small, independent presses and indie authors are churning out books featuring characters of all stripes, making them the leading lights in ensuring that fiction represents fact when it comes to who appears.

Here’s how you can get involved with promoting diversity in fiction of all kinds.


Read diverse fiction!

It’s the easiest, most effective way to make a change. When more readers vote with their wallets, publishers will take notice.

Whatever your favorite genre, make it a point to pick up a book with non-white or non-heterosexual characters the next time you’re looking for a new read. Try something representing a different religion or cultural background from what you normally read.

You can find lots of lists and reviews of diverse books all over the internet. A few good ones include:

When you read a book with a diverse character, speak out about it! Note it in a review on Amazon or Goodreads or your blog. Keep the conversation going and it will encourage others to get involved, too.

Request books with diverse characters at your local library or your bookstore. Creating demand for these books will encourage mainstream publishers to produce more of them and will help booksellers and librarians make the case for including them on the shelves as a normal part of business.


Writers, start thinking about who you’re depicting in your books.

Is there a particular reason that character has to be white? Could she be black, Thai, Filipina, Indian, First Nations, or anything else instead? Would it really make a difference to who she is?

Consider adding characters who have physical or mental challenges, or who identify as LGBTQ.

Sure, it can be hard to write such characters accurately and sensitively when you’re not a member of one of those groups yourself—but hey, female authors write male characters and males write female characters all the time. Think of it as stretching your skills as a writer!

Do your research, reach out to people in the community you’re writing about, and challenge yourself to start representing the world you see around you more accurately and completely in your books.

Check Your Cover

That includes making sure that if you have a diverse cast of characters in your book, they’re represented well on the cover. Many books with diverse casts have “whitewashed” covers that include either generic silhouettes or stock images of white people that don’t accurately represent what’s going on in the pages.

Indie authors have much more control over our covers than traditionally published authors, and authors who choose to work with small independent presses also often have a lot of influence over the final cover art. Just as it’s important that your cover represents your genre and the tone of your work, it’s important to pay attention to how your characters are represented.

Your readers will thank you!

Reach Out

There are vibrant communities both in person and online that are dedicated to promoting diversity throughout all fiction.

Consider getting involved as a way to learn more about the world and the people around you—and to develop your skills and range as a writer.

Some fantastic resources are available for writers interested in diversity:

  • Lambda Literary: Lambda Lit holds that “LGBTQ lives are affirmed when our stories are written, published and read.” It publishes reviews of literature with LGBTQ characters or themes (you can submit your book here), promotes calls for submissions for queer topics and writers, and has an annual award program that recognizes outstanding books, writers, and publishers.

    Lambda Lit also offers a Writers Retreat for emerging voices in queer literature to come together, build relationships, and hone their craft, supporting the development of a more vibrant queer writers’ community.

  • The Tiptree Award: The Tiptree Award seeks to recognize and celebrate authors and works of speculative fiction that go past standard definitions of gender and sexuality. The annual award is open to nominations and recommendations from anyone, not just a select jury, to broaden the field and include as many viewpoints as possible.

    The Tiptrees focus on the idea that there’s no such thing as “men’s fiction” and “women’s fiction,” but rather writing that appeals to all of us with its skill and immediacy.

  • We Need Diverse Books: Founded by YA authors with a focus on increasing the representation of diverse backgrounds in children’s and young adult literature, We Need Diverse Books was the spark that touched off a fire of diversity thinking in the publishing world.

    The nonprofit offers awards, grants, contests, reading lists, and resources for both writing diverse literature and including diverse literature in bookstores, libraries, and the classroom.

  • Diversity in YA: Another YA-focused initiative, Diversity in YA has been on hiatus since 2015, but it’s still a worthwhile stop for anyone interested in exploring diversity in youth fiction.

    Author interviews, statistics, discussions, and writing tips help authors and readers alike think more deeply about how what we read affects how we see the world and those around us.


Diversity in fiction isn’t just a feel-good campaign designed to be politically correct. It’s a movement meant to help ensure that what’s on our bookshelves better represents reality, as messy and chaotic as it can be.


By reading, writing, and engaging with diverse characters, we improve as writers, see the world more clearly, and share everyone’s stories.

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How to Format Your Book for Amazon Kindle Using Microsoft Word in Only 30 Minutes Wed, 21 Jun 2017 06:34:07 +0000

One of the factors that decides whether your book will be successful or a flop on Amazon Kindle is the formatting.

While reading a book, have you ever seen the text all run together, paragraphs with weird characters, or chunks of text that just seems to go on forever?

How did you feel about it?

You probably just ended up putting that book down.

You can have an astounding title, a spectacular cover design, and awe-inspiring content, but if you don’t format your book correctly, it will affect your readers’ overall experience.

Poor formatting makes it difficult to read your book. It also affects how your readers perceive the quality of your book. Readers have been unconsciously trained to read books designed in a particular format—and to expect that format every time. They pick up on the layout and arrangement more than they think. If the formatting of your book is not what they are used to, they may feel that it’s been cheaply made or done by an amateur.

Does this mean you have to hire a professional to format your book?


I’ve seen a lot of authors spend hundreds of dollars just to have someone format their book. They think they don’t have the knowledge or skill to do it themselves.

I’ve formatted my ebooks myself and I’ve mastered the techniques to do it quickly and efficiently. You don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars just to get your book looking professional and well-formatted. I can teach you how it’s done. All you need is to study the steps and implement them with the next book you publish.

Formatting Nonfiction Books for Amazon Kindle

Every book has standard parts, from the front matter and table of contents to the core matter and the back matter. It’s crucial that every part of the book appear in the right order with the right content.

I like making things simple, so I just think of the Kindle book format in eight sections. These are:

  • Title page
  • Why I wrote this book
  • Why you should read this book
  • Table of contents
  • Chapters
  • About the author
  • Other books by author
  • One last thing

What You Need

You only need a few things to publish your ebook:

  • Your book in digital format (.doc, docx, .txt, html, etc.)
  • Microsoft Word
  • 30 minutes of your time

You don’t need any special skills to format your book. If you know how to click buttons and highlight text, then you’re perfect for this job.

Ready? Great!

Steps before Formatting Your Book

Before we discuss each section of the book, we need to ensure that our manuscript is clean. That means no prior formatting, no HTML codes, no bold, no italics, and so on.

This is important because if there are jumbled fonts from all the different programs you’ve used, or from leftover formatting from bits and pieces of the manuscript that might have come from different places, it can really mess up the formatting.

If you already have your manuscript in MS Word, select all the texts by pressing CTRL+A, then move your cursor over the headings section and click on Normal.

This step removes all the stray formatting, and it’ll end up with your manuscript looking like this:

If you have copied and pasted your manuscript from a different place or a program other than MS Word, you might have some weird fonts or characters in your manuscript. In this case, what you want to do is to clear it by using a TEXT format.

If you’re using a PC, you can use Notepad and copy and paste your manuscript into the Notepad before transferring it to MS Word. If you are using a Mac or another operating system, then you can go to to remove all formatting. Just copy all the text.

After you’re done clearing all the formatting, you can now start to lay out your manuscript for Amazon Kindle.

One point that I want to make is that the series of steps that I’m going to show you offers a guide to formatting your manuscript. You can still choose to make changes to the basic template! You can change how big your title is going to be, customize the subtitle, alter chapter headings, and all that. You can also change the alignment to centered or justified.

However, there are some things that I think you don’t have to bother with.

An example is the font. If you have a special font that you want to use, that’s fine.

But truth is, the font doesn’t really matter because 99% of readers choose their own fonts on their device. They can make the font bigger, smaller, or fancier as they wish. To make this process quick, I just utilize the style set on MS Word and set it to “Simple.”

“Style set” basically tells MS Word what kind of fonts to use for your title, headings ,and paragraphs. I use “Simple” because it’s the easiest and most straightforward style.

To change the style set in your document, just click on Change Styles, scroll over to Style Set, and select the option Simple.

Title Page

The first page of your manuscript is the title page. The title page should only contain the title, author name and subtitle, copyright, and a call to action. Each element should be formatted appropriately.

1. Change the style of the book title using the Title style.

Sometimes the Title style doesn’t appear on the first row of the styles list. If you can’t see Title, click on the drop-down arrow button to show the all styles.

Change the alignment of the title to center. Select the title and click on the Center Text button.

2. Change the subtitle and author style to Subtitle and make them centered.

3. The next section is our copyright section and the call to action. Now, this section will also be centered, but it will just be regular text. For the regular text, you select the Normal style.


4. Create a call to action. A call to action (or CTA) is essentially asking your readers to join your newsletter, check out your blog, get your free training courses, or whatever offer you have to connect your readers to you online.

This is not intended to interrupt your readers, but it’s placed in the beginning because it’s convenient. This is a non-traditional way to build your platform inside your manuscript.

To create a call-to-action link, you must insert a hyperlink to your call-to-action text. Select the call-to-action text, click on the Insert tab and click Hyperlink.

Add the address on the Address box and click OK.

Your call-to-action text will appear in blue. You can check to see if the link is working by hovering over the text, holding down the CTRL button, and clicking on the text. If this link is working in MS Word, it will also work in Amazon Kindle.

Note: It’s super important to test every hyperlink in your manuscript because if you have a link that’s not working, you’ll lose on opportunity to engage with your reader and possibly tick them off. Make sure you include the “http://” part of the address to ensure that the link will work.

5. End this section by inserting a page break. What this will do is ensure that your readers won’t see the next section or chapter of your book until they click on the Next button and scroll to the next page on their Kindle device. So, at the end of title page, every section, and every chapter, you’re going to insert a page break to make it nice and neat.

Click on the Insert tab and click on Page Break.

The page break is not visible on your document within Word, so you’ll need to make sure that the page break is inserted properly on your manuscript. To do this, there’s a tool in MS Word that I like to use called the pilcrow. Let me show you how this works.

Go to the Home tab and click on the Show/Hide Pilcrow button.

This will show a pilcrow at the end of each paragraph. The tool is going to show you symbols like page breaks, where you’ve hit “enter” to go to a new line, and if there are spaces (those will show up like dots). This technique helps you see hidden characters that you don’t see with your naked eye in the final document, but which will ultimately affect how your manuscript will appear on the Kindle device.

Why I Wrote This Book

This is the introduction or foreword part of your book, and the first section where we’ll use the chapter heading.

1. Highlight the heading of this page and click on Heading 1.

You can change the alignment of your heading, add extra spacing, use a different font, or leave it as-is—it’s really all up to you. What you are trying to do at this point is tailor the Heading 1 settings as you are imagining the chapter heading will appear on every section of your book.

Let’s quickly go through the steps to adjust the spacing using the Paragraph options in MS Word, just in case you want that extra spacing.

Select the text that you want to change the spacing for, then right-click and select Paragraph.

In the Paragraph settings, you’ll find that there is an option to change the Spacing. You can add more space before and after the paragraph.

After you’ve finished formatting the heading, highlight the text, right-click on Heading 1, and select Update Heading 1 to Match the Selection.

What you just did is make a custom Heading 1 style in MS Word. This means that the formatting that you just set in the heading of this section will automatically translate across the book by simply clicking on Heading 1 where you want it to appear. You’ll see more of how this works as we go on.

2. The text below the heading is just a regular text; this has to be set to Normal style.

In the image above, you’ll see that there is a pilcrow just above the chapter heading. That means there is an extra paragraph on top of the page. Whether to keep or to remove this extra space is optional.

If this is an unwanted space, simply delete it. If you want to have an extra space at the beginning of every section and every chapter, that’s okay, as long as you make it uniform throughout the manuscript.

3. Like you did with the title page, insert a Page Break at the end of this section.

Why You Should Read This Book

This section is about telling readers why they should read your book. This section is optional.

1. Highlight the heading of this page and click on Heading 1.

As you’ll notice, you don’t have to change anything on this heading to match the “why I wrote this book” heading. It’s mimicking the properties and attributes of the first heading and will materialize on every text you set to the Heading 1 style.

2. The text below the heading is just a regular text; set this to Normal style.

3. Insert a Page Break at the end of this section.


The next section of your book is actually the table of contents. But because you cannot create a clickable table of contents without finishing your book first, we’ll skip to formatting the chapters first.

Note: Make sure you have a table of contents page before Chapter 1. Add a page break at the end of it and work on your chapters.

Now, the chapters of a nonfiction book may contain a heading, a subheading, a sub-subheading, and so forth.

1. For the chapter title, you’ll use Heading 1.

2. The text after the first heading should be a regular paragraph. Select the Normal style.

3. The style of subheadings of the chapter is set to Heading 2.

Since this is the first time that you’ll be using Heading 2, customize the formatting of your subheading and update the attributes for Heading 2 to have it translate throughout the book.

You can change the alignment to center, add spacing, change font, and so on. It’s up to you.

After you’ve formatted the subheading, highlight the text, right-click on Heading 2, and select Update Heading 2 to Match Selection.

3. The text under each subheading should be set in Normal style.

4. If your subheading contains a sub-subheading, then this will be set to Heading 3.

You’re going to repeat the same process that you did for Heading 2 for Heading 3. After you’ve formatted the sub-subheading, highlight the text, right-click on Heading 3, and select Update Heading 3 to Match Selection.

5. The text under the sub-subheadings is also going to be set in Normal style.

6. At the end of the chapter, insert a Page Break.

7. For the second chapter, you’ll start with the Chapter 2 title. Set it to Heading 1.

8. The text after the first heading should be a regular paragraph. Select the Normal style.

9. The style of subheadings of the chapter is set to Heading 2.

No need to change the settings for Heading 2—all the settings that you have previously chosen and used to update Heading will reflect on all the Heading 2 selections in your book.

10. The text under each subheadings should be set in Normal style.

11. If your subheading contains a sub-subheading, then this will be set to Heading 3.

12. The text under the sub subheadings is also going to be set in Normal style.

13. At the end of the chapter, insert a Page Break.

14. Repeat steps 7–13 for the rest of the chapters.

About the Author

After you have inserted the last page break after formatting all the chapters of your book, you’re going to format the end materials, starting with the “about the author” page.

1. Set the heading to Heading 1.

2. The text under the heading is a regular paragraph. Set the style to Normal.

If you want, you can add your picture here. If you want to do that, just click on Insert tab and the Picture icon.

3. Insert the hyperlinks on your author bio. You might want to add information here like your author website or your company’s page.

Make sure the address is correct before you click on OK.

4. At the end of this section, insert a Page Break.

Other Books by Author

This section is only for authors who have published several books. You want this section to make it very convenient for readers to buy your next book on Amazon.

1. Change the heading style to Heading 1.

2. List all your books on this page using the Normal style.

3. Go to the Amazon page of each of your books and copy the URL of the page. Highlight the address, right-click, and select Copy.

4. Highlight your book title on the list, go to the Insert tab, and click Hyperlink.

5. Paste the URL into the address box.

6. Repeat steps 3–5 for all your books on the list; at the end of the section, insert a Page Break.

One Last Thing

This page is for you to make any requests that you may have (like a call to action) or to include a simple letter to ask your readers to read your other books.

Remember: if you are going to invite your readers to review your book, you cannot offer gifts in return. That would be a violation of Amazon’s terms of service. If Amazon finds out you’re doing that, you can actually lose the reviews of your books; they may remove the books or, in extreme cases, your entire account might be banned.

1. Set the heading style for this section to Heading 2 to avoid being indexed in the table of contents. You’ll find out more about it when you create your table of contents.

2. Set the text under the heading to Normal style.

Note: You don’t have to include a link directly to the “create a review” page because Amazon now automatically asks readers to review your book when they click to the next page at the end of your book. But in this section, you can definitely write a personal note to your readers and ask them to review it!

Table of Contents

Now that your entire book is formatted for Kindle, the final thing you need to do is to create your table of contents.

1. Go back to your table of contents page. Set the heading to Heading 2.

2. Erase all the text on the table of contents except for the page break.

3. Add a space between the title and the page break. Once you have that, come up to the References tab, click Table of Contents, and select Insert Table of Contents…

4. On the Table of Contents screen, you’ll need to select some very important settings.

The first thing you’ll do is to de-select page numbers. Click on Show page numbers to uncheck it.

Page numbers, technically, do not exist for Kindle books. They measure lines instead, because settings for the book will vary from device to device. So what we want is to select Use hyperlinks instead of page numbers.

5. Set the Formats to From template and the Show levels to 1.

If you compare the images from step 4 and step 5, you’ll see the difference in the Web Preview section. From originally showing Headings 1–3, it’s now only showing Heading 1. This is why I recommended that you select Heading 2 for the table of contents and “one last thing” headings. It’s because you don’t really want those sections to appear on the table of contents.

If you want all the headings for a technical menu, that’s fine—just set the Show levels back to 3. However, I find that it clutters the page; that’s why I only want the major sections to appear on this list.

Test all the links by holding down CTRL and clicking on the text. If it all works in Word, then it will work on Amazon Kindle.

Congratulations! Your nonfiction book is now ready to publish on Kindle.

Formatting Fiction Books for Amazon Kindle

But what if you’re a fiction author?

You’ll still have to do everything we discussed when formatting nonfiction books. There are just a few extra steps that you need to do to make sure the layout is that of a fiction book.

1. The first thing that you need to do is to change the look of your chapter text. Highlight a portion of your chapter text, then right-click to select Paragraph.

2. On the Paragraph screen, under Indentation > Special: select First Line, and indent it by 0.38”

3. The spacing also has to be removed. The paragraph Spacing Before and After is set to 0 to give it the general feel of a professional novel. Click OK.

4. This is how it would look like on the Kindle device.

Now, after making that change, highlight the text, right-click on Normal, and click Update Normal to Match Selection. This will change all the Normal text in your book to match the settings that you just updated.

5. The “normal” style type is the base of all the other heading types. What happened when I updated the Normal text is that it also updated Headings 1–3, the titles, and the subtitles.

So if you highlight the title, right-click on it, and select Paragraph, you’ll see that it’s now indented. This causes the headings, titles, and subtitles to be off-center.

Change the paragraph settings for each of the styles by following two simple steps. Start with Title style.

Highlight the title, right-click on it, and select Paragraph. On the Paragraph screen, under Indentation > Special: select None and click OK.

While the text is highlighted, right-click on the Title and select Update Title to Match Selection. Once that’s done, repeat these two steps for the Subtitle, Heading 1, Heading 2, and Heading 3 styles. Add spacing where you see fit.

6. After you’re done updating all the style settings on your book, you might want to change the spacing and indentation for some sections. For instance, the author’s bio and the other books section might look better with a different style.

I recommend removing the indentation on the first line of the paragraph and adding more spaces.


All done. You’ve just formatted both nonfiction and fiction books for Amazon Kindle.

Now I would like to challenge you to really study this concept, master it and implement it.

Still feel like you need a little more help? Check out this video walk-through showing you how I format a book!

For this and more amazing training videos, head on over to eBook Publishing School.


Have you tried formatting your own Kindle books? What’s your biggest challenge? Tell us in the comments!


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The Step-by-Step Guide to Formatting Your Print Book for CreateSpace Tue, 20 Jun 2017 08:58:20 +0000

Since the 2012 Kindle goldrush, many authors have ignored print books entirely, focusing only on digital. People thought that print books were unimportant and that their sales would eventually wither and die.

That didn’t happen, though—and it probably won’t. Although digital sales have surged from time to time, print books are still incredibly popular. So authors who ignore print are ignoring a lot of potential sales.

Publishers Weekly, a magazine for the traditional publishing industry, reported in 2016 that ebook sales were starting to see a decline, blaming “digital fatigue.” Even today, a mere 34% of book-buying households actually own a dedicated e-reader device. The Publishers Weekly article concluded that:

“Since consumers almost always have the option to read books in physical formats, they are indicating a preference to return to print.”

That’s not strictly correct, as many consumers don’t always have the option to read the books they want in physical formats…due to the fact that independent or self-published authors often don’t choose to put their books out in print format!

Thousands of readers still love and prefer print books. Authors who ignore print are ignoring potential readers and potential sales. The option of buying the print version of a book makes the book more appealing to readers, who appreciate the choice.

So if you’ve avoided the print route so far, now may be a good time explore your options.

Being in KDP Select doesn’t limit you here; that exclusivity contract only applies to digital books. You can sell your print books wherever you like!

Risk-Free Print Publishing

In the past, getting into print was expensive and risky (risky in terms of cost, that is—authors didn’t tend to be mown down on the way to the printer!). Plenty of authors (and publishers) were left with towering piles of unsold books that they had invested considerable sums of money in.

But today, with print-on-demand technology, books are printed as they are ordered (and paid for) by readers. The only cost to the author/publisher is for the cover and the formatting. Print-on-demand is an incredible breakthrough for authors because it allows us to tap into the massive market for print books at minimal cost.

We have a number of options for print-on-demand, from full-service companies to Amazon’s own services. The easiest for indie authors to use is CreateSpace, Amazon’s long-standing print-on-demand arm.

In recent months, Amazon has even started offering to convert Kindle manuscripts into print via the KDP dashboard. This isn’t an option that tons of authors are happy with—yet—so we still recommend making the effort to learn how to format for CreateSpace, as the results are far better.

Using CreateSpace

CreateSpace allows us to upload our formatted manuscripts to create a print book. It will even check them to make sure they will print properly! It lists print books alongside their Kindle versions on Amazon itself and makes the whole process painless.

All you need to do is sign up with CreateSpace (using your Amazon account) at, then upload your formatted manuscript and book jacket.

Is It Really That Simple?

Yes…and no. Formatting for CreateSpace can be learned quite quickly, and you can do everything in Microsoft Word. It does involve jumping a few hurdles, though, and those hurdles are the reason that so many self-published authors don’t have print versions of their books.

Yet even these requirements aren’t particularly difficult, just a little fiddly. If you can get to grips with them, you’ll be ahead of the herd in no time.

You’ll have multiple advantages:

  • Another source of income: CreateSpace pays monthly, like KDP.
  • A physical copy of your book to send to reviewers, book bloggers, etc.
  • The ability to set up a giveaway on Goodreads (a good way to get in front of a lot of potential new readers).
  • Increased credibility. The existence of a print book gives you and your brand more authority. The general (though wrong!) thinking is that anyone can produce an ebook, but that a print book is on another level entirely.

About Your Cover

No matter what format you produce, you can’t get around the fact that you need a great cover—it’s your book’s shop window. Check out our article on hiring a good cover designer here.

Unlike a Kindle book cover, you need a full “jacket”—a front, spine, and back. Most cover designers are familiar with this.

Before you order your cover, though, you’ll need to format your book. That’s because the size of the cover is determined by the size of the finished book. So let’s get on with understanding how the formatting works.

How to Format for CreateSpace

Far too many authors have tried to get their book into the format required by CreateSpace only to give up in despair.

Hang in there!

It’s true that there are a few formatting quirks, but once you get your head around them, you’ll be formatting your books in under an hour!

CreateSpace helpfully provide free Word templates for authors to use, which can be a good place to start.

You can download the CreateSpace templates at:

It’s a good idea to look at them, but you don’t need to use them! You can apply the principles they contain to your existing manuscript.

Often, it’s quicker, easier, and less confusing to do it that way! You know your own manuscript and can change it easily, while applying your text to someone else’s template can get confusing if you’re not a Word master.

If you open up several of the templates, you’ll see that they have some interesting things in common. That’s because there are things we need to do in a print book that we don’t in a digital book. This involves a bit of jargon, but don’t worry—you’ll get the hang of the vocabulary soon.

Trim Size

This is the book’s physical size.

When’s the last time you saw a print book that was 8.5 x 11 inches? Not often, right?

Print books are usually much smaller than printer paper. So the Word document of a print book template should look smaller than it usually does if you create a new Word document.

We don’t have to concern ourselves with this for Kindle, so it can come as a bit of a shock to authors to realize that they have to think about the size they want their book to be. CreateSpace has a limited range of sizes, known as “industry standard sizes” because they’re the ones used throughout the publishing industry.

The most popular is 6” x 9”. That means the book is 6” wide and 9” tall (depth isn’t measured at this stage). It’s a fairly chunky size, not exactly suitable for slipping into a purse.

5” x 8” and 5.5” x 8.5” are the next most popular sizes and are sometimes called “trade paperback” size. They are a good size for carrying around and are favored by novelists for that reason.

The other popular size is 8” x 10”, often used for manuals and other nonfiction.

One thing to bear in mind when deciding on your book’s trim size is that the cost of your book to the reader will depend largely on its number of pages. It is worth considering going for a 6” x 9” over a 5” x 8” in order to reduce the number of pages.


Again, margins aren’t something we need to worry about when formatting for Kindle, but they’re crucial for print. Margins are the space around the edge of the page where there are no words.

Most Word docs have even margins on the left and right and also at the top and bottom. But a print manuscript is unlike any other Word document—its margins are different on different sides; they’re non-symmetrical.

Pick up a print book and leaf through it. You should notice that it is laid out in what is known as “mirror image” format. The pages aren’t the same on the right and left. The pages on the left are generally even-numbered, while the pages on the right are odd-numbered.

Left-hand pages tend to have a narrow left-hand margin and a wide right-hand margin. Right-hand pages have the opposite: a wide left-hand margin and narrow right-hand margin. These unequal mirror margins are what make the magic happens in print formatting, because they leave space for the book’s binding.


Styles are part of Word’s built-in formatting tools. They’re incredibly useful, and worth taking the time to learn to use right!

For formatting, they make life much simpler. CreateSpace templates use one particular style for all chapter headings. This gives consistency throughout the book and enables us to add an automatic table of contents at the beginning, complete with page numbers.

Styles also mean that we can make tweaks to the entire book’s formatting if we need to—say, to reduce the number of pages.


In a professional print book, chapters start on a new page, and there are other times when you’ll want to start a new part of the book on a clean page, so to speak.

Not using section breaks is where many authors go badly wrong with their print formatting. Among other things, sections allow us to control page numbers and headers/footers, giving a professional look.

Word has built-in tools to make this clean and straightforward; these may be new to you, but they’re easy to get the hang of.

And that’s it! If you can get to grips with these few things, you can get to grips with formatting for CreateSpace.

Source: Microsoft Office

Formatting Step-By-Step in Word

There are some industry-standard things that we need to do to create a quality print layout. Fortunately, we can set up a lot of them in the same place within Word!

The safest way to do this without wrecking your manuscript is to make a copy of your current work-in-progress. Then, you can do your formatting work on the copy.

Page Setup

Open that copy and bring up the PAGE LAYOUT > PAGE SETUP menu. It’s on the ribbon after “Insert.” In the Page Setup box are three tabs across the top:

  • Margins
  • Paper
  • Layout

We’ll be making changes to all of these.

Set the margins as 0.76” on the top, bottom, and inside and 0.5” on the outside.

Then set the gutter as 0.13”.

In the “Pages” area, set it to MIRROR MARGINS.

And make sure these settings apply to WHOLE DOCUMENT at the bottom by selecting that in the dropdown.

That gives us our magic mirror margins; they’ll be at the correct width for most books up to around 300 pages. (For larger books, play with the gutter and inside margin and run it through CreateSpace to check it.)

Next, click the PAPER tab at the top of the box. We need to set it to the book’s trim size.

In the “Paper Size” box, scroll down to the bottom of the list of available sizes and click CUSTOM SIZE. Then type in 6 and 9 in the Width and Height boxes. That’s all we need to do in this tab.

Click LAYOUT next.

Page Layout

Here, we can adjust where the headers, footers, and page numbers will sit.

In the “Section” area at the top, you can choose whether or not you want all chapters to begin on right-hand pages.

There are no hard and fast rules here, but nonfiction books will often choose this. It enables readers to find chapters more easily and presents clear definition between subjects. Many Big 5 fiction books also choose this, but it’s not required, as readers aren’t usually jumping between chapters.

For our purpose, let’s assume we’re formatting a novel and choose EVEN PAGE. (If we chose ODD PAGE, it would force chapters to always start on odd pages, throwing in an essential blank page between chapters where necessary.)

Click the checkboxes DIFFERENT ODD AND EVEN and DIFFERENT FIRST PAGE. This will give us complete control over page numbers and headers/footers.

For instance, it enables us to have the book’s title in the header on even pages and the chapter name on odd pages. Chapter title pages don’t have any headers—but if the page numbers are in the footer, they can have a footer.

Type in 0.3 in the Header and Footer boxes. This gives enough space at the top and bottom of the page to allow for a header and footer with a little space between it and the text.

Click OK.

Believe it or not, that’s the most technical part done with! Your manuscript is now set up as a proper book. All it needs now is a bit of tweaking.

Next, we’ll add section breaks, page numbers, headers/footers, and a few stylistic tweaks.

Adding Styles and Sections

If you don’t work with Styles already, go through your manuscript to see if most of it is in the NORMAL style.

If it isn’t, the best thing would be to click CTRL + A to select all the text. Then click NORMAL in the Styles box.

This runs the risk of losing some formatting you may have already added (like italics), so be sure you’re working on a copy of your manuscript so you don’t lose anything important.

Once everything is one style, go through and make chapter headings the HEADING 1 style. If you have sub-headings, you can make those Heading 2, Heading 3, etc.

At the start of each chapter, you need to add a Section Break. Turn on SHOW/HIDE on the ribbon so you can see the formatting marks.

You may have page breaks between chapters at the moment. Go through and delete those and replace them with section breaks.

Put your cursor at the top of the page and click PAGE LAYOUT > BREAKS > NEW PAGE. This means that chapters will start on the next page after the previous chapter, whether that’s an odd or an even-numbered page.

Note: If you’re formatting a nonfiction book, you may want to choose ODD PAGE instead, which will force Word to begin each chapter on an odd, right-hand page, even if the previous chapter also ends on an odd-numbered page. It will put an invisible blank page in between, which will only show up when you convert the document into PDF format.

We’re going to put these section breaks to good use when we add page numbers.

Adding Page Numbers

As we’re imagining that we’re formatting a novel, let’s add the page numbers to the center of the footer. (If this was a nonfiction book, we might still do them this way, but we could choose to put them at the outer edges of the header instead.)

Double-click in the footer—that’s the blank area at the bottom of the page. This should bring up the Design toolbar on the ribbon.

Click on PAGE NUMBER, then hover over BOTTOM OF PAGE and select PAGE NUMBER 2, the one in the center. This will add a simple number with no formatting. Delete the line space that Word automatically (annoyingly!) adds after it, so it won’t sit too far from the edge of the page.

As we are using different Odd/Even pages in our page setup, you’ll need to do this three times: for a chapter title page, the following even page, and the odd page. But, after that, the rest of the document will follow the pattern without needing help!

Adding Headers

Most novels have the author name on left-hand, even-numbered pages, and the book title on right-hand, odd-numbered pages.

Double-click in the header on any even-numbered page that isn’t a chapter title page. Type in your name. In novels, this is often centered, sometimes in capitals, sometimes in a different font. I like to use a smaller font size than the rest of the novel—generally size 10 if the novel uses size 11 or 12.

Notice that Word will have added this header to every even-numbered page…but not the odd-numbered pages. Double-click in the header of an odd-numbered page and type in the book title. This should be replicated throughout the document.

Extra Stylistic Touches

To give your book a special little something, you can add some additional elements that give it a truly custom look.

Title Page

A quick look at some print books should reveal something you may never have noticed before: a book often has two title pages. There is an old publishing tradition of having a “half title” page before the main title page.

Authors who want to look very professional and traditional keep to this tradition, though it’s not strictly necessary.

But you do need a good title page of some sort. Try to emulate your book’s cover in the layout and font choices, the way traditional publishers do.


Print novels, unlike digital books, don’t have to have a table of contents. You can add one if you want to, though. For instance, the Harry Potter books have them.

Chapter Title Pages

You don’t have to use the word “Chapter” in your chapter titles. Lots of novels just use the number of the chapter. Do use a Heading style though, so they all stay consistent.

Many traditionally published books set the chapter titles about a third of the way down the page. You can adjust this by right-clicking on the style on the ribbon and choosing MODIFY, then PARAGRAPH.

Click a few times in the SPACING > BEFORE box to move the text down the page. Modifying the style will ensure that all chapter titles sit at the same place on the page.

Some books use a dropped capital (“drop cap”) at the beginning of chapters—that’s that big, fancy first letter you sometimes see. You can add this by putting your cursor anywhere in the initial paragraph and clicking INSERT > DROP CAP on the ribbon.

Note: A two-line drop cap can be easier to manage than a three-line if you tend to use short paragraphs!

If you don’t like drop caps, consider changing the first three to five words in each chapter to use ALL-CAPS.

Fonts and Glyphs

Glyphs are a visual or pictoral font used below a chapter name. They can look quite stylish, especially if not over-used!

Microsoft Office comes with pre-loaded fonts, some of which can be utilized for this. Webdings and the Wingdings family are excellent.

For example, this sample uses “ab” on the keyboard in the Wingdings 2 font:

You can also download other fonts from places such as Google Fonts and Just check that they are allowed for use in print books. You may have to give credit on the copyright page of your book.

While on the subject of fonts, this is where some authors can betray their lack of design training. Many authors find it irresistibly tempting to go old-school PowerPoint and include multiple fonts, sizes, borders, and varieties of clipart.


Professional book designers recommend using a maximum of two fonts—especially on any one page. So that would be one font for body text and another for chapter titles and subtitles.

You might want to choose a different font for your title page, to match your book cover, but that’s the limit!

Uploading to CreateSpace

When you’re happy with the formatting, upload your manuscript to CreateSpace and run it through their Interior Reviewer. This is an invaluable aid in letting you know that your book will look good in print.

If you pass the Interior Reviewer, all you need to do is upload your book jacket. For that, give your designer the book’s trim size and the total number of pages and he or she will be able to make the jacket the correct size.

When you receive your cover, upload it to CreateSpace and allow them to do final checks. You will receive an email to let you know if it has been approved, usually within 1–2 days.

CreateSpace gives you an option to proof your book online, but if you can, it’s better to order a physical proof copy. There’s a cost to do so, but if you’re in or near the US, it’s not too expensive.

It’s surprising how many typos jump out when you’re looking through a print book as opposed to checking it online!

Where People Sometimes Go Wrong

Here are the most common stumbling points that people report when trying to get their book on CreateSpace:

  • Not using Styles—this causes a lack of consistency throughout the book.
  • Using page breaks instead of section breaks—this can throw the headers and footers out of whack.
  • Not formatting the book’s interior to CreateSpace’s standards.
  • Not using good software to convert from Word to PDF. Word is better at converting to a PDF than it used to be—but it’s still not awesome, and it’s especially bad if your book contains images.Word automatically compresses images when converting to PDF so, if you have a nonfiction book with images and complicated formatting, consider using a third-party service or plugin to convert your manuscript to high-quality PDF format. I like—it’s free if you only use it occasionally.
  • Not embedding fonts in the Word document. Go into WORD OPTIONS > SAVE from the Office button and click on the checkbox for EMBED FONTS IN THE FILE. Deselect the DO NOT EMBED COMMON SYSTEM FONTS box.This will ensure that your fonts carry over to the PDF when you create it.
  • Not using images with high enough resolutions. If your book uses images, you may find it failing the Interior Reviewer. The only way around it is to reoptimize your images (which can cause them to reduce in size) or to obtain higher quality images.
  • Allowing Word to handle images. When adding images, never paste them into Word; always insert them via the Insert toolbar on the ribbon (INSERT > PICTURE).Never allow Word to compress images and don’t adjust them in Word itself. For the best results, use other software to alter the size—Photoshop or the GIMP is the best here.
  • Not formatting the cover to CreateSpace’s requirements.
  • Not ordering a physical proof copy. This can be a particular problem if you use images in your book. CreateSpace will complain if any images are less than 300dpi, though you can get away with 200dpi in most cases.If you don’t order a physical proof, though, you won’t be sure everything worked out right until you start getting reviews that complain about blurry images in your book.

Some Additional Points

A number of elements contribute to making a truly professional-quality print book.

Font Choices

It comes down to a choice of a serif or a sans serif font. That means a font with or without the little bits that stick out from the edges of letters. You can see them in particular at the edges of the ‘T’ in a serif font.

Microsoft’s default font for Office used to be Times New Roman. This was back when many Word documents ended up being printed, so they used a serif font, which is easier on the eye than a sans serif when printed.

Today, fewer documents are read in printed format, as many people have switched to doing most things online and on handheld devices. So Microsoft’s default font is now Calibri, which is a sans serif font.

Sans serif literally means “without serifs.” Sans serif fonts are more rounded and are clearer to read online and on tablets and smartphones.

For paperbacks, serif fonts are the ones to choose. You can still use Times New Roman if you like; it’s still in Word, it’s just not the default anymore.

If you want something a little different, there are both free and paid fonts available online. Just be careful to read the license agreements to be sure you are allowed to use any of the fonts you choose in print publications.

Avoid gimmicky, fancy, or handwriting-style fonts in books. Readability is reduced with fancy fonts. So it’s best to reserve them only for accents in small doses.

Think of the “For Dummies” books. They are modern, humorous, and quirky. They use a fancy font for their main headings, but easy-to-read standard fonts for the main body of their books.

So if you do want to choose a font with a difference, take your lead from successful publishers and limit it to short main headings only.


If you use CreateSpace’s free ISBN option or their cover design software (including any of their stock images), then you won’t be able to sell your print book anywhere other than CreateSpace/Amazon.

If you use your own ISBN and book jacket, you can sell your book elsewhere and/or make it available through other POD services such as Ingram Source.


Check, check, and triple check your formatted manuscript! Get as many pairs of eyes on it as possible.

Books in traditional publishing houses tend to go through seven rounds of checking, done by editors, proofreaders, etc.—and yet they still expect there to be a typo every one to two pages in the finished book. People make mistakes!

As indies, we don’t tend to have as many people checking our books, so more typos can slip through. These can be more noticeable in print books than in ebooks—for some reason, we’re just mentally conditioned to notice glitches more in print.

So do order a physical proof copy if you can and go through it line by line looking for errors and omissions—there almost certainly will be some!

If you find any, correct them in the manuscript and upload it again to CreateSpace. It’s quick and easy.

About the Author

Michelle Campbell-Scott is the author of the bestselling books Goodreads for Authors, Make Your Book Work Harder, and The 10-Day Skin Brushing Detox. She is a former teacher and trainer, chicken keeper, and field archer.

She started her career in public relations. Then, while her children were growing, she did any work she could get that allowed her to be at home with them. That included writing, course creation, editing, book indexing, book formatting, document and presentation production, and more.

After becoming a teacher and then an IT trainer, she still freelanced, writing and creating courses for others before eventually taking the plunge to create her own books and courses.

You can join Michelle’s professional print formatting course at a 40% discount here:

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