Thursday, March 20, 2008
Emily has graciously allowed me to write a series of posts on E-Publishing and the intricacies an author needs to know. My plan is to write a post every two weeks until I'm out of topics. Today's topic turned out to be so long that I'm going to spread it over two days so I don't flood your screen :)
If you have any questions, feel free to ask in comments. I'll also provide Emily with a PDF of the whole topic or you'll be able to download it from my website after next week.
When writers learn how to format manuscripts, they typically learn the standards for traditional print publishing and those are not always the accepted or preferred standards for e-publishing. This is due, in part, to the fact that the actual production processes are different for traditional print publishing and e-publishing.
Traditional print publishing often involved editors writing on the paper manuscript page, a typesetting stage where the manuscript was typeset into book format, etc. Some of this is now more computerized but e-publishing is a very streamlined and automated process. Anything that throws off that process can tend to be problematic so it’s best to start out with as consistent a manuscript as possible and know some of the pitfalls, as well as how to avoid them.
The formatting guidelines I’m giving you are generic and relatively standard but, before you submit to any particular publisher, be sure to read that publisher’s own submissions guidelines. Any specific instructions they give should trump these generic rules and should be followed instead.
Remember that these are only formatting instructions, NOT writing or grammar instructions.
Use a one inch margin all around the page as your standard margin width.
Indent each paragraph by ½ inch (.5). Be sure to do this with your word processor’s automatically indent paragraph functionality. Unlike in hard copy, using a tab to indent in an electronic document puts in a hidden character. This can throw off later formatting.
I recommend 1.5 line spacing. This leaves a half line free between rows of text. In print publishing, this is often set to be double-spaced because handwritten changes or notes were being made on the page and space needed to be allotted for that to take place.
Lines Per Page
Many people writing for traditional print publishers set their manuscripts to be exactly 25 lines per page in order to both be able to use a formula to determine manuscript length and because some print publishers request it. Do NOT do this for e-publishing submissions. This will really create problems in the formatting process since your submission file will eventually become the finished product. Let the line spacing determine how many lines are on each page.
I recommend Times New Roman in 12pt. This is a nice, standard font and it is easily read on the screen because it’s a serif font. Do not vary from this font within the work unless your publisher indicates you should. This is because your file is often used (after edits) to create a final formatted document. Changes in font size and style can be problematic and lead to real ugliness.
This is also a nearly universally available font. I’ve seen instructions for submitting to print publishers that recommend fonts that are not pre-installed with most systems but must be downloaded separately. Unlike in print publishing, where you send printed pages, the recipient of your electronic submission needs to be able to read your work. If you use a non-standard font that they do not happen to have, their computer system will try to translate it into a similar or default font. ‘Close’ often is not very close.
Unlike print publishing, you need to actually use italics when you want italics. This is another by-product of the e-publishing manuscript going directly from edited file to formatted final file. There’s no need for a typesetter to be able to differentiate italics from regular type on a printed page, so do not use underlining to indicate italics.
No hard returns mid-sentence or mid-paragraph. These will throw off the automatic formatting for publication and weird breaks will appear in places they do not belong.
Always use a hard page break at the end of one chapter and before beginning another, then start the next chapter on the first line of the new page with whatever format of chapter indicator you’re using. Do not skip a third of the way down the page to start a new chapter as is often advised in preparing print manuscripts.
Space Between Sentences
Use a single space between the ending punctuation of one sentence and the starting character of a new sentence within a paragraph. This has pretty much become the default standard in the e-publishing world.
Don’t include a space before you use a hard return to go to a new paragraph. It’s superfluous and will sometimes throw off formatting.
Use an actual ellipsis, not three periods. While it’s not a big deal in print manuscripts, it makes a difference in e-publishing manuscripts. Formatting will treat an ellipsis as a single character but the three periods may get separated or mishandled because they are treated as if they are three separate characters.
Use a real em-dash instead of a hyphen or two hyphens in a row. Again, two separate characters could be separated or mishandled but the single em-dash character will be treated correctly.
(to be continued tomorrow)