What’s that old saying about the shoemaker’s kids? They go barefoot? Something like that. Yeah, it’s been something like that for me. A few months ago my former publisher reverted rights back to me for six of my books. I’ve been so busy doing projects for others, my personal projects kept being pushed onto the back burner.
To make it extra fun, all these books were written prior to 1995. I was able to recover two off disks. One I had as a relatively clean manuscript (as an experiment I ran the pages through my home scanner–take it from me, unless you have buns of steel to tolerate the hours you’ll spend in your chair, this is not the most fun method of file recovery). The others had to be scanned from the actual books. After all that scanning, they still have to be run through an OCR program and cleaned up.
I started with the easiest projects (ha ha), the two files I had on disk. They were final drafts, and required editing. With much help from Julia Barrett and Marina Bridges we managed to eliminate most of my writing quirks, beef up some weak plot points, and even trimmed it quite a bit. I hired the talented Jayne Smith to design the covers.
It’s a risk not putting people on the covers of romance novels, but I love the look and I’m willing to risk it. I also made sure to put “romantic suspense” on the cover so I could include it in the title to nudge the search engines a bit.
Need I say, I had fun with formatting.
I recently read a Ben Aaronovitch novel, Whispers Underground. Kudos to publisher, Del Rey, for releasing a very good ebook edition. They care and this reader appreciates it. At the beginnings of chapters they used small caps. It’s a small touch, but it looks classy.
That’s a screen shot from my Kindle keyboard. Notice the first line. There are many, many ways to start a chapter with a touch to offset the text. The simplest is to not indent the paragraph. Then there are drop caps, bolding, italicizing, or graphics to give it an “illuminated” look. I happen to like small caps.
The Kindle doesn’t actually support small caps. If you’re using html and use the font-variant, nothing happens. What I did was create a span class with small-caps as the variant, but then set the font-size at 80% (I’ll change that for EPUB, which I believe does support small-caps). I left the first letter on the line at normal size and reduced the size of the next few words which I had capitalized. I used a span class as opposed to a paragraph style in the hopes that I wouldn’t trigger the Amazon bug that shrinks the font in older Kindles. I had a friend test the book on his older Kindle, and no teeny tiny font. Yay, team!
The code for this particular sample looked like this:
I also did something that opened a discussion with a friend. I placed the tables of contents in the backs of the books. He thinks they should go in the front of the book. I think that’s true in non-fiction where readers peruse the toc for information about what the book contains. In fiction it’s merely a navigation guide since in most cases it’s just a list of Chapter One, Chapter Two, etc. Also, if a novel has a large number of chapters then the potential buyer who downloads a sample could end up with pages of toc and very little story to sample.
So what do you all think? Table of contents in the front or in the back?
If you want to check out my latest formatting masterpiece the books are up on Amazon right now. (I’ll be uploading them to other places soon, but first I have some other jobs to do–you know, shoes…)