I read two ebooks recently I really enjoyed: Botanicaust, by Tam Linsey; and Beautiful, Naked & Dead, by Josh Stallings. Terrific stories, highly recommended, and both writers put some extra oomph into their ebook formatting with some nice touches. Which I’m going to steal (Hey, at my core, I am a fiction writer and that’s what we do–jackdaws and mental packrats every one).
First, Linsey’s novel:
After genetically altered weeds devastate Earth’s croplands, much of humanity turns to cannibalism to survive. Dr. Tula Macoby believes photosynthetic skin can save the human race, and her people single-mindedly embark on a mission to convert the cannibals roaming what’s left of Earth…
Linsey’s nice touch?
This is her chapter header. The plant theme, get it? Simple, elegant, and makes a nice use of how well the eink reader uses gray scale. Then she followed the theme with her scene break indicators:
This isn’t bells and whistles or flash and trash–and I appreciate that. I’m not a graphic designer, but I do have instincts. My instincts tell me that a simple motif, carried throughout and repeated, has an overall unifying effect. In this case, it also complements the theme of the book. Little touches like these make an ebook stand out from the pack, too. Nice job, Tam.
The other ebook is Josh Stallings, Beautiful, Naked & Dead, a crime thriller:
Moses McGuire a suicidal strip club bouncer is out to avenge the death of one of his girls. From his East L.A. home, through the legal brothels of Nevada and finally to a battle with the mob in the mountains above Palo Alto, it is a sex soaked, rage driven, road trip from hell.
His nice touch?
I dig the grayscale chapter head, but check out that drop cap. In theory I know how to do drop caps. (I don’t know if it is possible to code them in.) The only way I know is to use a graphic. In practice, my results have been less than gorgeous (a lot less!). This simple elegant drop cap gives me something to aspire to. I don’t know if Stallings produced his own ebook (he credits Heist Publishing) but whoever did it did a nice job. I like the subliminal effect of “shadowy characters” which is just about every character in the novel.
Here is something else I like:
But Jaye, it’s just a table of contents. Why get excited? The layout, sure, but the placement is what makes it stand out. It’s at the back of the book. And yes, if you go to the menu, the ToC link is live, so it isn’t as if you have to page through the entire book to find it. In an ebook, back of the book placement makes such terrific good sense. Custom and tradition say ToC’s belong up front. But we’re at a point where we can make some new traditions and customs, and I think this is a good one. The sample feature at retail sites can make or break a sale. Some front matter is necessary and desirable, but too much can weary potential buyers who want to read some actual writing. Moving the ToC to the back makes one or two fewer extraneous pages in the sample.
(If your ToC has real information in it–descriptors, sub-titles, etc.–it can serve as its own draw in the sample readers see. In most fiction, with simple Chapter 1, Chapter 2, etc., the ToC is little more than a navigational tool. Something to consider.)
In my estimation, little touches like these add value to ebooks. Not hard cost value, but in the way just-right accessories add to an outfit or a bit of detail work adds to cabinetry. Little touches. Big effects. Very nice. Can’t wait to steal them.