Required Reading: Don’t let your dots dangle and other useful information.

Someone asked me if POD stood for P!$$ Off Debora.  Guess it depends on when you ask. So, to keep the veins on my neck from popping and the vessels in my eyes from doing the same, I’m going to make this blog post required reading for prospective clients.

Okay, here’s the deal. For me to get your manuscript from a simple Word .doc to a realized dream, a hold-in-your-hands book, a fruit of your passionate labor, I’ll need you to help me make this as painless as possible. You see, I don’t have health insurance and I tend to go a little Vesuvius when things get out of hand and most of the words that erupt from my mouth cannot be used in the game of scrabble.

Number One: Did you finish editing? Again? Again? Feel secure it’s good to go? You’re not gonna pull the rug out from under this process by sending me a revised Word .doc after I finish formatting the original?

Number Two: Did you finish editing? Oh, I just asked that one. But that’s the one that comes back and bites me you know where making it impossible for me to sit at my computer and finish formatting your manuscript in a timely manner so that you can realize that dream of becoming a published writer. (I’d say author, but an author is someone who has written a book. You want to be someone who writes books. Right? So, You’re a writer! Let’s get your work out there!)

Number Three: Two formatting nightmares are em dashes and ellipses. An em dash is not two hyphens in some places, one in others, or three here and there. It’s one long dash. Originally called the em dash because it took up the width of an ‘m’.  Search your programs help feature for how to insert and em dash and use this feature. It will eliminate inconsistent hyphen usage and keep me from throwing stuff. If you’re not sure how to properly use and em dash I suggest you go to this link and buy the book. Punctuation for Writers is a gold mine of information on how to use punctuation to affect the reader in a particular way and cause a particular reaction—an intended reaction.

Okay, now the ellipsis. Think smart. Don’t leave your dots dangling. That’s what will happen if you place a space between the dots of an ellipsis. Ereaders are different sizes and have font size that can be manipulated to suit the reader. If you put a space between your dots your ellipsis will be free to wrap, one dot here two dots there and so forth, to a different line of text than the rest of its friends. And, if you don’t anchor that ellipses to the word in front of it, and only the word in in front of it, that ellipsis you thought so poetic might get word wrapped to the beginning of the next line of text. Not very poetic any more. Just plain ugly.  An ellipsis is formed by placing three, unspaced dots one after another, and anchored to word before it. (Stole that last line from Punctuation for Writers. Our secret. Right?) If this ellipsis is meant to be the end of a sentence, then a fourth dot, a question mark, or an exclamation mark is used to end that sentence. Again, no space between the ellipsis and the ending punctuation. It’ll look a bit odd to have a question mark, standing all by its lonesome, starting the next line of text.

People used to judge a book by the cover. They dig deeper now. Make the appearance of your manuscript worthy of your story. A poorly formatted book is something you use to prop up one leg of an uneven chair. Not something you put your name on.

I said two nightmares. Make that three. Never, never, ever use the tab key! Yes, I can get rid of all those pesky indents and spaces that were made by the touch of that obnoxious key, but it ain’t always easy.

Number Four: I will get your manuscript to the finished-but-have-a-look state and send you a PDF of the file. I will remind you that odd numbered pages will print on the right, even numbered pages on the left. I will remind you that blank pages with even numbers are intentional. (Most books start a new chapter on the first, right-hand, clean page. Remember, that’s an odd numbered page.)

I will ask that you take a long hard look at your formatted, almost-ready-to-hit-the-publish-key novel. I will ask you to note the page number of any potential problems you happen to see. Maybe even the paragraph where the problem occurs. Don’t make me search for an hour to take an h out of a word so it reads sit instead of… instead of…. Hey, look! An ellipsis!

Send me the list. (But, remember? You’ve edited this manuscript, so it will be a very short list. Right?) Give me some time to make corrections. I’ll send the corrected file, let you have a look see, and upon approval, submit your file to Createspace.

Number Five: (And you thought we were done here.)The cover! Are you committed to your title? How about your sub-title and tease? I hope so. If you’re not sure, you’re not ready to publish. If you need to, poll your facebook audience, ask a friend, phone an expert. Make that million dollar decision. Is this your final answer? Commit before you have me start your cover. Do you want your picture on the back with a brief author bio? Do you have a logo? Do you have any blurbs, endorsements, short description of your book, or other pertinent information for the back cover? (Please be advised: There isn’t enough room for the King James Version of the bible. Although, the last time I was in Puerto Penasco, Mexico, I was told it could be carved into a piece of rice. Didn’t buy it then. Don’t buy it now.)

What font do you envision for your title, sub-title, tease? What color font? We’re close to the finish line!

Number Six: (And the list goes on and on.) Price? What price do I set for my book? I hear this all the time. Go to this website,, and look around. Not only will you find pricing information, you’ll find a wealth of information on indie publishing.

Okay, let’s review:

Edit. (Don’t make me throw stuff ‘cause you skipped this step.)

Edit. (Just in case you didn’t read it out loud the first time read it out loud this time. The neighbors already question your sanity. Give them what they want. Strike a Siddhasana pose on your front lawn and emote. If you stammer and stumble through your manuscript imagine what it will do to your prospective reader.)

Buy Punctuation for Writers. (Or, at least go to the writer’s website and peruse his blog posts. You’ll find all kinds of stuff to help you become a successful writer.) Yes, you can have twenty exclamation marks on a page, but please don’t put five in a row! A clean manuscript is easy on the eyes. He’ll teach you this, and more.

I’ll send you the PDF of your manuscript. Don’t assume it’s perfect! We know what happens when you ass-u-me. Right? Read through it. Is it formatted the way you intended? Did you take the h out of sit before you sent it to me? Yes. Because you edited! Right? And please don’t ask for a file so that you might make a few corrections on your own. If I fix a file and you fix a file, then we have two completely different files! I need all the corrections on one file. The file I keep. Send me a list. I’ll make the corrections. File done. You’ll see it before it’s submitted.

Now that I have a completed file I now know the number of pages in your book. I need that information before I can finish the cover. Why? I need to know how thick the spine will be. Remember all the work we did for the cover design. Now we want that cover to fit this book. We want this to be a book you’ll be proud to have your name on. (Use someone else’s book to prop up that unsteady chair.)

Okay, don’t relax and pat yourself of the back yet! Order your Createspace proof. Ahhh, yes! Hold that smooth cover against your cheek, smell that ebony ink on those beautiful white page, kiss that enchanting picture of you on the back cover. Now… READ IT! Yes. I yelled at you. Please, read your proof. It’s not too late for necessary corrections. Necessary. That’s the key word. No rewrites.

Once you’ve approved your proof it’s on to the next phase. Ebooks! The first hurdle, the POD, was the biggest. The rest is a walk in the park.

A disclaimer here. If you’ve read this and found mistakes it’s because I don’t edit! I format. But, I’ve yelled at you. I s’pose you have the right to yell back.

All this yelling has worked up my appetite. I need a pick-it-up, shove-it-in-my-mouth, let-the-juice-dribble-down-my-arms, kind’a sandwich. A side of slaw would be nice. Better yet, just pile it on top!

Write what you know. Edit what you write. Polish it up with good formatting.

I’m gonna polish off that sandwich.


P.S. In case you got the wrong idea, I love to format stuff!









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