How do I avoid that self-published look?
A self-published look may result from your selections of fonts, margins, justification, and other simple look-and-feel variables. Your objective is not to try and improve several hundred years of book formatting tradition, unless that is your objective. 🙂 Your deviations from what readers have come to expect will just be noise, loud or subtle, but noise nonetheless. It will distract them from the business of enjoying your writing.
Here are some simple things to monitor as you write and edit your book, assuming yours is a straight-text creation and your goal is to publish both soft cover and e-book versions.
- Set your font to Garamond; this is a sure bet. Just this choice alone will make your book look like it came from a mainstream publisher.
- Use right and left justification. Check it out; just about all books, regardless of genre, are fully justified. Yes, you may need to learn in Word how correct for a few widows and orphans (book talk for little bits of text that get hung out in space and need to be brought back together with their precedents and descendants…look it up), but it’s worth it.
- Insert page breaks (Ctrl-Enter in Word) after every page in your front and back matter and after the last character in every chapter. This will prevent text from getting up and moving to another page and other issues with maintaining your content in decent and good order.
- Indent all paragraphs EXCEPT the first paragraph in every chapter. I use Word styles to manage this.
- Use Word styles. Just a few, to make you more productive and help generate your table of contents. (This is a whole other topic, to be covered later.) If you can’t manage Word styles, you can do what you need to do manually and with the help of a downloaded template from Amazon or other free source.
- Don’t copy and paste images, only Insert them.
I sense a new class and book on this topic. Long story short, take advantage of what Amazon, Word and free web resources give you about formatting your book and avoiding the self-published look.