Top 10 Tips: Your Book should (actually) look like a Book

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New authors are always excited to announce the publication of their latest work. After months or years of writing, rewriting, editing and re-editing, just getting through the publishing wizard feels like a monumental accomplishment. To celebrate this milestone, new authors often post an announcement in the Lulu Author Workshop forums. Expecting praise, adulation, or maybe just a friendly slap on the back, these newly minted authors are often shocked by the scathing criticism they receive from their fellow Lulu authors.

No one has ever accused authors of being overly kind or supportive, but invariably someone forgets that the first page of a book is on the right side of an open book or they forgot to include a title page or copyright notice. Their page numbers start on the first page of the book instead of the first page of the narrative. Basically, the book they spent so much time writing looks more like a very long college essay rather than like a professionally formatted book. These oversights are the fuel that feed the fires of criticism.

The new author often responds that people are focusing on the format and spelling instead of their gloriously inspired plot. While that is a good argument for a first draft, it is not a fitting one for a book you expect someone to pay to read.

You may also respond that you are a writer, not a book designer. How are you supposed to know how to properly layout a book? Chances are you have hundreds of examples on your bookshelves at home. Unfortunately, if you take 10 books off of your shelf and look at them, there will probably be 10 different treatments for titles, fonts, chapter separators, and page headings; however, they will all have some things in common. For example, they will all have title pages, copyright notices, dedications, prefaces, author biographies, etc. So, find a book you love and recreate the front matter pages and narrative in the same style.

Another option is to download the Lulu template and style guide from the Lulu Book Builder page. The template includes a blank MS Word file with preset margins and a properly set gutter (the part of the page that will be glued into the spine) as well as a guide for creating a professionally formatted print book. It’s really all the information you need – including helpful formatting hints.

To download a template and style guide, go to http://www.lulu.com/create/books, select the format and size for your book and click the Download Template button. You can copy and paste your manuscript into the template or apply the same margins and settings used in the template to your manuscript. Then follow the style guide to create a professional looking book.

Your readers will appreciate the time you spend formatting your book and those harsh critics in the Author Workshop will be singing your praises. They may even take a moment to read a portion of your story.

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