Wednesday, February 4, 2009
Advice for authors: Don't get too specific
You're inviting trouble if you have "internal referrals" in a book.
You may think you're helping your readers by saying that there's more information about a topic "on page 213" or "in chapter 14."
Pages and chapters often migrate as a book evolves, and it's easy to lose track of your referrals. If you send a reader on a wild goose chase to the wrong page or chapter, she'll waste time, get pissed-off, and you'll look stupid.
It's much safer to say something like "later on in the book."
Similarly, it's dangerous to refer to a photo or illustration "above," "below" or "on this page." Re-write the referral so it's vague but truthful.
I doubt that anyone will refuse to buy a book because of the lack of page-specific referrals.