Friday, January 3, 2014

A very good example of very bad advice for authors

Ahead are excerpts from and my responses to "Kill Electrons, Not Trees: Fiction Publishing in the 21st Century" by William Gaius.

So it might be surprising to know that you can render your book into a paper copy indistinguishable from any you’d find in Barnes and Noble. Morever, it can cost less than $20.

The book will probably be indistinguishable from a 'pro' book only to blind people. If you spend less than $20, or less than $200, it is extremely likely it will be a shitty book. Good books are professionally edited and designed, and pros need to be paid.

Since preparing a few books for me and friends

Minus 50 points for bad grammar and being impolite.

There are two phases

Maybe many more.

to turning your masterwork into a finished book. The first is preparing (formatting) the manuscript, cover, and other copy. That’s the hard part. The last, easier part is the actual conversion of the formatted manuscript into a book using the site. (There are other places that will do this, like Createspace, but is what I know best.)

If you know Lulu best, you are unprepared to give advice about publishing. Lulu charges so much that a book will either be overpriced or provide no profit -- or both.

The rule for formatting a manuscript is simple: make it look like a book.

Good point. Don't make it look like a Corvette or a plate of lasagna.

Choose a book from your shelf whose 

A book is a thing, not a person. Rewrite the sentence to eliminate the "whose."

interior pleases you in terms of font, margins, and the amount of white space,

If you say "white space," you don't have to say "margins." Margins are part of the white space.

and use it as a model for your own.

What if you are not a good judge of book design? 

Using Find/Replace, remove all the tab characters from the file, and remove blank lines from between paragraphs.

What if you want blank lines between paragraphs? That style is appropriate in some genres.

Finally, in Page Setup, set the page width to 6 inches and the height to 9 inches, to match the page size of the finished book.

It's probably better to set the page size at the beginning, so you can better judge the length of chapters and the entire book. Also, not all books are 6 by 9. The 'model' book may have characteristics that are unsuitable for 6 by 9.

Font: Book Antigua 

Minus 50 points. The typeface is Book Antiqua. Antigua is an island in the West Indies.

or Bookman Old Style, 10 or 11 point.

Page Layout: Margins 0.7” all around,

Maybe not.

page numbers bottom center,

Maybe not.

indentation 0.5”

Probably too much for a book, but OK for a letter or term paper.

People who know their word processor well enough sometimes make the front matter a separate section, but this is something beyond my technical ability.

If you are formatting a book in Word, it is very easy to have separate sections, and sections are important to having proper headers and footers. Someone who cannot master sections should not be giving advice about book formatting.

Start by going to page 1 and inserting four page breaks. Page 1 and 2 should be blank, except for the page numbers.

There is generally no need to have blank pages up front, and blank pages DO NOT get page numbers. The first page is generally a half title page, a title page, or a page of blurbs. The printer or bookbinder may insert a blank page or a flyleaf in the front, but the page formatter does not normally do this. Minus 40 points.

Page 4 is your copyright page.

It might be page 2.

The next page can be the first page of your text, or you might want to insert a dedication or introduction or an appropriate quote.

or the table of contents

Just be sure that the first text page is on an odd-numbered page, so it will be on the conventional right side of the opened book (the so-called ‘recto’—but don’t be a noob and call it a ‘recto page’).

Minus 15 points. Lots of experienced pros in publishing and typography call it a "recto page." "Recto" can be shorthand for "recto page," but there is no reason to shun the complete term.

Preparing the body text often goes quickly,

If it goes quickly, it will be ugly.

but it still demands care. Begin each new chapter the same way. Some people like to start each new chapter on a recto, but the only thing that matters esthetically is to begin each chapter the same way.

Not necessarily. Many books have mixes of recto and verso chapter starts.

More often than not, you’ll find oddities. For example, the last word of a chapter might show up at the top of an otherwise blank page. Use your ingenuity. Sometimes you can edit a word or two out of the chapter until the lonesome last word jumps back to the previous pages. Changing the font size of the last paragraph may help.

Very amateurish. DO NOT change type size in one small part of a book to eliminate a page. Minus 500 points.

The back matter

This is usually only of interest in non-fiction, where it might include an index, footnotes, etc. In fiction, it’s a good place for an author bio and a list of other books available by the author.

Oh, so back matter can be of interest to the author of a fiction book. Also, the book list is usually in the front matter and footnotes can be on any page. Endnotes go in the back matter.

In any case, there should be at least one blank page, and the last page should be even-numbered.

Minus 50 points. Blank pages don't get numbered, and the author seldom has to insert blank pages.

Again, those skilled in Word might choose to make this a separate section so that there will be no page numbers.

Minus 100 points. If you can't figure out how to do this, you should not be giving advice about using Word.

Finally, save cover images in jpegs,

Minus 250 points. Every time you save an image as a JPG, it loses detail. It's much better to save each image as a "lossless" TIF so it can be modified without harming the image.

1800 pixels wide by 2700 high 

Maybe not.

or 300 dpi.

And -- not or.

Important: Be sure to put no text or important objects within one-quarter inch of the top, bottom, or right-hand edges, as the final shearing process 

That's called "trimming," hence "trim size." And be careful at the left-hand edge of the back cover, too.

Finally, we’re near the end. But the logline 

You may be right, but I've only seen "logline" applied to scripts, movies and TV shows.

and blurb should be ready before beginning the publication process.

Maybe not.

Write a sales blurb for your novel, about 100-200 words, in such a manner that no one reading it can resist buying your book.

I could resist it.

Whew! Done! Save and back up everything.

It should have been saved and backed up many times before now.

Now you’re ready for Lulu.

And now you're ready for books that will be overpriced, unprofitable or both.


"About the Author:  Bill Gaius lives and works in the American Southwest with his lifetime lover and wife (who happen to be the same person). Retired from a life in science, he operates a small business while writing erotica, but he can't decide which is vocation and which is avocation. While faced with the same barriers to publication that all new authors face, he's made a study of the modern publication process. This was begun with his experience with old-fashioned ink-on-paper publication of his wife's local history book over a decade ago. In 2010, Bill published two novels, The Ancestors of Star and Lessons at the Edge with (UK), but has previously self-published the mainstream novel Anne the Healer. He has also assisted friends in the self-publication of their own works."


photo from Thanx. 


  1. Ha Ha Ha... I want to know if William read it. Hopefully he did, as he would learn a lot from doing so.

  2. Jamie, I learned that some people thrive on sarcasm. When these articles were written, in 2011, there were almost no useful, step by step instructions for getting a novel from manuscript to print. Marcus' snide dissection is all negative and not helpful, unless he figures that by sniping at others, it will help build his own platform. -- W. Gaius

    1. Bullshit! In 2011 and earlier there was _lots_ of information available to help authors become publishers -- some of written by me. You were clearly unqualified to give advice, and are a sloppy writer.

      If you don't want negative comments, write something that is worthy of praise.

      As it says up at the top, "If you present work to the public, you must be able to withstand criticism. If your feelings get hurt easily, keep your work private. When you seek praise, you risk derision. Either produce pro-quality work by yourself or get help from qualified professionals."

  3. No one I know reads your blog. I only found it due to Google alerts. I can understand why. I encourage you to leave it at the top, where I'm sure it will attract many eager clients for you.

    1. Gee -- that's a weak attack, Dubya. You're really not equipped to challenge me.

      Maybe you know the wrong people. This blog has more than 1,000 readers per day, and on some days has had more than 2,000.

      OTOH, I don't know anyone who reads your work. Maybe that's because you are a sloppy writer and don't know what you are talking about. Perhaps you should go back to school, or find something else to do.

      Also, I'm not looking for clients.

  4. As unprofitable as it is to continue this exchange, I had to mention that if your critique of my article had anything constructive about it, it might have been worth something to me. But it wasn't. There was no information in it, nothing constructive, only abuse. I cannot imagine that you have clients who stand still for that sarcastic kind of attack, when they're paying you to get into print.
    Another mystery: If you really have 1000 daily readers, why are your comment sections so devoid of feedback?

  5. OK, Dubya, I'll continue to play.

    (1) Read my comments again. Many were constructive corrections (about such things as changing type size in small sections, indent size and saving images as JPGs) -- not merely criticisms, and certainly not abuse.

    Sadly, you read as sloppily as you write, and that's dangerous.

    (2) What "clients" are you referring to? What the hell are you talking about? No one pays me to get into print. Are you confusing me with someone else?

    (3) I did not make up the number of readers. The stats come from Google. Each day last week there were more than 1,000, and one day there were about 1,400 (not my all-time record). Some blogs get hundreds of thousands of readers. Some get fewer than 100.

    As for the alleged "mystery" of a small number of comments: most people comment only when they have complaints, so apparently most of my readers are content with what I write.