As an editor, I get deep joy from weeding out errors and helping writers elevate their prose. What I enjoy less is the techy bit, which isn't about what's on the page but how it's presented. I know most of you understand that, judging by the state of some manuscripts I get! But, if you present a chaotic manuscript, your editor will not only curse you, they will likely charge you for time spent reformatting, especially if they charge by the hour.
So, if you intend to share your work with an editor, agent, or publisher, use this bare-minimum checklist.
1. Use black, size 12 Times New Roman font throughout. I know it's dull, but if you're worried that the font will make your book boring, you might have bigger problems than you realize! Select the entire text and then click on the TNR font; this will ensure any rogue fonts are banished. Don't forget the footnotes!
2. Do NOT indent the first paragraph of each chapter, after a subhead, or after a list.
3. Indent all other paragraphs to 1cm. NEVER use tabs or the spacebar for indentation!!!! (The overuse of exclamation points is justified here). To properly indent, highlight all of your text and then find the paragraph spacing menu on the HOME menu of Word (indicated with red arrow). In the drop-down menu, click "line spacing options", which will bring up this box below. Choose the "first line" option and set the size to 1cm (or go with the default of 1.27cm).
5. Use double or 1.5 line spacing (see above box) so it's easier to read.
6. NEVER use more than one paragraph break to separate paragraphs. If you want a slight gap between paragraphs, set the paragraph spacing to 6 or 8 pt (see box above). N.B. Gaps between paragraphs are not common in fiction or creative nonfiction.
7. Use single spaces after each sentence. Many people were taught to double space, but that's no longer necessary (in fact, it's actively frowned upon). To easily fix every double space, go to "Replace" on the HOME menu of Word (see pic). Click to bring up the box below.
In the top long box, press the spacebar twice, and in the bottom box, press it once. Then click "Replace All".
8. Run the basic Word Editor programme for spelling and grammar errors. Of course!
9. Use heading styles if your chapters have several subheads (common in nonfiction). If you know how to use heading styles in Word, hurrah! If not, at the very least, use your font to indicate a style for each level. For example, font 20 for chapter titles and font 16 for main headings. Your editor will then apply the heading styles and use them to create a table of contents.
10. One document only! Don't expect your reader/editor to piece it together themselves!
Books with Spine is all about books that change the world for the better, so it’s sad that the biggest bookseller on Earth is, frankly, not good for our planet.
Here’s a fun fact for anyone who’s suffered financially during the global pandemic: As reported by the BBC recently, the net worth of Amazon boss Jeff Bezos climbed to such an extent from March to September 2020 that he could have given all 876,000 employees a bonus of $105,000 and still been as wealthy as he was before the pandemic. Of course, none of his financial success will find its way to the workers upon whom that success depends. YUCK.
Bezos stepped down as Amazon CEO last week, and if he were planning to join the likes of philanthropists Warren Buffet and Bill Gates in spending his fortune solving the world’s problems, that would be lovely. But no. Like another obscenely wealthy man, Elon Musk, Bezos is going to blow his load on space exploration (read exploitation) because humankind needs other planets to mess up. So, I’m done with Amazon. Even with Bezos gone, I cannot bear how omnipresent the Amazon corporation is … and how it reputedly treats its warehouse workers. DONE, I tell you.
I’m not suggesting you ditch Amazon altogether if you don’t want to. But I do hope to persuade you to at least consider more ethical and environmentally friendly book buying options that also support authors and indie bookstores, all from the comfort of your own home. Here are three Amazon alternatives I discovered recently.
This is an affordable subscription service and subscribers get a box of 4 surprise books in a genre of their choice at intervals of their choosing. Great for yourself or as a gift.
Here’s what they say:
"77,000,000 books get destroyed every year in the UK alone. Why? Just 17% of books are lucky enough to receive a decent marketing budget and make it to the ‘Bestsellers’ list created via the media and in bookstores. As a result, some of the BEST books published don't make the shelves and go unread. Every box you buy saves 4 brand new books from getting destroyed.
The Chicago Tribune says, “Bookshop.org hopes to play Rebel Alliance to Amazon’s Empire.” Happily, this online bookstore that started trading in the US in 2018 is now trading in the UK, and it has ambitions to expand throughout Europe. What’s great about it? Book buyers can nominate a local bookshop to receive the profit of the sale.
"By design, we give away over 75% of our profit margin to stores, publications, authors and others who make up the thriving, inspirational culture around books! We hope that Bookshop.org can help strengthen the fragile ecosystem and margins around bookselling and keep local bookshops an integral part of our culture and communities.
Also, if you’re an author or booklover, it has a great affiliate programme, so you can earn money by promoting your love of books.
Like Bookshop.org, Hive is designed to support independent bookstores, and buyers can nominate a bookstore to receive the support.
Here’s what they say:
"We’re really proud to support an independent bookshop with every single sale we make. We give independent bookshops a chance to be seen online. We hope it will help them to reach new and different customers. We help them benefit from the sale of all kinds of stuff.
"We don't want any more independent bookshops to close, that's why we give them a cut from every single order on Hive. Whether you order books, films, music, games, or anything else, your chosen bookshop will receive commission. They will receive a minimum of 10% on the net value of all book orders, rising to 25% when you select store collection. We pay 8% on eBooks and 3% on entertainment products. Bookshops receive their commission monthly.
Side note: Annoyingly, I tried to avoid Amazon by buying from abebooks.com before I discovered it is a subsidiary of Amazon, Inc. Don’t make the same mistake!
Lorna Partington Walsh, Wordsmith