Make Your Books More Marketable

As an independent publisher, you owe it to yourself to make your books as marketable as possible. One way to do this is to produce books that look professional in every way, books that are well edited and that follow standard publishing conventions.

Reviewers expect this; librarians expect this. Indeed, an important reason for the poor reputation sustained by self-publishers is that they have not paid enough attention to the details of how their books look. Too many of those books appear amateurish—before their covers are even cracked.

Here are some guidelines you can follow if you want your books to look professional.

Book publishers in the United States generally follow the conventions found in The Chicago Manual of Style. The first chapter in the manual is titled “The Parts of a Published Work.” It tells you the order in which the front and back matter should appear, and it tells you how to set up those parts. For example, the manual describes the material that should appear on the copyright page—and how it should be laid out.

Only the main title appears on the half title page. On the cover and on the full title page, there should not be a colon between your main title and subtitle; instead, the two titles should appear on separate lines. The colon is appropriate when writing the title in running text, such as when you describe it for book reviewers or in your copy for Amazon.com.

The heading “Dedication” should not appear on the dedication page, and the dedication itself need not include the obvious words “This book is dedicated to . . .” A simple expression is enough: “To John, who made it all possible.”

The table of contents should be titled simply “Contents.” Do not list material that appears before the contents page. For example, the dedication page should precede the contents page and therefore should not be listed on it.

The foreword is written by someone other than you-by an expert in your field. And note the spelling of the word “foreword.” You can remember that spelling if you think of the meaning: the word that comes before. If you have a foreword, it comes first, followed by the preface and the introduction.

The preface and introduction serve different purposes. The preface tells why or how you wrote the book. The introduction tells about the subject matter. You don’t need to write a preface, but most nonfiction books do include an introduction.

The introduction may be part of the front matter, or it may be at the beginning of the text itself. Many readers skip introductions. If your book is for a general audience and it’s particularly important that they read your introduction, then consider changing it enough so that it becomes your first chapter.

Page numbers and running heads should not appear on blank pages or on the half title, full title, copyright, and dedication pages.

A book may be divided into parts. Chapters may be divided into sections with subheads. Chapters start on a new page. At least the preface, the first chapter, and the index should start recto (on a right-hand page). Traditionally, all chapters started recto. Although that is no longer required, it adds a nice touch; do it if you can afford the space.

If you’re serious about publishing, you would do well to invest in a copy of The Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition. It covers much of what you need to know about how to produce a well-edited and professional-looking book.

© 2006 by Lisa A. Smith. Lisa A. Smith is an award-winning nonfiction writer, editor, and publisher with more than 25 years of experience. She also teaches advanced copyediting for the University of California San Diego, Extension. She offers developmental editing, rewriting, copyediting, proofreading, production editing, manuscript critique, and publishing consultation-all to help you produce nonfiction that is vigorous, clear, and marketable. Her Web site is www.writing-at-work.com. She can be reached at lisa@writing-at-work.com.