Formatting with Blue Valley

Over the Top Formatting

 

Some people think formatting is simply pushing a couple buttons to convert an MS Word document into a Kindle-compatible .mobi file, or an .epub file that can work with Nook, iPad, Kobo, Sony Reader, and more. But there's far more to it than that. There's a sense of good design, a good eye for fonts that work together, the ever-important eye for detail, and having a page that meets not only all the technical requirements, but which looks well-designed, professional, and composed with balance and grace.

 

Although some writers can perform some of these tasks, it takes more than technical know-how to master them all. It takes experience. At Blue Valley, our experienced formatter has been working on document design in a variety of industries for over twenty years, and has formatted over 450 print and eBook manuscripts in the last two years alone. Instead of sweating it out yourself, allow Blue Valley to go over the top to save you time that you can re-invest into your writing while we do the formatting for you.

 

Sweating the Details

 

It's the little things, the attention to detail, that separates a well-designed and well-formatted eBook from the pack. Get these things right, and formatting becomes the invisible art, because it draws little attention to itself. Get the details wrong, and your eBook will stand out by how it doesn't fit in. It will simply look indie. You don't want that, any more than you'd want a slipshod cover or a poor editing and proofing job done on your book.

 

What kind of things do we do to help your book stand out by blending in? Many things, but here are a few:

 

Beginning at the Beginning

 

Once you crack open the cover, most books begin with a title page. How professional that title page looks will form a quick impression of the quality of work brought to bear in your book. Many indie-produced books feature title pages that look like this:

 

Now, there's nothing wrong with how this eBook title page looks. It's basic; it's servicable. Yet it's also very vanilla.

 

Compare that to how most traditionally-published books look when you see their title page. The cover titling and the title page often match, or at least look sharper than this, right?

 

At Blue Valley Author Services, we can do that for you, making your print book or eBook look far more professional. How much nicer would your book appear if it had a title page that looked like this:

 

Ask yourself which looks more professional. We think the conclusion is rather clear. The Blue Valley Author Services advantage really is an advantage.

 

Please note, however, that to provide a nice interior title page like this, you must order both your book cover and your formatting with us. Otherwise, some of the necessary assets are not in our hands to create this asset.

 

Yet the Blue Valley touch is only getting started. We offer several other advantages as well; effects you won't get from bargain-basement-formatting sources.

 

The Blue Valley Edge: Books with Flourish

 

Many indie authors keep their formatting as simple as possible, and understandably so. Formatting (as opposed to simple document conversion) takes time to get right. Adding professional touches adds time to the job.

 

Here's another example. When you are in the middle of a chapter but need a break in the narrative, most authors, while writing their drafts, will simply leave a triple-space gap to indicate a passage of time or separation of scenes. That doesn't always work well or look good in eBooks, because given how eBooks can be changed radically by the individual reader changing font and size settings on their favorite eReader device, the effect could appear at the bottom of a virtual page and the top of the next one, meaning readers might miss the gap.

 

Another way to indicate a gap, when writing a draft, is by using a visual separator. Most authors will use astirisks or pound signs to indicate this, both in print and eBook. (In fact, some very popular indie authors use this text effect):

 

A separator like this gets the job done, to be sure. But is it visually attractive and professional, or does it "look indie?" We at Blue Valley Author Services can help your book stand out as more professional-looking by offering a variety of graphic flourishes that make your print book and eBook appear more thoughtfully and professioanlly designed.

 

Like so:

 

Looks smoother and more professional, doesn't it? Even a simple flourish like this can add a professional formatting touch that will help your book not stick out as "indie," but appear as professionally-published as any Big Six book on the market today.

 

And if you prefer something a bit more customized to your genre or book, we can provide you a wide selection of "standard flourishes" available to you in our stock library, as well as even providing a custom flourish designed and selected especially for you and your book, if that's what you want us to do. At no additional cost to you.

 

For example, let's say you're writing a romance. You might appreciate a graphic flourish for your in-chapter narrative breaks. Here's an example:

 

Again, doesn't that look better than a trio of asterisks?

 

Of course, tastes do vary from author to author and if you prefer the triple-asterisk look, we will give you what you want. But if you're looking for something more, you can find the options that suit you here at Blue Valley Author Services.

 

Compact or Classic?

 

In publishing print books, there are two schools of thought when it comes to overall book design, and at Blue Valley Author Services, we let you choose which you prefer.

 

The first school of thought is something we call the Classic Look. Once upon a time, most novels and books were designed with the Classic Look, and what distinguished this look is that every chapter starts on an odd-numbered, right-hand page. This means that, at times, there will be a blank, left-hand page between some chapters.

 

Many books are still designed this way, and those who prefer it have a simple rationale: anyone willing to pay for a print version of your novel these days, in the world of less-expensive eBook versions, deserves a nicely-laid-out book that has some "air" to it. The Classic Look delivers that less-claustrophobic, more open feel. Here's an example:

 

As nice as The Classic Look can appear, it's not the right fit for everyone. As concern for sustainable forests and paper conservation rises, people have seen fewer and fewer reasons to continue utilizing The Classic Look by allowing pages to be printed that contain no text on them.

 

And the more chapters you use to tell your story, the more pages you can save by going with the second school of thought in print book design: the Compact Look. This approach saves pages and, ultimately, paper. That saves trees and conserves natural resources and therefore, many indie authors and even some traditional publishers have embraced this new look, where the distinguishing difference is that each new chapter starts on a fresh page, but that fresh page could wind up either on the left-hand or right-hand side, eliminating unnecessary blank pages in the body of the novel.

 

Neither look eliminates all blank pages. In both designs, there are strategically-placed blank pages in the front matter and sometimes in the back matter, which are there for various reasons. For example, whether you start your book with a Prologue or Chapter 1, the tradition of beginning a novel on an odd-numbered, right-hand page is still maintained. Also, CreateSpace will, at times and their own discretion, add one or two blank pages in front of or at the back of most books.

 

That said, books designed using the Compact look can look quite sharp, too. This new school of thought and approach to print book design is growing in popularity and is utilized in most mass-market paperbacks. In terms of trade-paperbacks and hardcovers, the frequency of use of the Compact Look and the Classic Look is more evenly split, currently.

 

Here's an example:

 

See? That still looks fine, and it saves paper, too. So, the choice is yours: there is no "right choice" or "wrong choice," there is only "your choice." When you order your print formatting from us, please remember to specify which look you prefer. 

 

A custom look for every book

 

Some formatting services will save time by applying the same basic template, uncustomized, to every customer. We at Blue Valley Author Services believe in a different approach: we allow you choices.

 

Our standard approach is to produce a first-approval copy of any print book we design, that will feature a custom-selected body font, and then we will match the chapter headers and drop caps to a title-font used on your cover. If you like that look, fine.

 

If you don't you can ask us for another look. We have a library of excellent, full-character-set fonts that make the body of your novel both legible and comfortable to read. We have around five to seven "best choices" to choose from.

 

But on the chapter headers and drop caps, there are a much wider range of fonts that can work, and if you don't like our initial selection, all you need to do is let us know what you'd prefer. We'll work with you to get it all just right.

 

Here's an example:

 

This look, for example, features a legible, but flowing, scripty type of font that would be a good match to some romance books.

 

But what if your book isn't a romance? We can alternatively offer a custom look that still communicates your genre. Here's a look that conveys a spooky genre and uses a different font on the Drop Caps than is used on the Chapter Headers. Take a look:

 

The same principle applies to all genres. If you want a custom-selected font on these features that help communicate your genre, we have a large library of fonts and will take the time to consider which choices might be best for your specific book. And, as we've mentioned, if you don't like our first instinct, we'll listen to your thoughts and redesign accordingly. We do encourage you to be decisive, though, so that we don't get bogged down in triple-guessing these choices.

 

Plain or Eye-Catching?

 

Print books can often look a little static. The element of design doesn't always stand out. And some authors prefer their books to appear that way. In cases like that, your book could look very straight-forward, like so:

 

This approach allows the chapter header to be the only thing that stands out, really. It's a clean, simple approach and appeals to many.

 

But it's not the only option. Increasingly these days, people like some "pop" to the first page of each chapter. That is accomplished by effects such as adding a "drop cap," applying a "small cap" effect to the first few words (usually five or six words, or if the first paragraph is only one sentence of fewer than five or six words, then small caps would only apply to that short first line.

 

That looks more like this:

 

These effects don't change the content, but do add some visual "pop" to the book design.

 

So, which look is best? Whichever one you prefer. Our default choice is usually with a drop-cap and small-caps, but it doesn't have to be. If you want a simpler look, just tell us. We're here to bring your book to life. That's our main focus. That's why we offer choices.

 

What about eBooks?

 

All these choices are great for print, but how often can we reproduce these results in your eBook? The answer varies.

 

When it comes to custom title pages, those are possible in both print and eBooks.

 

As for graphic separators, the good news is that we can replicate that feature in eBooks as well as print, too! Example:

 

The news is potentially disappointing on font-selection, however.

 

As mentioned elsewhere on this site, eReaders give the device owner ultimate control in the final look of your eBook. The device owner selects what font they want to view your book in, and at what text size. This complicates some formatting issues, which I detailed on the Formatting FAQ page of this site.

 

Now, I'm not saying font selection is impossible; on the Kindle format, many traditional publishers have opted to embed a particular font in their books to control the look a bit more. However, there are several challenges with that.

 

First, and most importantly, is that embedding fonts in eBooks is expensive, because those fonts must be licensed; even then, it's a difficult job to pull off. And once you get it to work, all it does is add a "Publisher's font" menu choice to the device owner... a choice they can still override. And finally, it only works on Kindle .mobi books, and cannot be reproduced in .ePubs. Why not? Because nearly every eReader that uses the .ePub format asks that ePub books comform to the dated "ePub 2.0.1" standard, long before any such option was invented.

 

Given the high costs of embedding fonts, and the fact that it only works on .mobi files, embedded fonts on eBooks is a service we have currently decided not to offer. There are better ways to spend your money, since, depending on the font you wish to embed, the licensing fees can often be higher than the fee you would pay for our most-expensive formatting and cover packages!

 

As for drop caps, that effect is reproducable on ALL eBooks.

 

And, as you can see on the right, small caps is reproducable on Kindles. However, the bad news is that most ePubs won't display small caps currently, again because most ePub devices ask designers to conform to the old ePub 2.0.1 standard, rather than the newer eBook 3.0.x standard.

 

And that's a summary of some of the nicer and more noticable features Blue Valley Author Services can deliver to your books. It's the Blue Valley Edge, something we believe no good print book or eBook should be without.

 

We hope you agree, and we welcome your business.