How To Avoid the Self-Published Look, Part 2

by Dick Lutz

7. Capitalize the title and subtitle. The first word, last word, and every noun, pronoun, verb, adjective, and adverb should be capitalized. Articles, prepositions shorter than five letters, and conjunctions use lowercase letters. Be aware that not all “small” words are to be lowercased. Some small words are verbs (for example, “Is, Are, and Be”.) These rules apply to your title page, book listing, and cover.

8. Use the serial comma. The serial comma is used when you are listing several items. It prevents confusion. For example, the book dedication, “To my parents, Ayn Rand and God” indicates that the person’s parents are Ayn Rand and God. The serial comma corrects this false impression. It reads, “To my parents, Ayn Rand, and God.” This convention should be used throughout the book, not simply where lack of it would change the intended meaning, When proofreading your manuscript, look for each use of “and” or “or” to be sure you’ve not left out any serial commas.

9. Hyphenate correctly. There are three rules to remember: 1. Hyphenate two or more words used as an adjective-“social-media sites.” 2. Hyphenate compound numbers-“forty-seven.” 3. Hyphenate between syllables at end-of-line breaks, “enchantment.” Violating these rules marks you as a selfpublisher.

10. Use one space between sentences. In the typewriter age, all letters were the same width so it took two spaces to show that the space meant a new sentence. Now, however, in the computer age letters are proportional and thus fit closer to each other, and one space is all that is needed. Review your manuscript to eliminate all double spaces and replace them with a single space.

11. Use quotation marks correctly. There are three correct ways to use quotation marks: 1. To directly quote something- “This is one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” 2. To alert readers that a term is used in a non-standard sense, such as irony or sarcasm. 3. They replace the words “so-called.” Do not use quotation marks to add emphasis.

12. Indent correctly. The first paragraph of each chapter should be flush left, but every subsequent paragraph should be indented. Unless, of course you leave a space between each paragraph. Never indent and then also leave a space between paragraphs.

13. Never underline. The only exception is when you include a link to a website. Underlining is a dead giveaway that the book is self-published.

14. Widows and Orphans. A widow is when the last line of a paragraph goes over to the next page. An orphan is when the first line of a paragraph is separated from the rest of the text. Avoid widows and orphans in print books. This prohibition is irrelevant in ebooks because the reader can change the font size and this changes the layout.

15. Active, not passive voice. Eliminate as many passively worded sentences as you can. Instead of “New York publishers are under attack from self-publishers” write “Selfpublishers are attacking New York publishers.”

16. Be consistent. Particularly in design. For instance, chapter headings should be in the same font and type size and the text should begin at the same place on the first page of each chapter.

17. Use few adjectives and adverbs. Similes and metaphors are better than adjectives and adverbs. Instead of “Hockey is violent” write “Hockey is war.”

18. Use subheads. Particularly for nonfiction writers. Usually each chapter has so much material that subheads within the chapter assist the reader.

19. Use lists (like this one). They highlight what is most important and free the reader from plowing through long passages of text. Lists are also appropriate for back cover copy on print books.

These nineteen suggestions (six are in last month’s column) can help your book look more professional, catch the eye of reviewers, and sell more books.