You Know What’s Missing???

You know the SNL skit—Will Ferrell and Christopher Walken
“re-enact” the recording of “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” by Blue Öyster Cult.

With each successive take, Christopher Walken’s character, music producer “The Bruce Dickinson”, comments that he really likes their dynamite sound, but something is missing.

More cowbell.

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to discuss some of the biggest problems I see in manuscripts and DIY-published books.

Today, I’m going to offer a simple fix that will make your book so much more readable—and it really has nothing to do with the craft of writing. This really applies to your formatting. Something is missing…

More white space.

Seriously, make white space your friend.

Here’s what I mean…

Your Front Cover

All too often, at writers conferences, I see authors displaying the product of their extremely hard work. The front cover, however, is so busy that the title is barely discernible.

More white space.

I prefer titles that are 2-4 words long. If the title is overly long, your cover designer is forced to decrease the font size on the front cover and the book binding to make everything fit. This causes a strain on the eyes of your potential reader and obscures your title.

Remember, you only have a few seconds to generate attention to your book on Amazon—and the size of your book cover online is the size of a thumbnail.

Here’s a good rule of thumb: the longer the title, the smaller the font size. The shorter the title, the bigger the font size.

You want the title memorable, don’t you? Then keep the title short and the font big. And whatever you do, make sure the font isn’t so fancy that the reader must work hard to read it.

The artwork on the front cover must never distract from the title. Too many flower-y whirligigs or intricate designs pull your readers’ eyes away from what’s most important: your title.

Your Back Cover

Then I turn to the back cover, and all too often, it’s one long block of text. No one is going to read it because the voluminous verbiage overwhelms the reader.

More white space.

Here’s a good rule of thumb for your back cover (which also serves as your Amazon product description): Limit your back cover copy to around 140 words.

Don’t give the premise—the role of your back cover copy is simply to hook your potential reader into looking at your introduction or table of contents. And always refer to yourself in third person.

When writing fiction back cover copy. I like to begin with two or three short lines of dialogue that present a moment of tension. Then give a short description of the story without giving away the ending.

When writing nonfiction copy. I like to begin with a one-line question that addresses the reader. Something like, “What would your life look like if you had no fear?”

Do your best to press on the pain point of your audience. I usually employ three bullets that describe the benefits of reading the book.

Whatever you do, break your back cover copy into at least three or four paragraphs. Never a long block of text. It makes it so much more readable.

More white space.

Your Author Bio

Here’s a good rule of thumb for your back cover author bio: Limit the description to about 40 words.

The purpose of your bio is to establish you as the right person to write the book. Say a little something about your life experience, education, and where you live, then give your author website address.

(Just so you know, the previous paragraph was 36 words. You don’t have a lot of room to work with, so you’ll need to be concise. Nothing frilly.)

If you want to say more about yourself, you can add an About the Author page at the beginning or end of the book.

More white space.

Inside Your Book

Lastly, forget what your seventh-grade English teacher taught you about paragraphs. You were probably told (scolded?) that your paragraph should comprise a singular thought or point you’re trying to make. In its entirety. No matter how long the paragraph.

The rules regarding length have changed, however. Long paragraphs will beat your reader down.

Here’s a good rule of thumb for paragraph length: Your paragraphs should comprise no more than one or two breaths when read aloud. Afterward, hit return.

And whatever you do, don’t bury your dialogue in the paragraph. I prefer each part of the dialogue as stand-alone paragraphs.

More white space.

You’ve worked too hard on your manuscript to allow simple formatting issues to get in the way of reaching more people with your book.

Our team of seasoned writers and designers can do the heavy lifting so you don’t feel overwhelmed by this process. We love collaborating with our authors on your title, subtitle, cover design—everything—so your book looks, feels, and reads like a traditional release.