Category Archives: Formatting Your Manuscript

Change Your Thinking on What Constitutes a Useful Non-Fiction Book … and Watch Your Business Soar!

How long does a book have to be in order to be considered a legitimate book by readers? 30,000 words? 60,000 words? 90,000 words? Even more? How many chapters long should it be? Five, 10, 15, or more? Which old wives’ tale have you heard that has you filling your manuscript with a bunch of extra (not necessarily useful) information just to meet someone else’s theoretical and unsubstantiated recipe for success?

Leave the Fluff Out. Period.

Throw away any pre-conceived notions you may have about what constitutes a useful book—particularly when it comes to word count. I’m here to tell you that it’s more important to focus on the quality of your content than the quantity of words you’ve written. There is absolutely no need to add a bunch of unnecessary fluff into a non-fiction book just to get it to a certain word count. Basing a book’s value and saleability on word count is old-fashioned thinking. With non-fiction books of any kind, your number one priority is to understand your readers’ question/problem, and then answer/resolve it for them as clearly and easily as possible. That’s it, that’s all.

Cutting Edge Online Selling Techniques to Grow Your Business

There is a form of online book sales and marketing known as “rapid release” publishing that many of today’s most successful independent authors are using to sell literally thousands of books every year. Some of these indie authors are earning six-figure incomes from their ebook sales alone. In my research, I’ve found that non-fiction authors are among the perfect candidates for this form of self-publishing. Why? Because of your diverse demographics (e.g., seniors, adults, teenagers, children, males, females, et cetera) and the varied subject matter you can cover within your respective industries. Here are just a few examples:

Caterers can recommend different types of foods (e.g., canapés, fruit appetizers, vegetable appetizers, hors d’oeuvres, kebabs, deep fried appetizers, et cetera) for all types of events (e.g., weddings, bar mitzvahs, corporate functions, children’s parties, theatre events, et cetera).

Health and fitness entrepreneurs can write endless non-fiction copy about different muscle groups, exercises, food groups, diets, et cetera.

Interior decorators can make recommendations about floor plans, lighting, artwork, framing, Regency, Georgian, et cetera.

Hairdressing professionals can cover long hair, short styles, curls, braids, updos, colours, et cetera.

Online and distance educators can repurpose weeks and weeks of lesson plans for the do-it-yourselfers of the world who prefer the more solitary learning environment of an ebook or audiobook lesson to a social classroom setting.

Automotive service technicians can advise readers on vehicle maintenance and repair for all kinds of different makes and models, various automotive parts and how they work, et cetera.

The list goes on and on. The possibilities are endless for business owners who wish to publish non-fiction books to expand their businesses.

How to Write for the “Rapid Release” Publishing Process

Does a book have to be 60,000 words and 10 chapters long in order to constitute a useful book? Or could each chapter be a mini ebook in its own right—part of a “mini series” of individual topics that allow readers to choose which topic they wish to read and buy that one alone on any given day? 

Let’s say you want to complete one mini ebook within a three-week time period. If you’re already running a business full-time, that means you probably only have two or three hours of writing time available per day during the weekdays; but if you’re truly dedicated to this “rapid release” publishing process, then you’ll take at least another six hours per day on the weekends, if not more. That gives you a conservative 81 writing hours in total.

3 hours X 5 days X 3 weeks = 45 weekday hours
6 hours X 2 days X 3 weeks = 36 weekend hours
45 + 36 = 81 writing hours

Commit yourself to this schedule. You’ll be amazed by what you can accomplish once you make a firm decision to write for this many hours each week.

Now break it down by hour. How many words can you write in one hour? 100 words per hour will result in an 8,100-word mini ebook at the end of three weeks. 300 words per hour will result in a 24,300-word ebook. 500 words per hour will result in a 40,500-word ebook at the end of three weeks. Don’t get too hung up on the word count because, as I said earlier, quality is more important to your readers than quantity is. I added this mathematical exercise here simply to demonstrate what you can accomplish in a short amount of time. When you break it down like this for yourself, it suddenly appears more achievable, doesn’t it? And when your goal appears more achievable to you, you’ll be more apt to stick with it and see it through to the end.

How About a Picture Book?

Children aren’t the only ones who can enjoy a picture book. Picture books containing “how-to” illustrations or graphics throughout (e.g., exercise routines, hair styling techniques, before and after automotive repair examples, et cetera) can be very helpful to adult learners. Let’s say your goal is to create a 20-page picture book, within three weeks, that contains only one or two sentences per page. Well, including the cover, that will be 21 pages to complete—equivalent to one page per day over a three-week period. Totally doable, especially when it’s your passion!

It’s time to change your thinking on what constitutes a useful non-fiction book, because the way the world reads is changing, and the way books are written and published is changing along with it.

Want to learn more about “rapid release” publishing and how it works? Click here.

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As a user of this website, you are authorized only to view, copy, print, and distribute the documents on this website so long as: one (1) the document is used for informational purposes only; and two (2) any copy of the document (or portion thereof) includes the following copyright notice: Copyright © 2018 Polished Publishing Group (PPG). All rights reserved.

Eliminate Bad Breaks, Widows, and Orphans for Professional Results

Kim Staflund: founder and publisher at Polished Publishing Group (PPG) and author of the PPG Publisher’s Blog

There are certain telltale signs that differentiate a traditional trade-published book from a self-published book. There are little subliminal types of things that separate a professionally published, properly edited/proofread book from the rest. Much of this is subconscious. Your average readers will pick up on these things without even realizing it, and this will influence their opinions of your book.

If you want to self-publish your book and you want to ensure the most professional result possible, then it is always wise to hire outside help to catch all these little details for you just as the trade publishers do for their books. In an ideal world, you’ll work with a professional copy editor, designer, and proofreader because they each bring something different to the table that can dramatically improve the quality of your book.

Where a copy editor’s job is to review and improve an author’s raw manuscript, and the graphic designer’s job is to arrange that raw edited text into a professional and appealing layout, a professional proofreader provides yet another set of eyes to ensure that all the components fit together properly and the book is ready for public viewing and printing. The proofreader’s job is to complete the following nine-point check:

Interior Check

• The front matter (such as the table of contents) is accurate and correct.
• The back matter (such as the index) is accurate and correct.
• Headers and footers are accurate and correct.
• Bad breaks, widows, and orphans are eliminated.
• Text is kerned to flow smoothly throughout.
• Margins and trim size all measure properly.
• Spelling and punctuation is correct.

Cover Check

• Spacing, bleeds, and trim size all measure properly.
• Spelling and punctuation is correct.

As shown in the above list, a professional proofreader is someone who is knowledgeable and experienced with both basic language editing (spelling and punctuation) as well as the technical aspects of book design (kerning, bleeds, trim size, et cetera). His or her job is to catch all the “leftovers” such as bad breaks, widows, and orphans that may still be in your book once it has been copy edited and designed.

Bad Breaks, Widows, and Orphans

A book’s interior is usually either justified or flush left as shown in the diagram below.

If you choose justified alignment for your interior, then you have to be especially concerned with bad breaks in words. For example:

The words “curious” and “remember” are badly broken up in the above sample. To avoid this, you can kern that particular block of text either slightly looser or slightly tighter to ensure the full words land on one line rather than breaking up into two lines. Believe me when I say that extra little detail can subliminally affect the quality of your book in other people’s eyes. It takes no time at all to fix it, so I highly recommend that you do.

Widows and orphans are a concern whether your text is justified or flush left as shown in the below image:

As shown above, a widow is a lone word stuck on a line by itself anywhere in a page; whereas, an orphan is a lone one or two words that have landed by themselves on a line, up on the next page. Both of these things affect the flow and professional appearance of a book whether you realize it or not. Professional publishers always ensure these types of issues are eliminated by meticulously kerning certain blocks of text throughout the book (as opposed to adding in extra line breaks or paragraph breaks in random places to try to correct the issue).

Self-publishers should do the same for best results. It will make a subconsciously noticeable difference to your end result by ensuring a more professional product.

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As a user of this website, you are authorized only to view, copy, print, and distribute the documents on this website so long as: one (1) the document is used for informational purposes only; and two (2) any copy of the document (or portion thereof) includes the following copyright notice: Copyright © 2017 Polished Publishing Group (PPG). All rights reserved.

Common Formatting Issues in Microsoft Word: Four Easy Tips for Authors

Lynette M. Smith

Basic formatting knowledge will serve you well throughout your writing career. If you perform some types of basic formatting on your manuscript, you’ll not only prevent distractions as you focus on quality writing, but you’ll likely save money too. Here’s why.

Formatting errors and inconsistencies that remain in your manuscript will distract your copyeditor from performing high quality work while reading. A smart copyeditor scrubs (basic-formats) the manuscript before starting to read, but you’re billed for that time. Even if you tell your copyeditor to disregard the formatting, your book-layout professional will have to resolve these problems later on, and you’ll still be billed for that time.

Figure 1

Here are four common manuscript-formatting issues and how you can address them.

1. First-Line Paragraph Indents

The wrong way: Use the tab key or type a series of blank spaces.

The right way to change only one paragraph indent: Go to the Paragraph window (see Figure 1), click the down arrow, and select First line from the resulting pull-down menu. Then use the vertical arrows to select your preferred amount of indent (either the 0.5” default or something smaller, such as 0.3”, or manually type in a more precise measurement, such as 0.25”).

Figure 2

The right way to change all paragraphs that use the Normal style: Click on the Home ribbon tab. Right-click the Normal style and select Modify to open the Modify Style window (see Figure 2). Here, you can customize the font and font size, and many other options.

When you click the Format button in the lower left corner of that window, you’ll see a pull-down menu with several options; left-click on Paragraph, and the familiar Paragraph window will appear; there you can select First line indent and the amount of indent, plus change other settings, like type of Justification (left vs. full), line spacing, points of extra space below each Normal paragraph, etc. When you finish customizing the settings in the Paragraph window, click OK to return to the Modify Style window.

Once back in the Modify Style window, make sure the radio-button “Only in this document” (located just above the Format button) is selected; then click OK to close the Modify Style window.

Note: In your document later on, you can override this indent for an individual paragraph, such as the first paragraph of a chapter or the first paragraph after a hiatus in a novel. Simply click once in that paragraph, access the regular Paragraph window, and change “First line” to “None.”

Figure 3

2. Spacing between Sentences and Words and after Colons

The wrong way: Type two spaces between sentences, after colons, or anywhere else.

The right way: When you finish your final draft, go to the far right-hand side of the Home ribbon tab and click Replace (within the Editing section) to open the Find and Replace window (see Figure 3). In the “Find what” box, type two spaces (press the space bar twice). In the “Replace with” box, type one space (press the space bar once). Then click Replace All, as circled in Figure 3. Repeat as needed until no occurrences of two spaces remain. (This process also corrects the accidental typing of two spaces between a pair of words.)

Figure 4

3. Horizontal Centering of Titles

The wrong way: Use a combination of spaces and tabs to horizontally center text.

The right way: Left-click once anywhere on the line or paragraph or graphic you wish to center. Then, on the Home ribbon tab, click the icon circled in Figure 4 to center what you’ve selected.


4. Starting a New Page

The wrong way: Press the Enter key repeatedly until the desired text is forced to the top of the next page. The problem with this technique is that, if you later insert or delete text on an earlier page, then the line of text you intended for the top of the new page with will have moved either further down the page or to the bottom of the previous page, forcing you to spend extra time making adjustments—and you’ll likely have to adjust every subsequent chapter too!

The right way: Instead of inserting all those blank lines, insert a manual page break between chapters and/or sections. Here’s how: At the end of your chapter or other major section where you want to begin a new page, strike Control-Enter to insert the manual page break. Your cursor will then be at the top of the next page, where you can type your next chapter heading and content.


When you follow these tips, your formatting will be clean and easy to work with, you can focus better on quality writing, and you can reduce your costs for copyediting and book layout.


Lynette M. Smith works with book authors on their manuscript copyediting and book-layout proofreading in her long-established business, All My Best Copyediting and Heartfelt Publishing ( She is also the published author of the popular 40-page handbook, 80 Common Layout Errors to Flag When Proofreading Book Interiors, as well as the award-winning comprehensive reference book, How to Write Heartfelt Letters to Treasure: For Special Occasions and Occasions Made Special. Contact Lynette through her copyediting website, publishing website, or email , and follow her on LinkedIn and Facebook.

© Lynette M. Smith 2017