Category Archives: writing craft

Formatting front matter: hints for independent publishers

essential front matter: copyright symbol on computer key

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

A while ago, I blogged about formatting ebook text. Quite a lot of people found it useful. So, as I promised then, I’m doing a follow-on blog about front matter—recommendations about what to include and how best to format it.

As with my previous post, these recommendations are based on how I format front matter for ebooks. You—or your book designer—may want to do things differently. Your choice. You have a good reason for doing it your way, don’t you?

Front Matter: what is it?

It does what it says on the tin 😉

Front matter is everything that comes in front of the text of the work.

Some of it is essential.
And some of it is optional.

Essential front matter consists of a title page and a copyright page.

Optional front matter can include any or all of:

  • a half-title page
  • information about the author’s other publications
  • quotes from reviews and/or bestselling authors (PR puffs)
  • a dedication
  • miscellaneous other stuff such as quotations from books, acknowledgements, historical notes, author biog etc etc

Since this blog is going to be fairly long, I will leave optional front matter for a future post.

Essential Front Matter

policeman defends copyright against thief cartoon

Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

Why is it essential? Because it proves you’re claiming copyright in your work.

And you really, really do want to do that, don’t you?

Because it’s your first line of defence against those nasty sneak thieves and internet pirates who want to make money out of stealing and reusing your content.
You spent hours creating it. Protect it.

The Title Page

In a print book, the title page (always a right-hand page) usually consists of two or three items: the book title; the author’s name; and (if there is one) the publisher’s name or logo. That’s it. For self-published ebooks, you probably need only the title and the author’s name. And there are no right- or left-hand pages.

On print books, the title often appears well down the title page. For ebooks, it looks odd that way. Put the title at the top of the title page (as in the Kindle example below).

Title page of Kindle ebook

Don’t use fancy fonts, don’t mix fonts, and don’t use font sizes that are too big, because they can look unprofessional. If you’re using 12pt Times New Roman for your main text and 14pt TNR for chapter headings—as recommended in my post on text formatting—then I’d recommend:

  • title in 20pt TNR, or 24pt TNR; only go bigger if title is very short
  • block capitals in regular rather than bold
  • centred (ie based on no indent style)
  • fitting the title on a single line, even if point size has to be reduced

Underneath the title, add the author’s name, in exactly the same style as the title. Finish with a page break. If you like, you can include a lower-case “by” on a separate line between title and author name. See my example above which uses TNR 24pt regular throughout.

The Copyright Page

In print books, the copyright page is always on the back of the title page. In ebooks, the copyright page should follow immediately after the title page (and the page break). Most copyright pages contain a lot of text. Check out any print book to see just how much. Most of the text is rarely read. So it makes sense to use a smaller font. If you are using 12pt TNR for the text of your book, I recommend using at least 1pt down (11pt), or possibly two down (10pt):

11pt [or 10pt] TNR for the copyright page, with all text centred
[clickable publisher URL]

Choices. What goes on the copyright page?

Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay

It depends who you ask. The manuscript formatting  Help pages on Amazon KDP cover both front and back matter in just a few lines:

Amazon KDP Help on front and back matterThat’s it? Yes, apparently. So your copyright page would include only the two lines shown.

My recommended list of contents for the copyright page covers rather more 🙂

  1. Publisher and date of publication (with publisher URL)
  2. Book title, with information about previous editions, name changes, etc
  3. Copyright notice
  4. ISBN
  5. Assertion of moral rights
  6. Licence paragraph
  7. General disclaimer
  8. Assertion of rights
  9. Link for publishers and further information
  10. Credits for cover, cover images, formatting

Ten sounds a lot, but numbers 5-9 usually only have to be done once. You then copy and paste them to the next book. In fact, I usually copy and paste the whole copyright page from one book to the next and then go in and change the bits that need changing, like the ISBN and the dates in the copyright notice. The image below shows items 1-5 for my book, Marrying the Major:

copyright page example

1  Publisher and date of publication

If you are publishing on Amazon, or Smashwords etc, remember that you are the publisher. A platform such as Amazon is the distributor. If you have created a publisher name to use for your self-pubbed books—eg Joanna Maitland Independent—that name should go in item 1. The inclusion of the country of publication is optional though I always use it. Here, I am going against the advice in the Smashwords Style Guide which suggests that the inclusion of a country name can confuse readers. You choose which way to go. I recommend:

Published [in CountryName] by [PublisherName] in [Date]

2  Book title

exclamation mark in fireFor the first publication of a new book, you need only include the book title. But, if the book has been published before, and/or by a different publisher, it is customary to include the date of that publication and details of the publisher. See example above. If this is a new edition, perhaps revised or re-edited, you should say that, too. That’s particularly important if you’ve changed the title for a new edition. Readers get cross if they are misled into buying a book they’ve read before.

Tip: if your book has been published before, and especially if you’ve changed the title, I recommend that you warn potential buyers about that fact at the end of the blurb on the Amazon page for your title. It’s not enough to include that information on the copyright page (though you should do that, too) because potential buyers rarely check the copyright page.

3  The copyright notice

The copyright notice is straightforward but essential. Remember that if you have revised your book, you may have more than one copyright date. You will still be claiming copyright from the first publication date, but you also need to claim it for the revisions.

Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

Some platforms, such as Smashwords, ask publishers not to use the © symbol, but to use “Copyright” instead. Amazon does accept © and I recommend you use it, though it’s a good idea to use “copyright” as well, in case the computer should reject the symbol. So my recommended format is:

Copyright © FirstName LastName Date(s)


The Smashwords Guide says it’s not necessary to include the ISBN. The Amazon help screen doesn’t mention it. However, most publishers do include the ISBN and, since it may not occur anywhere else in the text you upload, I recommend that you include the ISBN on the copyright page.

ISBNs are quoted in both the old 10-digit versions and the modern 13-digit versions. You can quote both if you prefer, as shown below (using ISBNs for Lady In Lace). However I recommend  you 

use only the 13-digit ISBN, taking care to include the mandatory hyphens.

ISBN-13: 978-0-9957046-4-0
ISBN-10: 0995704643

(NB As you can see from the example above, you don’t get from the 13-digit ISBN to the 10-digit ISBN simply by lopping off the first three digits. That’s because the last digit in both formats is a check digit. It’s easy to make mistakes. That’s why I use only the 13-digit version.)

5  Assertion of Moral Rights

There’s a useful Wikipedia article about Moral Rights in the UK here and, since I’m not an Intellectual Property lawyer, I’m not going to go into what they are. But moral rights are not automatic; they can be waived. If you want to claim them—and you should, although some publishers’ boilerplate contracts require you to waive them—you need to assert your claim on the copyright page. Publishers use various formulations. Feel free to copy my version which is:

The right of Joanna Maitland to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. 

6  Licence paragraph

Piracy of ebooks happens a lot. You don’t want your readers to buy one copy of your ebook and distribute it to all their mates for free. Most readers wouldn’t dream of doing that, but a gentle reminder does no harm. My recommended reminder paragraph is a slight variant on the licence text recommended in the Smashwords Style Guide (which Smashwords invites authors to copy or modify). Do copy or modify my version which is shown here, outlined in red:

7  General disclaimer

The platforms don’t specifically recommend including a general disclaimer but I strongly recommend that you do, especially if you are writing contemporary fiction. You really do not want to be sued by an aggrieved Ms A N Other who alleges that your book defames her. And yes, it does happen. So even writers of historical fiction, like me, tend to include a disclaimer. Feel free to copy or modify the one I use which is shown below:

general disclaimer for copyright page

8  Assertion of rights

This is a belt and braces paragraph, shown below outlined in red. Almost all publishers use it, so I do, too. It’s not quite the same as the licence paragraph (at item 6), because it covers more uses. I recommend you include this too:

9  Link for further information etc

I recommend you include a straightforward email link for publishers or others who might wish to publish excerpts of your book or want to contact you, the publisher. You can see the version I use in the image above, immediately below the red outlined text.

10 Credits

It is both polite and professional to include credits for your cover designer, the producers of any cover images you used, and your interior formatter. I recommend you do so.  You can see example credits from one of my books at the bottom of the image above.

If you did any of it yourself, give yourself a credit. You deserve it. And if you can’t face doing it yourself and would like help, get in touch. My fees are very reasonable!

Phew! That’s enough for one weekend, isn’t it?

If you’ve managed to read this far without throwing something at the screen, congratulations!

I hope you find the above recommendations helpful and that this post can serve as a checklist for you when you’re creating and formatting the front matter in your book. As I said in the text, I am more than happy for fellow authors to copy the various paragraphs that I use, if that would be useful. If you want to modify them to suit your own work, that’s fine by me, too.

Happy formatting. And I may be back soon (or soonish) with a blog about optional front matter.

Joanna the demon formatter?

Romantic Novelists’ Association 60th Year

RNA 60th Anniversary logoOne of my biggest regrets of 2020, this Year of Sorrows, is that we never got to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of the UK’s Romantic Novelists’ Association. The first meeting was in January 1960. This anniversary year will soon run out.

It occurred to me, therefore, that I should do something now, before Christmas takes its irresistible hold.

There are excellent up-to-date entries on the RNA’s website for current information. And I heartily recommend it.

This blog, however, is wholly personal. Here you will find a few random memories of the RNA and, above all, the wonderful people I have found there, in books and in person.

Romantic Novelists’ Association and Sophie Weston, Debut Author

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Formatting ebook text: hints for independent publishers

Beach Hut Surprise, text formatting by Joanna Maitland

Apart from Beach Hut Surprise, I’ve recently been republishing some of my vintage books on Amazon. In revised (and, I hope, better) editions. I do all my own formatting and I thought I would share some of the approach I use. I’ll add in tips and tricks, too.

For those who’d like to do their own e-publishing, but haven’t yet dared, I hope this will encourage you to have a go. It really isn’t all that difficult. Honest.

Though—shameless self-promo here—if you absolutely can’t face doing your own formatting, I’d be happy to do it for you.

For a fee, of course 😉

Formatting: what it isn’t

This blog is not about editing or proofreading a manuscript. Formatting an ebook starts from the point where the manuscript has already been edited and proofread. A formatter does not normally read the detailed text she’s working on. If she had to do that, the charges would be much, much higher.

exclamation mark in fireThe formatter’s job is to take your perfect manuscript and turn it into a file that can be uploaded to the internet. If the manuscript isn’t perfect, your imperfections will be translated into the e-pubbed version. And you don’t want that, do you?

As an aside, I do normally run a spellcheck on manuscripts before I start formatting. And the spellcheck does sometimes point out errors. Does that mean that the author did not run the spellcheck on her manuscript? I hope not. Maybe it’s just that my spellcheck works differently. In the end, if the published ebook contains spelling errors—or any other editing errors that should have been corrected—it is down to the author, not the formatter.

Formatting: four simple constituents

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Finding Your Voice

When two writer friends meet their first talk is of editorial revisions. You don’t risk a word on that unfinished book in case it stays that way. And you don’t talk about horrible reviews until you’re on at least your second glass.

But revisions are common to all writers and moaning about them – or sometimes sharing the joy – is a truly bonding experience.

This is the season when reports from the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers Scheme  start to come back. Many of them will contain suggested revisions. Welcome to the club, guys!

But sometimes the report (or a book doctor or even an experienced reader friend) may say: “I don’t think you’ve found your voice yet.” “Inauthentic” may even be murmured.

What does it MEAN? And what can you do about it? Continue reading

Habit Words : Use, Abuse, Remedies

snoopy at pink typewriterDo you use habit words in your writing?

I bet you do. Perhaps all authors do? A few weeks ago, in her excellent presentation on snappy dialogue at the RNA Virtual Conference 2020, Virginia Heath confessed to overusing the phrase “he huffed out” as a speech tag for her heroes. Virginia, being a professional, knows how to catch and reduce her use of habit words. Do you?

To start at the beginning: what are Habit Words?

yellow bollards, repetition concept

Repetition can be boring. And people do notice…

Habit words and phrases are part of an author’s voice, the words and phrases that come naturally and automatically, that trip off the tongue, that make the writing sound like you. Continue reading

Animals in books: cute, endearing. Risky?

When its eyes met mine…

cover Crazy For You by Jennifer Crusie“On a gloomy March afternoon, sitting in the same high school classroom she’d been sitting in for thirteen years, gritting her teeth as she told her significant other for the seventy-second time since they’d met that she’d be home at six because it was Wednesday and she was always home on six on Wednesdays, Quinn McKenzie lifted her eyes from the watercolour assignments on the desk in front of her and met her destiny.”

Jennifer Crusie is famous for putting wonderful dogs in her books and this is no exception. Quinn’s destiny is a small black dog with desperate eyes and he isn’t a prop, a cute accessory for her heroine. He gets the opening line in Crazy For You, because he’s about to change her life.

Animals in books? Dogs, more dogs and a duckling or two

Georgette Heyer put animals in books, shown here with her dogGeorgette Heyer, seen here with her dog, was another author who used dogs, kittens, even ducklings to delight us. In a long scene in The Grand Sophy the ducklings escape, are recaptured and generally cause chaos. 


Image by Adina Voicu from Pixabay

Venetia‘s Flurry flew to her rescue when, shockingly, Damerel kissed her. Unfortunately Flurry desisted the moment he was commanded to “sit”, recognising a master when he heard one. But he was enough of a distraction for Venetia to extract herself. Once she’d done that, she was more than a match for the man!

And Ulysses, the disreputable mongrel Arabella foisted on Beaumaris, is a joy. 

But writers beware!

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The questions people ask writers… Research in Paris

So, do you do a lot of research?

Apart from, “Where do you get your ideas from?” that has to be the question writers are most asked.

And the answer is, for me, yes, actually.

Quite a lot.

Pinterest, Google, Youtube

Even before I put finger to keyboard I scour Pinterest, seeking ideas for locations, looking for photographs of places and characters as I build my storyboard. This is the one I’ve created for A Harrington Christmas (it’s a working title!)

Mostly, after that, it will be diving into Google as questions crop up? What is the temperature in Nantucket in March? What is the time difference between Paris and Singapore? Is there already a restaurant in London called any of the half a dozen names I’ve come up with — and yes to every one. Continue reading

Explicit Sex in Romances : how often, how necessary?

woman in bed uncorks exploding champagne, metaphor for explicit sexExplicit Sex in Romances: none, lots, somewhere in between?

Explicit sex in romances is a complete turn-off for some readers. They like the bedroom door firmly closed and refuse to read any romances where it is not. That, of course, is absolutely their choice. And I have written some romances that, in my opinion, worked very well without sex scenes. Indeed, one of them — Rake’s Reward — has been called “fizzing with sex” even though it contains no explicit sex at all.

But, equally, I’ve written romances with a lot of explicit sex on the page, even though that is bound to have lost me some potential readers.

So, are there any guidelines for authors here? Continue reading

Pedantique-Ryter: Could Have or Could Of?

We could of had it all

exclamation mark in fireIf you do a web search for could of, you’ll find quite a few people searching for song lyrics. Examples of search terms include: exploding champagne as in "it could of been the champagne"It could of been the champagne

and “It could of been me.”

We could of had it all” was a search for a song by Adele, called Rolling in the Deep.

And the line in question was, of course,
We could HAVE had it all“.

What’s happening here?

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Inspiration : writing ideas and the subconscious

Readers are fascinated by writers’ ideas. Where do you get them from? they ask.
Over and over again.gothic fantasy woman candle mist ideas

Sometimes we writers know. And sometimes — to be frank — we don’t.

How many of us have woken up in the morning with clear ideas about a new book and no inkling about how those ideas came to be? How many of us have more ideas jostling about in our brains than we can deal with?ideas light bulb

For most of us the difficulty isn’t finding the ideas, it’s turning them into a coherent story with a beginning, a middle, and an end.

Here’s a case in point.

Ideas? Silver shreds for starters…

It began quite a long time ago. And it was all the fault of my crit partner, Sophie Weston of this parish… Continue reading