Category Archives: writing

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)

4  ISBN

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?

A Happy New Year, or is it? Kill the doomscrolling

La Dolce VitaI don’t usually make resolutions, but this New Year I have. And it’s one I need to keep if I am to enjoy the next twelve months.

The problem is I am spending far too much time worrying about the State of the World. I cannot stop looking at the news, online articles and other people’s (often ill-informed) opinions. I have even been waking up in the early hours and switching on my phone, to see if I have missed something of vital importance. Which I haven’t, of course.

Apparently, this is Doomscrolling

woman surrounded by social media icons, doomscrolling

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Endlessly scrolling through your phone or laptop for bad news and overdosing on negativity. I have discovered plenty of information from scientists and medical experts about this phenomenon online. It’s not new, but became much more prevalent in 2020.

So it’s not just me, then Continue reading

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

Continue reading

Writing Settings out of Sequence

Writing energy, happy writerI love starting a new book

It is a lovely feeling, a clean sheet  with so many possibilities. New story, new characters, new settings. It’s the time I can let myself dream as I begin weaving the story.

That is the point I am at now.

I have an idea for the book and the settings will be Regency London and mainly (probably) at my hero’s country house. And it is summer.

I first began thinking about this idea in September, when my current work in progress was coming to an end. Now I wonder if I chose a summer setting because the seasons were changing? Maybe I was hoping to hang on to those hot days and balmy summer nights. But I shall be writing the story throughout the winter: bare landscapes, long nights, icy days.

 It shouldn’t be a problem, I am a writer, aren’t I?

Continue reading

Christmas Reunion in Paris—a writer’s anxiety and joy

The beginning…

romantic novelist busy editingWriting Christmas Reunion in Paris was a curious mixture of fun and anxiety. Maybe it’s always like that. There are always tough moments when you can’t see an ending, when you sit and stare at the screen and the words won’t come. But, mostly, like childbirth, you forget the agonies when all is delivered safely.

It all started when my editor asked if I’d like to write the first book in a three book mini-series – Christmas at the Harrington Park Hotel. My fellow authors, Kandy Shepherd (in Australia) and Susan Meier (in the US) were old friends. I was delighted to team up with them to work on the books that were about three siblings, each with their own painful past.

The collaboration…

writer at laptop smilingEmails flew back and forth as we worked on settings. The boarding school that James (my character) and his twin Sally had attended. The Harrington Park Hotel. The backstory of their parents, a stepfather, the moments that fractured a once happy family.

That was the fun part!

Paris…we’ve done that…

Paris for Christmas reunion

My story takes place in Paris, in the run up to the holiday, so I grabbed the chance to go and do a little research which I wrote about a few months ago.

More fun.

It couldn’t last…

Continue reading

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

Continue reading

Writing in Lockdown: challenges met, challenges missed

To begin with, I thought writing in lockdown was going to be a doddle. My normal working life was sitting alone for hours alone staring at a computer screen. Then there were those bursts of high energy word-cookery. What would change?

Actually, I was even crazier than that. Staying home and not seeing people, I thought, would give me oodles of time to complete the umpty-um projects on my 2020 schedule. Maybe this was the year I completed three books, cleared out the study, got to grips with social media and started exercising regularly.

Um – no.

The Big Freeze

snow in March 2016What actually happened was that I froze. Pretty much immediately. And completely. Could hardly do a thing.

It was a nasty shock. I was ashamed and a bit scared. At the time, I didn’t tell anyone.

The house got more and more of a tip. I started things I didn’t finish. But for a while I was self-isolating. So nobody knew.

That stage didn’t last. But struggling out of it took me time. And, from things I have been hearing, I’m not alone. Writing in lockdown can be harder than you’d think. Continue reading

Before The Crown there was a love story

COMING 17th September: Before the Crown

One of my favourite authors has written Before the Crown, the wartime love story between a very young Princess Elizabeth and Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, RN.
I asked Flora Harding to tell me about it.

Young Royals

Sophie        I say a very young Princess Elizabeth. But actually she and Prince Philip must have known each other all their lives. Weren’t they related?

Princess Elizabeth with Dookie

FLORA   Yes, they’re both directly descended from Queen Victoria and part of an extended network of royal relatives. They would have come across each other at odd family occasions like weddings or George VI’s Coronation.

But there was a five-year age gap. They don’t seem to have had much to do with each other until the famous encounter in 1939. Continue reading

Anachronisms and pesky unknown unknowns to puzzle us

key on keyboard labelled Oops! for mistakeWriters of historicals are always on the lookout for anachronisms. They still trip us up, time and again. But the real elephant traps are the unknown unknowns [© D Rumsfeld?], the things we don’t know we don’t know—and, as a result, we don’t know we’re getting wrong.

I was prompted to write this blog by some of the reactions to my post about habit words, a couple of weeks ago. woman with clock, pointing finger at headSo this week’s post is about anachronisms of various kinds.

Anachronisms? The standard definition is something out of its time—an object, an expression, an attitude—something that does not belong in the period of the story.

We wouldn’t put electric light in a Regency setting, for example. That one is easy to spot. But how am I, as a historical writer, supposed to spot the ones that lurk in the undergrowth of my ignorance? Continue reading

Sentimental Romantic

Dirty draft readerThis week I have been considering the nature of a sentimental romantic – and wondering whether I qualify.

Let me put this in context. On Thursday a friend phoned me to say that he had just read a story which he had much enjoyed and thought very romantic. He had told the writer – whom he knew – of this response.

The writer said he was “intrigued”. My friend – let us call him Robert – explained his reasons. Eventually the writer decided that he was OK with the  romantic label “as long as he didn’t mean sentimental.” Continue reading