Do You Need to Include a Table of Contents or Index?

TOC-IndexOne of the questions our authors frequently ask us is whether or not they need a table of contents, and index, both, or neither.

This is a big question because while it doesn't mean much to the author's main content, it can mean a lot to the reader. So here's our quick and dirty guide to deciding whether or not you need a table of contents or an index.

Do you need a Table of Contents?

Is your book fiction or non-fiction?

All non-fiction books should have a table of contents to guide the reader. This is especially true of reference books and how-to guides.

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6 Tips For A Better Book Cover

BooksFlyI have some bad news. People do judge your book by its cover.

Your cover is actually one of the most crucial pieces of your published book. After all, what does it matter if you wrote a revolutionary life-changing guide or the most gripping mystery if nobody opens the book to read it?

As an independent author, you likely want to have a strong say in your book cover––you may even want to put your creative skills to use and design it yourself. But with it getting easier than ever for people to publish, and with a dramatic increase in self-published authors, book shelves are getting muddled with sub-par covers. Self-published authors are giving their secret away with common mistakes that can be easily avoided.

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Choosing the Write Font For Your Book

bookinsideHow a book reads is an important detail that can be easily overlooked in the publishing process. But if your book's text isn't attractive and easy to read, then readers will be turned off before they even get into your message or story.

Too much text, small margins, and cramped lines are a few of the mistakes that are easy to make while laying out a book. But one of the most important, and subtle, details to creating a readable book is the font used for the body of the work.

When it comes to typesetting a book, you have many more choices in fonts than Times New Roman or Arial. Even better, choosing the right font for your book doesn't have to cost you an arm and a leg––in fact, it doesn't have to cost you anything. We're sharing with you our favorite fonts for book copy. Some of our choices are available free from online font sites and others come standard on most computers.

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Page Elements Explained

As an author, you've probably spent more time worrying about what goes on the page than what goes around it. But as a reader, you've likely relied on the little print around the margins--you know, the stuff that tells you the author's name, what chapter you're reading, and what page you're on. That "stuff" is called the "page elements," and it's an important detail to your published book.

Page elements consist of three main parts: 1) the page number, 2) running heads (author name, chapter title, book title, etc), and 3) the body (your manuscript).

You've likely never paid attention to how the page elements are presented, but if you take 3 books off your shelf at random, you'll probably notice that each one has the elements laid out slightly differently. There are some general conventions to presenting your page elements, but so far no hard and fast rules.

Here, we've included 4 different sample layouts. This should help you decide when you lay out your manuscript, or help you direct us if you want Light Messages to do the work. (That's one of the advantages we offer our partner authors--they only do as much prep work as they want to do.)

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Choosing the Right Size For Your Book

When it comes to publishing a book, there are many details that authors often don't think of until the time comes to make a decision. The size of the book is one such detail. For example, you might think you want a "small" book, but what exactly does that mean? There are a number of book sizes that could be considered "small." Or what exactly is "workbook size"?

Choosing the right size for your book comes down to several key issues, the biggest of which is your book's purpose. Is this a work of fiction, a trade book, a design book, a cookbook, or a textbook? Do you have a collection of poems you're seeking to publish? Certain sizes are better suited to certain types of books.

Another issue to consider is your book's look and feel. How thick is your book? Do you want a slightly smaller size to beef it up, or are you looking to thin it out? Are you wanting a hardcover or softcover edition? If you're going hardcover, do you want a cloth cover or laminate? What about a dust jacket?

Choosing a slightly custom size to your book helps it stand out on a shelf and gives it a special edge in the design. So if 5.5" x 8.5" is a standard half-sheet size, you might want to consider going 5" x 8" for something a little different; or perhaps you want to jump to 6" x 9".

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