How to Format Web Addresses in Books

Authors advised to format web addresses to ensure readability and usability

Three Tips to Formatting URLsWhen a book includes a web address, either in the text, a footnote, or in the front and back material, how it is formatted is important. There are two considerations: readability and usability.

Readability: When a reader comes across a web address (sometimes called a URL or uniform resource locator) it should not slow down the reader or imped the flow of the text. Having it in blue and underlined, as is the traditional method for websites, does not look good in a book. Black text and no underline is ideal in this regard for print books.

If the author has control over the web address, here are two tips:

  • Make it short
  • Use all lowercase

Of course if the link is a reference to another site, authors cannot make these adjustments and must use the source as presented. Some web addresses are unwieldy and dramatically reduce readability. If possible avoid these behemoths in your text.

Usability: The other consideration is usability. When the book appears in an e-reader (or PDF file) the link must be clickable.

  • Web addresses should start with www. or http://. If they don’t initially have one of these two prefixes, check which one works (usually they both will) and add it. This will ensure the web address will convert to a clickable link.
  • Subdomains in the format of “subdomain.yoursite.com” will usually not convert to a clickable link, either. In books always precede a subdomain with http:// as in “http://subdomain.yoursite.com”

If you follow these steps, when you make an ebook or PDF document, the web addresses will automatically convert to a clickable link. By default the text will usually change to blue and may be underlined. While this does affect readability to some extent, it confirms to readers that the link is active.

Following these simple steps will ensure web addresses in your book are both readable and usable. Your readers will appreciate this.

What thoughts do you have when including web addresses in books? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Why We Should Always Have Four Books in Our Pipeline

Some authors start writing their book, focus on it until completion, work to publish it, and then promote it. Then they start their next book – assuming they have an idea for one.

Other authors are working on so many books that it’s hard to accomplish anything. I fall into that trap. I recently claimed to have about a dozen books in various phases of development; in reality, the number is much higher. It is insane.

One successful fulltime writer works on three at a time. Even though I am part-time, I tweaked his advice to having four books in my pipeline:

The Planning Stage: Starting with a book idea, be it a title, a concept, a lead character, a plot, or an ending, we gather information. This includes research, making notes, taking pictures, outlining, and writing the book proposal. This activity is not our focus, but it must be intentional. Our goal is to be 100 percent ready to start writing when the time comes.

The Writing Stage: For this phase we write the book from start to finish. We work on it every day. This is our focus. We don’t switch books. Bouncing from one project to another dulls our concentration and lengthens the time required to finish it. When we finish the book, we start writing the next one right away because we have already done all our prep work.

The Prepublication Stage: If we are seeking a traditional publisher, this phase entails writing query letters, fine-tuning our book proposal, and seeking representation. Once we have a publisher, we need to work with them to finalize the book.

If we are self-publishing, this involves hiring an editor (or two) and reviewing their edits, having a cover designed, finding someone to do the interior layout, and so forth. This is our book, so we must be involved with every step.

Regardless of which publication path we pursue, there are lulls in activity as we wait for others to do their work. Our involvement happens in spurts. When it is time for us to act, we must make it a priority, all the while writing our next book.

The Promotion Stage: As the publication date nears, we switch into promotion mode. This could start six months in advance but at least one. Our involvement for this stage looks like a bell curve: there is a little bit of work leading up to the month before the launch, things peak – requiring much attention, and then a month or so after the launch things taper off. However, for as long as the book is in print, we should be promoting it to some extent.

Having four book projects in our pipeline at all times ensures we will have a steady stream of output and hopefully some income to match.

How many books are your presently writing? What do you think about having a book pipeline?

Did You Learn to Type on a Typewriter?

Last week, I encouraged the use of only one space to end a sentence, not two. The old convention of two spaces harkens back to the days of typewriters. Computers ushered in a new standard of only one space. This is what we must follow.

There are other formatting habits that came from typewriters, which must be stopped. While most writers have retrained themselves, I still see the occasional submission that persists in following one of these outdated methods.

With old typewriters – before the invention of tabs – each paragraph was started with five spaces. Though I’m not that old, some of the typewriters in my typing class were. With those machines I needed to space-space-space-space-space to begin a paragraph. I still see an occasional submission that does this. Make sure yours doesn’t.

When tabs came along, we set a half-inch tab for paragraphs. Then, to start a paragraph, we simply pressed tab. Now word processors do this for us automatically, so setting a tab just causes us extra work when writing and publishers extra work to remove them when publishing. Don’t use tabs for paragraphs.

On manual typewriters and some electric ones, when our words approached the end of a line, a bell sounded to warn us we were running out of room. Then we needed to manually move to the next line, by doing a “carriage return.” Although this was necessary on a typewriter, it serves no purpose on word processors – other than cause editors and publishers to use bad language. I still receive some submissions where the writer did this. It is tedious to correct and easy to make an error when doing so, but removing these unneeded carriage returns is essential prior to publication.

When I’m vacillating on whether or not I’ll use a submission, it it contains any of these issues, it’s likely I’ll reject the piece. I suspect most publishers and editors will do the same.

If you learned to type on a typewriter and carried these habits over to your word processor, begin to retrain yourself now.

What Does Your Formatting Say About Your Writing? The Two Spaces Dilemma

I recently read some advice for older job seekers. The article warned of things not to do in their resume and cover letter that would tip off potential employers to their age and diminish their chance at an interview.

The number one item on the list is equally applicable to writers: Don’t use two spaces at the end of a sentence. Seriously. Whether job-seeking or submission-sending, using two spaces sends a message, and it’s not a positive one.

Like me, most two-spacers do so because they learned to type on typewriters in the dark ages, and using two-spaces was standard practice back then. Others learned to use two spaces when a taking keyboarding class taught by an old-school two-spacer.

As a magazine publisher, I receive submissions on a daily basis. When I first started, most writers used two spaces to end a sentence. Over the years, the number of two-spacers decreased, and about five years ago, the ratio became about fifty-fifty. Today, less than 10 percent adhere to the old style of two spaces. A single space is now standard.

As a publisher, I groan every time I see two spaces. Though easy to fix, it’s also irritating. Here are some thoughts that assault my mind when I spot two spaces at the end of a sentence:

  • This person isn’t a serious writer; their words will need extra editing.
  • This person is out-of-touch; I wonder if their topic is likewise dated.
  • This person is old school; will their writing sound like it, too?
  • This person resists change or doesn’t care; I don’t want to read their submission.

This may seem an intolerant attitude, but such is the mindset of many a publisher and editor with too much to do and not enough time to do it. So avoid making things harder on yourself and limit your chances of publishing success. Just avoid typing space space.

By the way, it’s not a hard adjustment to make; I retrained myself in a couple of days. You can, too.

Did you learn to use two spaces or one? How long did it take you to change?

How to Format Your Book Submission

There are two main considerations for formatting your book submission: First, follow the basic criteria that almost all people agree on; failing to do this decreases your chances for success. Second, many publishers and agents post submission guidelines on their websites telling you what they expect. So, start with the basic requirements in all your work and then tweak it as needed for specific instances.

Here are the basics:

  • Times New Roman font: 12 point, black
  • Double-spacing between lines
  • Only one space to end a sentence
  • Flush left and jagged right (that is, left justified but not right)
  • Indented paragraphs, usually a half an inch (Use the indentation setting in your word processor; don’t set a tab or use a certain number of spaces.)
  • One inch top and bottom margins
  • Equal side margins (usually either one or one and a half inches)
  • Don’t have a hard break (that is, a “carriage return”) at the end of each line.
  • Don’t add an extra line at the end of a paragraph (except for a scene break or transition).

If you follow these basics, few editors will object and most will consider you a pro. Here are some bonus considerations:

  • Don’t format the margins differently on odd and even pages (as you would see in a book).
  • On the first page, include your name and contact information (email, phone, and mailing address) at the top, along with the word count. Some publications will specify that you put this information in the top right and others, the top left. Some will say to put this in the header and others will specify the top of the page, so expect some variation, but the key is not to omit this critical information.
  • For all other pages, add a header with your last name, short title, and the page number. There may be some variations on this, but the main thing is to have this information in a header, not on the page itself.

Don’t let formatting paralyze you. In most cases, editors will overlook a minor deviation or two. Following conventional formatting (along with great writing) will help get your book published.

[This is adapted from Peter DeHaan’s Byline blog about writing. The post is How to Format Your Submission.]