There are certain standards established publishers follow. Though these conventions may seem arbitrary, a failure to follow them could make your book stand out in a bad way.
- On the cover, the author’s name stands alone without the word “By.”
- Subtitles aren’t preceded by a colon but placed on a separate line from the title.
- Chapters start on the right side, not the left.
- The first paragraph of a chapter is not indented; the rest are.
- Lines aren’t right justified.
- Serif fonts are used; san serif fonts are not.
- The page number, chapter title, and title appear on specific locations on each page.
- It’s Acknowledgments not Acknowledgements.
- The author writes the Preface.
- The author does not write the Foreword (not Forward); someone else does.
- It’s Prologue, not Prolog.
Aside from issues of spelling for the last two items, I don’t know why or how these things became expected—or who decided on them in the first place. While I’ve seen all these conventions broken on occasion by established publishers be aware that the less we adhere to these expectations, the more likely a book will just not “feel” right to a reader or potential buyer.
Personally, I’d like to break them all. But I won’t because I want my book to have the best chance of success. If I need to follow some arbitrary rules, I gladly will.
Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is an author, blogger, and publisher with over 30 years of writing and publishing experience. Check out his book The Successful Author for insider tips and insights.