Archives for 2016

Joel Friendlander Template Review

There are many ways in which self-published authors can format their books.  I recently had a chance to check out Joel Friedlander’s preformatted book templates. He has a number of templates available. Each is designed for a specific purpose, such as non-fiction, memoirs and novels. The templates are available for use with either MS Word or Adobe InDesign. Each template type has a number of styles to choose from and they are available in a variety of the most popular trim sizes.

The basic version of a template allows you to create a print book file, but some templates offer an upgrade that also allows you to create an e-book file. There are different licensing options to choose from based on how you plan to use a template. The least expensive option is to purchase a template to be used for a single book. If you plan to use a template for more than one book, a multiple use option is available and if you plan to format books for others, a commercial license is available. (Enforcement of licensing seems to be on the honor system.)

I purchased the Microsoft Word version of the novel template called “Flourish.”

The differences between fiction and non-fiction templates are found in the preformatted styles that are included in each. Novels don’t require things like bulleted or numbered lists so these styles are not included in the novel template but they would be included in a non-fiction template. If you’re not sure which kind of template you might need, rest assured in knowing that you can include things like a bullet list even if it’s not a style that’s included in a template you’ve purchased. You can always add custom styles to your book file as needed.

You pay for your template with a credit card or Paypal and receive a link in your email to the template’s download page. Download the template to your computer and open it to begin a new book project. (You should immediately save your book project under another name so you don’t accidentally overwrite the formatting of the master template.)

I had a short book I was working on that was around 6,000 words, divided into 4 chapters. Following the instructions that were provided I copied and pasted the contents of the book document into the template then saved the Word document under a different file name.

There were some things in my original document, like extra paragraph returns, that transferred over into the template that needed to be removed. That’s not unusual. Most writers put in too many paragraph returns when composing a manuscript and they have to be removed when creating a print file. Joel has a Youtube tutorial that explains how to find and remove them. (The video uses the InDesign template, but the same steps can be used when formatting in Word.)

Customization

One of my chapter titles contained too many words to fit neatly on a single line using the preformatted font size for the chapter opening page. I was glad to find that the styles in the template are not locked. They’re completely customizable. When working in MS Word, any of the style presets can be changed by right clicking on the top ribbon on the current style you’re using then selecting “modify” and changing the settings as needed in the dialogue box. I liked the style of default title font, but I reduced the point size from 32 to 18. I also changed the point size for the chapter number to match the new title size. When I was done, the chapter opening page looked great.

Joel only offers templates in a limited number of trim sizes. I planned to submit a file to Create Space for a book with a 5 x 8 trim size. The template I purchased was for a trim size of 5.5 inch x 8.5 inches. This was the closest trim size available. I took a gamble when I purchased it, hoping the margins could be changed. The other change I wanted to make was to the inside and outside page margins.

The default page margins were set at .92 inches for the inside and .75 for the outside. Margins this wide might be needed for a book with 400 pages, because a wide inside margin allows readers to view the text near the gutter of a thick book. But my book was only going to be 32 pages in length and these wide margins weren’t needed and didn’t look right. Changing the margins was easy to do. I opened the margins tab in Word (Page Layout > Margins > Custom Margins) and set the overall page dimensions to 5 x 8 inches and the inside and outside margins at 0.6 and 0.5 respectively with the gutter set at 0. (Be sure to verify that you’re changing the settings in the document for the book you’re working on and not the master template.)

Evaluation

When I was done formatting my book, I looked at the preview of the print file and I was impressed. The file produced seemed to be professional enough to meet the needs of most authors. The entire process of formatting my short book took about 1 hour. I liked this template and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a preformatted template solution, but there are some things about the MS Word version that bothered me.

healing-book-screenshot

For example, I would like to see better control of line spacing. If you add subheads to your manuscript, (even the preformatted ones) it throws off the line spacing and text on opposing pages doesn’t line up properly. Correcting it can be time consuming, if it can be corrected it all. To be fair, this is not actually a template problem, but one native to MS Word and I’ll discuss that more in a minute.

There is also the issue of poor baseline control. Many self-published authors print books with ragged, uneven baselines. (It’s become one of the telltale signs of a self-published book.) The baseline is an imaginary line at the bottom and top of a page. A professionally designed book has text touching the baseline at the bottom and top of every page, without irregularities. At Inkity Press, we format our print books in InDesign. This program has a colored line that represents the baseline. We adjust the text box and add or subtract text to a page when necessary and change paragraph breaks to make sure there is text on every page touching the baseline. InDesign gives you precise control over text placement relative to the baseline as seen in the image below.

 

baseline

Baseline and text box as displayed in Adobe InDesign

Microsoft Word doesn’t provide a tool that shows the baseline of a page, so you never know if your text is at, below or exactly on the baseline. That means the baseline of a book formatted in Word is bound to have irregularities. It’s one of the limitations of Word, and it’s one of the drawbacks of using this kind of system, but it isn’t going to be a deal-breaker for most people.

In terms of the quality of the end product, Microsoft Word will never match the quality of a file created in Adobe InDesign. InDesign is the gold standard for creating print book files and that’s not likely to change. But InDesign can be a beast to learn and since Adobe has moved to cloud-based leasing agreements, you’ll be paying them the rest of your life to use their software. (That is unless you go with the now freeware version of Adobe InDesign or Creative Suite 2. If you’re curious—CS2 is not compatible with Joel’s templates. They’re only compatible with CS4 or later.)

Most authors are already familiar with Word, so it’s not surprising that many have opted for the less-than-perfect print books produced by this user-friendly platform.  Word may not produce the best looking books, but many authors find its ease of use to be of greater importance. Using preformatted templates like Joel’s in Word does offer a nice alternative to InDesign.

In summary, if you’re looking for an easy way to format your books for print and e-book, Joel’s templates make the process simple, they’re reasonably priced, they’re customizable and they seem to work well.

* Note: I did not purchase the e-book option for my template. According to one tutorial video, the conversion to an e-book with one of his templates involves importing the finished Word document into a free e-book program called Calibre. Once the book is in Calibre, it can be formatted and exported to virtually any e-book format.

Joel’s templates can be found here: Joel Friedlander Templates

How an Author Should Respond to Criticism

Most writers will slowly gain a larger following over time. As your sphere of influence grows, so grows your exposure to people who are not familiar with, or in agreement with your message. Every writer wants to be heard, but with a larger audience comes negative feedback via comments on social media posts, articles, e-mails and book reviews.

You initial response may be to block people who leave negative comments from your discussions. If you’re overly sensitive and prone to being discouraged or distracted by negative feedback, this may be a good option—at least initially.

But the goal of most writers is to reach a larger audience. And as your audience grows, it becomes more difficult to filter out negative feedback. At some point, you’re going to have to allow the negative comments into your life and deal with them. It helps to understand that there are different types of negative feedback, each of which should be handled differently.

One type of critic is the stranger who doesn’t understand you and your message and has no desire to. When one of these comments comes your way, you simply need to realize this person got off on the wrong planet and they haven’t found their way home yet. They’re lost and they’ve wandered onto your social media page, website or Amazon page and claim you’re the worst writer they’ve ever read.

Do yourself a favor and don’t engage them. Discourage your friends from engaging them. Leave them alone and they’ll eventually find the bus back home and you’ll never hear from them again. 1 -2 % of your book reviews will be from such people. They can drive you crazy if you let them, but the wisest thing to do is ignore them and keep writing.

The second type of negative comment comes from someone who gets your message, but takes issue with your delivery. Let me give an example:

I sometimes receive reviews from readers who complain that I don’t have enough Bible teaching in my books. (Some have accused me of not having any.) How do I deal with this criticism?

First, I need to ask myself honestly, if the criticism is true. In my teaching books, I typically include around 100 verses of scripture per book. To some that seems like a lot. To others, it’s not enough.

When I look objectively at the complaint, I can see that it’s not true that there is “no Bible teaching” in my books, so I can ignore these complaints altogether. And by ignore, I mean; I don’t engage these folks in any way. I don’t ask people to “vote down” their reviews on Amazon and I don’t confront or argue with them.  Some people will never be happy with your efforts, and you need to learn how to be okay with that.

Some people have commented that I could use more scripture, more testimonies or something else in my book that might actually make it better. For those who acknowledge your efforts, but think you can do better, you need to recognize the fact that there is always room for improvement. These comments are intended to help you. Rather than being ignored, they ought to drive you to excel at what you do.

Then there are friendly negative comments. These come from people who know and like you. These people want you to succeed and their comments have your best interest at heart. You should always take these comments seriously. Investigate them and ask yourself honestly if the comment is valid before dismissing it.

The thing to keep in mind with negative comments is that they can’t all be handled the same way. Some are bogus and don’t require your time. Others are valid and they hold the key to the changes you must make to become a better writer.

Here are a few rules I’ve adopted for use when responding to criticism:
 
• Never respond to a negative comment until several hours have passed after reading it (preferably 24 hours) so that you’ve had time to remove any emotions from the situation.
 
• Don’t respond to the occasional 1 star review on Amazon and don’t encourage friends to. Many people who leave a 1 star review do not understand how the rating system works or they don’t have the technical ability to leave an accurate review. (I’ve read reviews where the person admitted they could not figure out how to change the number of stars to what they wanted.) Others who leave 1 star reviews are internet trolls. As a general policy, it’s best to ignore 1 start reviews, unless you receive a lot of them. If that happens, you need to investigate and find out why. 
 
• When responding to a negative e-mail, be polite and say as little as possible. Say what is required to answer the complaint and leave it at that.
 
• If a complaint seems terribly “off the mark” consider clarifying the issue before responding. It may be that the person responded to the wrong book/article/message by mistake.
 
• Always keep in mind the fact that the person you’re communicating with could become a future friend, supporter and/or customer.
 
• Never say anything that would embarrass or bring shame to someone who has a complaint.
 
• If you complain on social media about your critics, few people are going to see it as a sign of maturity. Most will see it as exactly the opposite. Wear your battle wounds on the inside and if you need to vent, do it privately with someone you trust.
 
• Most negative comments on websites and social media do not require a response. If you do choose to respond, it’s always better to leave a positive response than a negative one.
 
• When you respond to criticism, bear in mind this proven fact:
People buy your books not because of the content itself, but because they like you, personally. As Simon Sinek says, “People don’t buy the “what,” they buy the “why.” They could get a similar book from someone else. But if they hand over their money to you, it’s because you’ve done something to earn their trust. They like you. Do you want to risk alienating your customers over something as trivial as a negative review or comment that almost no one is going to read?