How to Prepare Your MS for Publishing: Parts of a Book

How to Prepare Your Manuscript for Publishing:
The Parts of a Book

The Complete Writer
Section VII: Publishers and Self-Publishers

 This book is a work in progress. A new chapter appears here each week, usually on Fridays.  You can buy a copy of the entire book, right now, in PDF format, or, if you like, as a paperback. You also can find links to the chapters that have appeared so far at our special page for The Complete Writer. For details, visit our Books page or send a request through our Contact form.


Preparing Your Manuscript for Publishing I:
The Parts of a Book

Every book that follows the Chicago Manual of Style—the standard of the book publishing industry—contains certain set parts. These are broadly known as the front matter (half-title or bastard title, title page, copyright page, dedication, epigraph, table of contents, foreword or preface); text (author’s introduction and book’s the main content); and back matter (appendixes, index, author’s bio). Running headers and footers, including pagination, are also part of the book, as are various graphics. The cover, too, is a book part.

Let’s take a brief look at each of these.

Front matter

The half title, sometimes called a bastard title, is the first page of the book. This page displays the main title only, without the subtitle or any other details. It appears on the right-hand side (“recto” page); the back of this sheet (the “verso” page) is left blank, unless the book is part of a series. In that case, the title and volume number of the series, the general editor’s name, and sometimes the titles of previous volumes in the series may appear on the verso side of the half-title.

Often, a paperback does not include a half-title. As you can see, this book has no half-title. Neither do e-books.

The title page starts with the book’s main title. On the next line, the subtitle (if any) should appear, followed by the author’s name and the name and city of the publishing house.

In this book, which was created with a commercial template, the book’s title appears in 36-point Big Caslon small caps; the subtitle is in the same font in 12-point caps and lower-case (cc/lc), and the author’s byline is in 18-point cc/lc. The publisher’s name and city are set in 14-point cc/lc.

No law governs the choice of fonts, the size, or the position. The lines may be centered or flush left, as desired. But the design of the title page should match or be compatible with the design for the content of the book.

The copyright page appears on the back side (verso) of the title page. The copyright statement looks like this:

Copyright YYYY Copyright Holder


Copyright © YYYY Copyright Holder


Copyright 2016 Oliver Q. Boxankle

If you wish to include a reminder that you will sue the bedoodles out of anyone who infringes on your rights, this is the place to do it:

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.

This gassy statement is redundant. The fact that you have a copyright in the material and you have neither sold it nor released it to the public domain means the same thing as the verbiage above. Anything you create in a reproducible medium—including writing—is automatically copyrighted as you create it. You own the copyright on it by virtue of your having made it. Copyright will always belong to you, unless you choose to sell some or all of your rights in the work.

If there’s some other copyright information that should be included, such as acknowledgement of previously published material, include it here.

Some parts of this book originally appeared in The Essential Feature, by Victoria Hay (Columbia University Press, 1990).

Include the name of the publisher and contact information. Some sources suggest you include an address. If you’re self-publishing and working out of your home, obviously this is ill-advised. Instead, include a contact page at your website, or else rent a mailbox through the postal service or a private mailboxes shop. Although you need to include the publisher’s city, do not include an address where anyone can find you in person and do not include a telephone number that rings directly to you personally or to a home office.

Plain & Simple Press
Phoenix, Arizona

Next, credit special contributors, such as graphic artists (cover design, interior design and layout, photographer(s), editor, and the like).

Book Layout ©2013

This credits the designer of the template used to lay out the book’s interior; the template itself is copyrighted. If a graphic designer laid out the interior, credit that artist here; similarly credit the artist who designed your cover, and the photographer (if any) who provided the image.

Don’t neglect to include the edition number and your ISBN on the copyright page.

Book Title/ Victoria Hay. —1st ed.
SBN 978-0-0000000-0-0

You’ll need to get a new ISBN for each new edition, and also for every format in which the book appears. That is, the ePub version has its own ISBN, as does the Kindle version, as does the paperback version, as does the hardback version.

Traditional publishers also include the Library of Congress Cataloguing-in-Publication (CIP) data.[1] Unless you are selling your book through brick-and-mortar bookstores, it’s not necessary. If you hope to get your book into libraries, you’ll need a Library of Congress Preassigned Control Number (PCN) so you can get a CIP, which is required by libraries. CIP is not readily available to self-published authors, and so to navigate these shoals you will need to do some research.[2]

You may include a brief biographical note of the author or other contributors. If this information is given on the copyright page, it appears at the top of the page and the name or names must be consistent with their appearance on the title page. Often, as in this book, the author’s bio appears at the end of the book.

What is an ISBN and why do you need it? Or do you need it?

“ISBN” stands for International Standard Book Number. A special ISBN is set up for each book in a system provided by Bowker.[3] It is a universal, unique identifier that enables publishers and booksellers to manage fulfillment and inventory. Each format for a book must have a separate ISBN.

To get into Books in Print your book must have an ISBN. Libraries will not carry books unless they’re in Books in Print. So, you need an ISBN if you are going to ask your local library to carry your self-published book.

Similarly, brick-and-mortar bookstores require an ISBN. Many barriers to selling in real bookstores confront self-publishers; this is one of them. If you think you want to jump those hurdles, start right away by registering an ISBN with Bowker for your print book.

Contrary to what a certain large retailer would like you to believe, an ASIN is not the same as an ISBN. “ASIN” stands for Amazon Standard Identification Number. It’s just an inventory number for Amazon; it has no meaning in any other context. The ISBN is universally recognized and used by retailers, libraries, distributors, and fulfillers.

You do not need to an ASIN at Amazon because amazon will assign one. An ISBN is needed to sell through most other retailers and for lending libraries.

With the ISBN, you can acquire a bar code for your hard-copy book. All retailers, including Amazon, require a bar code for paperback and hardback books. Once you have the ISBN, you can get a bar code from Bowker, for a fee. However, free bar codes are available on the Internet.[4] A bar code includes your ISBN (providing a tracking number for the retailer and for you) and the book’s retail price.

A dedication or epigraph (or both) may appear after the copyright page. Each of these occupies the recto side (odd-numbered) of its own page, with a blank verso side.

The table of contents appears next, also starting on the recto side of the page. You can generate a table of contents in Word. For electronic publication, this is required (an e-book formatter will create it in HTML ). You should know that at this time Amazon cannot recognize the code used to generate a table of contents on any Apple device or program. Thus if you write in Word for the Mac or in Pages, your TofC will have to be updated in Word, Scrivener, or InDesign for a PC. Be prepared for this frustrating and potentially time-consuming complication.

The foreword, preface. acknowledgments, and introduction follow the table of contents. A preface is written by the author and often signed or initialed. A foreword is written by someone other than the author. It may appear as a selling point: “With a Foreword by [Famous Personage]!”

The introduction may appear as part of the front matter if it is written by someone other than the author. In that case, it should follow the foreword and be paginated in lower-case roman numerals. An introduction written by the author usually is presented as part of the text and paginated in Arabic numerals.


The text is the main body of the book. It consists of the author’s introduction (if any) and the book’s contents. It is divided into chapters that may be organized into parts (as the present book is). Chapters are often subdivided with subheads.

Chapters should be approximately of similar length. Chapter titles should be short and to the point; avoid whimsy and cuteness. Each chapter starts on a recto (odd-numbered) page; no running header appears on a chapter’s first page, although a page number may appear at the bottom of the page. You can move the running header (including the page number) into a running footer on each chapter’s first page. This is tricky to accomplish in Word; you’ll need to Google or otherwise find the instructions for how to do this in your version of Word.

Technically, a chapter title is a level B head (the book title being the level A head). However, layout artists and editors commonly call the chapter title level A, subheads level B, and sub-subheads level C. This is true of most templates designed for use in Word.

Set each section title, chapter title, and subhead in a recognizable, distinct typeface and position. In this book, for example, section titles are set in 20-point Big Caslon, four single spaces below the top margin, [setting these two details in WordPress is beyond my skills!] centered, roman (not boldface, not italic) and numbered with a centered Roman numeral. Thus:


The Writing Life

The template used to lay out this book includes a special format for the chapter number: gray, roman indented .5 inch, with 48 points before and 12 points after (there are 72 points in an inch—in theory).


The chapter title itself is set in 24-point Cambria, roman, flush left, 20 points before and 0 points after:

Chapter Title

Subheads are set in Big Caslon 11.5 points, small caps, flush left, with 12 points leading before and 6 points after, and sub-subheads, which generally should be avoided for nonacademic books, also need their own distinctive formatting. Because of the limitations of WordPress, I’m unable to illustrate these here. Many nonfiction books will show examples of subheads.

They may stand alone, like this:

Here Is a Subhead (a B-level head)
A sub-subhead might look like
Or It Might Look Like This

In any event, B-level heads should all be formatted the same.

Subheads at a lower level may be presented in run-in format, like this:

A run-in subhead. In this case the subhead is set, sentence-style, as part of the paragraph. It’s distinguished with bold-face type.

The first paragraph below a chapter head or subhead should be set flush left, no indent, as you will see in the format throughout The Complete Writer.

Back matter

Back matter includes glossaries, lists of place names or proper names, appendixes, endnotes (headed Notes in Chicago style), a bibliography or reference list as needed, a list contributors, the index, and possibly a biography of the author.

The cover

Much has been said among the DIY set about book covers. Although it’s possible to trick one out in Amazon’s cover-building software, in PowerPoint, in Acrobat, in InDesign, or in a freeware program called Gimp, I strongly recommend that you hire a graphic designer to create your cover.

All the programs that allow you to build a DIY cover amount to GIGO: garbage in, garbage out. To create an effective cover that will help sell your book, you need to understand the principles of artistic design, typesetting, cover lines, and configuration for commercial marketability. Designing a cover for an e-book requires a different set of skills and knowledge than designing one for print.

An e-book cover consists only of the “front” cover. Because it is presented in thumbnail size, it must be designed so that its picture, its title, and the author’s byline jump out of a very tiny image.

A cover for a paperback book is designed as a wrap-around: it includes, on the left-hand side, the copy and images for the back cover, set in two or three blocks; then, in the center, the correctly sized spine with the title and author’s name running vertically; and finally, on the right-hand side, the image and cover lines for the front cover. The spine’s width must be calculated and accommodated correctly in the design, with the front and back covers adjusted accordingly. The entire production must be fitted accurately to your book’s trim size: the vertical and horizontal dimensions of the final printed product.

Learning to do these things, learning the software, and doing the job over and over and over until you get it right is about as unfun as unfun can get. Do yourself a favor and hire a designer.

Ella’s Story, Chapter 34

Progress is mighty slow on this particular magnum opus. Three weeks have passed since chapter 33 went live, and lo, I’ve written…ahem…well…this:

Ella’s Story

Ella’s Story follows people who live ordinary lives as citizens of a vast interstellar empire. Indeed, a galactic empire. Each chapter will be posted individually here at the Plain & Simple Press blog about once every three weeks, and then links will be collected at a single page devoted to the book. Come on over to the Ella’s Story page to find all the chapters published so far, as well as the cast of characters and a list of place names.

Chapter 34

Of course. They had passkeys, only legitimately. “I’ll be right down there, Yia. Get the women in their bunks and don’t let them out. Unless one of the Suits asks you to. Understood?”

She shut Yiadwene off, called Security, and asked them to send a Blacksuit to her quarters.

Before she could end that exchange, a page from Bhotil flashed up on the vidspot.

“What the hell is going on?” he demanded. He pulled on a company uniform shirt over his head, covering a skin-tight gray undershirt, then ran his fingers through his hair to brush it off his face. “Chief Geffad says the women’s quarters were breached?” Ella could see Yiadwene watching in a tile on the vid exchange’s viewer, and Geffad in another.

“Yiadwene says some guy got in and tried to stab Ella. But Ella’s all right. She’s here with me.”

“With you.”

“Yes, sir.”

“In your quarters.”

“That’s right, sir.”

Bhotil fell silent for a second. The Blacksuit chief said nothing.

“Boss,” Vighdi said, “would you please come up here so we can talk about this? And Chief Geffad, we need an armed guard here. We’re in the senior staff women’s quarters.”

“I gathered,” he said drily. “A crew is on their way up. They should get there in a couple of minutes.”

Bhotil said, “I’m going down to the slave women’s quarters first, Vighdi. Soon as I finish talking with Yiadwene, I’ll come up in your direction. Keep Ella there with you, if you will. And…well, don’t go wandering around. Keep the door locked.”

“Of course.”

“We’ll need to let the other senior staff women know what’s up,” Geffad remarked.

“I’d like to keep at least some sort of a lid on this, until we have a better grip on things,” Bhotil replied. He strapped a work belt around his waist.

“Most of them will be asleep,” Vighdi said. “Tell your people to come in quietly. And don’t send an army up here.”

Geffad made no reply but nodded, seemingly in agreement. Or at least acquiescing.

“If they knew where Ella was, they wouldn’t have sent their spook to her bunk,” Bho observed. “Let’s send just a couple of Blacksuits over to the staff quarters. And station them inside the doors, so they’re not so obvious. Vighdi, can you let them in when they get to your parts?”

“Sure. Tell them to signal me direct – don’t make a lot of noise out there.”

“Are the doors locked now?”

Vighdi touched a control panel near the vidspot. “No.”

“Well, lock them.”

She’d hit the switch before the words left his mouth.

“What’ll we tell the women? They’ll see the guard when they get up for breakfast.”

“It’s a security exercise,” Geffad suggested.


Bho snuffed a kind of chuckle. “If you can think of something better, use it. Just let the rest of us know what it is.” He headed out the door. “I’ll be up at your place shortly.”

If You’d Asked: The Dark Side of Living in Phoenix

Just for you: a chapter from If You’d Asked Me…the ultimate collection of bathroom or waiting room reading, A new chapter appears here every three weeks, usually by Friday. You can get a complete copy, right now, in PDF format, or, if you like, as a paperback. For details, visit our Books page or send a request through our Contact form.

Here’s an add to Section I (God is Great, Beer is Good, and People Are Crazy!) that just came along:

Section I: God is Great, Beer is Good, and People are Crazy!

What’s the dark side of living in Phoenix, Arizona?

Poverty. Low income in general for most who would be in the middle class in other areas. Public schools, whose teachers are paid on the poverty level, rank near the bottom nationwide, year after year. Anyone who can afford it puts their kids in private or religious schools, further impoverishing the public schools and further lowering the standard of public education.

Arizona is a right-to-work-for-nothing state. This means most people here earn minimum wage or less, while a privileged few are amazingly affluent.

This city — or rather cluster of cities that includes Phoenix, Scottsdale, Glendale, Tempe, and a slew of suburbs and exurbs — consists of endless tracts of low-income areas. Some districts, such as the large area south of the downtown, resemble third-world favelas. Most of the west side is a vast, dreary, dangerous slum, where shootings and drug crime occur daily. The east side and Scottsdale are safer but are quite affluent — to live over there in a house comparable to my 47-year-old centrally located tract home would cost at least a hundred thousand dollars more than I can get for my house. That’s what it costs to live where ghetto-birds don’t hover overhead every day and where you can go into the neighborhood market without running a gauntlet of panhandlers in the parking lot. The place is overrun with drug-addicted transients. To get the bums out of the fancifying central business area, our city fathers & mothers put them on the lightrail and transport them to the north central area, where we now host one 24-hour meth clinic and where installing a second such institution is proposed.

Driving on the local roads — which in the city of Phoenix proper are poorly maintained — is as you can imagine a bit of a nightmare, since you share space with people who are stressed, unhappy, and often frustrated or angry. Many are high or drunk. I call them “my fellow homicidal drivers.” Driving conditions are scary at best and dangerous at worst. Road-rage attacks, including homicides, are commonplace.

Here’s a selection of today’s news stories…and it was a slow news day:

Unless you have a lot of money and a guarantee of a job that will continue to provide a hefty income, don’t come here.

 Within 45 minutes, this rant elicited a scolding reply:

To which I cheerfully responded:

Yup. It is pretty depressing. We were asked for the downside…and lo! There IS a downside. Sweetness and light won’t change that.

Phoenix used to be a nice place to live…but the influx of hordes of people has even changed the climate, to say nothing of the social conditions. To say that LA is worse than Px does not change the fact that this place enjoys dismal poverty, crime, corruption, homelessness, and untreated mental illness/drug addiction. If you live in my part of town — North Central — you, too, enjoy a cesspool of in-your-face homelessness. By way of escaping it (a panhandler literally CHASED me around a grocery-store parking lot in my neighborhood), I drive halfway across the city to do routine shopping. I have been rescued from a home invader by a SWAT team, transients sift through our garbage searching for discarded documents that can be sold for identity theft, bums case our homes looking for convenient ways to break in, no child’s bicycle is safe even inside a locked fenced yard, and those who are unfortunate enough to have carports instead of lockable garages simply expect their cars to be pilfered. There’s a homeless camp next to the neighborhood school playground (one of the residents jumped a neighbor’s backyard fence to molest her two small girls). And our honored city parents actually fessed up, off the record, that they let the bums ride the lightrail for free by way of moving them out of the downtown renovation area and dumping them in our part of the city.

🙂 I’ve lived in LA, too. And didn’t like it there for the same reasons that today I don’t much like it here. If I didn’t have family here, you may be sure I’d be long gone. When you don’t have to live in LA-style circumstances, you shouldn’t.

Woo HOO! I had a defender! Another reader commented:

I agree with all of the above, it’s why I left Arizona for another western state. You can add state sanctioned racism to the above list. Run by the Good old boy network, I see a light at the end of the tunnel with the election of Krysten Sinema.

And I replied, feeling smug:

Well, we shall see. A lot of Arizonans are moderate Republicans — I worked for Barry Goldwater’s election myself, when I was a teenager in Southern California. Today he looks liberal, compared to the extremists who have glommed onto the Republican party (you don’t want to know what he had to say about the religious right shortly before he died — and Quora wouldn’t let me post it). But Goldwater Republicans then were the era’s equivalent of today’s far-right Republicans (remember “In your heart you know he’s right”? 😀 ) One could fear that someday the our contemporary Trumpeters will look “moderate,” hevvin help us. Poverty breeds resentment of the status quo. And from what I’ve heard from workin’ folks around me, quite a few of them think the far right will save them from the vast, often world-wide forces that have trashed their standard of living and their feeling of well-being.

It may take a better educated electorate than we have at this time to move the state’s politics to the center. We budged a little at the mid-term. But only time will tell what the majority here really think and feel.

Why Publish with a Mainstream Press? The Complete Writer

Why Publish with a Mainstream Press?

The Complete Writer
Section VII: Publishers and Self-Publishers

This book is a work in progress. A new chapter appears here each week, usually on Fridays.  You can buy a copy of the entire book, right now, in PDF format, or, if you like, as a paperback. You also can find links to the chapters that have appeared so far at our special page for The Complete Writer. For details, visit our Books page or send a request through our Contact form.


Why Publish with a Mainstream Press?

One reason: Creds

Several of my friends and acquaintances have immersed themselves so deeply in the indie publishing/self-publishing phenomenon that they can’t see why anyone would want to publish through an old-fashioned brick-and-mortar mainstream publisher. After all, they cry, look at how much more money you can make on sales of your book through Amazon!

To that I have this to say:

  1. Fat chance and good luck with that.
  2. Even if you make more per retail transaction, you’re still very unlikely to make as much publishing a good, truly promising book through Amazon as you would on an advance against sales from a major publishing house. And . . .
  3. Let’s look at the whole picture.

Here’s the thing: even if you publish regularly on Amazon, you’re unlikely to earn a living at it. Sure, some people do. But most people don’t. And dreaming about being a Writer with a Capital W does not put food on the table or a roof over your head.

Unless you have a working spouse or independent wealth, what you need to be a Writer is a job that will support you while leaving you enough hours in the day, every day, to do the work of writing. And those hours cannot occur after eight or ten hours in the salt mine: writing is every bit as much a job as slinging hamburgers or preparing tax returns or painting houses or pushing some company’s papers. The Writing Hours need to occur when you’re fresh enough and energetic enough to devote your full attention to your job of preference.

There is a type of work that fills the bill: full-time (not adjunct!) teaching in higher education, preferably at a university. Preferably in a graduate-level writing program. Whereas in the olden days artists and writers were supported by aristocratic patrons—dukes and earls and kings and such—today’s patron is the university. Universities (and, to a lesser degree, two- and four-year colleges) support artists and writers by employing them in jobs that are light on labor and heavy on prestige. And the “prestige” part is the part they expect you to deliver.

To provide that—to get a tenure-track job at all—you have to be published through a recognizable press. And that does not include CreateSpace. As with any tenurable position, jobs in writing programs require more than just publishing. It’s not that you’re published. It’s where you’re published. You have to be published with a first-line trade or scholarly press that has gatekeepers—editors and marketers and reviewers who assess the quality of your manuscript before it’s accepted for publication.

A book or two published through a recognizable house will open the doors to jobs that ask only that you teach two or three sections of creative writing or literature in exchange for freedom and time to build your career as a writer. It doesn’t have to be a Big Five publisher. An academic press or a small (but real: not CreateSpace, not Nook, not iBooks, not Kindle) publisher will do the job.

I landed a full-time university teaching job complete with excellent benefits, very nice office space, a decent salary, and a future on the strength of two books published through university presses and one through a major commercial publishing house. If I were to apply for such a job today, my CV would contain no mention of the books published through Amazon’s Kindle platform. Amazon wonders notwithstanding, any whiff of a self-published book could be fatal.

Could I earn more by aggressively marketing a self-published book with broad appeal than I would by publishing the same book through a mainstream publisher? Maybe. Let’s suppose we even say “sure.”

But that income would be short-term. It would peter out in a few years, maybe even in a single year. To stave off the evil day, I would have to devote an inordinate amount of time to marketing and to hustling sales.

A salary from an academic job, on the other hand, will remain a salary as long as I hold the job, whether I publish more books or not. The academic employer will match contributions to a 403(b). It will offer a health insurance plan. It will offer disability insurance. It will give me an annual travel budget to cover junkets to various professional conferences. It will, in a word, support me.

Now, I’m not saying no one ever cobbles together a living wage by cranking out self-published books. No doubt some people do—maybe a lot of people. But it’s an iffy proposition.

If your books are good enough to sell to enough readers for the proceeds to support you, then they’re good enough to sell to a mainstream publisher. And the kind of job you can land with a few mainstream publications on the CV will support you steadily and usually better than a catch-as-catch-can income stream from Amazon will.

Mainstream publication gives you credentials—the credentials you need to persuade an academic patron (a university or community college) to support you while you keep on writing.



Two steps backward…

…for every one step forward, eh? Doesn’t it sometimes feel that way? 😀 Lately it’s felt like that way all the time, here at the Funny Farm.

Like just this instant, f’r example: I actually did write a coherent first paragraph to this damn post. Then wanted to italicize a word or two, highlighted and hit command-I for the purpose, and AUUUGHHHHHH! Whatever keys I hit formed a magical mystery “delete” command…and disappeared the entire post!

Doing it all over again is getting to be the story of my life. The exceptionally tedious story of my life. One catastrophe after another has been holding forth in these parts, leaving me too tired to write anything on Ella’s Story, when I’m not too distracted.

Rejiggering the “publication” schedule so as to post one chapter of just ONE of the three books in hand per week was a lucky move that turned into a godsend. Because The Complete Writer and If You’d Asked…” are finished and sitting in Word subdirectories, it was relatively easy (though incredibly ditzy) to post all the chapters for both books and schedule WordPress to publish them on specific dates. This freed me from a weekly brain-banging computer hoop jump, two weeks out of three. And this, I imagined, would free up a couple of hours a week to write Ella.


So…why wasn’t I making any progress? Yesterday I realized that every time I sit down to work on that thing there’s another interruption. Yep. I started to type a sentence, got through ONE phrase, and had to jump up and tend to another crisis, phone call, barkfest, doorbell ringer or whatfreakingEVER. Even when I’ve got time carved out to do my thing, I can’t stay focused long enough to build up a head of steam.

It is amazing how much ditz the computer adds to chores that ought to be fairly straightforward.

Today, for example, I wanted to install live links in the Ella’s Story page, so that if a person wanted to read the thing, said person could simply run down the page and click on links to the chapters, in the order of the narrative. Et voilà! Sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it?

No. Installing links to 33 posts is an activity that consumes freaking HOURS.

To locate the post, get the URL, go back to “edit page” for the Ella’s Story page, insert the link, make it open in a new page, change the color of the link to match the theme’s color scheme, and on and on requires NINE point-and-click-and-copy-paste-or-type maneuvers for EACH LINK. Consider: for 33 posts that’s TWO HUNDRED AND NINETY-SEVEN DITZY MIND-NUMBING OPERATIONS!

By the time you’ve fixed the 87 gerjillion typos your flapping fingers insert, it’s well over 300 operations. Brain-banging tedious!

No wonder I don’t get around to doing it…one can always find a way to avoid doing that kind of workoid.

Ella’s Story, Chapter 33

Ella’s Story, Chapter 33

Ella’s Story follows people who live ordinary lives as citizens of a vast interstellar empire. Indeed, a galactic empire. Each chapter will be posted individually here at the Plain & Simple Press blog about one every three weeks, and then collected at a single page devoted to the book. Come on over to the Ella’s Story page to find all the chapters published so far, as well as the cast of characters and a list of place names.

Chapter 33

Vighdi called the kitchen, ordered a couple of meals delivered to her private quarters and then directed Ella toward the single women’s section of the employee apartments. The door to Vighdi’s rooms slid open as it sensed her walking up the hallway. Ella could see the walls’ glow panels fade up from dark to a soothing off-white. By the time the two women reached the doorway, they stepped into a fully lit living space.

“Nice,” Ella murmured, almost unwittingly. Despite all the early maid work at the resort, she’d never been inside any of the free company employees’ quarters. A windowless, oblong room spread out behind the entrance, a broad loosely covered bed tucked behind a couple of low pony walls in the far left corner. Images, some of them abstract and some figurative to the last detail, decorated the walls. A desk and chair stood against the left wall; to the right a pair of soft-looking lounge chairs filled a sitting area in front of a table that looked like it was designed either for eating or for games. On the far wall, another door opened into what looked like a private bathroom and maybe a storage closet.

“Pretty much standard issue,” Vighdi said, ushering her in.

One helluva lot more issue than our “standard,” Ella thought, given her own digs: a bunk inserted inside a cubbyhole in a wall with a curtain for privacy. Such as it was.

“Make yourself comfortable, dear.” Vighdi gestured to one of the large  stuffed chairs and started a built-in device near the broad table making hot drinks. Ella watched her brew and pour a couple mugsful of the dense rust-red tisane she favored – Ella was not asked what she would like, if anything. Eventually Vighdi set a steaming cup on the table beside her and alit in the other chair.

Vighdi drew her legs up under herself, took a tentative sip of the hot drink, and sighed. Ella sensed a ripple of tension flowing out of the woman’s body.

“So,” Vighdi said after a moment of quiet. “You do understand, right? How close you came?”

Did you bring me here to lecture me some more? Ella wondered. She saw Vighdi gazing levelly at her and figured she would have to put up with it. Surpressing her own weary sigh – for she was indeed very weary now that the immediate danger of peremptory execution seemed to be over – she nodded. “Yes, boss. I do.”

“He wasn’t kidding about sending you down to the surface with your boyfriend. Bho is not a man who blows smoke.”

“No, ma’am. No. I do know.”

“No,” Vighdi repeated. Was there an edge to her voice? Ella wasn’t sure then; wasn’t sure to this day, many years later.

“I…,” she couldn’t see what direction to take her thought, or what direction to come from. “Thank you, Boss Vighdi. For helping me.”

“I wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t think it was worth the effort.”

“I appreciate that.”

Vighdi gave her a sharp look, as though she didn’t appreciate the reply. “Are you going to let me down?”

“I hope not.”

“Yes or no?”

“No, ma’am.”

Vighdi fell silent, stared at her. After what felt to Ella like minutes, she said “I hope not, too.”

Before Ella could figure out whether a reply was expected, came a buzz from the door. “Dinner, ma’am,” a voice said through the intercom. An image appeared on a vidspot next to the entrance and Ella recognized Taz, one of the chow line workers.

“Come in, dear.” With a gesture, Vighdi persuaded the door to slide open. Taz carried a tray to the table and gave the overseer a deferential nod. “This looks fine,” Vighdi said.

“Do you need anything else, boss?

“This will be fine,” she said.

“It’s almost curfew, ma’am,” he remarked. “If you’ll put your dishes outside when you’ve finished, we’ll pick them up first thing in the morning.”

The graying Kanaian man dismissed, Vighdi motioned to Ella to sit down and eat.

“If it’s curfew time, I should go down to my bunk,” Ella said. “I didn’t realize it was so late.”

“You need to eat, Ellie. Sit down and fill yourself. I’ll take you down there after we have a meal. But as a matter of fact…better do this…”

She picked up a vidspot controller and turned on the communication service. Yiadwene, one of her assistants, appeared. “Do the bed check for me tonight, will you?” The woman nodded, looking a little surprised. “Ella is here with me. I’ll bring her along a little later.”

“So… All right.” A quizzical tone signaled some curiosity.

“Good,” Vighdi said, cutting off any discussion. “Go on to bed. No need to wait up, dear.”

“Thank you, ma’am”: as close, in tone, to a shrug as one could come without lifting one’s shoulders.

The chow, Ella thought vaguely, was also standard issue. She didn’t taste it especially, though: just ate. She was hungry and not hungry: a state of mind she had rarely experienced before.

Vighdi, across the table from her, also dined without much obvious enthusiasm. Few words were spoken. When they both had eaten as much as they were going to, Vighdi told Ella to pick up the dishes, which she did, obediently enough, and without being asked to do more, piled them on the tray and set the mess outside the door.

Expecting to be escorted down to the single slave women’s quarters, she paused by the open door.

“Would you like something to help you unwind a little, Ella?” Vighdi slid open a door in the cabinet behind the table, displaying a variety of relaxants.

“Uhm…” Surprised, Ella wasn’t sure what to say. But…yes, she surely would. “I wouldn’t mind something to drink,” she said tentatively. Her preference was for soft candies spiked with white powder, a specialty of Samdela’s southern mountainsides. But…while those in service were allowed some alcohol ration, in moderate amounts, most other entertainments were off limits.

“All right. Do you like…how about this brandy?” She lifted a bottle out of the cabinet and displayed it. Ella recognized a Varn variety much favored among a certain type of Syndicate boss back on Samdela: sweet, rich, and expensive.

Vighdi filled two small ceramic cups with the elixir in question, handed one to Ella, and slid back into one of the lounge chairs. Ella reclaimed her place in the one next to it.

“Mmmm,” she sighed after a first sip. “So nice. Thank you!”

“Enjoy, dear. You need a few minutes of peace.”

“I’m afraid I stole quite a few minutes of your peace today. I’m sorry.”

Vighdi glanced up at her, the ghost of a smile on her lips. “Well. There’s never a dull moment around this place. But…yeah, I will admit: this was pretty good drama.”

“Really, I…”

“Please don’t fret. Let’s just move our minds off it now.”

In silence they took in the golden liquor. Ella wondered how Vighdi afforded it, but then realized there wasn’t anything else to spend one’s pay on, unless you chose to frequent the expensive restaurants and bars at the rich people’s resort. Did paid staff get discounts there? Maybe they even got comped.

Probably not. In the months she worked there, she never saw Company employees hanging out like guests. Well. Almost never. Those she did see were decidedly higher-ups. Not the kind of people who lived in the colony full-time.

Eventually Vighdi spoke: “Do you like to play tabs? I have a short-game here.”

“Yeah…if it doesn’t take all night.” Tabs was a board game that involved moving silver or glass stones around according to an involved strategy. Some variants could occupy hours. Some could run through in a few minutes. A short-game used a six- by six-square playing board – a printed roll-up mat, actually. Vighdi pulled a mat and a box of stones from a drawer in the table between the two chairs, laid it out, and let Ella choose her color.

Just as they were spinning a die to decide who would get the first play, the intercom buzzed: an urgent call. Ordinary conversation was signaled by a quiet chime, just audible to the room’s occupants.

Now what?” Vighdi aimed a gesture at the device and it came on, bringing Yiadwene’s face into view. She was pale and wide-eyed.

“Miss Vighdi! Somebody just tried to kill Ella!”

Ella sat up stock-straight. An adrenaline rush set her blood to roaring in her ears. Vighdi, very still, gazed expressionlessly at Yiadwene.

“Oh, yes? Well, they seem to have failed. She’s sitting right here with me.”

“He came in the east door and went to her bunk and stabbed all around in there with a knife. The mattress is shredded and the bedding is all cut up and…”

Ella could hear the other women chattering in the background, some of them hysterically.

“He came in the door? Didn’t you lock it?”

“Yes, ma’am. Of course I did! He must have had a pass. Look, here’s a vid of him.” Yiadwene’s image blacked out and was instantly replaced by a blurry image of a figure moving quickly up the half-lit corridor. He – if he it was – went straight to Ella’s bunk, pushed a drape aside, and had at the contents of the bunk. Quick enough, he apparently realized no one was there, turned, and left the way he came in, but not before one of the women noticed him and screamed.

“Well. Isn’t that…just fine.”

“The Blacksuits are out there,” Yiadwene said.

“Then let them in.”

“They’re already coming in.”






Chapter 34


Ella’s Story, Chapter 11

Ella’s Story, Chapter 11

Ella’s Story follows people who live ordinary lives as citizens of a vast interstellar empire. Indeed, a galactic empire. Each chapter will be posted individually here at the Plain & Simple Press blog about one every three weeks, and then collected at a single page devoted to the book. Come on over to the Ella’s Story page to find all the chapters published so far, as well as the cast of characters and a list of place names.

Republished, December 1, 2018… By golly, I remember publishing this thing because I remember the images I posted with it. But somehow WordPress has managed to disappear it. And so, here it is again.

Chapter 11

After her shift one evening she wandered over to the lounge where the great arm of the galaxy sparkled through the clear domed roof. She’d missed the chow line’s last full meal of the “day,” but she could get a hearty snack at the lounge’s food bar. If she wanted an alcoholic drink, which she did, she’d have to pay for it from the pennies she was given for consistent good work, but that was fine. She had quite a few such pennies.

Plenty of other workers were sitting around, taking in the slack. Formless music and relaxed chatter filled the air. Stars like sand scattered across black velvet glittered overhead. She sat at one of the small bars intended for singles or small groups, nursing the remains of a bowl of stew and a mug of dark ale. Tired, she wasn’t ready to go to bed but neither did she feel like socializing. She just wanted to eat and sit quietly for awhile.

No such luck.

She felt him come up to her before he pulled out the chair next to her and sat down.

“Hello, babe,” he said.

She looked at him, surprised. “Hello there, butch,” she replied. “Do I know you?” She did, of course – everybody knew who he was. Everybody knew who everyone was: the colony was like a small town.

“Well, we haven’t had a formal introduction. Your name is Eliyeh’llya, right?” He spoke Samdi with a smooth NorthCity accent. “They call you Ella here.”

“Mm hmm,” she gave him a vague smile and an assenting nod.

“My name is Lo’hkeh jai-degh Inzed Mafesth. ‘Lohkeh’ to the overseers.”

“I’ve heard the name,” she allowed. “Good to meet you, brother.”

Handsome fellow, this one. Sandy hair spread a golden late-afternoon shadow across his sturdy jaws, his green-flecked brown eyes framed with black lashes under dark brows. He wore a red gem in his ear-stud. Whether it was real or not, she could not tell, though she assumed it was glass.

She wondered at this. The blacksuits took away every piece of jewelry or decoration on a newly convicted felon, especially the ear stud that marked a Samdi man’s coming of age. Once in service, he could buy another one – if he managed to earn enough…if his owner agreed to it.

So…sure, he bought himself a stud. But did they – the overseers, the management here – know what the red jewel signified?

Depended on the shade of red, o’course. His had some deep orange overtones: imitation garnet, she figured. That would make him…what? A midlevel boss in the Syndicate’s transport and communication business. Way over her head, that much was for sure.

But why would they let him make a statement like that, about his past life? They must not know, she thought. The blacksuits and the overseers where always dumber than you expect, Teryd used to say. Once again, he was right.

“Would you like another drink?” he offered.

She would. Careful, she thought…take it slow. “Thanks,” she said. “But I’m pretty beat and it’s getting late – don’t think I should.”

“Next time, then.” He smiled and leaned back in the chair, displaying a finely muscled torso.

“All right.” She returned the smile, trying not to look over-eager.

“So, Ella. You’re pretty well settled in by now, no? You’ve been in-colony for awhile.

“Yeah… I’ve kind of lost track of time, without real days or months.”

“Mm hmm. It’s been a year or so, give or take. Samdi time, that is. How are you getting on? Service suiting you all right?”

“It’s good enough,” she said. “I’m getting used to it. They treat me pretty well.”

“Yeah, they do. If they like you.”

She made no attempt to answer this odd remark.

“The work’s decent. The bed is warm. The food’s edible. What more could you want?”

He laughed. “What more?” He raised his mug to her.

He continued, after a swallow of beer. “I understand you were a lieutenant in the Tullsta Band. Back on Samdela.”

“Well, yes. I worked for the Zaïn. For B’jadaram.”

“Mm hmm.”

“How did you find that out?” she asked. One’s past life, as she had been firmly instructed, was to be left in the past: dead and buried. Never mentioned again.

“I know a guy who knows things.”

“Nobody has any secrets, hm?”

He smiled and allowed as to how that was so. After some small talk, he said, “I’m going up to Takrai in a couple of days. Would you like to come along?”

The mining colony was at Takrai, and Ella had also heard there were some exotic extra-planetary geological features near there. “Sure,” she said. “If we do some sight-seeing, too?”

“Absolutely. That’s the whole idea.”

“I’ll have to get time off from my boss. And I guess I’d need to clear it with my overseer, too.”

“Don’t worry about that—I’ll arrange it. Ask Vighdi for a pass tomorrow – wait till after mid-day. I’ll meet you here first thing, next day after tomorrow.”

He had noticed her.

Chapter 12


If You’d Asked…Why is that cat on the dog’s bed?

Just for you: a chapter from If You’d Asked Me…the ultimate collection of bathroom or waiting room reading, A new chapter appears here every three weeks, usually by Friday. You can get a complete copy, right now, in PDF format, or, if you like, as a paperback. For details, visit our Books page or send a request through our Contact form.

Section II: Going to the Dogs
(Or Cats)

7. Why do cats like to lie down on a dog’s bed?

This is Cat Language for “I am the boss here. You are a peon. Do not even think of crossing me, you twit.”

Most things that cats do actually are various ways of saying the same thing in Cat Language. Cat Language has many synonyms.

A tidy new “publishing” scheme

As you know if you follow “News & Chat,” the P&S Press blog, I’ve been amusing myself (and possibly you, with any luck!) by posting chapters here from three self-publishable books: The Complete Writer, Ella’s Story, and If You’d Asked Me… (the latter being the world’s finest collection of bathroom reading).

This self-imposed task got to be a little much, when I insensately decided that a chapter of each should go up each week. That is, each week would see publication of not one, not two, but three bookoid chapters here at P&S Press.

So I decided to put the brakes on that.

The inchoate result didn’t seem especially well organized, to my mind. And since Ella is a work in (very slow) progress, it still didn’t leave enough time to draft a full chapter between deadlines.

So I’ve come up with a new schedule: One chapter a week of just one book, which will go up whenever I get around to it, but no later than Friday of a given week. Bookoids will rotate: first Writer, then Asked, then Ella.

In theory, this shouldn’t be difficult…and wouldn’t be, if WordPress hadn’t kindly deleted all the formatting I installed in months’ worth of The Complete Writer. Thought I was getting away with something, but nooooo…. To prepare that thing (and, it develops, all of the things), I had to create separate posts for the remaining un”published” chapters and “schedule” them in WordPress.

And that, as you can imagine, was a royally time-consuming task.

Now I’d like to do the same for Asked, all of whose content is tucked away in a manuscript that I’ve had neither time nor inclination to upload to Kindle. This also will take many hours…just not this hour.

Ella is, of course, still under way. What you see is all I’ve got! 😀 And the next chapter may or may not get written by the next deadline. Pray for the best.

Part of the plan, too, is to publish links to the published chapters at this site’s pages for The Complete Writer, If You’d Asked Me, and Ella’s Story in table-of-contents type lists. I managed to get this done for Complete Writer, but the other two remain. Once the existing posts are linked to entries on those pages, all that will appear there will be a TofC with live entries, rather than the aggregated content of the book in question.

This will make life a lot simpler for me! And since I usually have my links open in a new tab, a reader could in theory toggle back and forth between a bookoid’s TofC and its contents, easily and smoothly.

So it all sounds great, eh? Alas, though, these time-sucking projects have been much complicated by Life, the Universe, and All That: one crisis after another, to say nothing of the distraction that is paying work. My little dog has hovered near death for the past six or eight weeks (amazingly, she finally seems to be recovering). Friends have died. I crashed my car. The veterinary and house-maintenance adventures are running me out of money…

All that and more (if you like to follow real-life soap opera, you can do it at Funny about Money by entering the category “dispatches from hell” in the search bar at the upper right)…yes, all that and more have tended to work against the project to write Ella’s Story. When I have time to think about it, I’m so exhausted I can barely move, much less dream up new copy. So…I may not be able to keep up even with the new, attenuated schedule.

We shall see.

Meanwhile, watch this space. Whenever I get the energy to write it, I’ll publish a rough schedule for future posts.

Speaking of exhaustion, I cannot type another word. And so, to bed…


When Self-Publishing Works: The Complete Writer

When Self-Publishing Works: The Complete Writer
*Free Reads*

The Complete Writer
Section VII: Publishing and Self-Publishing

 This book is a work in progress. A new chapter appears here each week, usually on Fridays.  You can buy a copy of the entire book, right now, in PDF format, or, if you like, as a paperback. For details, visit our Books page or send a request through our Contact form.


When Self-Publishing Makes Sense

The mines of the Amazon are liberally salted with fool’s gold. Your chance of striking it rich with the next best-seller as you make an end run around traditional publishers is right up there with winning a Powerball jackpot.

But there are a few good reasons to self-publish. Some will help you turn a dollar or two; others let you create a product with special significance for specific, targeted audiences. Let’s consider the possibilities.

First: The costs

Publishing on Amazon is free. You can create a Kindle book by posting a Word document formatted cleanly with Word’s “Styles” function. You can make any content available to anyone with a Kindle reader—and since you can download a Kindle app on almost any device, this means your market is anyone who owns a computer. You can set your price or even give it away, gratis, if you’re willing to fork over exclusive sales rights to Amazon.

Print-on-demand technology is not free, but it’s very cheap. It allows you to produce a professional-looking book in extremely small print runs—even one copy. Most PoD printers will ship books to addresses that you provide. With this approach, you can create a print book for a specific audience, order only as many copies as you need, and never worry about warehousing or shipping. Unless you’re an experienced publishing professional, you’ll need the help of a copyeditor and a graphic designer, but prices here are within reason, too.

So, what can this swell self-publishing technology do for you? What kinds of projects are we looking at?

Educate your business or professional practice’s clients

This is useful for doctors, lawyers, and any business whose customers benefit from understanding facts and processes.

During the Great Recession of 2008, a lawyer I met displayed a self-published guide to walking away from an underwater mortgage. He had it sitting on the receptionist’s counter where everyone who came into the office could peruse it. Part of his practice entailed helping people to get out from under dead-weight loans.

The Mayo Clinic, among other medical groups, publishes a book-length guide for patients with breast cancer.

A chiropractor who has developed a specialty in treating fibromyalgia distributes his book to patients, complete with charts and diet logs to help them keep track of their treatment and its results. He also takes the book to conferences to share with other health workers.

Build credibility for your business

Most people still hold “authors” in awe, believing that anyone who writes a book must be an expert.

A friend and former university colleague started a corporate consulting business that thrived. Early on, she published a book that outlined the major principles of her specialty. Last I saw of her, she met me for lunch at an expensive restaurant,  wearing an outfit worth more than my net worth.

Market your business

Because of that “gee-whiz” factor, a book not only can build credibility but helps spread the word about what you do. My chiropractor client, for example, takes his books to regional and national conferences, where he sells or gives them away to potential clients and colleagues.

Another friend, writing before the Amazon era, created a book that complemented her consultancy, which did in-house employee training programs. Her book, which (admittedly) appeared through a mainline publishing house, added luster to her image and gave her something to distribute to prospective clients and their workers. She did exceptionally well in that line of work.

Raise funds for clubs and nonprofits

Who among us has not seen (or bought!) a Junior League or church cookbook? For groups with active memberships or effective communications, a book relevant to the group’s mission can bring in some nice charitable contributions. These may be inspirational books, how-to books, or books about the group’s history and accomplishments.

Record your family’s history and genealogy

A professionally produced and printed paperback is a much better way to collect and share a family’s history than a big pile of papers in someone’s closet. You can create such a book and print as many or as few as are needed to give them to every member of the family. If you don’t have a lot of graphs and images, you can (in theory) produce it in e-book format for family members around the world to download economically, or even for free.

For family genealogists, a big advantage to self-publishing technology is that you can easily change or add to the existing content. All you have to do is edit the formatted copy, add or delete what you like, and re-upload.

Write and share your memoirs.

One of my clients has led an interesting life as an international banker. Among several books he’s writing is a memoir that he wishes to hand down to his children and grandchildren. This is a brilliant use of self-publishing technology. The result was a professionally produced, bound book that can be shared with his adult children and friends and also saved for the coming generations. He printed about fifty copies for friends and family.

Commemorate large family reunions

Write up the events and experiences when a large family comes together for a reunion. One strategy might be to ask family members to write anecdotes or short memoirs. Another could be to have one person do the reporting and collect photographs.

On a vacation in Bermuda, I stayed in a hotel that had mostly been taken over by a very large African-American family who were gathering there for a family reunion. It was quite a posh and fun affair. Any event like that would lend itself to a book commemorating the reunion and celebrating the family’s history.

Write a community or town history

My city has several historic neighborhoods populated by active community advocates who love their districts’ history and charm. These areas are often besieged by developers and political interests who would sacrifice them for a profit. A book describing a neighborhood’s historical importance and unique aspects can help preserve it, interest others in living there or protecting it, and enhance property values.

Most small towns have town archives or a museum housing historical materials. These lend themselves to the writing of book-length histories. If you’re a history buff, gathering and interpreting these materials is a fun and rewarding project. Produced as a well-edited and professionally designed book, it’s a great contribution to the community.

Compile a business history

Some years ago, a friend of mine was commissioned by a large corporation to write the company’s history. It was a big job, for the company had been in business for many decades. The result was useful for the company’s upper management, a nice morale-builder for employees, and all-around good public relations in the community.

Monetize your blog

If you have a blog with a specific theme, collecting posts or—preferably—rewriting posts to create a book-length work and then adding extra content to enhance value can help drive readers to your site. Sales of the book can also increase the site’s profitability. Budgeting in the Fun Stuff blogger Crystal Stemberger, for example, sells books on budgeting and on monetizing websites.

Enhance your online or face-to-face course

Many people offer informal online courses to any and all comers. Journalist and personal-finance blogger Donna Freedman, for example, has an online course on writing successful copy for the Web. Providing a free-standing text or workbook—electronic or print—adds value to your course and gives participants a permanent reminder of their experience.

Community colleges often allow people with expertise or experience to present special community-service courses, usually for little or no college credit. This is also a good venue in which to sell books you’ve written and self-published, assuming they’re relevant to the subject. You may not be permitted to require students to buy them as textbooks, but nothing can prevent you from drawing them to students’ attention.

You get the idea. No doubt there are many other possibilities. The point is, an ambition to publish a best-seller is not the only reason to create a book. Nor is profit the only motive: contribution to community or family is as good as the almighty dollar when it comes to writing and publishing.