View Full Version : Self-publishing non-fiction true crime: question on block quotes

01-21-2014, 11:14 AM
I just need a little guidance as I have a tough time finding the right specs for non-fiction layout. My question concerns block quotes, for example, from a newspaper article. (This is all mid 1800s stuff.)

What I'm reading is you aren't supposed to have blank lines in formatting for ebooks. Normally, you leave a blank line between the last paragraph and the block quote, and a blank line after the block quote before the next paragraph begins, correct? Do I not skip the line and do x point size above and below the block quote paragraph instead for ebooks?

And in general about block quotes, I have a few questions. I see handling of the quote itself different ways in the printed books I have (which could be a publishers house style kind of thing). Could someone tell me the following.

1) the block quote is justified and indented on both sides. Do I further indent the first line or no?

2) Do I indent the first line of the paragraph that follows the block quote?

3) Do I leave off the quote marks on a quote block?

4) What about quoting a handwritten letter? Is that all justified as well?

I hope this isn't too many questions, I just want it to look professional. If I should be in cover and formatting forums you can move it. I wasn't sure if that was for just formatting covers and other art.

Thank you in advance. :)

01-21-2014, 03:49 PM
Generally speaking, block quotes are used for quoting large portions of text or text that you want to emphasize. I've typically seen them in print books without any other first-line indents and no quote marks; the fact that you're indenting the whole thing is signal enough that it's a quote. I've sometimes seen block quotes italicized as well. The first line of your text following the block quote is typically indented if it starts a new paragraph. And the type of document doesn't matter
- handwritten letters and newspaper articles are all the same.

I don't read much nonfiction in ebook format - and can't recall many block quotes in the books I've read like that - so I can't help you much there. You may want to consider italicized text, though, to help set the block quotes off for those of us who read on our phones.

01-21-2014, 08:36 PM
Yes, you're right, I have seen italicized too. I wonder if that gets hard on the eyes if it is six or seven lines of text on a reader. Hence, I think, the reason for the line break before and after to set it apart. I've also seen a change in font. Maybe I'll go to amazon and do a "look inside" of a few.

J. Tanner
01-21-2014, 09:34 PM
I haven't published any non-fiction in e formats, but given what I know about how the e-readers format text generally, my guess would be that the best handling option would be to block left indent, say 3-5 em, that section of text and also set a 1 em space above and below the text.

This is all done in the CSS for your block quote style.

It will look different from paper mostly along the right edge which is the purview of the hardware and user choice. In my experience, the hardware doesn't always handle the right margin to typesetting standards, and readers want control of what it can do in that regard based on their personal preferences.

I've set up the post and paragraph above to a sort of approximation of how the block quote would look in the book too, though it would likely be right-justified by default. Much non-fiction goes with the block paragraph and a space between paragraphs so I've used that style here rather than first line indents for paragraphs like most fiction. But you could go the other way for the normal paragraphs.

I would not expect to see quotation marks around a block quote.

01-21-2014, 10:20 PM
I confess I hand-code and use the blockquote HTML tag.

I do it this way because I can control the spacing before and after the block via CSS.

01-21-2014, 10:43 PM
Ah, well I guess I'll have to learn more about CSS coding. I tried coding myself but I don't know enough, and it confounded me. The most I've ever done with that is tweaking my WordPress blog template.

I was experimenting with chapters in Sigil. I'll have to flip to code view to see how it looks. Can you tell me what the code line should look like?

I really appreciate everyone's help on this. Thank you.

01-21-2014, 10:50 PM
So just the basic < blockquote> before and </ blockquote> after? Is there any other code direction in there? Is when I convert my HTML doc to ePub I view the CSS to adjust the spacing? Can you tell I'm a bit confused?

01-21-2014, 10:50 PM
For Kindle using the HTML blockquote tag means left indent only, with white space before and after.

That is, since Kindle's default is full justified, the HTML blockquote tag is interpreted with all the text of the blockquote indented on the left, automatically, with extra space before and after, again, automatically.

01-21-2014, 11:20 PM
Ok thank you. That is for Kindle only right? Does the ePub file for nook etc do the same or does it depend on the device reading the ePub file?

Edit: I see what you mean. My ePub file the block quote is justified with indents on both sides. In the Mobi file for Kindle the block quote is justified but only indented on the left, and the text is flush on the right side with the rest of the text.

Well doesn't that bother my sense of balance. :)

The AZW3 file seems to indent on both sides.

J. Tanner
01-22-2014, 03:59 AM
Yep, AZW3 uses the KF8 feature-set for the Kindle Fire tablets. It supports a lot more than MOBI/PRC used on the older e-ink readers. I think drop-caps, more font options in general, and maybe floating images (so text can wrap around.)

If you want (fairly) consistent behavior across all the devices, you plan for the limitations of MOBI. But you can do more elsewhere if you're willing to go the multiple formatting route or plan carefully for how it will degrade gracefully for MOBI.

01-22-2014, 08:42 AM
I don't mind doing multiple formatting. Part of this whole process for me is to challenge myself to learn something new. I appreciate all the input here. Thanks. :)

01-30-2014, 06:13 AM
Well the block quote looks terrible in Kindle just justified on the left, especially if it's a letter that takes a large portion of the page. It looks more like I did something wrong. Maybe people who read non-fiction are used to it though. Looks good in EPUB at least.

Will a font change instead (no indents) for the block quote and a space before and after help? Or does people being able to pick their fonts on some devices make that a moot point?

Hope I'm not seeming to nit picky about this.

02-02-2014, 05:03 AM
Here's how I do it. I have two CSS definitions for blockquotes.

If I'm quoting a single paragraph, I don't indent the first line, just the paragraph (0.25in on both sides). (This is the one that gets the second class definition as it's less common.)

Otherwise, I indent the first line.

Some book styles indent the first line except for the first paragraph in each scene/blockquote.

02-02-2014, 06:39 AM
True, not indenting the first line does set it apart some. I do see that in books. Thank you for your input, Deirdre.