Best Practices For Naming Files  | laurenlayne.com
Writing Organization

Best Practices For Naming Files 

April 9, 2022

We modern novelists tend to deal with a lot of digital files. Multiple drafts of every book. Multiple social media graphics for multiple platforms for multiple books. Multiple cover file formats. Multiple headshots. Media kits. Interviews. Guest posts.

The list goes on.

In addition to organizing the folders on our computer so we know where everything is, there’s also the matter of naming our files so we know what everything is.

Best Practices:

Never use spaces.

In folder names, spaces are okay. In file names, don’t ever use spaces. The reason why is nerdy, but the short version is that for anything uploaded to the web, such as cover file, headshots, your printable book list, etc spaces are rendered to the very ugly %20.

For files not uploaded to the web, spaces aren’t as big of a deal anymore, but it’s best to omit them altogether for the times you do have a web-file! 

Use hyphens where you would normally use spaces. 

Underscores are better than spaces, but hypens are preferred by Google for SEO (again, this is key for files you upload to the web and want to be searchable, like your author name or book title!)

Use Camel Case for readability

For longer file names where you want to limit the number of hypens, use “camel case” to make your files easier to read at a glance. Camel case involves capitalizing the first letter of each word in a phrase, and then omitting the spaces.

For example, if you were to name files for The Great Gatsby

  • The Great Gatsby
  • thegreatgatsby
  • TheGreatGatsby = CamelCase

You could also do The-Great-Gatsby, but if you’ve got a lot of other elements in the file name, such as author name and date, it could get overly long to hyphenate every element.

Avoid using “final” in file names.

I know I’m not the only one who’s added final-FINAL to a document name after realizing the first “Final” was in fact…not final. Instead: Use dates to indicate versions, and store the most updated version in a folder labeled final. This way you’ll know there should only ever be one document in that Final folder at a time, so you can nip the duplicate process in the bud.


Consider your date naming conventions

If you plan to have a long writing career (don’t we all?) you may want to consider putting the year before the month/date in your file names so that chronological order of documents is preserved in your master file directory. It’s the “proper” way to date files. For example:

YYYYMMDD or 20211101

In full disclosure, I don’t do this, because I find it hard to read and rarely need to access my files by date. But I do understand why it’s a best practice. For inquiring minds, my dates in file names look like: Nov012021 

Some day I’d like to do it the right way, but I’m a work in progress.

Add a “0” to single digit numbers.

01 is better than 1 in order to ensure chronological files sort correctly.

Be consistent.

For writers, the reason file names are important is ease of finding what we’re looking for, and for that, consistency is more important than any of the above tips.

Pick a file name convention for all of your author/book related files, and stick with it.

Here’s my naming convention for my book-related files: 

LastName-Category-Book-Descriptor 

Some examples of my naming convention in practice:

Book Covers

  • Layne-Cover-JustOneNight-HardcoverMockup-ForWeb
  • Layne-Cover-JustOneNight-HardcoverMockup-HighRes
  • Layne-Cover-JustOneNight-Flat

Manuscript

  • Layne-EarlyBackup-AfterTheKiss-Jan082013
  • Layne-FirstDraftSubmitted-AfterTheKiss-Apr122013

Social Media Asset

  • Layne-InstagramStory-RunawayGroom-TeaserA
  • Layne-InstagramStory-RunawayGroom-TeaserB
  • Layne-InstagramStory-RunawayGroom-AccoladeA
  • Layne-Pinterest-RunawayGroom-MoodboardA
  • Layne-Pinterest-RunawayGroom-MoodboardB

By using the same convention every single time, I always know how to quickly “translate” what the file is at a glance.

Bonus tip: For files I want to keep for reference but that are “old,” such as book cover design that has been replaced, or release day social media graphics that are dated, and thus obsolete, I add -ARCHIVE to the end of the file name.