The Importance of Formatting

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Typos, grammar and such are an amazingly common complaint in reviews, something which many indy authors encounter at some point. However, there’s another issue that can get you a bad rapp (or rep, as the case may be) that you may not even be aware of–formatting.

The guidelines for a printed book with an interior that looks professionally done are substantially different than those for an ebook. Considering how there’s a good chance most of your readers are going to opt for the electronic version, it’s in your best interest to make sure that it looks professional as well, not like an afterthought.

I suspect that numerous indy authors, after getting their book set up on Create Space, simply hit that button on the last screen to publish their book in Kindle format. This is all well and good, but don’t trust that automated process to produce an electronic version that looks anything like the printed one. At the very least, check it yourself, especially if your printed version has dropped caps at the beginning of each chapter.

The first thing you need to do is save a second copy of your book to use for the electronic version prior to formatting it for print. Then you can add headers, footers, chapter headings, dropped caps and so forth to the printed version without introducing potential corruption into the electronic version. If you’ve already done the formatting, then obviously when you save that second copy it will be to remove such things. typewriterEither way, it’s a lot easier than the old days, when authors wrote on a device like the one shown to the right. Those of you who haven’t had that experience don’t even want to know what it was like handling simple revisions that changed the pagination. Gives me a panic attack just thinking about it.

If you want to produce a professionally formatted ebook, the best guide for doing so is the Smashwords Style Guide, which you can download for free from their website here.

Even if you don’t use Smashwords’ service (perhaps because you’ve opted into Kindle Unlimited, which requires giving Amazon exclusive rights to sell your work), the instructions will enable you to format a clean version that won’t aggravate readers enough to blast you with a bad review. It takes a little extra work, but it’s worth it.

Writing a book entails a lot of hard work, but that’s just the beginning. If you want it to be well-received by readers, it also needs to provide a comfortable reading experience. It’s not difficult to do and will be worth it. If it’s not something you care to tackle, then check into some of the services that will do so for a reasonable price, such as Fiverr.com.

Showing respect and appreciation to your audience starts with clean copy. Getting yanked out of a story by errors of any type, whether they’re typos, incorrect spelling, punctuation problems or formatting in nature, is not only distracting, but annoying. Some readers are more forgiving than others in overlooking such things, but sure as death and taxes, sooner or later, a reviewer will say so.

After all the time, sweat and blood you’ve put into your story, don’t let its message be diluted or even lost due to careless formatting. Take care of your readers and they’ll take care of you.

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8 thoughts on “The Importance of Formatting

  1. I’d already read and liked this, but now that I’ve gone through it myself…Geez Louise you’re right. I honestly think people don’t realize that an eBook is not just the digital version of the print one.

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    • Exactly. Create Space does a very poor job converting to Kindle format. People need to look at it and fix it accordingly. I see so many reviews where the reader mentions poor formatting as a distraction. When I see such a review I’m inclined to avoid the book because I know it will drive me nuts by pulling me out of the story. With competition as stiff as it is these days no author can afford it.

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  2. I agree. I can forgive a few typos, but bad formatting is in my face on every page. I paid a little extra to have the designer who created my book cover format my manuscript too. It was well worth it.

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    • You are so right, it’s there for every single page! As you can guess, a poorly formatted book was what inspired that blog. LOL. I wish more people would hire someone if they can’t do it themselves. I’ve seen print copies that are abysmally formatted, too. It’s not a fun process, especially with MSWord’s many quirks, but it pays off in the end. I’ve formatted a few for other authors now. After you do it enough it’s not that difficult. Create Space has some great guidelines out there people obviously don’t read, but I didn’t have any luck with their template and had to create my own. But it’s another thing that gives indie authors a bad name.

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