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Author Topic: Formatting - I don't get what the problem is  (Read 4778 times)  

Offline TobiasRoote

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Formatting - I don't get what the problem is
« on: August 13, 2017, 02:18:13 AM »
I read a lot of threads on here about formatting and I really don't understand why people need formatters for ebooks. Print books, yes, but ebooks?

So, I assume that somewhere along the line I'm illiterate and missing something important. So can someone help me out here and tell me what are the general prerequisites for a well formatted page in ebooks?



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Re: Formatting - I don't get what the problem is
« Reply #1 on: August 13, 2017, 02:42:08 AM »
Quote
why people need formatters for ebooks

Mainly because I don't want to keep up-to-date with all the EPUB and MOBI requirements and other boring crap, and I have better things to do than manually making TOCs and hauling files through different pieces of software. Yes, I can spend time to figure out how to do it. But I hate it.

And when there is an issue with the formatting of any of my books, like when Amazon complains about some inane thing that's just dumb and "needs to be fixed", I just kick the ball to someone else. Seriously, I hate that [crap] and don't have time for it.

Your books: the first paragraph of the chapter should not be indented. The table of contents should go after the title page. Your chapter titles are not clickable, so does the TOC work? I doubt it.

Offline TobiasRoote

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Re: Formatting - I don't get what the problem is
« Reply #2 on: August 13, 2017, 02:56:32 AM »


Your books:  does the TOC work? I doubt it.

Actually, it does. Next item?


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Re: Formatting - I don't get what the problem is
« Reply #3 on: August 13, 2017, 03:09:54 AM »

Actually, it does. Next item?

Not backwards, it won't work, because the chapter titles are not live.

But you know, I feel you're posting this just to be contrary.

Of course you don't NEED a formatter, just like I don't NEED a cover designer, because I can do my own covers. People also don't NEED someone to clean their house, yet many people do. To save time, and because they don't want to do it themselves.

I use a formatter because I've had enough formatting emergencies  that I don't ever want to go through that again, that files are screwed up a couple of days before Christmas and people are getting EPUBs with wonky formatting, and I'm flat out doing real life stuff and don't have time to figure out why this problem exists.

Offline toddhicks209

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Re: Formatting - I don't get what the problem is
« Reply #4 on: August 13, 2017, 03:21:16 AM »
I simply write my books in Word, use 1-point margin spacing, double space my paragraphs and don't put too many sentences into a paragraph.

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Offline crow.bar.beer

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Re: Formatting - I don't get what the problem is
« Reply #5 on: August 13, 2017, 03:48:09 AM »
Some authors need them if they don't know how to make their e-books look professional enough on their own. Sometimes all the opening stuff before the first chapter can look like a complete and utter mess, with weird font sizes and stuff all jumbled up and atypical headers.

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Re: Formatting - I don't get what the problem is
« Reply #6 on: August 13, 2017, 03:54:04 AM »
I read a lot of threads on here about formatting and I really don't understand why people need formatters for ebooks. Print books, yes, but ebooks?

So, I assume that somewhere along the line I'm illiterate and missing something important. So can someone help me out here and tell me what are the general prerequisites for a well formatted page in ebooks?


I think the problem arises from people who write books about it, as though it were something difficult that needed a whole manual of instructions. Non techy people tend to be scared of anything like that. As most know on here, I have had a few questions about Word just lately, but once they are sorted by kind replies from posters, I know what I'm doing.

A fellow author told me how to format in Word some years ago. It is done in the paragraph bit before you ever begin to type your manuscript. Very, very easy and if you use D2D, the same manuscript does for everyone else. I never did manage to format for Smashwords, so I gave up and went to D2D instead. It is also easy to format for paperback once you have got over the little glitches.

I actually prefer my first line of my chapters to be indented and I have two traditionally published books on my bookshelf that has that first line indented. I see no reason not to. TOC does not need to be done manually, as Word will do it for you if you ask it nicely, or if you use the heading style, it hooks up easy enough.

BTW Watch who you are calling illiterate :)


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Re: Formatting - I don't get what the problem is
« Reply #7 on: August 13, 2017, 03:55:03 AM »
I simply write my books in Word, use 1-point margin spacing, double space my paragraphs and don't put too many sentences into a paragraph.
Why would you double space your paragraphs?


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Offline TobiasRoote

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Re: Formatting - I don't get what the problem is
« Reply #8 on: August 13, 2017, 04:30:30 AM »
Not backwards, it won't work, because the chapter titles are not live.


Why would I click on a chapter title - where would you expect that to take me? The chapter titles in the TOC work perfectly fine (on ALL my books)... :)

But you know, I feel you're posting this just to be contrary.

Really?


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Re: Formatting - I don't get what the problem is
« Reply #9 on: August 13, 2017, 05:31:25 AM »
Keep it civil.... I've yet to use my green cattleprod, and don't forget Becca has yellow snowballs...

I read the smashwords guide when I was first starting out, then formatted a word document accordingly. I use the same blank document for ever book I've written since and not even the meatgrinder has ever refused a copy. I think they look nice and work perfectly for Amazon too. However... D2D does trash the formatting when it converts it to an epub. They make the headings all blocky and remove any line breaks. Really annoying. I've never really worked out a way around it except to double space the paragraphs where needed.


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Re: Formatting - I don't get what the problem is
« Reply #10 on: August 13, 2017, 05:54:13 AM »

Why would I click on a chapter title - where would you expect that to take me? The chapter titles in the TOC work perfectly fine (on ALL my books)... :)

To go back to the Table of Contents, because that's the definition of an electronic TOC: a code that makes it easy to navigate a larger document. Say I finished a book and there was some awesome chapter that I wanted to re-read. It was somewhere 2/3rd into the book. I click Chapter 16 in the TOC, but once I get there, I realise it must have been several chapters later. Without a link back to the TOC I now have to page through the rest of the chapters. It was precisely this exercise that a TOC should be designed to avoid. With a link back to the TOC, I click on the chapter title, it takes me back to the TOC, then I can quickly check from there if the awesome bit was in Chapter 19.

Quote
Really?

Yes, I think the title of the thread implies it. It could have been "If you get a formatter, what is your reason?" I find "I don't get what the problem is" rather passive-aggressive, coming from the point of view that everyone who gets a formatter must be nuts or dumb.

I can format my own books. I choose not to because I HATE doing it with a passion of ten thousand suns and I prefer to spend the time writing. I suspect this is the case for many jobs that people contract out.

Offline Jena H

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Re: Formatting - I don't get what the problem is
« Reply #11 on: August 13, 2017, 06:16:13 AM »
Mainly because I don't want to keep up-to-date with all the EPUB and MOBI requirements and other boring crap, and I have better things to do than manually making TOCs and hauling files through different pieces of software. Yes, I can spend time to figure out how to do it. But I hate it.

And when there is an issue with the formatting of any of my books, like when Amazon complains about some inane thing that's just dumb and "needs to be fixed", I just kick the ball to someone else. Seriously, I hate that [crap] and don't have time for it.

Your books: the first paragraph of the chapter should not be indented. The table of contents should go after the title page. Your chapter titles are not clickable, so does the TOC work? I doubt it.

I don't understand the argument.  "EPUB and MOBI requirements"?  I have no idea what those are.  They don't stop me from uploading/publishing books.

As for your last paragraph about the OP's chapter titles....   they certainly look "clickable" to me.  Why do you assume the TOC doesn't work?

Edit:  I see your argument is about reverse clicking, from chapter title back to TOC.  To me that's a completely optional feature.  Honestly, I don't really know why it's a thing.  (I do it in my books because it's actually no trouble, and takes only about five extra minutes.)  But again, it's optional.  Some writers wouldn't even have a TOC at all, if it wasn't an arbitrary 'requirement.'
« Last Edit: August 13, 2017, 06:22:06 AM by Jena H »
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Re: Formatting - I don't get what the problem is
« Reply #12 on: August 13, 2017, 06:31:20 AM »
I don't understand the argument.  "EPUB and MOBI requirements"?  I have no idea what those are.  They don't stop me from uploading/publishing books.

As for your last paragraph about the OP's chapter titles....   they certainly look "clickable" to me.  Why do you assume the TOC doesn't work?

Edit:  I see your argument is about reverse clicking, from chapter title back to TOC.  To me that's a completely optional feature.  Honestly, I don't really know why it's a thing.  (I do it in my books because it's actually no trouble, and takes only about five extra minutes.)  But again, it's optional.  Some writers wouldn't even have a TOC at all, if it wasn't an arbitrary 'requirement.'

The OP asked how you can tell whether a book has been formatted by a specialist. This is how. They make full TOCs that are reverse-clickable. They make nice chapter headings, they use standard formatting procedures like the first paragraph that's not indented, with dropcaps. They will use a nice title page using SVG format and insert images that don't cause problems on older ereaders, and make sure this looks nice in EPUB2 and EPUB3 format and MOBI.

Now you may decide that it's not important, and that's up to you. But this is how you tell.

Offline TobiasRoote

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Re: Formatting - I don't get what the problem is
« Reply #13 on: August 13, 2017, 06:45:09 AM »
The OP asked how you can tell whether a book has been formatted by a specialist. This is how. They make full TOCs that are reverse-clickable. They make nice chapter headings, they use standard formatting procedures like the first paragraph that's not indented, with dropcaps. They will use a nice title page using SVG format and insert images that don't cause problems on older ereaders, and make sure this looks nice in EPUB2 and EPUB3 format and MOBI.

Now you may decide that it's not important, and that's up to you. But this is how you tell.

Actually that's not what I asked and indents, drop caps and reverse TOC and images (which add to download cost) are all great OPTIONS, but aren't a prerequisite of good formatting.   I don't see how those items can tell you if it is professionally formatted or not, which wasn't really my question.

I am interested in people's contributions to what they think represent good formatting and I'm grateful for your views. Thank you.


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Offline Jena H

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Re: Formatting - I don't get what the problem is
« Reply #14 on: August 13, 2017, 06:54:20 AM »
The OP asked how you can tell whether a book has been formatted by a specialist. This is how. They make full TOCs that are reverse-clickable. They make nice chapter headings, they use standard formatting procedures like the first paragraph that's not indented, with dropcaps. They will use a nice title page using SVG format and insert images that don't cause problems on older ereaders, and make sure this looks nice in EPUB2 and EPUB3 format and MOBI.

Now you may decide that it's not important, and that's up to you. But this is how you tell.

Actually, the OP didn't ask how you can tell a book has been professionally formatted, but why an author would have a book professionally formatted.  The things you mention (nice chapter headings, first paragraph of chapter with dropcaps, a title page using SVG format, inserted images, etc.) might be nice, but, again, they're optional.  If an author wants those things, and can't do one or more of them himself, that's why the author would hire a formatter.

Whether or not average readers really even take note of these features....  a whole different question.  As we all know, there are things that WE (authors) think are important, and obsess about, that readers don't really pay a lot of attention to.
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Re: Formatting - I don't get what the problem is
« Reply #15 on: August 13, 2017, 06:58:11 AM »
To go back to the Table of Contents, because that's the definition of an electronic TOC: a code that makes it easy to navigate a larger document. Say I finished a book and there was some awesome chapter that I wanted to re-read. It was somewhere 2/3rd into the book. I click Chapter 16 in the TOC, but once I get there, I realise it must have been several chapters later. Without a link back to the TOC I now have to page through the rest of the chapters. It was precisely this exercise that a TOC should be designed to avoid. With a link back to the TOC, I click on the chapter title, it takes me back to the TOC, then I can quickly check from there if the awesome bit was in Chapter 19.

As a reader who uses my Kindles and the Kindle app on my iPad, proper formatting for TOC purposes is important to me, but not the way you describe above, Patty.  (Though obviously, at least some people, you for example, use the feature as you describe.). I never even thought about the chapter headings/titles being clickable--and I just checked a trad pubbed book that I'm reading and the chapter title is not clickable.

When I want to back track in a book, on either my Kindle or on the Kindle app, I call up the ToC from the menu system--slightly different in the ereader vs the app--and select the chapter I want that way.

Also if the ToC is formatted appropriately, I can swipe up from the bottom on my Kindle and jump forward or backward a chapter at a time.  I know that my co-mod Ann uses this feature, though I haven't used it much.

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Offline TobiasRoote

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Re: Formatting - I don't get what the problem is
« Reply #16 on: August 13, 2017, 07:03:05 AM »


Also if the ToC is formatted appropriately, I can swipe up from the bottom on my Kindle and jump forward or backward a chapter at a time.  I know that my co-mod Ann uses this feature, though I haven't used it much.

Betsy

I just checked one of my books. It has this feature with a slider so you can whizz to whichever chapter you want. Ergo, it must be 'professionally' formatted ;)


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Re: Formatting - I don't get what the problem is
« Reply #17 on: August 13, 2017, 07:13:09 AM »
If someone began, like me, with the Smashwords formatting guide then reverse chapter clicking is one of the main things you learn there. I don't use a professional formatter, but I was forced back to Jutoh not because of epub requirements, but because of the requirements of Apple when going direct. But as Jutoh is a life-time fee of $35 for Windows, Apple, and Linux, that is no great cost. A reason for using a professional formatter is that the better ones retain a trunk full of ereaders to check the final version on. As a Kindle eInk owner I know that Patty is incorrect that you have to page through the rest of the chapters. The four way button when pressed left or right takes you to the previous chapter (so long as the internal Nav TOC is set up in the ebook). Actually as I discovered with my last book it takes you to the previous or next Header One style which led me to reformat a book that had Header One for the four sections and Header Two for the 30 or so chapters. Someone testing on an eInk would also know that drop caps courtesy of Vellum look horrible on that reader (cue professional designer's rant against automated robots taking their jobs and doing it worse). My testing trunk is limited to said eInk Wifi, Kobo Mini, and Nook HD, all of which are 2013 models.

I used to format my books in Sigil, but there is something about my pared down style that iTunes Producer does not like. I used to take Jutoh generated ebooks and fix them up in Sigil to remove the ridiculously long style names, but Jutoh now has a non-default option to abbreviate their style names. More importantly a Jutoh epub is accepted by iTunes Producer.


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Offline Betsy the Quilter

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Re: Formatting - I don't get what the problem is
« Reply #18 on: August 13, 2017, 07:32:52 AM »
I just checked one of my books. It has this feature with a slider so you can whizz to whichever chapter you want. Ergo, it must be 'professionally' formatted ;)

Don't really want to get into what makes something "professionally formatted" or not--I'm more concerned, as a Kindle user, as to whether the formatting allows me to use the features of the device I've bought. ;D The slider may be there without being fully enabled.  Some books you can slide and find chapters; but one formatted to take full advantage of the Kindle will allow one to "jump" to the beginning of a chapter by tapping on a >| or |< on either side of the slider. EDIT:  Just checked one of your books, and it does seem to be working properly....

When this feature was first introduced by Amazon, maybe a couple years ago--not all books were formatted to take advantage of it.  That may happen less often now--I just checked several books and the feature seemed to be fully enabled.

And, obviously, not everyone reads on a Kindle or using the Kindle app.  I know Patty is "wide."  I have no idea how things work for readers on the ePub side. :D

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« Last Edit: August 13, 2017, 07:37:34 AM by Betsy the Quilter »
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Offline TobiasRoote

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Re: Formatting - I don't get what the problem is
« Reply #19 on: August 13, 2017, 07:39:20 AM »
This is why people either hire the work out, buy software like Vellum, or learn to properly format a book.

This is like the CMOS attitude (Chicago Manual of Style) which is a preset opinion-based manual with 'experts' telling everyone that this is the 'only' acceptable format, when it's just what it sets out to be - a style book. Like wallpaper or house furnishings. :D :D

Indented paragraphs for me are a 'style choice' it doesn't make me unprofessional, and I'm consistent throughout all of my books with a 'set' style.  So, my readers are familiar with it.

As for the print books, well I'm not really interested in talking about them as this OP relates really to ebooks. (I do make this clear in my OP).


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Re: Formatting - I don't get what the problem is
« Reply #20 on: August 13, 2017, 07:41:34 AM »
At first reading, I thought with "formatters" you were asking about formatting programs such as Vellum instead of out-sourcing the formatting work. Apparently not given the other responses.

I am interested in people's contributions to what they think represent good formatting and I'm grateful for your views. Thank you.
1. Front matter looks professional, including typography, organization, content.
2. Centered chapter numbers and titles set off with typography. (I dislike untitled chapters; all you get in the TOC are numbers. Some of my books are that way I'm sorry to say.)
3. First paragraph, chapters and scenes, not indented, other narrative first line indented. (Different for some non-fiction formats.)
4. Scene breaks obvious. (I use * * *)
5. Justified text
6. I like drop caps on first paragraph, chapter, but only if all e-readers render them properly.
7. Pleasant default publisher's font for narrative.

I think that's about it. I don't need to hire a formatter or spend a lot of time doing my own. I use templates with styles in the word processor, and it's one click to turn the ms into an e-book that has a valid TOC and passes epub validation. The only need for mobi is for review copies where the reviewer requests that format. That's one click too.

Of course, I manually review the formatting and correct the rare glitch with Sigil. (Sometimes the TOC is misplaced in proximity to the rest of the front matter.) But I'd do that with a book formatted by a professional too.

Most of us have developed methods that work for us. The only "wrong way" would be one that publishes an unreadable or unattractive e-book.

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Re: Formatting - I don't get what the problem is
« Reply #21 on: August 13, 2017, 07:42:48 AM »
The OP asked how you can tell whether a book has been formatted by a specialist. This is how. They make full TOCs that are reverse-clickable. They make nice chapter headings, they use standard formatting procedures like the first paragraph that's not indented, with dropcaps. They will use a nice title page using SVG format and insert images that don't cause problems on older ereaders, and make sure this looks nice in EPUB2 and EPUB3 format and MOBI.

Now you may decide that it's not important, and that's up to you. But this is how you tell.

While I think the idea of making chapter titles link to the TOC is cool, it's on absolutely none of the random selection of books I just checked in my kindle. I'm pretty sure the logical TOC does away with this need, and is what most readers would use. Of course, properly formatting a logical TOC is another matter altogether.

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Offline Gentleman Zombie

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Re: Formatting - I don't get what the problem is
« Reply #22 on: August 13, 2017, 07:45:37 AM »
Well for years I've just a plain old Word Doc. I've never had any trouble. Google docs is free and has worked fine as well. I think some people type very messy documents. They also don't understand things like page breaks and chapter headings. So paying to have a book formatted makes sense.

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Re: Formatting - I don't get what the problem is
« Reply #23 on: August 13, 2017, 07:50:03 AM »
I think some people also want a specific look. I've spent a lot of time, over the years, learning how to do specific things for my books. Some people want the look, but don't want to spend the time. I totally get that.

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Offline TobiasRoote

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Re: Formatting - I don't get what the problem is
« Reply #24 on: August 13, 2017, 07:54:08 AM »

1. Front matter looks professional, including typography, organization, content.
2. Centered chapter numbers and titles set off with typography. (I dislike untitled chapters; all you get in the TOC are numbers. Some of my books are that way I'm sorry to say.)
3. First paragraph, chapters and scenes, not indented, other narrative first line indented. (Different for some non-fiction formats.)
4. Scene breaks obvious. (I use * * *)
5. Justified text
6. I like drop caps on first paragraph, chapter, but only if all e-readers render them properly.
7. Pleasant default publisher's font for narrative.

I think that's about it. I don't need to hire a formatter or spend a lot of time doing my own. I use templates with styles in the word processor, and it's one click to turn the ms into an e-book that has a valid TOC and passes epub validation. The only need for mobi is for review copies where the reviewer requests that format. That's one click too.

Most of us have developed methods that work for us. The only "wrong way" would be one that publishes an unreadable or unattractive e-book.


Thanks, and I agree with the sentiment in the last sentence. We all 'try' to find a system that works for us and the reader. I didn't think there was a 'set' format for ebooks (nor should there be), as writers we should be flexible and open-minded and part of that is developing a 'personal style' of writing. The reader will tell you quickly if something is wrong.


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