Author Topic: Formatting - I don't get what the problem is  (Read 4013 times)  

Online TobiasRoote

  • Status: Jane Austen
  • ***
  • Posts: 251
  • Gender: Male
  • Greece
    • View Profile
Re: Formatting - I don't get what the problem is
« Reply #25 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.


Tobias Roote | Website | Facebook

Offline Don DeBon

  • Status: Madeleine L'Engle
  • **
  • Posts: 84
    • View Profile
    • Don's Writing Corner
Re: Formatting - I don't get what the problem is
« Reply #26 on: August 13, 2017, 07:58:18 AM »
Formatting is important to be sure.  And I think authors can do it themselves, IF they have the time and interest in doing so.  Many do not and prefer to "write".  I admit it can be confusing if all you know how to do (or want to do) is click the icon on your desktop to fire up your favorite word processor and load your WIP.  It is all about choices, and it is nice these days that we do HAVE that choice.

With regard to the TOC and back links, while helpful I have only seen one book I have purchased with them.  The only place I have seen them are magazines where they have the sections in the TOC for types of articles in the issue, then links at the top of each section to the different stories in that section.  In that case they are very helpful.  But in a general book, I have always hit the TOC button then jump to where I want.  But then again I never encountered books with reverse links, so perhaps I am spoiled.  Oh by the way, some e-readers will remember where you jumped from.  If you hit the back button you return there.  Depends on the e-reader of course.  What I tend to do is create a bookmark before I start jumping around (which I tend to do in magazines).  Far easier to find my exact spot later on.

Don DeBon | Website | Twitter | Google+

Online TobiasRoote

  • Status: Jane Austen
  • ***
  • Posts: 251
  • Gender: Male
  • Greece
    • View Profile
Re: Formatting - I don't get what the problem is
« Reply #27 on: August 13, 2017, 07:59:45 AM »
I get a fair few books with the first few words in a different font, bold or in an unusual colour which renders grey and unreadable on my kindles. Same with drop caps - they are mostly an inconvenience when reading. I've adapted my chapter headings as time has gone on and I've seen what I liked in other ebooks and copied it. Most of my readers are mature (like me) and we like our text clear and without fuzzy edges. I love new ideas and regularly check to see if they work for me especially if they make my books 'look' more appealing. However, to me there is always a trade-off between fashion, style and readability. I try and balance them all.


Tobias Roote | Website | Facebook

Offline Rinelle Grey

  • Status: Scheherazade
  • *****
  • Posts: 1916
  • Gender: Female
  • Brisbane, Australia
    • View Profile
Re: Formatting - I don't get what the problem is
« Reply #28 on: August 13, 2017, 07:59:54 AM »
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.)

See, that's something you can fix if you know how to format/hire a professional formatted. It's easy to edit the TOC to have chapter titles while the chapters themselves just have numbers.

For me, the biggest reason to format using something other than word is seeing the 'bloat' word adds into the code of an ebook. Seriously, the code is often longer than the text of the ebook itself. Obviously users don't see any of that, but I know it's there! (And it probably adds to the size of the file, though I've never tested that.)

Feel good romance with a touch of magic.
Rinelle grey | Website | Facebook | Twitter

Online TobiasRoote

  • Status: Jane Austen
  • ***
  • Posts: 251
  • Gender: Male
  • Greece
    • View Profile
Re: Formatting - I don't get what the problem is
« Reply #29 on: August 13, 2017, 08:08:53 AM »
For me, the biggest reason to format using something other than word is seeing the 'bloat' word adds into the code of an ebook.

Can you give me an example section that I can look at? I'm interested in what you mean and what I can do about it.


ps, not that I use word. I use Jutoh, but it would be good to look at your context.


Tobias Roote | Website | Facebook

Offline Decon

  • Status: A A Milne
  • ******
  • Posts: 4227
    • View Profile
    • Declan Conner, Blog
Re: Formatting - I don't get what the problem is
« Reply #30 on: August 13, 2017, 08:09:04 AM »
I can paint and decorate. I can also garden. I do neither at my age, because I have better things to do with my precious time and so I pay someone for those tasks.

It's the same with some people who use my services for formatting, disregarding age. Either that or they've tried it and messed up, with Amazon sending them a quality notice.

I used to own stores that sold electical goods and I could easily set up TV & videos. I also had a cell phone with a battery like a brick and you only used it to make calls. Now I don't even have one  and what they can do staggers me and I wouldn't know where to start with using them. Luckily I can format. Some people just can't, or don't want to get to grips with it. 

« Last Edit: August 13, 2017, 08:13:16 AM by Decon »


Girl at the Window: sample chapters for nomination on Kindle Scout.
Declan Conner | blog

Offline kathrynoh

  • Status: Arthur C Clarke
  • *****
  • Posts: 2322
  • Gender: Female
  • Melbourne, Australia
    • View Profile
    • Kathryn O'Halloran
Re: Formatting - I don't get what the problem is
« Reply #31 on: August 13, 2017, 08:11:02 AM »
I've bought books from Amazon that are unreadable because of the formatting. Things like random chapters being right justified or going into a narrow column. I report it so that Amazon can let the author know. In cases like that, the author is probably better off letting someone else do the formatting.

Online TobiasRoote

  • Status: Jane Austen
  • ***
  • Posts: 251
  • Gender: Male
  • Greece
    • View Profile
Re: Formatting - I don't get what the problem is
« Reply #32 on: August 13, 2017, 08:12:08 AM »

.....It's the same with some people who use my services for formatting, disregarding age. Either that or they've tried it and messed up, with Amazon sending them a quality notice.


.......Luckily I can format. Some people just can't, or don't want to get to grips with it. 

I think you probably provide an outstanding service and nothing in my OP or comments suggest that the professional formatting establishment are not required. If I've implied otherwise, please accept my apologies.


Tobias Roote | Website | Facebook

Offline Decon

  • Status: A A Milne
  • ******
  • Posts: 4227
    • View Profile
    • Declan Conner, Blog
Re: Formatting - I don't get what the problem is
« Reply #33 on: August 13, 2017, 08:15:21 AM »
I think you probably provide an outstanding service and nothing in my OP or comments suggest that the professional formatting establishment are not required. If I've implied otherwise, please accept my apologies.

No, not at all, aploigies not needed. Just giving reasons that people tell me that they prefer to use services.


Girl at the Window: sample chapters for nomination on Kindle Scout.
Declan Conner | blog

Offline paranormal_kitty

  • Status: Lewis Carroll
  • **
  • Posts: 228
    • View Profile
Re: Formatting - I don't get what the problem is
« Reply #34 on: August 13, 2017, 08:35:33 AM »
Depends on what kind of book you're doing. A fiction book is easy to format, but something like an illustrated children's book or a nonfiction with tons of charts and graphs can be more difficult to format as an e-book than as a print book. Some people are very computer-illiterate too. If you've typed your document doing things like using a space bar to center or indent, then your document will be a mess.
« Last Edit: August 13, 2017, 09:25:22 AM by paranormal_kitty »

Offline Word Fan

  • Status: Scheherazade
  • *****
  • Posts: 1159
  • Gender: Female
    • View Profile
Re: Formatting - I don't get what the problem is
« Reply #35 on: August 13, 2017, 09:34:06 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 drop caps. They will use a nice title page using SVG format and insert images that don't cause problems on older e-readers, 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.

No. Those are ways that one can tell that the book was formatted for a particular (perhaps fussy) customer. The only things in your list above that are "standard" are:

> full TOC's that are linked to the chapter headings.
> images that don't cause problems on older e-readers.
> the file looks nice in EPUB2, EPUB3, and MOBI formats.

Everything else in your list is optional.

There are other things that some, or all, retailers want (Amazon wants the Paged Table of Contents to be at, or very near, the front of the book, for example.) but, of the things that you listed, everything other than those three are absolutely not standard.

And, yeah, you might come back and say that you'll never read books that don't have all of what you said, and that's fine. But you will be in a small minority of readers.

Offline Mercia McMahon

  • Status: Dostoevsky
  • ******
  • Posts: 3337
  • Gender: Female
  • London
    • View Profile
    • Mercia McMahon
Re: Formatting - I don't get what the problem is
« Reply #36 on: August 13, 2017, 09:44:15 AM »
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.

I assume that this is the same as the four way button on the later eInk Kindles. In that case the books that work simply use Header One style for chapter headings (a standard practice) and those on which it doesn't don't.


Mercia McMahon | Author Site | Publishing Site | Pinterest

Offline Betsy the Quilter

  • To paraphrase Bill Murray in Groundhog Day: "I'm a goddess; not THE Goddess. I don't think."
  • Administrator
  • Status: Shakespeare
  • *****
  • Posts: 62812
  • Gender: Female
  • Alexandria, VA
  • Love all, moderate all, to quote my friend Harvey
    • View Profile
    • Betsy True Designs
Re: Formatting - I don't get what the problem is
« Reply #37 on: August 13, 2017, 10:04:26 AM »
I assume that this is the same as the four way button on the later eInk Kindles. In that case the books that work simply use Header One style for chapter headings (a standard practice) and those on which it doesn't don't.

Later eInk Kindles? I haven't had a four way button in years--the Paperwhite, the Voyage and the Oasis don't have them...  but yes, I think you're right. The four way button does/did the same thing.

Thanks for the tech-behind-the-curtain!  Learn something every day...

Betsy
Goodreads Goal -- 75 books


Joined 10/27/2008  | Miss you, Harvey, Jeff & Dona!
Harvey Chute (1962-2015), KB Founder

Proud Owner: Oasis/Voyage/Touch/Basic/K1/Fire HDX
Betsy True Designs Facebook | My Store

Offline Doglover

  • Status: Dostoevsky
  • ******
  • Posts: 3676
  • Gender: Female
  • Huntingdon, United Kingdom
  • If you want real love, buy a dog.
    • View Profile
    • Margaret Brazear Author
Re: Formatting - I don't get what the problem is
« Reply #38 on: August 13, 2017, 10:16:07 AM »
The reader will tell you quickly if something is wrong.
They certainly will. But, although it's no mystery to you and me and many others, I have seen e-books formatting by someone who thinks they are still using a typewriter and that they have to use the carriage return after every line. The result of that is a complete mess. I am a do-it-yourselfer and I prefer to do everything for myself if I possibly can, which is another reason I love kdp so much. I don't need to rely on anyone but myself. But then you have authors who outsource absolutely everything. Each to his own.


The past is another country; they do things differently there
Margaret Brazear | Website | Blog | Facebook | Readers Group | Comic Covers

Offline Piano Jenny

  • Status: Lewis Carroll
  • **
  • Posts: 238
  • Gender: Female
    • View Profile
Re: Formatting - I don't get what the problem is
« Reply #39 on: August 13, 2017, 10:18:35 AM »
If it makes the OP feel any better, I've wondered the exact same thing myself. People "learning how to format," being annoyed with having to format, hiring someone to format ... I don't get it. I run it through D2D, which is free and takes almost no time. It looks nice to me, I've never had any complaints from ARC readers or reviewers. Maybe I'm missing something, but so far it hasn't been a problem.

Formatting for paperback, however, is a whole different ballgame that makes me yell obscenities every time.

Professional Pianist and Author
Jennifer McCoy Blaske | Website

Offline Doglover

  • Status: Dostoevsky
  • ******
  • Posts: 3676
  • Gender: Female
  • Huntingdon, United Kingdom
  • If you want real love, buy a dog.
    • View Profile
    • Margaret Brazear Author
Re: Formatting - I don't get what the problem is
« Reply #40 on: August 13, 2017, 10:25:37 AM »
If it makes the OP feel any better, I've wondered the exact same thing myself. People "learning how to format," being annoyed with having to format, hiring someone to format ... I don't get it. I run it through D2D, which is free and takes almost no time. It looks nice to me, I've never had any complaints from ARC readers or reviewers. Maybe I'm missing something, but so far it hasn't been a problem.

Formatting for paperback, however, is a whole different ballgame that makes me yell obscenities every time.
Once I was told a few home truths by Word experts on here and discovered it was Word that was screwing up my formatting for paperback, not Createspace or kdp, It was almost as easy as the e-book. PM me if I can help.


The past is another country; they do things differently there
Margaret Brazear | Website | Blog | Facebook | Readers Group | Comic Covers

Offline Monique

  • Status: Isaac Asimov
  • ********
  • Posts: 10905
  • Gender: Female
  • California
    • View Profile
    • Written by Monique
Re: Formatting - I don't get what the problem is
« Reply #41 on: August 13, 2017, 10:57:34 AM »
Some people are intimidated by the process.
Some people have been told they need a formatter.
Some people just like to outsource anything non-writing.
Some people prefer to have a professional touch each step of the process.
Some people have been doing it that way since they started and are slow to change.
Some people don't know about the tools available to make it easy to format.
Some people like fancy things that they themselves are not comfortable trying to do.
etc, etc.

Lots of reasons.


Monique Martin | author website | facebook | twitter

Offline she-la-ti-da

  • Status: Edgar Allan Poe
  • *******
  • Posts: 5668
  • in the bunker
    • View Profile
Re: Formatting - I don't get what the problem is
« Reply #42 on: August 13, 2017, 12:43:36 PM »
Some people are intimidated by the process.
Some people have been told they need a formatter.
Some people just like to outsource anything non-writing.
Some people prefer to have a professional touch each step of the process.
Some people have been doing it that way since they started and are slow to change.
Some people don't know about the tools available to make it easy to format.
Some people like fancy things that they themselves are not comfortable trying to do.
etc, etc.

Lots of reasons.



Um. Yeah. What's the problem with that? I guess I'm out of some loop, because I haven't seen anything about anyone having issues if someone hires a formatter or not. Do what you want. Allow others to do the same.
Queen of Procrasti Nation

Genres: speculative fiction under main pen name.




Offline C. Gockel

  • Status: Dostoevsky
  • ******
  • Posts: 3780
  • Chicago, IL
    • View Profile
Re: Formatting - I don't get what the problem is
« Reply #43 on: August 13, 2017, 12:53:54 PM »
To the OP ... your book actually breaks formatting conventions for fiction. The first paragraph of every chapter and section isn't supposed to be indented. That's one of those things that you can fix in Word with a style sheet. But it is a pain in the butt, and making sure it was all correct used to take me an hour to hours plural with compilations. It's not something I even have to worry about with Vellum. It's automatic. I've already made back the price of the software in time saved.

Sure you *can* do it with Word, but why?


I write books about Change, Chaos, and Loki
C. Gockel | facebook | tumblr | website

Offline Evenstar

  • Moderator
  • Status: A A Milne
  • *****
  • Posts: 4232
  • Gender: Female
  • Bristol, UK
  • YA and PNR
    • View Profile
    • Author Website
Re: Formatting - I don't get what the problem is
« Reply #44 on: August 13, 2017, 01:44:55 PM »
To the OP ... your book actually breaks formatting conventions for fiction. The first paragraph of every chapter and section isn't supposed to be indented. That's one of those things that you can fix in Word with a style sheet. But it is a pain in the butt, and making sure it was all correct used to take me an hour to hours plural with compilations. It's not something I even have to worry about with Vellum. It's automatic. I've already made back the price of the software in time saved.

Sure you *can* do it with Word, but why?

Because PC users can't get Vellum (sob sob)

Offline Al Stevens

  • Status: Scheherazade
  • *****
  • Posts: 1811
    • View Profile
Re: Formatting - I don't get what the problem is
« Reply #45 on: August 13, 2017, 02:15:17 PM »
Sure you *can* do it with Word, but why?
Why not? Once you've got the template and styles set up, something that's done only once no matter how many books you write, it's mostly automatic.

You type mostly. You assign the occasional style to what you're typing. You start with a chapter heading style. The WP "knows" the next paragraph will be the first paragraph of a chapter. How does it know that? It's built into the style. Press Enter and the style changes to the next appropriate one. You might not even see it happen. The WP "knows" the paragraph after that and all the others until you select a change will be body text. New scene? Select the scene breaker style. The WP "knows" the next paragraph will be the first paragraph for a scene. And so on.

It's really easy and you don't have to buy a Mac (ducking).

I understand that some writers don't want to go even that deep (shallow) into the formatting waters. Those writers are better off with something like Vellum or with having the work out-sourced. Their readers are better off too.

Offline ellenoc

  • Status: Dostoevsky
  • ******
  • Posts: 3619
  • Gender: Female
  • Colorado
  • Mystery and romance
    • View Profile
    • Ellen O'Connell
Re: Formatting - I don't get what the problem is
« Reply #46 on: August 13, 2017, 02:55:19 PM »
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.

I've only come across a very few book with this feature, and I hate it. In books like that (and ones with links in other places on the page), touching the screen often takes you from your place to somewhere you didn't mean and don't want to go. It's not a sign of good formatting to me, but of someone throwing in an extra without thinking about how it works for a real reader.

The [lack of] formatting I've been seeing lately in enough books to be aggravating is in dialog where dialog from two speakers runs together in one paragraph, like this:

"Good formatting shouldn't aggravate the reader.""I don't know. I like features thrown in for no purpose but to impress."

IMO ebooks ought to get a final proofreading on a screen before publishing to catch things like that.

I put out books through Smashwords and had to follow their rules to produce a Word document, and I never liked the look of those books. Sure they were readable, but compared to what I could format via html and Mobi Creator, IMO they were so plain they looked cheap to me. A line of asterisks to separate anything from anything has that effect on me. Maybe you Word fans can do better, and maybe things are better now than 2010 in that regard. I don't care. I'm glad to be done with SW and formatting in Word. I'm not a Mac person, but I'd buy another one of the things if it was the only way to avoid it.

Offline Gessert Books

  • Status: Arthur Conan Doyle
  • ****
  • Posts: 584
  • Gender: Male
  • Amarillo, Texas
  • Book Layout and Formatting by Phillip Gessert
    • View Profile
    • Gessert Books: Book Layout and Formatting
Re: Formatting - I don't get what the problem is
« Reply #47 on: August 13, 2017, 03:24:01 PM »
I have always thought that clicking a chapter title link and landing anywhere but the start of that chapter is counter-intuitive. I think that usually people expect link labels to reflect link destination.

Offline Don DeBon

  • Status: Madeleine L'Engle
  • **
  • Posts: 84
    • View Profile
    • Don's Writing Corner
Re: Formatting - I don't get what the problem is
« Reply #48 on: August 13, 2017, 05:00:34 PM »
*snip*
I put out books through Smashwords and had to follow their rules to produce a Word document, and I never liked the look of those books. Sure they were readable, but compared to what I could format via html and Mobi Creator, IMO they were so plain they looked cheap to me. A line of asterisks to separate anything from anything has that effect on me. Maybe you Word fans can do better, and maybe things are better now than 2010 in that regard. I don't care. I'm glad to be done with SW and formatting in Word. I'm not a Mac person, but I'd buy another one of the things if it was the only way to avoid it.
As a side note, you CAN submit a formatted epub to Smashwords instead of the formatted Word document.  I liked this better as I wasn't too fond of their final product.  The downside is the book is only available in epub instead of all the formats Smashwords offers.  But then again all those formats are only available on the Smashwords site itself, they only distribute the epub version.  And how many sales happen on the Smashwords site?  Not many is my bet.  Heck, many people these days won't side load.  It's so simple, but they won't do it even for a free book.  Unless there is a app that will do it for them, or they can do it via a web browser.

Don DeBon | Website | Twitter | Google+

Online TobiasRoote

  • Status: Jane Austen
  • ***
  • Posts: 251
  • Gender: Male
  • Greece
    • View Profile
Re: Formatting - I don't get what the problem is
« Reply #49 on: August 13, 2017, 09:47:44 PM »
To the OP ... your book actually breaks formatting conventions for fiction. The first paragraph of every chapter and section isn't supposed to be indented.

I don't get why this is such a big deal. It happens in EVERY one of my books and EVERY one of my chapters. Yes, I can easily set the configuration up to do Header 1, Normal, Normal indented, and get the desired result. I should point out that in four years of writing this is the first time it has been mentioned. That it has been mentioned by writers and not the many thousands of readers out there is perhaps indicative of entrenched thinking in the industry. When someone says 'you're breaking formatting conventions' I'm thinking "Oh good, that means I'm not doing the same old sh&t that everyone else is doing."

While we're critiquing my books (not the OP question, but what the hell) I also leave a very small gap between paragraphs because personally I like a tiny separation to help me visually. One thing I can't abide is a mass of text on the page that looks like a wall. So, I construct very small differences into each paragraph to help break it up. It's hardly noticeable, but older readers especially have problems with sight, focus and concentration. I think it helps and it has become 'my style' so for me it is convention to format my books in this way.

So getting back on track with the OP, I appreciate your input and hopefully people reading this will be able to make up their own minds. For me I'm still wondering about what the problem is?



Tobias Roote | Website | Facebook