Ebook Formatting Rant

Out now!

Out now!

Self-publishing is meant to be about control: you choose the cover, the content, the marketing and the final product. And mostly that’s true. But, when you publish ebooks, you have very little control over the finished article. Even with print on demand paperbacks you get some variances – I’ve had some printed beautifully and others not so hot. But at least the layout and pagination doesn’t change.

But today I spent eight hours fixing something – across all my kindle books – that possibly wasn’t even broken. I forgot to feed the kids and walk the dog. I was grumpy and horrible and teary. All because the books I downloaded to my iPad from Amazon kept losing their formatting, despite looking fine in the ‘look inside’.

I tried crazy things to fix it, like uploading the files to Smashwords and copying their mobi version to upload to KDP, rather than using an html file (Amazon’s recommendation), but that didn’t really work as Amazon and Smashwords have different formatting criteria.

It isn’t the first trauma I’ve had with formatting, particularly with my latest novel Class Act. It took 27 versions (that’s the actual number, not my usual hyperbole) before I got rid of a loose link in the epub version of Class Act which would then allow Smashwords to approve it for Premium distribution. It was a puzzle that even their tech guys couldn’t fix. And that’s just for one device. I can’t check Kindle or Kobo or Sony because I don’t have those devices. I preview online and it bears no resemblance to the downloaded version or the original.

I even bought copies of my own books today to see if that made a difference (At least I made one sale on Class Act! 🙂 ). One of them still had ‘draft’ on page one, despite the update going through days ago. Terrifying.

The worst part is the not knowing. Did 3,000 people download a free copy of Baby Blues  & Wedding Shoes and not read it because the text is all left justified and spaced out like in the version I see? When I use Kindle for PC it looks okay but how many people read on iPads like I do?

I try so hard to look professional without forking out money that I don’t have. I’d rather pay for structural editing than formatting. But if the formatting prevents people from reading, maybe that’s the wrong choice.

Anyway, I don’t know the answer, I just know it’s dampening my Hurrah that Class Act is finally live. It’s more a harrump! Now as well as praying for sales, dreading reviews and stressing over typos I have a whole new thing to worry about. Still, no one said self-publishing would be easy!

5 thoughts on “Ebook Formatting Rant

  1. Wow. Personally, I’m willing to forgive formatting errors waaay more often than editing blunders. (Even with editing I can be forgiving unless the writing is truly awful.) So, if you have to spend money somewhere, I say keep spending it on the editing.

    As for the formatting itself, what do you use for your initial document/rough draft? (Sometimes that can be the source of the problem.)

      • Ah. That makes sense. I found it was easier to use Apache Open Office for my documents. It’s designed for conversions, so there’s less problem code to deal with when it comes time to format. From what I’ve seen, I’ve never had a bad Kindle file when I use an html document created in Open Office.

        It’s totally free, too, so if you’d like to try it out, here’s the link:

        https://www.openoffice.org/

        Copying and pasting from Word, though, can be tricky, if not impossible. At least, it was when I tried it. Please let me know if you have any trouble and I’ll see what I can do to help.

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