The Formatting Fiasco: Formatting Novels for Different Platforms



The Formatting Fiasco


I believe it was Thomas Edison who said “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.”  Over the years, people have inserted whatever difficult task they were after in the place of “genius.”  For me, it’s writing that is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.  Actually, I think it’s more like 109% perspiration.  And never has any writer worked harder than the independent author who self-publishes.


For those of us who do it all ourselves, we often spend as much time, and oftentimes more time, in post-writing with the formatting, editing, proofreading, creation of cover art, etc. than we do the actual writing of the novel.  For us, the creativity does not stop after the writing is done.  We still have to proofread it, edit it, rewrite parts of it, create the cover art, and the horrid, horrid job of formatting the thing for various platforms.


Herein lies The Great Formatting Fiasco.  Unfortunately for us, formatting is mostly trial and error.  After a while we get better at it, learning to always insert a page break in between chapters, the title page, the copyright notice page, and all the other important pages.  We learn which margins, font type, and font size work best for which size book.  Of course, there is always room for error, and formatting for a printed format is completely different from formatting for the Kindle format.  I’ve learned that eBook formats and Kindle formats are interchangeable, meaning that I no longer have three separate formatting files. 


One of the main problems, especially when it comes to the printed copies, is that you never really know what it is going to look like until you have forked over the money and purchased your own copy.  Then comes reformatting the files, uploading them again, and ordering yet another galley copy.  And heaven forbid you should find spelling and grammatical errors in them.  Just changing one word has the potential to throw off the printed format so much that all pages after the correction have to be reformatted.  It’s enough to make an author want to run screaming from their desk.


Checking out the formatting for Kindle editions is not as bad as having to order a half-dozen printed copies.  I don’t even own a Kindle, but I downloaded the free app from and always request a free sample of the book as soon as it becomes available.  For the most part, I can change the formatting and have the corrections uploaded before anyone has the chance to purchase one of the ‘mistakes.’  Still, since I only get a small sample, I can only hope that the rest of the novel looks as good as the first few pages.


Out of all the work that goes into producing a novel for the different platforms, I would have to say that formatting gives me the most problems, but it is also the easiest to fix, for me at least.  But I guess when you have reformatted more than 7 projects for 3 different platforms for 2 different websites, you have to get pretty good at it really quick.  If I had the luxury of taking my time, I wouldn’t get nearly as much done.  After all, novels sitting around on my computer drive aren’t going to sale if they are not formatted and ready to go.


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