Thursday, February 23, 2012

Formatting in Indie Books

Editing. Proofreading. Formatting.

None of those things are remotely fun or the stuff that writers want to do, but they are all absolutely crucial to the process of putting a book on the shelves, be it in brick-and-mortar stores or on the proverbial Amazon e-Shelves.

Formatting, in particular, is what I'm talking about today. Last night I went on a late-night Amazon hunt on my *amazing* Kindle Fire (seriously, if you need/want an eReader, get a Fire. I love mine.) in search of some Indie reads. I'm an Indie author and I love to share the love with other Indies. If I can pump another author, I will. I love that aspect of reading/writing/helping. However.


It took me four - count 'em - FOUR books before I found one that was formatted to have chapters start on new pages. That's all. Just a new chapter on its own new page. Sounds simple enough, right? I mean, that's what all books are supposed to have. I was twitching after the third book was a jumble of chapters and copyrights and dedications, all melded onto one page with no true beginning or end. It was uncanny.

It made me sad.

Writers, I call out to you! Formatting your book - I'm not talking drop caps and the like, just the simple chapter starting on a new page - is NOT hard. Yes, it takes time. But...that being said, I am not alone when I say if I download a sample and can't figure out where one chapter ends and another begins, I won't buy the book. You could have the BEST book. You could have the next Harry Potter or Twilight or whatever the next craze will be, but if it's not formatted correctly, that means I as a reader have to pull away from the story to figure out what's going on. That takes away from your writing. It takes away from the story. You're effectively taking readers away from what they should be focusing on - your characters, plot, etc., and making them try to figure out what's going on.

Not cool.

Now, I'm completely aware that we Indies (and a lot of traditionally pubbed, too), aren't striking it rich. Believe me, I know. I see my Kindle Direct reports. :) But that doesn't mean we shouldn't take pride in our work. That we shouldn't make it as professional as possible.

You don't have to be a whiz to format your book. You don't have to pay a ton to format your book. Does knowing HTML help? Could you pay out the nose to format? Sure, but before my husband learned HTML (he formats my books - God love him.), I simply formatted my books in Word. I'm broke. I can't pay for formatting when I am buying formula for my son. Things like not tabbing in and instead indenting with the ruler, page breaking instead of hard returns to the next page, etc. are what will make a confusing myriad of words and chapters become a more professional looking work. It's really that simple. And that extra hour you spend doing that could earn you downloads. I'm serious.

I won't drop names of books, but the three books I sampled before finding one with chapters starting on their own pages (I didn't even look at editing/proofreading/anything else. Just chapters. Call me OCD) are all within the top 1,000 paid books on Amazon. Now I know that's a small sampling of what's out there, and I'm quite positive that there are many more books that don't have that issue. I'm simply putting it out there: as an Indie author, we have to strive to be above the traditional bar to be noticed. We're already fighting a long-standing stigma, so we should try to make it as easy on ourselves as possible. Indies are starting to become more respected, and taking the time to properly format our books make us look that much more like a traditionally published eBook.

I guess what I'm trying to say is this: take pride in the book you've worked so hard to create. Take pride in the fact that you've written a BOOK. You. Wrote. A. Book. Not many people can say that. Now do what you can to make it the very best possible. That starts with the formatting, the editing, the proofreading. It all comes down to the substance. Make your book shine. Make it legitimate. If you can do those things, readers will come. Word of mouth starts. You'll see the downloads come in.

And it all starts with pride.

And a chapter starting on a new page, if you're OCD like me. :)

*If you've read this far, please, leave a comment and let me know if you'd be interested in me posting some how-to's on simple formatting and what not. I'd be happy to do so if there's enough interest! I'm all about passing on knowledge where I may just have something to offer. :)*


  1. Great job Megan. I agree with you about formatting. I've met a lot of people that are intimidated with the formatting aspect of the book. Maybe you can do a post about putting the book into HTML (I know how). I'm sure some reader or fellow writer would like to know or refresh their memory. They can print it off for future reference. :)

  2. Amen, Megan! This is an awesome post. My tech-geek husband also formats my books (as you said, God love him). What he did after going through BECOMING that first time was have me write my books in an already formatted version of the Word doc (a template, if you will) so that the bulk of the formatting is done as I go along. Granted, it isn't the only formatting that has to be done before publishing, but it saves a bit of time, anyway!

  3. Heya¡­my very first comment on your site. ,I have been reading your blog for a while and thought I would completely pop in

    Appear fervent about it. I’m developing a fresh blog plus I’m struggling to make it look good, as well as offer the best

    quality content. I have learned much at your web site and also I anticipate alot more articles and will be coming back

    soon. Thanks you.

    Journal Editing and Formatting Service