The Fifth Error of Self-Publishing: Formatting Errors

If we avoid the first four errors of self-publishing (poor content, cover, title, and editing), we can still ruin our hard work with formatting errors. Just because a book looks good in Microsoft Word, doesn’t mean it’s going to convert nicely to an e-book. Even one conversion error will lower a reader’s esteem for our work; numerous ones will cause them to stop reading altogether.Formatting Errors: The 5th Error of Self-Publishing

Here are some formatting errors I’ve encountered with books. These mostly relate to e-books, but I’ve also seen some of them in printed books:

  • Missing paragraph indents: A new paragraph is not indented but is flush left.
  • Errant paragraph marks: A new paragraph starts mid-sentence.
  • Inconsistent paragraphs spacing: Some paragraphs have no space between them, while others have a full line—or more— between them.
  • Hyphenation problems: A hyphenated word appears in the middle of the line, instead of at the end. Sometimes there is a space after the hyphen.
  • Random font point variations: A sentence, phrase, word, or even letter is larger or smaller than the rest of the text around it.

Many of these formatting errors are more noticeable as we resize text in a reader. Regardless of how careful the file conversion is, we must read (not scan) the converted file to find mistakes. I’ve also noticed a disproportionate number of errors towards the end of books, suggesting that people stopped checking or got in a rush as they neared the end.We must read (not scan) the converted file to find mistakes Click To Tweet

Converting a file is tricky and checking the results is tedious, but these are critical steps if we are to produce a quality product with not formatting errors.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

4 thoughts on “The Fifth Error of Self-Publishing: Formatting Errors”

    1. Patricia, I’m still working on figuring that one out!

      For e-books, one trick is to change the font size and review the entire book in different size fonts. What make look great in one font size will expose a formatting issue when viewed with a different sized font.

      And you can try viewing the book on different devices or software simulations of different devices.

      For print books, I certainly hope that what I see in my test copy will be the same as what everyone else sees.

  1. Problem I run into is that book may look good in preview but you don’t know how they will look in different readers. How do you handle that? I’ve seen ebooks by traditional publishers where there were conversion problems.

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