Why Fonts and Formatting Matters

Why Fonts and Formatting Matters…

Picture this, you have published your brand-new book.  You see your dashboard stats jump on the magic sales page on KDP or on the stats page of the publisher of your choice.  Then you see the reviews.  “Looks like it might have been a nice story but couldn’t finish it due to mistakes. Too hard to understand.”

And like that, your sales go down back to zero.

A while ago, I wrote about how buyers do judge a book by its cover. Readers also judge books by formatting and errors.  Getting your book to an error-free state and make it clean for publication is a task in itself.  It’s the reason that major publishers devote thousands of manhours in their editing departments.  And remember, editing is not just checking for spelling and grammar or content.  It’s making sure that the book is readable.

Fonts gone wild. Word of advice – don’t do it.

I will admit that when MS Word first came out, I had a lot of fun goofing around with fonts.  If you ever watched the Friends episode where Chandler is experimenting with fonts to help Ross make his list, it was me in 1997.  And what college student has not realized that you get more pages using a Courier New Font 12.  I am guilty of using that trick back in my college and grad school days until the teachers got wise.

A writing career is not experimentation in fonts.  That script font might look elegant to you but come off as hard to read.  A good rule is use a simple, and yes, boring font like Times New Roman or Arial.  The creativity is going to come from the words being typed in the boring font.  Not the style of lettering.

I have noticed that some writers are experimenting in using different fonts for multiple points of view.  And while I see the logic in it, I would not recommend it.  Mainly because it makes it hard to read and follow.  There are other ways to differentiate a point of view, like using a heading or changing the type of narrative.

Formatting:  Beware of your tab key and remember what your typing teacher taught you…

I learned how to type from a typing teacher who used a lead pipe to teach us the rhythm on old manual IBM typewriters with no letters.  She would slam the pipe down going: “F-F-J-J”.  You could hear her all the way in the building.  And if she caught you looking at the keyboard or the paper, or not using the return lever – you millennials out there might need to Google that – she would slam her pipe right next to you.  I learned really quickly how to type if you were going to be a secretary in the years prior to the invention of the computer.

However, that did not prepare me for the complexities of publishing.  Double spacing, column width, all of that goes out the window.  My first conversion attempts were horrifying and some of the formatting mistakes I didn’t notice because they were in the back of the novel.  It wasn’t until I started converting my novels through Scrivener that I was able to clean up the errors.  Double space and manual page breaks make great business documents or term papers but not great novels.  Formatting a novel with double spaces and manual page breaks will result in the book being cut up.

A suggestion I have for new writers, look at other Kindle authors in your genre to see the formatting styles they have used in their work.  Then practice matching it.  I would not advise reinventing the wheel in formatting.  There are templates that writers can use to format their work.  If you are a Scrivener user, there are templates available.  Other software like Pages or even Word have book templates.  I use Scrivener because I convert my books directly to MOBI format to upload to KDP.

Before releasing a book, consider going through this check list:

  • Correct Indentation
  • Block Paragraph
  • No Double Spacing
  • Proper Grammar
  • Chapter Headings
  • Proper Genre Styling

Final Thought…

As self-publishing writers, we must not fall into the trap believing that Kindle or Barnes & Noble will correct any additional pages or paragraph alignments. KDP and other publishers will show the writer what their work will look like upon publication, so I would advise every writer to take a look at the copy they provide and show it to a pre-reader to make sure it flows.  But you will have to make the corrections.  If you are not comfortable with making the changes there are services out there that will help writers. Make sure your copies are clean.

I read fan-fiction and once a writer announced she was taking one of my favorite stories and converting it to a novel. Since I loved the story, I decided to buy a copy.  The author had not removed her corrections from the tracking feature on Word, so you saw each change she made.  It made the story almost unreadable.  I used to teach customer service and one thing I learned and told my students was that one good opinion is worth five bad ones.  That’s a lot of service recovery.


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