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Our September Author Interviews--9/6 Kathleen Valenti, 9/13 David Burnsworth, 9/20 Jeri Westerson, 9/27 Frances Brody. Please join us in welcoming these authors to WWK.

September Saturday Guest Bloggers: 9/2--Anne Bannon, 9/9 WWK Bloggers, 9/16 Margaret S. Hamilton, 9/23 Kait Carson, and on 9/30 Trixie Stiletto.


“May 16, 2017 – The Women’s Fiction Writers Association (WFWA) today announced the finalists of the second annual Star Award, given to authors of published women’s fiction. Six finalists were chosen in two categories, General and Outstanding Debut. The winners of the Star Award will be announced at the WFWA Retreat in Albuquerque, New Mexico on September 23, 2017.” In the general category, WWK’s Carla Damron was one of three finalist for her novel, The Stone Necklace. Go to Carladamron.com for more information. Congratulations, Carla!

Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Warren Bull's new Lincoln mystery, Abraham Lincoln In Court & Campaign has been released. Look for the Kindle version on February 3.

Shari Randall's "Pets" will be included in Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies anthology, which will be published in 2018. In the same anthology "Rasputin," KM Rockwood's short story, will also be published. Her short story "Goldie" will be published in the Busted anthology, which will be released by Level Best Books on April 25th.

In addition, our prolific KM will have the following shorts published as well: "Sight Unseen" in Fish Out of Water, Guppie (SinC) anthology, just released, and "Making Tracks" in Passport to Murder, Bouchercon anthology, October 2017.

Margaret S. Hamilton's short story, "Once a Kappa" was published as a finalist in the Southern Writer's Magazine annual short story contest issue. Mysterical-E published her "Double Crust Corpse" in the Fall 2016 issue. "Baby Killer" will appear in the 2017 solar eclipse anthology Day of the Dark to be published this summer prior to the eclipse in August.

James M. Jackson's 4th book in the Seamus McCree series, Doubtful Relations, is now available. His novella "Low Tide at Tybee" appears February 7 as part of Lowcountry Crimes: Four Novellas, which is available for order.
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Sunday, April 3, 2016

Does Formatting Matter?

I speculated to a friend that with more people reading on electronic readers, tablets, and phones, perhaps many people are no longer bothered by wonky formatting issues. And I then wondered: would that tolerance gradually spread to printed material as well?

Effective April 13, 2016 I regain all publishing rights to BAD POLICY, my first released of the Seamus McCree series, (but chronologically second in the series . . . and therein lies a tale). The first edition of the book included some typos no one, including me, caught before publication and some stylesheet inconsistencies introduced by the editor that I was not sufficiently savvy to get straightened out. This second edition gave me a chance to take care of all those niggling annoyances (and probably an opportunity to introduce another couple of errors for eagle-eyed readers to find).

I spent more time than I probably should have trying to catch everything. The next step was to format the book for print and electronic versions. The electronic issues were annoying but not severe. For example, Kindle’s format (mobi) does not accept variable spacing between characters. That means when you have a sentence such as,
“ ’Cause I told you,” Gabriel said, “Lincoln’s Gettysburg address starts out ‘Four score and seven years ago.’ 
I either have to leave a full space between the single and double quotes (which makes it look a bit goofy, and leads to the possibility of the final quotation mark ending on the next line) or eliminate the spaces all together, making it more difficult to read (as follows):
“’Cause I told you,” Gabriel said, “Lincoln’s Gettysburg address starts out ‘Four score and seven years ago.’
When it came to the print edition, the question of “who cares” arrives full force. The answer, in this case, is that I do. . . but not quite enough to spend the money for design software like InDesign and then invest however many hours to learn to use the software. In retrospect, given how much time I wasted getting the formatting more or less correct, I might have been better off learning the software.

My first “mistake” was wanting to use AdobeGaramondPro as the font, because apparently Microsoft doesn’t want to play well with this particular font. (You ask if this refusal to play well is because Microsoft competes with Adobe. Oh, surely you jest. No gigantic corporation run by a bazillionaire would be that petty.) In Microsoft Word there is a nice little box to check to embed fonts so when you send a Word document to someone else they can read it using the fonts you chose. Great, except that when you export a Word document to PDF using Word’s software, those fonts do not embed.

I finally figured out that was the problem and found a free version of the software program novaPDF that would properly embed the fonts. But then I noticed that every so often something would happen to a paragraph that made it a line longer or shorter than it was in Word.

Arrrgggh!

I can’t tell you how many hours I spent eliminating orphans and widows, all the while maintaining the last line on the page at exactly the same place except when scene breaks caused extra white space. As hours piled on hours and my supply of wine diminished, I wondered if I was the only one who cares.

Actually, I knew I wasn’t the only one. I received a review of CABIN FEVER that took exception to the formatting because the publisher had used both indents and extra space between paragraphs—a real error in that reviewer’s eye. (And that reviewer will be happy to know I formatted the book with indents {other than the opening paragraph of a chapter or after a scene break} and no extra space between paragraphs.) His exact words on this point were:
Then there is the formatting. Traditional rules of formatting say you either indent paragraphs or you insert a blank line between them, but not both. Moreover, in fiction, readers expect indents, not spaces. I suggest, if readers let that and some other formatting anomalies bother them, they’ll miss an enjoyable reading experience.
I, too, have a sense that while layout does not change the words, it can subtly affect my feelings of enjoyment. It’s similar to my finding multiple typos or egregious grammar or punctuation errors. Those discoveries cause me to think that if the author cares so little for her story, why should I? I know that is not necessarily fair to the author, because the publisher may have introduced the issues after the author had any input. I can’t use that excuse when the author and publisher (using my Wolf’s Echo imprint) are the same person.

So question for y’all: Do you care about the layout and type used in printed books, and if you do, how much?

~ Jim

17 comments:

Warren Bull said...

I care enough to hire someone to do it for me. My efforts only show how badly I manage on my own.

Jim Jackson said...

Warren -- that, of course, might be the best answer. I suppose this problem of mine comes from a combination of control issues, thriftiness (Scots background, don't you know), and not knowing how deep the mud was until I was already up past my knees.

~ Jim

Margaret Turkevich said...

I'm overwhelmed by all this. Thanks for giving me ample warning.

KB Inglee said...

Last week I gave a truly splendid(five star)tale by a friend four stars because the formatting and editing errors drove me buggy. I know lots of readers aren't picky about this but some are and they should know.

Steve Liskow said...

I've stopped reading a few eBooks when the paragraph indent gets inconsistent, which it often does in self-pubbed work. I also tend to start skimming if a book has many long paragraphs, which I define as more than about ten lines.

Sloppy punctuation in quotes, such as the period or comma outside the closing quote, tells me someone didn't care about the work enough to do it right.

Non-readers don't think these things matter, but serious readers--which all writers should be--know that they can change meaning.

Jane Gorman said...

Formatting matters! But those problems with Garamond drive me up the wall. I still try to use it and fight with it every time.

Mary Sutton said...

I would like to say I am liberal enough to let it go, but...

I met a truly wonderful guy at Bouchercon. He was generous enough to send me a free copy of his first book since I bought the second (the series being set in a fictional town close to me).

The first book has inconsistent margins. Quite obviously amateur formatting. I couldn't read it. (Of course, then I stumbled upon the sentence that wondered if girls at Central Catholic still wore uniforms. The answer to that would be "no" because Central is an all-boys school. I stopped reading.).

Does that make me a snob? Maybe.

Oh, for all of you, I do formatting - print and ebook. My rates are very competitive (and you'd get a friends and family discount). A book of short fiction and poetry I did won an award, so just drop me a line the next time you need help...

Susan said...

Hi Jim...I think formatting matters a lot. I have had many, many people comment on formatting errors in the books they read. I have a formatter who is very fast (2 days) and amazingly reasonable on price, even for a Scotsman. If interested, contact me at my email.

KM Rockwood said...

As long as the formatting is consistent (and reasonable) for a work I don't worry about variation from a "norm." The indentation & space on your book, Jim, would not have bothered me.

However, I don't like to see "errors" or unwarranted changes in formatting throughout the work.

I worry about my own work. Most of it is professionally formatted & edited (I don't trust myself!) but I know some problems sneak through.

It's not a formatting issue, but I have a nightmare about a character named Leslie who is a black teenage boy early in a novel, but morphs into a middle aged white lady who sits on the porch knitting by Chapter 20. Hasn't happened yet, but I recognize the possibility and keep an eye out for it.

MF said...

Too many books, lately, have gone unread by me due to being printed with a font that is spider-web thin and pale. It becomes unreadable.

Shari Randall said...

Wonky formatting does pull me out of the story, as do typos and other glitches. I live in fear that anything I ever get published will have some inadvertently hilarious mistake that will make readers fling the book across the room.

Jim Jackson said...

It's good know I'm not alone about formatting and the fear of making a ridiculous mistake in my book that no one caught until it was too late and then everyone catches it.

~ Jim

Gloria Alden said...

Jim, I'm in the process of reformatting my book 7th book now to it's 6" x 9" size with the lines on the right lined up. I have three critique partners who edit my work, and I make the changes on the original letter sized double spaced copy, and then after I reformat it, I carefully go through the book again. Are there any problems with the final edition? There may be some, but not enough that anyone has ever complained. I've never read through my books after they come out, but I do skim through them and look to see if the indentations are even and other things look okay. How it turns out in a e-book version, I have no idea since I don't have an e-reader, however, both Create Space with the print book, and Kindle with the e-book,
have me go over it. Do I read it word for word on either? No, that would take too long. I think, Jim, once you've done this, being the perfectionist that you are, it will turn out perfectly fine.

Kate C. said...

I've read self-published books that had duplicate chapters and chapters missing, bits of mark-up code sprinkled throughout, multiple names for the same character. Sheesh! Motivates me to scrutinize every proof.

E. B. Davis said...

I read a lot of ARCs, which aren't yet perfected. I don't mind errors in formatting, but if the errors are in grammar or punctuation, I do mind. When I pay for a book that isn't correctly formatted, I'm peeved. So, yes--it matters!

mickibrowning.com said...

I do care. To me, a clean and well-formatted novel is the sign of a professional. While I have enjoyed stories that were less than perfectly formatted, I noticed it when I encountered the error. That popped me from the narrative that the author worked so hard to create.--never a good thing. I commend you for your diligence!

Jim Jackson said...

Kate -- That's really terrible. I am unlikely to finish something with that level of problems.

EB -- I cut ARCs a lot of slack. I know at that stage of my manuscripts I'll still have comma issues and a homonym mistake that everyone read (red) through.

Micki -- Yep if I have to go back to read something it either means I should be going to bed or there is a problem with the book.