Now that I own a Kindle, I bought myself the latest Wallander novel by Henning Mankell.  The book is a big disappointment, but one of the things that irritates me most as I read has nothing to do with Mankell.  It's the nasty habit this particular electronic version has of centering text on the page and leaving large spaces between paragraphs.  In dialogue sections, each speech acts as its own paragraph. All are centered and spaced widely apart. And all short lines are centered.

 

Clearly that is a poorly formatted novel, and in this case, the formatting was done by one of the big publishing houses.

 

How common is poor formatting in your reading?

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Poor formatting is quite common in books from traditional publishers.  I worked to learn formatting with a fellow novelist, and we are always commenting about the junkiness of book formatting from big-name publishers.  Once you know how to do it (and it is fairly difficult to learn, but it can be done using online help such as CJ's Easy as Pie), you marvel at how crappy most formatting is.  It really isn't THAT difficult. If I can do this stuff better than someone formatting for Random House, there is a real problem.

I pay for my formatting.  The novels that went through my agency and were supposedly formatted by someone at Amazon had innumerable problems and glitches in them, forcing me to proof them as much as 6 times before they looked decent.  Very time consuming.  On the whole, paying someone is better.

I can't argue with that.  I had a lot of unpublished material that I thought was good to go, so I was able to devote a month or so, off and on, to learning formatting.  These people who blithely say "Oh, you can learn formatting in an hour," are way off base. It takes time, but you expect formatting professionals to put in the time. Formatting professionals hired by publishing houses should be at least as competent as I am. My novels may not be perfect, but my formatting is, at least on Amazon, because I do it all myself.  When I publish through Smashwords, I'm at the mercy of the "meatgrinder," but the books still come out looking reasonably good.

Yes, Smashwords is something else.  I have to pay extra for that formatting.  But since I've yet to see any money from that direction, I'm passing on Smashwords.  In fact, B&N may also be only marginal.

I've actually formatted only two of my books that are up for sale now: the novel Grace Humiston and the Vanishing and the self-help book Finnegan's Way: The Secret Power of Doing Things Badly.  I didn't format my novel Pay Here, which was published by Point Blank Press.  And, as much as I brag about my formatting, I'm now having a glitch trying to insert a photo into an article I'm going to publish on Amazon.  Nobody's perfect!

:)  You have my admiration!  I struggle anew every time I work on a cover, and have horrid problems getting images on various sites.  You'd think one method would fit all.

I have to question how common poor formatting among big publishers might be. I read extensively on Kindle and a Kobo ereader. I read maybe 20-25 books between the two last year, and a similar number the year before.

I have yet to run into any annoying formatting.

OK.  I made a wild assumption.  After all Mankell is a bestselling author.  It appears this e-book was published by New Press.  It doesn't seem to be a big publisher, though W.W.Norton  is mentioned as distributor. Apparently they are non-profit. (operating "in the public interest rather than for private gain")  Very strange.  Who knew?  But it's still lousy formatting and I paid for the thing.

Still, there have been rumors about poor formatting by the big houses.

I'm sure there are formatting issues out there, just as one does occasionally run into typos or misspellings in legacy publishing...I've just not run into them, except for one or two self-published books I bought as favors. Even those were minor issues.

I would think that right now, with so many formats out there, formatting would be the greatest technical challenge.

As I said, I have only realized income from Amazon so far.  I'm not terribly motivated to go anyplace else.

And I've just checked a newly formatted file and must say my formatters are fantastic!  Ask me if you need a name.

The typos are mine.

The formatting issues with major publishers are not necessarily things that jump out at you unless you are paying attention.  Sometimes they just amount to sloppiness, or formatting that isn't as good as it should be.  For instance, there will be inexplicable breaks in a narrative. It's not like there is html coding left on the page (though I've seen that). However, I recently read a re-issued hard-boiled novel from a reputable publisher, and it was obvious that some words had been scanned incorrectly from the original and not corrected in the proofreading. That shouldn't happen. It's time-consuming to do the proofreading, I know. Working with the estate of hardboiled mystery writer Dan Marlowe, I had three of his novels scanned, then--working with his agent--I proofread the books.  Then I formatted them, and uploaded them. A long, long process, but we got the books right in the end. By the way, when I mentioned "Random House" in an earlier post, it was simply a reference to the name of a typical big publisher.  I can't specifically recall any formatting issues I've noticed in Random House books.

Fortunately, I have not noticed this with the many Kindle books I have bought (including many in the PD). But when I do, it is eye-gouging time. 

Although time consuming, I have found that proof-reading my WIP on the Kindle has helped me uncover numerous typos, etc., that escaped my eye in the word processor, and also let me consider the effectiveness of the book's layout. 

John

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