Ever heard of putting lipstick on a pig? The inside counts, too!
By: Travis Simmons, July 9, 2014
A good book is so much more than the words on the page. As a writer, I understand the value of a great story, well developed plot, fully fleshed out characters, and a touch of mystery so the book doesn’t get predictable. As a publisher, I understand the value of a catchy cover as well. Often I make buying choices on covers alone, but don’t tell too many people. I probably have hundreds of e-books that I will never read, but bought because I love the covers. As a reader, I want the entire experience to plunge me into the story. But what is the experience of reading? It’s the story, the cover, the editing, and the formatting.
Formatting is an art, just as cover work is an art. You want your formatting to reflect the mood of the story, yet you don’t want it so flamboyant that the words are hard to read. But it’s more than that. If you are reading a book, you likely aren’t going to think “wow, that’s some great formatting!” But, if the formatting is off, paragraphs starting in different spots each time, sentences chopped off in the center, huge spaces between words, then you will notice the formatting because it breaks up the story, and causes a visual distraction. Bad formatting takes you away from the world the writer is weaving in your mind, and plunges you into a frustrating place that can leave a bad taste in your mouth for the book.
I think so many authors don’t understand the importance of professional formatting. Some of them do it themselves, which is great, some of them hire out because they’d rather spend time writing, which is fine, and still others don’t have a clue where to start, and get a headache just thinking about formatting their own work. Now, I love formatting. It’s almost like a puzzle for me to figure out. I enjoy the placement of the graphics, and making sure the words are tight and flow well. There’s a sense of accomplishment whenever I finish a work, and I can look it over and feel pride in a job well done. It also helps me know that I’m giving back to a community I love: authors and publishing.
But the main message to take with you through your publishing experience is that you are a brand now. You are an author, and people look at you as they would any other author they read. If they know you are self-published, I feel there’s a bit of judgment that goes along with that (though it’s getting better). So many first time authors will write a book, and then publish it immediately. You don’t want to do that. Why? Your name is on the book. People are going to take the reading experience, all the jumbles in formatting, all the foibles in editing, and the (possibly) slapped together cover and think this is how you’re name works. They will remember a great reading experience, but more importantly, they will remember a bad reading experience more acutely. You’ve taken a long, hard time working on your book. Make it shine. Make it look as great as any other published work, and give your readers what they really want. An epic reading experience they can take with them through all the books you’ve got lined up!
Travis Simmons is the internationally bestselling author of the zombie meets necromancer apocalypse series Infernal Designs, and the dark fantasy series The Revenant Wyrd Saga. He lives in upstate New York surrounded by pines, wildlife, family, and shares his time with his best friend, a moody German Shepard, Akita mix named Kali Mae. When he isn’t writing he enjoys reading, formatting, and learning this tricky game called publishing.