More On The Formatting Debate

The Red launch blog tour continues today over at Kristen Lamb’s place where I’m talking about how the warning implicit in the tale of Red Riding Hood applies to social media.

So earlier this week I received a comment in the moderation queue of my blog on my Self Publishing Is Not Hard post, where I, quite obviously, state that self publishing is not hard.  This comment, which I chose not to approve because I found it contentious and, quite frankly, rude, basically accused me of perpetuating a fallacy.  I was ordered to “…stop putting about misinformation that it is easy, start admitting that it needs a little programming and say that it can be done if enough time, effort and attention to detail are expended.”

I thought a while about whether I wanted to respond to this or not.  And yep, I’m still annoyed, so here I am.

Nowhere did I ever say that self-publishing (by which we really mean formatting stuff for self-publishing) requires no work.  I never said it didn’t require programming.  I never said it didn’t require effort.

What I said is that IT IS NOT HARD. 

And by God, I stand by that statement.  It ISN’T hard.

What it requires is that people actually do something really freaking radical and READ AND FOLLOW DIRECTIONS (not something the general public is great at if my students are anything to go by).  If people screw things up because they were lazy sods who couldn’t be bothered to READ SOMETHING and educate themselves, that does not make the process hard.  That makes them lazy.

There are tutorials all over the place.  I’ve written several myself.  To recap those:

The very best FIRST STOP resource is the Smashwords Style Guide, provided by Smashwords founder Mark Coker (who is da bomb) for free on the website here.

Start there, read it from cover to virtual cover, and you will learn all the things you, as a writer and word processor user, are doing wrong on the front end (which will save you a lot of time on the back end for future projects), and how to fix it. Which then leaves your book in nifty shape to move on to the Kindle and Nook versions, which I explain in great detail how to do here for Kindle and here for Nook.

There are very CLEAR and SIMPLE, STEP by STEP instructions for every single point in this process.  All you have to do is READ and APPLY THEM.  Does this process require attention to detail and some effort proofreading and checking things.  Hell yes.  You should take enough pride in your work that you make that effort to make sure that you’re putting out a product that doesn’t look like a 3 year old’s scribbles with bathtub chalk.

But I’m right back to the beginning that it IS NOT HARD.

Now, this particular gentleman evidently reads a lot of non-fiction with charts and navigation that simply don’t exist in fiction.   I can’t speak to how easy it is to format those other things.  I’ve not done it.  But I’m sure there is some equally helpful individual out there who has done it and has written a clear tutorial explaining how to do that as well (and now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure there are detailed instructions in the Smashwords Style Guide referenced above).  Regarding internal navigation–Table of Contents are a ridiculous thing to have in a fiction ebook.  Normal fiction books don’t have TOC.  Why should ebooks?  It annoys the mess out of me as a reader when there’s this multipage TOC I have to navigate past to get to the frigging book.

All I can assume is that this guy and others out there like him who believe I’m telling lies are of the school that anything that requires you to read the instructions first is hard.  I don’t know at what point this moved beyond a sexist thing that we make man jokes about and into the realm of normal for LOTS of people of both genders.  But I’m inclined to think that if you’re not willing to read the instructions, you have no business publishing anything in the first place and deserve to settle at the bottom of the muckpile reserved for the poorly formatted.

8 thoughts on “More On The Formatting Debate

  1. If a person reads the Smashwords Style Guide, that should give them everything they need to know about formatting. This little book goes into detail about everything. And if you can format well enough to please Smashwords for their premium catalog, Amazon is a cinch. That doesn’t mean errors won’t be made. We’re all human. But I agree that formatting is NOT hard.

    I’m actually thinking about doing a cookbook of some of my original recipes. That will be even more of a challenge than writing fiction, especially if I do pictures. And I actually look forward to the challenge. LOL.

    I agree completely about the TOC. I have no idea why that would be in a fiction book. It really serves no purpose.

  2. HAHAHAHA You go, girl!! I’m not a fan of tables of contents in fiction books. Especially when, like in my book and many others, the chapters are simply numbered. When they’re called something, the table of contents is mildly interesting, but when it’s literally “Chapter One, Chapter Two, Chapter Three”… There are 48 chapters in my book! I don’t intend making someone scroll through all that just to get to the actualy story!

  3. I believe I’ve stated on here before, probably when you originally posted, that I am dumb at computers. Even I can format my own books. I run into a couple of problems every time, but nothing that isn’t resolved in an hour. I don’t try to do anything fancy, but I figure if the book looks decent I don’t really need to.

  4. I’m with you on hating fiction TOCs, unless the chapters have descriptive names. But I’ve given up and formatted my second book so that Smashwords can do a TOC. At least it looks better than an almost blank page with the title, a link to the title page (as if it wasn’t the next click, and a link to the midpoint. Just how many times will anyone want to jump to the midpoint?

    I wrote to SW’s customer service, asking if there’s any way to eliminate that nonsense, but it may take weeks to get an answer, and I’m already past my own deadline for getting the sucker uploaded.

  5. Couldn’t agree more, and that Smashwords guide is amazing! Yes, if you actually read it and follow the directions, you shouldn’t have any problems uploading your book. I didn’t. It really is sad how many people don’t care to read instructions.

  6. Glad to hear it isn’t hard- I’m very close to that point and have bookmarked your advice for kindle- so thank you. Do you happen to know of any good advice for create space? I’m sure I could google it- but if someone you trust has posted some I would rather use that.

  7. Elena Aitken

    So true! It is NOT hard. I read the Smashwords guide and followed it step by step and BOOM. Done.
    Like others have said, sure there might have been a few things, but nothing earth shattering. It saddens me to see that others are charging a crazy amount of money to authors telling them that it’s difficult and they won’t be able to do it on their own. Just like anything else, with a little patience and gasp, reading the manual, it can be done. 🙂

  8. Reading instructions DOES help. However, who is he to assume that it requires no work? Almost any instructions, when taken step by step is easy.

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